Standing under a banner reading "Pray for the Death of Pro-Death Court," fundamentalist pastor Robert L. Hymers on Sunday took his crusade against the U.S. Supreme Court from the skies over Loyola Marymount University to the sidewalk in front of the U.S. District Court building in Los Angeles.
Hymers, who earlier this month sent a plane with a banner reading "Pray for death: baby-killer Brennan," over a Loyola commencement speech by Justice William J. Brennan Jr., gathered about 250 members of his congregation in an outdoor protest to pray for the removal, or death, of five other U.S. Supreme Court justices who last week upheld a Long Island couple's right to withhold medical treatment from their handicapped daughter.
"I've never prayed a more difficult prayer in my life, and I've been a pastor since I was 17," Hymers told members of his Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle church, one of the largest in Southern California.
Hymers, whose congregation meets at the Ambassador Hotel, has led previous protests, including one at a North Hollywood abortion clinic in which he hanged an effigy of the clinic's owner.
Basing his prayers on a book of Psalms oath against Judas Iscariot, Hymers said: "Only in desperation, when all other avenues have been exhausted, we pray that Thou who are sovereign over nations and men will let their days be few and let another take their office. Let their children be fatherless and their wives be widows because they remembered not to show mercy, but persecuted the poor."
Hymers, who until last year was a member of a U.S. Southern Baptist congregation, is supported by many of his former colleagues on abortion and treatment of severely handicapped infants. But some disapprove of his methods.
"Although we have consistently held the same views and have expressed those views often in the past, we flat-out disavow his tactics," said Herb Hollinger, editor of the California Southern Baptist newspaper in Fresno. "Most Southern Baptists believe there are legal processes and legislative recourses to take."
Dr. Harold Lindsell, former editor of the Southern Baptist publication Christianity Today, said "very few Baptists would agree" to praying for the death of Supreme Court justices.
"If I felt that way, I'd do it quietly, silently, and not in the open," Lindsell said. In his sermon, Hymers also condemned Brennan and other justices who voted last week to uphold the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
If the justices do not repent or retire, he said, members of his congregation "will pray that God take the lives of these Hitler-like men from the face of the Earth."
Hymers targeted Justices Thurgood Marshall, John Paul Stevens, Harry Blackmun, Lewis F. Powell and Chief Justice Warren Burger--the court majority that voted to uphold the Baby Jane Doe decision last Monday.
The minister offered a prayer that the justices be removed from the court in time for President Reagan, whom he called "our Godly pro-life President," to replace them.
Hymers, 45, who during the service stood with his wife, Ileana, and 2 1/2-year-old twin sons, said that leaders of the congregation "are against the use of violence in any form against the Supreme Court of the United States of America."
Members of the multilingual congregation, who applauded Hymers' remarks, were reticent after the service to voice their opinions regarding their pastor's leadership.
"You'll have to talk to my leader," 20-year-old church member Craig Grimes replied when asked what he felt about Hymers' crusade against the Supreme Court.
Later, after Hymers gave him permission to talk, Grimes said, "I agree with everything he says."