Christian Reconstructionism

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.

Jeb Bush Touts Voucher Program That Funds Christian Schools, Religious Right Ideology

At Wednesday night’s presidential debate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush went out of his way to tout “a voucher program that was created under my watch, the largest voucher program in the country, where kids can go to a Christian school” — a phrase he sandwiched into a conversation about Donald Trump criticizing him for speaking Spanish in public.

Julie Ingersoll, a religious studies professor at the University of North Florida, tweeted a reminder that her book on Christian Reconstructionism, which was recently released by Oxford University Press, mentions Bush’s voucher program. “Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstructionism” includes chapters on the enormous influence of Christian Reconstructionism in the homeschooling and Christian school movements, which have succeeded in getting states like Florida to funnel taxpayer money to their religious education efforts

Christian Reconstructionism, grounded in the teachings of 20th-century writer R.J. Rushdoony, has greatly influenced both the Religious Right and Tea Party movements with its doctrine of “sphere sovereignty,” which states that God has given government, church, and family specific responsibilities over different “spheres.” Reconstructionists argue that there is no biblical authority for the government to take on a duty that is given to church or family – for example, they argue that the government has no role in caring for the poor because charity is the job of the church.

Reconstructionism teaches that education is the duty of parents, and that the state therefore has no role in or legitimate authority over the education of children. Reconstructionists led legal and political battles to win the right of parents to homeschool their children, and continue to resist efforts at regulating homeschoolers. As Ingersoll notes, “Reconstructionists are unabashedly committed to the dismantling of public education, and their strategies and solutions have gained a hearing far beyond the boundaries of the small groups explicitly affiliated with them.” In June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott named a right-wing homeschooler to chair the state’s Board of Education.

The organized and intensely active network of evangelical homeschooling families in Iowa is credited, in part, with Mike Huckabee’s win in the 2008 Iowa caucus, and the Associated Press reported this year that presidential candidates have been jockeying for its leaders’ support.

Ingersoll also explores how central creationism is to the Christian Reconstructionist worldview; as others have noted, creationism also forms the basis of “science” education in books and curricula used by some Christian schools and homeschoolers.

Ingersoll writes about the independent, Reconstructionism-inspired Rocky Bayou Christian School in Niceville, Florida, which was founded in the 1970s. In addition to the hundreds of students in its K-12 program, the school offers a program allowing homeschoolers to participate in courses and activities. Writes Ingersoll, “RCBS also has a program designed to take advantage of Florida’s school voucher plan. The plan, put into place by former Governor Jeb Bush, permits students at ‘failing public schools’ to obtain vouchers that can be used at any school.”

According to Ingersoll, the Bush voucher program “has become such a significant revenue stream” for Rocky Bayou Christian School that “it would have a major impact on the school if the state were to decide to discontinue the controversial program….”  But, she notes, “the conservative legislature took up the effort to expand the state’s privatization of public education with vouchers and the expansion of charter schools.”

Indeed, legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott last year expanded voucher and tax-credit programs; it also, according to the Orlando Sentinel, created state-funded “personal learning scholarship accounts” that “parents of students with certain disabilities can use to pay for private school, buy home-school curriculum or pay for needed therapies, among other services, if their child is not in public school.”

Florida is not the only state where proponents of privatization have won victories. Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal used the Katrina disaster to push through a radical privatization scheme and has battled the Obama administration over its efforts to monitor the state’s voucher program’s effect on racial segregation. Proponents of “school choice” had a major victory in Nevada this year, where a law pushed by an education foundation created by Jeb Bush would allow parents of any income level to “pull a child from the state's public schools and take tax dollars with them, giving families the option to use public money to pay for private or parochial school or even for home schooling.” While some Christian homeschoolers want no part of voucher programs, because they believe taking voucher money would bring more intrusive government regulation, laws like Nevada’s could prove a windfall for Religious Right and Christian Reconstructionist groups that provide curricula to homeschoolers.

Ingersoll writes about a 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit hosted by the Christian Home Educators of Colorado at an Indianapolis facility of Bill Gothard’s Institute for Biblical Life Principles, a troubling organization in the news recently for its connection to the Duggar family. The purpose of the summit, writes Ingersoll, was the development of a “Christian Education Manifesto,” which is no longer public, but whose goals included the elimination of public education and dismantling of government agencies that regulate the rights of parents, such as child welfare and child protective service groups.

There have been some setbacks for the privatization movement. In June, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that its state’s Choice Scholarship Pilot Program violates the state Constitution by channeling public money to private religious schools, contrary to an explicit constitutional prohibition on doing so.

But, as Ingersoll notes, the massively funded privatization movement is advancing the dream of the Christian Reconstructionists:

Florida’s efforts mirror attempts across the nation to shift the delivery of public education to the private sector; a shift of tax money from a public endeavor intended to educate and foster a shared sense of what it means to be American to sectarian efforts, including efforts at schools like Rocky Bayou which seek to transform society according to biblical law. The long-standing goal of the Christian Reconstructionists to defund, and ultimately eliminate, public education has come as close as it has ever come to being a reality.

Christian Reconstrucionist Michael Peroutka Joins Kim Davis Fan Club

Michael Peroutka, a neo-confederate whose Institute on the Constitution promotes a far-right Christian Reconstructionist view of religion and government, has joined the chorus of right-wing voices that have gathered to defend Kim Davis, the county clerk jailed for contempt of court after refusing to obey a court order that she issue marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples.

Peroutka appeared at a rally with other Davis supporters over the weekend, declaring, “Kim Davis has given all believers a lesson in faithfulness.”

Peroutka ran as a Republican and won a seat on the county council of Ann Arundel County, Maryland, last year, once declared that the Maryland General Assembly had no legitimacy after passing gay-rights legislation that he said violated God’s law. Peroutka is also a long-time funder of the right-wing activism of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has also been promoting resistance to the “tyranny” of judges who rule for marriage equality.

An NBC News story on Peroutka’s support for Kim Davis quoted him saying, “There is no law that requires her to grant a marriage license to people of the same sex. The Court has had many opinions ... but they are not law."

Earlier this year, Peroutka’s Institute on the Constitution warned U.S. Supreme Court justices that striking down state bans on marriage equality “could bring God’s judgment on the Nation.”

Koch Brothers’ LIBRE Initiative Pushes Free-Market Gospel To Latinos

The LIBRE Initiative is the Latino outreach program of the Koch brothers’ political network. With millions of dollars from the Kochs and their allies since its founding in 2011, LIBRE has established a presence in 10 states and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on deceptive political ads. Its ultimate goal, shared with the broader network of Koch organizations, is to build political power by electing anti-government conservatives to office at all levels. LIBRE’s job is to help right-wingers into office by a) convincing more Latinos to support anti-government candidates, and/or b) discouraging other Latinos from bothering to vote by running attack ads on progressive candidates.

LIBRE is also part of another right-wing tactic – convincing religious voters that opposition to progressive taxes, unions, and government regulation are actually biblical positions. LIBRE's executive director Daniel Garza himself does this, asking in an interview with a newspaper at Pat Robertson’s Regent University, “Why should the principles espoused by Gloria Steinem or Ralph Nader have more supremacy over those espoused by Jesus Christ in the Bible?”

LIBRE has a director of faith outreach, John Mendez, who preaches this free-market gospelto religious and Tea Party groups. Mendez explained in an interview with the Pacific Justice Institute that “we come in and inform them and teach them on those principles of economic freedom and free enterprise from not only a constitutional perspective, but also a biblical perspective.” He told ThinkProgressthat Scripture says “you should not be dependent on government.”

Another LIBRE spokesperson, Rachel Campos-Duffy, spoke at a conservative evangelical gathering in 2013, where she criticized school breakfast programs for low income students, saying they infringed on family bonding. She has since backed Republican cuts in food stamp funding.

Garza has enlisted others as well, including Latino evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez, who says in a 2011 LIBRE video that Hispanic people are being enslaved by big government and that it is both anti-Christian and anti-American to “punish success” – code for progressive taxation.

Garza and Rodriguez commiserate over the fact that the Hispanic community no longer embraces the values of family and entrepreneurship brought to this country by immigrant parents and grandparents, and they blame dependency on government. Says Rodriguez, “We become assimilated and acculturated, not to the good values but to the bad values of government dependency. We become acculturated and assimilated and integrated to the ideas of the New Deal, and big uber-government.”

Rodriguez refers to the Christian Reconstructionist notion that the government must not do things that the Bible says are the role of the family. He decries “the current reality of uber-subsidization, the role of government taking over the role of God and family.” When government replaces man’s role as bread-winner, and people depend on government, he says, “We are basically being enslaved by big government, and by uber-subsidization.”

Rodriguez says the family is in peril because “government is growing in our lives. We need to go back to the formula that made us great, which is the idea of our faith in the Lord and economic liberty, economic freedom.” He says government dependency is leading to the continued destruction of the Hispanic community as a community that “embodies the idea of la familia” into one that embodies “failure, misery, poverty, both economic poverty, but spiritual, mental, emotional and collective corporate poverty.”

In a 2014 LIBRE video telling the story of Garza’s family, much is made of his father’s “noble” refusal to accept assistance from the government. In his interview with Garza, Rodriguez also implies that there is something shameful about accepting welfare: “We need to rebuke the welfare presence, and embrace the presence of scripture, and of family, and of education…we really need to free ourselves from that slave mentality of Egypt….”

Garza asks when Latinos began to see rich people as the enemy, and Rodriguez blames liberals and a liberal media. He says wealth is a sign of God’s blessing. “It’s anti-Christian to think that people that have been blessed…that they are wrong….Blessed people are a manifestation of scripture….In scripture there is an incredible amount of support for the idea that, yes, provision and abundance comes from God…”

Rodriguez said that many have taken Jesus’s saying that it is more difficult for a rich man to make it to heaven “completely out of context.” Says Rodriguez, “We’re beyond that. We understand that one verse does not establish doctrine.” Jesus’s ministry, he says, had some “financial resourcing” from “resourceful fisherman,” tax collectors, and others who invested in his ministry. Adds Rodriguez, “We cannot punish success…For us to want to actually want to punish success is anti-Christian and anti-American.”

Neo-Confederate Republican Michael Peroutka Wins Maryland Election

After an election night filled with far-right victories, it’s hard to dub any single winner the most extreme. But Michael Peroutka, newly elected to the Anne Arundel County Council in Maryland, would have to be in anyone’s top five. Peroutka is a radical Christian Reconstructionist and southern secessionist. He says “so-called civil rights laws” are not valid because “there is no such thing as a civil right.” He says promoting evolution “is an act of disloyalty to America.” He says of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, “The reason he hates God is because he thinks he is God.” He thinks gay people are out to “recruit your children” into their “deathstyle.”

Remarkably for someone who has just become an elected official in Maryland, Peroutka argues that since state legislators have passed laws like marriage equality that “violate God’s law,” the Maryland General Assembly is “no longer a valid legislative body” and none of the laws that it has passed are “legally valid and legally enforceable.”

It’s pretty easy for legislators to violate Peroutka’s view of God’s law. He has a clear view of the role of government:

Since civil government is ordained by God in order to protect God-given rights, then the function of civil government is to obey God and to enforce God’s law – PERIOD.

It is not the role of civil government to house, feed, clothe, educate or give heath care to…ANYBODY!

Peroutka was the 2004 presidential nominee of the Constitution Party, whose platform says its goal “is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.” Just a year ago, before Peroutka became a Republican to run for the council seat, he was urging Tea Party activists “to disengage themselves from the Republican Party and their brand of worthless, Godless, unprincipled conservatism.” Peroutka’s Institute on the Constitution has given Tea Party activists training on his view of the biblical basis of the Constitution.

Peroutka argued last year that the reason the U.S. is not following God’s law on marriage and other issues is because when the Union won the Civil War – in his words “The War Between the States” – people began looking to government rather than God as the foundation of their rights. When local media began focusing on Peroutka’s connections to the racist, secessionist League of the South – he served on its board and was a featured speaker at its June 2013 conference on “Southern Independence: Antidote to Tyranny” – he resigned, feigning surprise at racist material on the group’s website, though even then he told reporters, “I don’t have any problem with the organization.”

Anne Arundel County Maryland, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, is home to the state capital of Annapolis.

BarbWire Runs Column By 'Theonomist' Who Backs Execution Of Gays

As we’ve noted before, Matt Barber’s website BarbWire has become quite the outlet for extremists. Today, BarbWire promotes as one of its “Top Stories” a column called “Repent! For the Kingdom of Sodom is At Hand.”  Columnist Philip Stallings bemoans growing support for LGBT equality among millennials, blaming it on “the public school system’s indoctrination of wickedness.” Stallings praises civil magistrates in North Carolina who have refused to issue marriage certificates to “sodomites.” And, of course, he cites the over-hyped controversy over subpoenas in Houston, and the Alliance Defense Fund’s concocted controversy about the “Hitching Post” wedding chapel business in Idaho to portray equality advocates as enemies of religious liberty:

When are we going to realize that this is war? There can be no doubt that the trend now is not only to bully and wreak havoc among Christians, but to lock up Pastors and anyone else that stands for the truth until God’s Law is eradicated from their mist.

This is nothing less than a war and Christians need to be standing up everywhere in this nation contending earnestly for the faith! We should be getting just as passionate in our message of “change” and call upon this nation to repent and to follow God’s Law on this matter.

Stallings is identified on BarbWire as a “Political Theonomist.” That’s a term used by Christian Reconstructionists who believe government should be enforcing their interpretation of Old Testament law, like Gary North and Michelle Bachman mentor John Eidsmoe.

Turns out that’s exactly what Stallings believes. His Twitter feed links to a Christian radio show on which he spent nearly half an hour on August 25 arguing that the government should execute homosexuals – or “sodomites.”

It’s my position that the role of the state is morally obligated to obey God’s law…I am for lawful execution of the homosexual.

When the show’s surprised hosts pushed back and asked whether he would support other things called for in the Old Testament, like the stoning of rebellious children, Stallings said God commanded whole nations to be destroyed “all the way down to their children” and that the rebellious son in the Bible was “refusing their parents’ commandments and was openly rebellious in the community.”

And, yeah, I’m for what the Bible teaches in that regard, along with the murderer, and the rapist, and the kidnapper, and in this case the sodomite.

Stallings described his understanding of Theonomy as meaning that “God’s law is implemented. The civil magistrate must be moral, and the only way we could say someone is moral is if they’re obeying God’s law. In other words, the state is not an autonomous being. It is not executing the law morally if it’s being disobedient to God’s law.”

Excerpts below from Stallings on “Reformation Nation”

GOP Candidate Michael Peroutka Fails To Shake Extremist Label With ‘Not a Racist’ Press Conference

For Republicans who would like to “rebrand” the party to reach more voters, Michael Peroutka is a nightmare.  Peroutka won the Republican primary for a county council seat in Anne Arundel County, which includes Maryland’s state capital. As we have been reporting, Peroutka is a Christian Reconstructionist who believes “It is not the role of civil government to house, feed, clothe, educate or give heath care to…ANYBODY!” He is an ardent supporter of the white nationalist League of the South, which promotes the secession of southern states, and whose leader recently wrote about “Fourth Generation Warfare” in which citizen hit squads would target “political leaders, members of the hostile media, cultural icons, bureaucrats, and other of the managerial elite without whom the engines of tyranny don't run."

Last week, Larry Hogan, the Republican nominee for governor, disavowed Peroutka over his extremist positions. Yesterday, Peroutka held a press conference in which he repeatedly claimed he is not a racist, vowed that he would not play the “race card game,” and produced two African American Republicans, Eric Knowles and Robert Broadus, to vouch for his not-racism.

But if the press conference was meant to dispel the notion that Peroutka is an extremist, it failed miserably. Peroutka repeatedly refused to disavow the League of the South, on whose board he has sat. He would not say it was a mistake to have called Dixie the national anthem at a League of the South convention. And he refused, in spite of repeated questions, to disavow the idea that the southern states should secede. In response to the suggestion that the Civil War settled the question of secession, he said “No moral issue is really ever settled by the point of a sword.” He repeatedly stated that secession is “a historical fact” and “a political reality.” The American Revolution was an act of secession, he said.  And it is a kind of secession when people move out of Maryland to escape its high taxes.

Huffington Post blogger Jonathan Hutson has video of the entire press conference. Unfortunately, nobody asked Peroutka about his belief that Maryland’s General Assembly is “no longer a valid legislative body” because it has passed laws he thinks are in violation of God’s law. Or about his participation in Larry Klayman’s “revolutionary” rally last year, whose goal was to force President Obama out of office. Or why state Republicans should support Peroutka, a former Constitution Party presidential candidate, given that it was less than a year ago that he wrote this:

“Anyone, including those who identify with the ‘Tea Party’, who loves America and desires real reform, would do well to disengage themselves from the Republican Party and their brand of worthless, Godless, unprincipled conservatism.”

Christian Reconstructionism And The GOP: 'Biblical Justice' vs Social Justice

There’s a reason so many Republican politicians seem to bring a religious fervor to their efforts to gut public institutions and social welfare spending. The modern day Religious Right draws much of its ideology from Christian Reconstructionists who teach that God gave specific duties to the government, the church, and the family.

According to this theological worldview, education and taking care of the poor are the responsibility of families and churches, and it is unbiblical for the government to take on these roles. That meshes well with the view of “constitutional conservatives” who believe, for example, the Constitution does not authorize any federal government role in education.

A stark example of the increasingly indistinct line between conservative Republicans and hard-core Christian Reconstructionists and dominionists (who believe the right kind of Christians are meant to have dominion over every aspect of society) can be found in the recent Republican primary victory of Michael Petrouka in a race for a county council seat in an Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Peroutka believes that any law that runs counter to God’s law is invalid, and that the Maryland General Assembly is itself no longer a valid legislative body. Here’s a concise summation of his approach to government:

Since civil government is ordained by God in order to protect God-given rights, then the function of civil government is to obey God and to enforce God’s law – PERIOD.

It is not the role of civil government to house, feed, clothe, educate or give heath care to…ANYBODY!

This religion-inflected ideological view of government is not relegated to inhabitants of the far-right fringe like Peroutka. David Barton, an influential Republican activist and “historian” who helped write the GOP’s national platform in 2012, claims that the Constitution was drawn directly from the Bible and the sermons of colonial preachers, and that its focus on individual freedom reflects the founders’ theology of individual salvation. In this view, the Tea Party’s belief in a radically limited federal government is not only a question of constitutional interpretation, it is a mandate of Holy Scripture.

Just this month, Barton promoted these views on “Praise the Lord,” the flagship program of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which bills itself as the world’s largest religious network and America’s most-watched faith channel. “In the Bible, Jesus has a teaching about minimum wage,” Barton said. “In the Bible, Jesus has two teachings on capital gains tax.” The Bible, according to Barton, opposes those taxes as well as estate taxes and progressive income taxes. A flat tax is “what the Bible supports.”

On the same show Barton denounced government spending on welfare. “It’s not the government’s responsibility to take care of the poor and needy,” he said, “it’s the church’s responsibility.”

According to Barton, there are 205 verses in the Bible that instruct the family or church to take care of the poor, but not the government. “The government is told to do only one thing with taking care of the poor and that one thing is to make sure that when the poor come into court they get justice. That’s the only thing government is told….What we’re doing right now is for the first time in America we have ignored what the Bible says, the Bible says you don’t work, you don’t eat.” He went on to say that people “not having to work and getting free money…violates everything the Bible tells us” about dealing with the poor.

These themes are repeated in Social Justice: How Good Intentions Undermine Justice and Gospel, a booklet published last year by the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and the anti-environmentalist Cornwall Alliance. The booklet, written by Cornwall’s Calvin Beisner (according to him, at the request of the Family Research Council), was distributed at last month’s “Road to Majority” conference, which was organized by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition.

The premise of the booklet is that “social justice” is contrary to “Biblical justice.” If that sounds familiar, you may be recalling Glenn Beck’s diatribes against “social justice” a few years ago, when he urged people to leave their church if its website included the phrases “social justice” or “economic justice.”

It is wrong, Beisner writes, to try to mitigate inequality “through force of government.” Why? “Because God ordained the state to dispense justice, and the church to dispense grace.” According to Beisner, giving someone “unearned” benefits is grace, not justice. People should graciously serve the poor, he writes. “But if care for the needy is made a matter of justice to the needy rather than to God, then grace becomes law. Then, the needy—and those who merely profess to be needy—may claim the benefits of grace as their due by justice.”

In other words, government has no right to tax someone in order to help feed someone else.

That is a widely shared belief on the Religious Right. Speakers at Religious Right conferences like Reed’s June event, and Republican Members of Congress, can be heard justifying cuts in food stamps with an appeal to the Bible passage that David Barton quoted on TBN. That verse, depending on your translation, says something like “he who will not work shall not eat.”

Reps. Kevin Cramer and Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee cited that verse last year. Fincher said, “The role of citizens, of Christianity, of humanity, is to take care of each other, not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country.” In equating taxation for social services with theft, Fincher echoes Barton, Beisner, and others. (In context, by the way, the work-to-eat verse referred to early Christians who were so confident of the imminent return of Christ that they quit doing anything.)

Poor people turning to the government, Beisner writes in his anti-social-justice booklet, results in “the stultifying effects of wealth redistribution by the coercive power of the state.” Even worse, he says, “it blinds [poor people] to their deepest need: the grace of God offered in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

This is another theme of the Republican Party’s right wing. Sharron Angle, the GOP’s 2010 Senate nominee in Nevada, said during her campaign that entitlement programs are “idolatry” because they “make government our God.” Farris Wilks, the Texas fracking billionaire who gives huge amounts to the Heritage Foundaiton and other right-wing groups, declares that “the Torah is set up on the free enterprise system” and that “Yahweh never intended for us as a people to be afraid and reliant on government.” Former Sen. Jim DeMint, who now heads the Heritage Foundation, says “the bigger government gets, the smaller God gets.

Heritage is just one of the institutions working to make right-wing economics an article of faith just like opposition to gay rights and abortion. The Freedom Federation, one of the many right-wing entities created in the wake of Barack Obama’s 2008 election, brings both "mainstream" and fringe Religious Right groups together with the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity. The Freedom Federation’s “Declaration of American Values” includes not only the expected rhetoric about traditional values, but also opposition to progressive taxation.

John Lofton, a right-wing pundit, is the spokesperson for Republican county council candidate Peroutka, and for Peroutka’s Christian Reconstructionist Institute on the Constitution, which has trained Tea Party activists on the biblical basis of the Constitution. Lofton has spoken on “God and Government” at Liberty University’s Helms School of Government. In 2012, in reference to an article about evangelicals disagreeing on budget priorities, Lofton wrote that “there should be no disagreement among those who believe the Bible is true. Because it is crystal clear that in God’s Word He gives NO AUTHORITY to civil government (Caesar) to give health, education or welfare to ANYBODY. If people need help, it is the role of the Church – God’s people – to provide this help and NOT government.”

Tea Party? Religious Right? GOP? Or all of the above?

Michael Peroutka Campaign Spox John Lofton: Public Officials' Job To 'Administer' God's Law

We’ve been reporting on the candidacy of Michael Peroutka, the 2004 presidential nominee for the U.S. Constitution Party and now the apparent GOP nominee for a county council seat in Anne Arundel, Maryland.  It is frankly hard to imagine a more extremist candidate for public office.  

He is a radical Christian Reconstructionist and southern secessionist who argues that the Maryland General Assembly is “no longer a valid legislative body” because it has passed laws he thinks are violations of “God’s law.” He took part in Larry Klayman’s “revolutionary” rally last November, which did not achieve its stated goal of forcing President Obama out of office. He asked the white nationalist League of the South for help in his campaign. His family foundation gave a dinosaur fossil to the Creationist Museum to keep it out of the hands of evolution-promoting scientists. And notably, for a GOP candidate, he disparages “the Republican Party and their brand of worthless, Godless, unprincipled conservatism.”

Peroutka’s partner at the Institute on the Constitution, David Whitney, ran for the same seat in the Democratic primary, and lost. But another ideological compatriot, Joseph Delimater, won the uncontested GOP primary for county sheriffFrederick Clarkson points out that Delimater’s campaign website argues that it’s the responsibility of a county councilman and sheriff to resist implementation of any law that violates God’s law.

Peroutka’s campaign spokesman John Lofton told the Capital Gazette newspaper that the candidate “would evaluate each piece of legislation to be sure it was authorized by God in the Bible, the U.S. Constitution and the Anne Arundel County Charter.” Lofton was communications director for Peroutka’s 2004 presidential campaign and has also served as communications director for Peroutka's Institute on the Constitution

Like Peroutka, Lofton has expressed contempt for the Republican Party, calling himself a “Recovering Republican,” and explaining on his website, “Being a Republican is not a disease; it is a choice – a very bad choice, but a choice nonetheless.”

Lofton was a movement conservative until he became enamored of Christian Reconstructionist R.J. Rushdoony and disillusioned that the conservative movement was not sufficiently focused on God. A few years ago he denounced the conservative movement, saying that “Dunghill Rejects” was the “perfect name” for “for the Godless, anti-Christian, modern ‘conservative movement.’”

Lofton has been invited to speak about God and Government at Liberty University’s Helms School of Government. He said the purpose of the Institute on the Constitution’s God and Government project – which encourages individuals to use public comment periods at local government meetings to deliver packaged two-minute statements – is “to tell our elected officials that government is from God and therefore their first duty is to obey God and to administer and apply his law.”

On his Christian Post blog, Lofton has asked whether President Obama is wearing a “What Would Satan Do?” bracelet and decreed that sending children to public schools is “spiritual child abuse” and a sin.

And in reference to an article about evangelicals disagreeing on budget priorities, he wrote that “there should be no disagreement among those who believe the Bible is true. Because it is crystal clear that in God's Word He gives NO AUTHORITY to civil government (Caesar) to give health, education or welfare to ANYBODY. If people need help, it is the role of the Church --- God's people --- to provide this help and NOT government.” He insists, “Man-made ‘laws’ that contradict God's Law are not law.”

Lofton’s Facebook page indicates that he shares Peroutka’s contempt for many contemporary political figures. He writes that President Obama “heads up the most powerful terrorist organization in the world, the American government.”

This week Lofton dismissed as “IDOLATROUS LINCOLN-WORSHIPPING CRAP” an article in which the Religious Right’s intellectual godfather, Robert George, wrote that Lincoln had, by saving the union, “completed, in a sense, America’s founding.”

On the 4th of July Lofton bragged that his local paper had printed his letter to the editor, which denounced the Laurel, Maryland, City Council for allowing a Hindu to open a meeting “by invoking false Gods,” which he called “an act of appalling idolatrous idiocy which invites God – the God of the Bible, the only true God there is – to curse us.”

Back in 2002, Lofton was interviewed by Stephen Colbert for The Daily Show. He denounced Lynn Cheney’s children’s book as “child abuse” for including Martin Luther King and a reference to the Day of the Dead holiday, which he said is “from the pit of hell.”

Christian Reconstructionist And Southern Secessionist Michael Peroutka Leading In GOP Primary

Far from the spotlight of Thad Cochran’s surprise defeat of his Tea Party challenger in Mississippi, radical Christian Reconstructionist and southern secessionist Michael Peroutka has apparently won the Republican primary for a county council seat in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County. As of early this morning, with all precincts reporting, the largely self-financing Peroutka had a 36-vote lead over his closest competitor in a five-way primary. But absentee ballots are still being counted, so Anne Arundel County voters could yet be spared a Peroutka general election candidacy.

We have a few things for county voters to think about.

As Miranda reported yesterday, Peroutka recently declared that, because the Maryland General Assembly has passed laws that “violate God’s law,” it is “no longer a valid legislative body” and as a result, none of the laws it has passed are “legally valid and legally enforceable.”

Peroutka feels that way about civil rights laws in general. In a conversation with right-wing talk show host Steve Deace last fall, Peroutka denounced civil unions and laws against anti-gay discrimination as unconstitutional, then added:

“I would include the so-called civil rights laws are not law, they never should’ve been passed, they’re not law now, they weren’t law then, they aren’t law now because there is no such thing as a civil right.”

Peroutka runs the Institute on the Constitution, which promotes Christian Reconstructionist ideology, and, as reported by journalist Sarah Posner, has trained local Tea Party groups with its 12-part course on the biblical basis of the Constitution. Peroutka embraces Christian Reconstructionists’ radically limited view of the role of government. He has written:

Since civil government is ordained by God in order to protect God-given rights, then the function of civil government is to obey God and to enforce God’s law – PERIOD.

It is not the role of civil government to house, feed, clothe, educate or give heath care to…ANYBODY!

Peroutka said much the same thing at Larry Klaymen’s failed revolutionary rally in Washington, D.C. earlier this year which was supposed to oust President Obama from office.

“There is a God. Our rights come from him. The purpose of civil government is to protect and defend God-given rights. This is the American view of law and government. It also happens to be the biblical view of law and government. America was founded upon the biblical view of law and government….”

That law, of course, includes Peroutka’s interpretation of Old Testament verses on homosexuality. He declared Michael Sam, the college football star who came out as gay this year, to be “publicly in violation of Leviticus 18:22” and declared that the celebratory kiss between Sam and his boyfriend during the NFL draft was the kind of “sewer filth” that caused him to get rid of cable TV. He has said that laws against anti-gay discrimination in the workplace are part of a broader agenda that will result in people being forced “to engage in the perversion.”

Peroutka also helps run a family foundation that recently contributed to the Creation Museum a million-dollar dinosaur fossil after considering re-burying it to keep it out of the hands of paleontologists who might use it to promote the theory of evolution. It sounds crazy until you remember that Peroutka believes “the promotion of evolution is an act of disloyalty to America.”

What I’m saying is that there is no way you could promote or believe in evolution and sing ‘God Bless America’ during the 7th inning stretch.”

“All men are created equal, they are not evolved equal, get it?” he adds. “So evolution is anti-American.”

All this extremism aside, it is not clear why Maryland Republicans would want to back his candidacy. Last fall, Peroutka expressed nothing but contempt for the Republican Party:

Anyone, including those who identify with the ‘Tea Party’, who loves America and desires real reform, would do well to disengage themselves from the Republican Party and their brand of worthless, Godless, unprincipled conservatism.”


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