The Rev. Norman U. Weslin compared his federal court sentencing Thursday to Jesus appearing before Herod and Pontius Pilate.
The judge responded by sentencing the 71-year-old Catholic priest and national pro-life leader to five months in federal prison.
Weslin, founder of the Lambs of Christ, a pro-life group known for militant and sometimes bizarre protests, was found guilty in July of violating a court-ordered buffer zone in front of a Buffalo abortion clinic.
"It's good to see the judge's orders have teeth to them," said Glenn E. Murray, a lawyer for the clinic. "Otherwise we'd go back to the days when women were shoved, harassed and assaulted as they tried to enter the door of a medical facility."
Weslin, who was given the opportunity to surrender later, said it was God's law that prompted him to kneel and pray four times last year in front of Buffalo GYN Womenservices, 2500 Main St.
When asked if he wanted to speak, Weslin looked at U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara and said he had little to tell the court.
"Jesus didn't say anything in front of Herod, and he said very little in front of Pontius Pilate," Weslin said. "I obey God's law, and whenever there's a conflict with man's law, I follow God's law."
Weslin left the courtroom with about 30 followers. In the lobby of the downtown courthouse, they prayed and sang "God Bless America."
The sentencing took an interesting turn when John J. Molloy, Weslin's lawyer, revealed that Weslin had been contacted by the Pentagon about serving as a military chaplain in or around Afghanistan.
Weslin, a retired Army officer, later acknowledged that he made the initial contact with the Pentagon, and the military called back expressing interest in the idea.
"I'm 71 years old, but I'm in pretty good shape," he said. "I could be of use right now as an American, a Catholic American."
Molloy said Weslin could return to active duty as a chaplain and still serve his prison sentence upon his return.
"It's a preposterous idea," said Murray, who served as a captain in the Army and was awarded a bronze star for service in the Grenada invasion. "When I was in the military, you were supposed to lead by example. He's a terrible example."
Weslin's prison sentence stems from his protests in September and October of last year when he knelt and prayed four times in front of the clinic. He was found guilty of four criminal contempt charges.