Florida Abortion Foe Charged in Molestation

Anti-Abortion Extremism

For nearly two decades, former Ku Klux Klansman John Burt earned a reputation as one of America's fiercest Christian warriors. An organizer of countless protests at reproductive clinics around Pensacola, Fla., Burt had close ties to two men who took his extreme anti-abortion views even further: Michael Griffin, who shot and killed a gynecologist in 1993, and Paul Hill, who was executed on Sept. 3 for another doctor's murder in 1994.

Burt has also done jail time for carrying his clinic protests too far, and he's shocked many with antics like brandishing an aborted fetus in front of a TV camera during a live interview. But Burt convinced many others that he was a good man honoring his religious beliefs. It didn't hurt that he and his wife had long run Our Father's House, a shelter for troubled junior high and high school girls.

Burt's faithful were left in disbelief early in June, when the 65-year-old was charged with molesting a 15-year-old resident of Our Father's House.

Before he could be arrested, Burt fled the Pensacola area in a van mounted with the state's special "Choose Life" license plate. The 65-year-old was arrested five days later at a rest stop some 150 miles from Pensacola.

Barefoot and weakened by a botched suicide attempt, Burt faced a familiar phalanx of cameras as he was led into the Santa Rosa County Jail, but he would answer only one question. Did he molest the girl? "No," Burt declared.

In July, Burt pleaded not guilty to five counts of criminal conduct: four lewd or lascivious molestation counts, and another for slipping the 15-year-old a salacious handwritten invitation to have sex with him. Jury selection for Burt's trial was scheduled to begin Sept. 22. Local authorities said that other residents of Our Father's House have come forward since Burt's arrest with similar stories of sexual abuse, and more charges may follow.

Burt's fellow crusaders — along with his wife — insisted that his arrest was a police frame-up designed to suppress his clinic protests. "This is, plain and simple, an effort to control his activities," longtime associate Mark Farmer told the Pensacola News Journal.