Joel McDurmon

Cruz, Huckabee And Jindal Joining 'Liberty' Conference Promoting Christian Reconstruction And Biblical Patriarchy

As we’ve reported, Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal are scheduled to speak at a “religious liberties” conference in Iowa this weekend organized by pastor and homeschooling activist Kevin Swanson. It’s bad enough that presidential candidates would want to associate with Swanson, whose record of wildly anti-gay, anti-women statements we have exhaustively chronicled. But the candidates will also be rubbing shoulders with an array of activists representing the extreme Christian Reconstructionist and Christian Patriarchy fringes of the Religious Right.

Cruz, Huckabee and Jindal likely agreed to join the conference because of its ostensible “religious liberty” theme, which has increasingly become the Religious Right’s unifying battle cry. Speakers include David and Jason Benham, who have become popular martyr figures on the right-wing speaking circuit after we reported on their vicious anti-gay activism and they lost a planned HGTV reality show; Aaron and Melissa Klein, the Oregon couple who refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple in what Aaron later described as a battle with Satan; and Sgt. Phillip Monk, whose tale of being persecuted by a lesbian superior in the Air Force has been roundly debunked.

Interestingly, one actual victim of anti-Christian persecution, Naghmeh Abedini, whose pastor husband is imprisoned in Iran, was scheduled to speak but has since been removed from a list of confirmed speakers.

Behind this “religious liberty” veneer, however, is a gathering of some of the most extreme segments of the Religious Right, including those whose idea of “religious freedom” is the freedom to impose their specific scriptural interpretations on others. Swanson’s colorful rhetoric on the role of women and the biblical punishments for gay people comes out of an affinity with two controversial movements that will be on full display at his event: Christian Patriarchy and Christian Reconstructionism.

A number of speakers at this weekend’s conference have been associated with Vision Forum, the now defunct ministry run by influential Christian Patriarchy leader Doug Phillips, who resigned in 2013 after admitting to having an affair. That movement is closely bound with Christian Reconstructionism, the idea that America must return to its supposed foundations in a certain interpretation of biblical law. John Eidsmoe, one of the leading lights of Christian Reconstructionism will be speaking at the conference, as will Joel McDurmon, who now runs the Reconstructionist group Vision America.

One theme at the conference will be “interposition,” the idea that government officials have the duty to defy laws and court rulings that they believe are unconstitutional or unbiblical (for many those are the same thing), an idea that has returned to prominence in the midst of the Kim Davis saga.

Here is a brief introduction to some of the activists who will be sharing the stage with Huckabee, Cruz and Jindal this weekend:

Kevin Swanson

Swanson, a Colorado-based homeschooling activist, pastor and radio host, rejects the term “Christian Patriarchy” but says he ascribes to the passage in Ephesians that guides the movement’s view of male headship and female submission in marriage. Swanson also takes hardline Christian Reconstructionist positions, such as his view that the death penalty for gay people is just. Just a sampling of Swanson’s views includes:

John Eidsmoe

Eidsmoe gained wider name recognition when Rep. Michele Bachmann named him as her mentor , but he has long been an influential leader in Christian Reconstructionism. Eidsmoe has run into controversy in the past for ties to white supremacist and neo-Confederate groups . He now works for the Foundation for Biblical Law, a group established by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Eidsmoe has:

Phil Kayser

Christian Reconstructionist Nebraska pastor Phil Kayser first attracted the national spotlight in 2011 when he endorsed Ron Paul for president and it came out that he had “authored a paper arguing for criminalizing homosexuality and even advocated imposing the death penalty against offenders based on his reading of Biblical law .” Kayser confirmed to a reporter that this was indeed his position. He will be addressing the “religious liberty” issue with a talk on “Martyrdom, Civil Disobedience, Protest, and Flight” and another on “Can a County Clerk Refuse to Sign a Marriage License? Interposition by the Lesser Magistrate.”

Joel McDurmon

As Kyle wrote last week, “Joel McDurmon, president of the Christian Reconstructionist organization American Vision, which espouses the Christian Reconstructionist view that ‘men must choose in their civil affairs to be governed by God’s law’ as explicitly set out in the Old Testament.”

McDurmon says that "God revealed that the homosexual act is a civil crime, and it just so happens that He revealed that the homosexual act as a civil crime deserves the death penalty." He also said that a proposal in Uganda to impose the death penalty for homosexuality didn’t go far enough because it should also impose “Old Testament law” by making adultery a capital crime as well.

After we reported on his views last week, McDurmon released a statement clarifying that he does not support the death penalty for “homosexuality in general” but merely “the ‘act’ of sodomy.”

Scott Brown

North Carolina pastor Scott Brown is the director of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, a spinoff of Vision Forum. Articles on Brown’s website present an array of Christian Patriarchy views, including:

  • We “should counsel our Christian wives and daughters to rid their wardrobes of tight clothing and modern bathing suits” because there “ should be a sense of shame for distracting someone from purity” and having a “distracting appearance.”
  • Lamenting that “in the evangelical community, art and fashion have become exempt from biblical evaluation,” leading to reverence for Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci, who operated under the “influence of homosexuality” and “some of our most revered artifacts of Greek sculpture” which “ were produced by homosexual, pagan artist.”
  • Husbands should be teaching their wives. The father is a key component of the delivery system for the news of the kingdom of God, and when you bypass him, you reject the biblical order for the church and the home.”

This is just skimming the surface. Also speaking at Swanson’s conference will be former Vision Forum activist Geoff Botkin; James Lansberry, who has been working to help conservative evangelicals bypass the Affordable Care Act; and Bill Jack, an occasional cohost on Swanson’s radio program who took the Cake Wars to a new low when he tried to get a baker to write “God hates gays” on a cake.

Along with Cruz, Huckabee and Jindal, a number of activists with a cozy relationship with the GOP have also been confirmed to attend, including Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley of the influential Iowa conservative group The Family Leader, Kelly Shackelford of the Liberty Institute and Colorado Republican state senator Kevin Lundberg.

Cruz, Jindal And Huckabee To Join Multiple Speakers Who Want Gays Put To Death

Yesterday we reported that GOP presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal are all scheduled to speak at an upcoming "National Religious Liberties Conference" in Iowa next week that has been organized by far-right pastor Kevin Swanson, who has openly and repeatedly defended laws that impose the capital punishment on gay people.

Given that the chief organizer of this event holds such views, it should comes as no surprise to discover that several of the other scheduled speakers share similar views, in particular Phil Kayser, pastor of Dominion Covenant Church, and Joel McDurmon, president of the Christian Reconstructionist organization American Vision, which espouses the Christian Reconstructionist view that "men must choose in their civil affairs to be governed by God’s law" as explicitly set out in the Old Testament. 

Kayser, who is scheduled to lead two workshops at the conference, was at the center of controversy back in 2011 when he endorsed Ron Paul for president and Paul's campaign proudly welcomed the endorsement only to try and cover it up once Kayser's extremist views on homosexuality became known, as Talking Points Memo reported at the time:

Paul's Iowa chair, Drew Ivers, recently touted the endorsement of Rev. Phillip G. Kayser, a pastor at the Dominion Covenant Church in Nebraska who also draws members from Iowa, putting out a press release praising "the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul's approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs." But Kayser's views on homosexuality go way beyond the bounds of typical anti-gay evangelical politics and into the violent fringe: he recently authored a paper arguing for criminalizing homosexuality and even advocated imposing the death penalty against offenders based on his reading of Biblical law ... Reached by phone, Kayser confirmed to TPM that he believed in reinstating Biblical punishments for homosexuals -- including the death penalty -- even if he didn't see much hope for it happening anytime soon.

Also speaking at the event is McDurmon, who recently took over as president of American Vision, and who likewise believes that "God revealed that the homosexual act is a civil crime, and it just so happens that He revealed that the homosexual act as a civil crime deserves the death penalty."

In fact, McDurmon's views are so extreme that, back in 2009, he criticized Uganda for not going far enough with its draconian anti-gay legislation, saying that if the nation was "going to go to Old Testament law ... they should also make the death penalty for adultery" and other Old Testament crimes as well.

But as he explained the time, Uganda was absolutely right to seek to put gays to death because "it is perfectly normal [and] it definitely should be in place [that] homosexuality should receive the death penalty":

So let us reiterate once again that, in 2015, three Republican presidential hopefuls — including a sitting senator, a sitting governor, and one former governor — are all scheduled to speak at an event organized by and featuring several speakers who openly advocate putting gay people to death.

UPDATE: McDurmon has released a statement insisting that his position is that "the Bible does not criminalize 'homosexuality,' but only the homosexual act of sodomy" and therefore he does not believe "that homosexuality in general should receive the death penalty; but rather that the Bible teaches that the 'act' of sodomy should receive such."

We'll leave it up to readers to determine whether or not this clarification makes his position any less extreme.

Larry Pratt Hopes Obama Learns From Example Of Executed King

On his “Gun Owners News Hour” program in March, Gun Owners of America’s Larry Pratt invited Christian reconstructionist activist Joel McDurmon to discuss is work republishing a book from the 1920s on the role of pastors and “biblical law” in the founding of America.

This led to a discussion of how, in McDurmon’s words, President Obama along with “the entirety of Congress and the Supreme Court justices” are all “lawbreakers” because “they all operate outside the law to different degrees,” just like the English monarchy before the American Revolution.

McDurmon then brought up a colonial sermon citing the example of Charles I, who was executed for treason in 1649, as justification for regicide. This reminded Pratt of a speech by Patrick Henry against King George that made a similar point in justifying the killing of tyrants, which he said would provide a useful lesson to President Obama.

“Well, I like the way Patrick Henry finessed the question of regicide, of tyrannicide,” he said, “and he then pointed, I think it might have been to Charles I, and he was likening the current king and situation to that. And there were cries of, ‘Treason! Treason!’ And he had a pregnant pause, and then he said, ‘And may he learn from his example.’”

“But yes, might he learn!” he continued. “Might Barack Hussein Obama learn. Might they all learn. They live in a world of limits. They are not men without limits, and that’s something that I think astonishes some of our rulers. They really think, because as the president has said, ‘I have a pen and I have a phone,’ they think he can do any bloody thing he wants. Well, we’ll see about that.”

Later in the program, Pratt praised so-called “constitutional sheriffs” — who believe they have the power to arrest federal officials who are enforcing laws they believe violate the Constitution — and legislatures like that of Kansas that have passed laws “nullifying” federal laws they don’t like. These politicians, he said, are carrying on the spirit of the American revolution.

“You’ve got sheriffs who understand constitutional government and understand their role,” he said, “you’ve got the state of Kansas, which has passed legislation warning the feds that if they come in and try to do something unconstitutional to enforce some of their gun laws, the folks that try that will be charged with a crime. Obviously they will be detained and not permitted to continue that kind of illegal and unconstitutional action."

“That, I’m sure, is greeted with disdain in the proper parts of Washington, D.C., New York City and so forth, but frankly I think the folks in Kansas are serious as a heart attack, I think these constitutional sheriffs would without question make an arrest if they saw something unconstitutional that was oppressing one of the citizens of their county, and that’s the kind of spirit that we saw at the time of this period leading up to the war for American independence. It may not be dead yet in this country, the spirit that brought us from the New England pulpit, it may well be beginning to raise its head again, beginning to articulate itself again.”

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