Amend the RICO Law

June 2, 1998

Each year Congress passes hundreds of laws, and rarely does Congress ever go back to amend or repeal these laws. Congress better do so with the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations law, also known as RICO.

Ironically RICO was passed by conservatives in order to curb organized crime. But now the law has become the darling of liberals once it was used against pro-life groups who demonstrate outside of abortion clinics.

The recent court case essentially said that pro-life leader Joseph Scheidler is the legal equivalent of mob boss John Goti. The Chicago jury found Scheidler and others guilty of "violent" conspiracy to "extort" abortion clinics through their peaceful protests.

Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned in all of this. Congress did not pass this law to stifle free speech nor to punish pro-life protesters. Congress passed this law to go after organized crime. At the time, Senator Ted Kennedy opposed the bill because he feared it would be used against protesters (in particular Vietnam War protesters). He only signed on when given the assurance that it would only be used against those with an economic motive. Now that it has been used against protesters, we'll have to see what position he takes on the RICO law. I suspect that he probably won't say anything.

The lesson is simple. Once you endow the federal government and the courts with power, you usually lose control over how they exercise that power. It's the old maxim: he who rides a tiger may not dismount when he pleases.

Congress should amend the RICO law so that it applies only to criminal enterprises not religious ones. Congress shouldn't wait. A law that equates pro-lifers with crime bosses can't be a good law for America.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.

© 1998 Probe Ministries International