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Fargo anti-abortion activist Wishnatsky leaving for law school

Local Christian activist Martin Wishnatsky likened the experience to a "personal, one-man revival."

"It felt like the love of God was pouring through me," he said. "It was like love was a tangible substance."

To hear Wishnatsky describe it, that experience has led to something of a personal, relational and artistic renaissance in the life of the 64-year-old who's been jailed more than once for his anti-abortion activities in Fargo. Now that renaissance is leading Wishnatsky out of Fargo as he is set to begin studying at Liberty University School of Law in Lynchburg, Va, in mid-August.

The "emotional" experience Wishnatsky described came in waves over the course of several months at the beginning of 2006, he said. "It's given me courage to do things I wouldn't have done before."

Wishnatsky, a regular in The Forum's letters-to-the-editor section, has been involved with numerous abortion-related legal cases, has worked to keep Fargo's Ten Commandments monument on public ground and recently addressed a Cass County subcommittee to oppose extending benefits to domestic partners of county employees.

Some think "he's too outspoken with what he believes, but I don't think so," said fellow New Horizons band member and friend Jim Kinlaw. "I think a lot of people, and especially in this part of the country, are not as outspoken as he is. And I think he shocks these reserved people around here."

Wishnatsky said his faith is "defining" for him. So it's natural that he would attend a law school at a Christian university. Liberty was founded by the late conservative minister Jerry Falwell.

"I would enjoy representing people in any area where there was a need and I could help out," says Wishnatsky, who holds a doctorate in political science from Harvard University.

"I think I could be perhaps significantly more effective in engaging in the culture war's legal battles if I were an attorney," he said.

The battlefields in that war includes issues such as abortion, affirmative action for homosexuals and gay marriage, he says.

Wishnatsky said he would like to return to the area and practice law here.

But it would seem that there's more to this personal awakening than law school.

"I began to feel a lot of love for people that I really hadn't been willing to acknowledge before," said Wishnatsky. He said he became less judgmental and more open to others. Before, he says, "I was always on a mission" preaching at people. But he says he missed connecting with them as humans.

There also appears to have been something of an artistic awakening. In recent years, he has performed in Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre productions and participated in The Forum's Fargo Star vocal competition. He also plays saxophone and sings in the F-M Golden Notes New Horizons Band and at Cornerstone Ministries.

Former Fargo Mayor and Red River Freethinkers President Jon Lindgren remembers that Wishnatsky "used to shout quite a bit at City Commission meetings when I was mayor." He also remembered Wishnatsky picketing at his home though he didn't remember why.

But Lindgren also said the two of them used to cross paths while out for bicycle rides.

"And we had many friendly chats," Lindgren said. "The personal relationship was fine; it's just he has an entirely different take on what is good for the city and good for the country than I do."

The Red River Women's Clinic, a Fargo facility that performs abortions and at which Wishnatsky has protested, had no comment on Wishnatsky's departure from the area.

His friend and New Horizons band mate Charlie Pinkney said he is proud to know Wishnatsky.

"I know we'll communicate, and I'll know that we are as close as brothers whether he be close or whether he be far away," he said.