Sara Jane Olson's Minneapolis place of worship, the Little Minnehaha United Methodist Church, quickly rushed to her defense when she was arrested last year for plotting crimes while a member of the radical Symbionese Liberation Army in the 1970s.
Within a week, the church raised $1 million for her bail, claiming that the woman they know, a mother and community volunteer, doesn't deserve to go to jail, regardless of her activities as a youthful revolutionary then known as Kathleen Soliah. The church's position is that Olson's good works have canceled out her reputed sins of the past.
But the dangerous, violent history of the SLA should not be forgotten. That is why Los Angeles judge James M. Ideman did the right thing in allowing prosecutors at her trial to introduce evidence on dozens of SLA crimes, including two murders and the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. The prosecutors claim they can prove Olson was an enthusiastic member of this band of thugs, although she now denies it.
While the concepts of forgiveness and recognition for doing good works are certainly laudable, they're not enough to allow Sara Jane Olson to make Kathleen Soliah disappear. Our systems of justice and values demand that Olson must first face up to her past in court before she can be free of it.
Beyond that, Olson must stop living in denial. She can't credibly claim to be a changed person until she acknowledges her alleged complicity in SLA crimes and apologizes for it. The day for hiding is over.
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