Backgrounder: Operation Save America

March 25, 2011

Operation Save America (OSA) is an organization with a three-pronged mission to demonize abortion, homosexuality and Islam, declaring that "all three have entered into a pact with death." The group, based in North Carolina and headed by Reverend Flip Benham, is characterized by its leaders as a non-denominational Christian organization.

Since Spring 2010, OSA has exploited the controversy surrounding the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero by renewing their efforts to demonize Islam. On the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, several OSA leaders organized a protest in downtown Manhattan against the Islamic center. At the protest, held the same day as the rally organized by Stop the Islamization of America, Reverend Rusty Lee Thomas, assistant director of the OSA, said that the religion of Islam was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. "[The center] is a dagger in the heart of our nation by a religion that killed 3000 of our citizens on September 11, 2001," he said.

Thomas also asked rhetorically, "But why are mosques springing up all over the United States of America? Why are Muslims coming in droves, buying us up and buying us out? Why were we blissfully ignorant of Islam on September 11, 2001, and now there is not a day under the Obama administration we are not being inundated with Islamic indoctrination?"

Ante Pavkovic, described by OSA as its regional director in Charlotte, North Carolina, told rally participants: "How is it…that they are on the verge of building a mosque and insulting us, and offending us, and trampling on the all those that died. Why is Islam gaining in our nation? Why are our leaders assenting to, appealing to, and appeasing the Muslims? Well, we know why. We as a nation have departed from our god."

 David Benham, Flip Benham's son and an OSA spokesman, called the Islamic center a "den of iniquity," and referred to Muslims as "the enemy attacking" America. Benham, portraying the United States as a Christian nation, also drew this distinction: "The difference between Islam and Christianity: Islam takes life and enslaves it. Christianity lays its life down and sets you free." The day prior to the demonstration, OSA released a statement asserting that seeks to convert Muslims who are "enslaved in the tyrannical bondage of Islam" to Christianity.

OSA has been protesting at mosques and harassing Muslim worshippers since 2001, when the group described Islam on its Web site as a "false religion, birthed from the very pit of hell [that] has led to the eternal damnation of billions of precious people." For years, Flip Benham and his supporters approached Muslims outside their houses of worship to communicate that "Islam and Christianity cannot peacefully coexist. They are at war," according to OSA's Web site.

Such messages were delivered by the group on August 6, 2010, when Reverend Benham and other OSA activists harassed worshippers after Friday prayers outside Masjid An-Noor in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Activists reportedly shouted at worshippers leaving and entering the mosque that “Jesus hates Muslims” and “Islam is a lie.” A few weeks later, OSA activist Pastor Mark Holick was arrested in Wichita, Kansas, after refusing to move his protest against the Islamic Center of Wichita to a location designated by police. Holick reportedly tried to disseminate OSA “Gospel tracts,” described later by media as “anti-Muslim DVDs,” to individuals on their way to the mosque.

Holick reportedly characterized his arrest as “an excessive attempt by the Wichita Police Department to give Islam ‘Most Favored Religion Status’ in the United States.” Reverend Flip Benham echoed Holick’s remarks in a statement posted on the OSA Web site a day before Holick’s court hearing in November. “As the abortion industry in Wichita, Kansas, has won for itself ‘most favored business’ status over the years,” the Benham  statement reads, “so Islam has won for itself ‘most favored religion’ status.  You touch abortion or Islam in the name of Jesus - you go to jail!”

At its demonstrations and other events, OSA regularly distributes flyers titled "Jesus is the Standard," outlining the group's agenda: the eradication of abortion, homosexuality and Islam. Stating Islam is "another murderous cover-up for the devil," OSA condemns the faith as responsible for the following:

Just a short list of Islam's great achievements might be of help here: adult and child suicide bombers, terrorists, dictators, political corruption, subjugation of women, hatred of Jews, hatred of America, hatred of each other, poverty, backwardness, and pure unadulterated evil. In every nation where Islam has become the predominant religion, death and despair await all who will not bow to Mohammed. Freedom and individual liberty are casualties. Death reigns. Why? The Spirit of the Lord is not there.

Dovetailing its anti-Muslim propaganda with another of its central missions, OSA leaders often take the opportunity to protest simultaneously, and aggressively, against abortion through their online sermons and public rallies. At OSA's protest on September 11 against the Islamic center in lower Manhattan, Rusty Lee Thomas concluded that "the root of our problems in America" is abortion, as OSA supporters held up large placards of a late-term aborted fetus as part of the demonstration.

Benham changed the name of the organization - established in Dallas, Texas in the late 1980s as Operation Rescue - to Operation Save America in 1999.  When he relocated to Concord, North Carolina in 2002, Benham transferred OSA's headquarters as well. In addition to protests against abortion clinics and mosques, the group also pickets gay pride parades and preaches outside of high schools.