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Yes, the man Kline's statement identified as a private-practice lawyer from Mississippi was that Bryan J. Brown. The Bryan J. Brown who had been arrested multiple times during 1991's infamous "Summer of Mercy" abortion protests in Wichita. The Bryan J. Brown who had refused to pay a federal judgment against him in Indiana for the same kind of activism. The Bryan J. Brown who had left Wichita to go to a Christian law school in 1993, then gone on to work for the legal arm of the American Family Association, an aggressive Christian activist group based in Tupelo, Mississippi.
A round of editorials followed the reporting of these basic facts. The Kansas City Star called Brown "an unrepentant scofflaw." Steve Rose of The Johnson County Sun suggested that Kline was calculating a run for governor and had hired Brown to throw an early bone to his religious-right supporters so that he could spend the next four years appearing reasonable enough to lure the moderate vote.
Brown spent a couple of hours answering reporters' questions about his past, and Kline released a statement calling Brown the "most qualified" candidate for the $68,000-a-year job leading the Kansas Consumer Protection Division.
When the Pitch asked to interview Brown later, he refused. "As you may already know, Deputy Brown sat down with reporters on January 27th in this office for about 2 hours and discussed his background, qualifications, views, etc., much of the same territory you propose to cover in your interviews," wrote Bill Hoyt, Kline's public information officer. "Since that time, his office has decided to move forward focusing on Consumer Protection, rather than focusing on Mr. Brown."
Over the past three months, however, the Pitch obtained a copy of Brown's résumé, called his friends and foes from Indiana, Kansas and Mississippi, and read Brown's own published essays to better understand one of Kansas' newest public employees. When word of this investigation reached Brown, he contacted the paper and personally requested an interview (see sidebar).
In January, Kline suggested that Brown had put a few decade-old indiscretions behind him. Instead, Brown has maintained a long-term devotion to advancing the anti-abortion cause. Though his strategies have changed over the years, his mission hasn't.
Brown's legal experience goes back ten years, when he left Wichita in 1993 to go to law school. His anti-abortion experience goes back a little further.
Brown grew up around Fort Wayne, Indiana, the son of a factory supervisor and a stay-at-home mother.
He told The Wichita Eagle in 1991 that he had experimented with drugs as a teen but put that aside in November 1978. Having temporarily lost his driver's license, the homebound nineteen-year-old picked up the Bible to kill time.
The next year, a friend dragged Brown to Indianapolis for a three-day conference called "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?" The event was part of a national film and lecture tour hosted by C. Everett Koop and Francis Schaeffer. Koop was a born-again Christian and pediatric surgeon who later would serve as surgeon general under President Ronald Reagan; Schaeffer was a Presbyterian minister and author who spurred a generation of fundamentalist Christians to action in the anti-abortion cause. Through his books and documentary films, Schaeffer professed that God's law superseded the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, and he pushed civil disobedience to protest abortion.
"[The lecture] really put a lot of things in perspective for me as far as the battle for the culture, the battle for life, the battle for the family," Brown said in an American Family Association Journal profile last year -- one that ran under the headline "Radical for Life."