The turn to mainstream party politics by two veteran Neo-Confederate leaders in Maryland took the political community by surprise. As we reported here at Eyes Right, the 2004 Constitution Party presidential candidate Michael Peroutka and his pastor, David Whitney (a one-time Constitution Party candidate for the state assembly) are running for seats on the Anne Arundel County Council—Peroutka as a Republican and Whitney as a Democrat. They are also running in the June 24th primary for seats on the respective county Party central committees. They have clearly not changed their positions on anything and have been sketchy about their reasons for running for these offices.
However, their views on a classic government prayer battle in Maryland’s Carroll County Board of Commissioners may illuminate how they might very well seek to turn the Anne Arundel County Council into a theater for theocratic grandstanding. The theocrats in both counties and their mentor, Judge Roy Moore, also help illuminate a certain approach to contemporary debates about religious freedom.
Some time ago, the American Humanist Association (AHA) filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of several county residents to require the Carroll County Board to halt the practice of opening their meetings with sectarian Christian prayers. U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr., in Baltimore recently issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting sectarian prayers at Board meetings. Nevertheless, Commissioner Robin Frazier, willfully violated the order two days later. “I am willing to go to jail,” Frazier said. “If we cease to believe our rights came from God, we cease to be America. And we’ve been told to `be careful,’ but we’re going to be careful all the way to communism, and I say no to this ruling.” And then she did it again at the next meeting. The AHA has asked Judge Quarles to issue a contempt finding. But Frazier is unlikely to get even a frisson of martyrdom out of Judge Quarles who, if anything, is more likely to fine than jail her.
But the defiant rhetoric notwithstanding, the Board of (all Republican) Commissioners voted 3-2 to hold off on defying Judge Quarles’s order until the Supreme Court rules in the similar case of Town of Greece (NY) v. Galloway, which was heard in November 2013, and will be decided by the end of the court’s term in June. All this has been big news in the region, covered in detail by among others, The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post.
But unreported in the media has been the support from Michael Peroutka and Pastor David Whitney—who praised Frazier’s “principled stand” against Judge Quarles’ “ungodly and unconstitutional ruling” in a sermon on April 2nd. Whitney even said he called her office to commend her, and hoped her county sheriff would prevent her from being hauled off to jail.
Whitney concluded that telling “an elected official that they cannot acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ, the one to whom all authority belongs, is to deny that the so-called civil government has any authority at all.” This is an extraordinary statement which suggests that because a Federal Judge issues a preliminary injunction against sectarian prayer in a county commission meeting, that therefore the entire federal government has no authority at all. “What is apparent,” Whitney declared, “is that our Federal Government, of whom Judge Quarles is but one example, is opposed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
“When a civil government denies the Lordship of Jesus Christ,” Whitney concluded, “it asserts that it, the civil government itself, is greater than Him—that it is above Him and that its own so-called laws, not His Law, are the laws that must be obeyed. So the Federal Government has made itself into a wretched beastly idol in our day.” He claims that requiring people to conform to the law of the land when it is out of sync with his personal notions of “the Law of the One True God” is “the very essence of tyranny.”
Whitney’s solidarity is unsurprising since his relationship with [deletion. we have already noted the composition of the board] Carroll County Board goes back to at least to 2012, when they paid Whitney—the lead instructor at the theocratic Institute on the Constitution (IOTC)—$800.00 in county money to teach 50 county employees about his controversial views on the U.S. Constitution.
Whitney’s solidarity is also unsurprising in light of the history of Maryland theocrats, who see the situation in Carroll County that ofJudge Roy Moore—the once and current Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who became a hero to the Christian Right when he placed a two and a half ton monument to the Ten Commandments in the State courthouse. (He then became a martyr when he was removed from the bench when he defied the order of a Federal judge to remove what became known as “Roy’s Rock.”)
“Was it not the acknowledgment of His name,” Whitney rhetorically asked his congregation, “that caused our friend Chief Justice Roy Moore to be removed from office? And now in Carroll County His holy name is forbidden from prayers to open local government meetings. What is going on here?”
Judge Moore, who was reelected in 2012 to the office from which he was unseated in 2003, has been a close friend and ally of Peroutka and the IOTC. Moore made numerous public appearances with Peroutka during the failed 2004 presidential campaign, and has been the headliner at IOTC events over the years, most recently on March 15th, and Peroutka displays a replica of “Roy’s Rock” on his Maryland farm.
So it came as no surprise when the unrepentant Moore’s Montgomery, Alabama-based Foundation for Moral Law recently issued a statement in support of Robin Frazier’s defiance of Judge Quarles’s order. The statement, issued by Foundation president Kayla Moore (Mrs. Roy Moore), read in part, “no federal judge has the authority to dictate to the people of Alabama how they may decorate their judicial building, and likewise no federal judge has the authority to tell the people of Carroll County, Maryland how their elected commissioners should begin their meetings.”
This national network of theocratic dominionists are unambiguous in their disdain for the rights of people other than their approved brands of Christianity and the necessity of government to act as the uncompromised guarantor of the rights of all. They are not shy about declaring that government must be an enforcer of their particular notions of Biblical Law, or it that government, and its various agencies are at the very least, to be openly defied.