Roy Moore & Ron Paul: The Politics of Secession, Nullification, and Marriage Equality

Roy Moore, the elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court has been in the news lately for his efforts to block same sex marriage in the state—notwithstanding a federal judge’s ruling that Alabama’s anti-marriage equality law is unconstitutional.  Moore claims that federal courts, short of the U.S. Supreme Court, do not have the authority to interpret the Constitution against the laws and constitution of the state. Moore’s efforts are being discussed as nullification, and are even being compared to Gov. George Wallace’s attempt to prevent the integration of the Alabama public schools in the 1960s.

A slow motion showdown may be brewing over Moore’s notion of state sovereignty vs. the supremacy of federal law that extends beyond the matter at hand. Moore told Fox News Sunday that he does not recognize the authority of the federal courts regarding, among other things, marriage. If, as seems likely, the U.S. Supreme Court makes marriage equality the law of the land this term, he says he will “recuse” himself from matters involving same-sex marriage.  Contrary to some published reports, this does not mean he will defy the U.S. Supreme Court.  He knows that if he did so, he would be removed from the bench, just as he was a decade ago when he installed and refused to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from the state courthouse in Montgomery – in defiance of a federal court order.  Moore is too wily to try that again.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

At this writing, there is a lot of legal wrangling in both state and federal courts over the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses in Alabama.  Some counties are complying with the rulings and issuing licenses to couples, and some are not.

But looking beyond the current confusion, Moore has apparently decided to use his position to speak out about what he considers a creeping federal tyranny, while taking pains not to jeopardize his seat.

Taking a similar approach is Moore’s longtime ideological ally Michael Peroutka, (the one-time presidential candidate of the theocratic Constitution Party, and recently-elected Republican member of the Anne Arundel County 1)Maryland Council).  When the Council voted on a resolution to seek federal funding for public school programs, all members (both Democrats and Republicans) voted in favor, except for Peroutka who abstained. The Capital Gazette reported, “Peroutka said he took issue with federal money being sent to local schools because the Constitution does not give the federal government the authority to “be involved in any education at all.”

“Federal programs are driving the agenda here in our local schools,” Peroutka said. “They’re driving the agenda with a lot of money.””

Michael Peroutka

Michael Peroutka

All of this may portend a struggle that will play out differently than one might think. The situation may be more complicated than just the country generally, and the conservative South in particular, reaching acceptance of marriage equality.

Groups and individuals involved in the wider movements of the Christian Right and contemporary libertarianism, on which PRA has reported over the past two years, have advocated varying degrees of nullification and secession; and have envisioned vary degrees of political tension, violence and civil war. Peroutka and Moore may lack the votes in their respective governmental institutions for nullification over marriage and other issues, but they can be voices for building a movement which could one day be capable of carrying it out.

It is not clear yet how organized or capable the movement is currently, but it is worth noting that former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)  spoke at a gathering in January at the Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, called “Breaking Away: The Case for Secession”.

“I would like to start off,” Paul declared, “by talking about the subject and the subject is secession and, uh, nullification, the breaking up of government, and the good news is it’s gonna happen.  It’s happening,”

Meanwhile, judge Moore and Peroutka seem to be taking the long view—but others are not.  Among these is another longtime Peroutka friend and ally, Michael Hill, head of the theocratic and White supremacist Alabama-based League of the South.  Peroutka, as PRA reported last year, was a member of the board of directors of the League for several months in 2014, before quietly leaving, apparently in preparation for his run for office. His membership in the League was a major issue in the campaign. Peroutka said he resigned his membership but did not renounce the League itself. After Peroutka won the election, Hill celebrated his friend’s victory.

Hill has called for the formation of death squads to kill American government officials and journalists, and for White men of all ages to become “citizen soldiers” in a great modern defense of archaic notions of Christendom.  He has as gone so far as to organize a paramilitary group.

Hill sees himself and his comrades as part of a long line of such “citizen soldiers,” invoking historic battles with Islamic armies going back to the Battle of Tours in the 8th century. His role models for warriors for Christendom, however, are the White Westerners who fought against Black liberation movements in Southern Africa in the 1970s.

“So if Western men in past times were willing to fight for their civilization in remote areas of the world,” he asked, “shouldn’t we expect them to be just as willing to fight for that civilization here at its very heart – the South? … The traditions and truths of Western Christendom are anathema to the [Obama] regime,” he concluded. “The tyrants’ regime and Western Christendom cannot coexist—that is not possible. One must win and the other must disappear. It is indeed the ultimate Zero Sum game.”

Michael Hill is treating the federal judge’s overturning of the “Sanctity of Marriage” amendment to the Alabama state constitution as the last straw. While the League says it supports judge Moore’s effort to defend the state constitution against the alleged federal tyranny, Hill declared that he no longer considers himself an American and called for violent secession of the South from “the American monstrosity.”

Hill also joined theologian Peter Leithart of Birmingham and prominent Christian Right political organizer David Lane, in explicitly declaring his opposition to “Americanism.”

“Yes, many of our citizens have, wittingly or unwittingly, embraced Americanism for either survival or profit,” Hill declared. “I have not, and I intend to convince my fellow Southerners to join my side. I do not intend to leave Alabama or the South… I intend to fight, and if necessary kill and die, for their survival, well-being, and independence.”

A Moscow – Montgomery Axis?

As it happens, the League has been receiving encouragement from elements in Russia, particularly some who support Ukrainian separatists. He addressed, via Skype, a red/brown conference of anti-globalism activists, in Moscow in December 2014.  Hill told the conference that he sees American southern nationalism as an “historic ‘blood and soil’ movement” – an overt reference to 20th century ultra-German nationalism and Naziism.

Hill reports that he also emphasized the League’s “direct Southern nationalist challenge to the political, economic, and financial engine of globalism – the Washington, DC/European Union alliance.”

While the League has been networking with separatist movements around the world for a long time, the relationship with and support for pro-Russian, Ukrainian separatists has been growing.  On his Facebook page last year, Hill cast the situation as a battle between the “decadent West,” meaning the U.S. and the European Union (EU), and supposedly traditionalist Russia—which he described as “conservative, Orthodox, anti-Muslim and anti-PC.”

“We Southerners, as Christian traditionalists,” he concluded, “ought to sympathize with those in Ukraine who would object to closer ties with the USA-EU regimes simply because of what they now stand for: multiculturalism, tolerance, and diversity; anti-Christian policies from abortion to homosexuality; open borders and the demographic displacement of native Whites; an aggressive foreign policy, including war, in the name of spreading liberal democracy. On the other hand, Russia today stands against such things.”

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U.S. Theologian Wants Martyrs Against America

Last year, I published an article in The Public Eye magazine in which I summarized a disturbing trend among some thinkers and leaders of the Christian Right—a vision of theocratic political resistance that includes violence and civil war. Some of them are concerned that they are losing on the issues of marriage equality and abortion, on which they claim the future of Christendom rests. These thinkers and leaders are considering their options, from varying degrees of accommodation and acceptance, to massive resistance and revolution.

What happens along this spectrum of response may define much of the history of our time. One of the words on which this history may hang is “martyr.” A discussion about its use by theocratic theologian Peter Leithart has broken out in the blogosphere. The low-profile Leithart may not have expected that people would take his prophetic call for martyrs so seriously.

Peter Liethart

Peter Liethart

 

The roots of the current brouhaha go back to July 3, 2013, when David Lane, a leading Christian Right political operative, published an essay titled “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation.” His post (written on the far right news site World Net Daily), which was later scrubbed from the website, was a clarion call for contemporary religious war against the supposedly pagan government of the United States.

Lane’s apparent break with the gleaming vision of a theocratic America was remarkable because he is such a pivotal figure on the contemporary Christian Right. As Rachel Tabachnick recently reported here at Political Research Associates, Lane was the principal organizer of The Response, a prayer rally for political dominion and candidate training last month in Baton Rouge, Louisiana—headlined by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R). Lane has been a key organizer of scores of Christian Right political development events, called Pastors Policy Briefings, over the past two decades. Lane has also been in the news recently as the organizer of a controversial trip to Israel for Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus and 60 members of the RNC.

Lane is fond of quoting from Birmingham, Alabama-based theologian Peter Leithart’s book Between Babel and Beast, especially Leithart’s views on the need for Christian martyrs to confront what he calls the heresy of Americanism. And that is what he did in his unsuccessfully hidden op-ed:

“American Christianity has not done a good job of producing martyrs… Christians must risk martyrdom and force Babel to the crux where it has to decide either to acknowledge Jesus an imperator and the church as God’s imperium or to begin drinking holy blood.”

But when writer Bruce Wilson recently attributed Leithart’s words to Lane at the Huffington Post, Leithart took to the blog at First Things (founded by neoconservative Catholic priest John Richard Neuhaus)—apparently to create a diversion in the form of correcting the record.

When Christians are faithful witnesses,” Leithart explained, “they are an irritant to the powers that be. And the powers that be want them out of the way.”

If they can get Christians to get out of the way on their own with articles like Wilson’s, so much the better,” he declared suggesting complicity between Wilson and the mysterious, unnamed “they.”

If they can’t, sterner measures might be necessary,” Leithart darkly continued. “This isn’t imaginary. It’s the history of early Christianity in its relation to the Roman Empire. It’s the history of dozens of countries in the present day.”

The idea that writer Bruce Wilson is a tool of a creeping; Christianity-persecuting cabal is just conspiracy theory. And of course, Leithart presents no evidence for the insinuation on which his conspiracy theory relies.

In any case, Leithart claims that the quotation at issue “has made the rounds in the feverish backwaters of leftist watchdog groups, with their nightmares about a theocratic takeover of the federal government. Every time it’s quoted, the implication is that I’m advocating violence. People see the word “martyr” and think “suicide bomber.” 

He cites no one, including Wilson, who says that Leithart is advocating violence. The problem is not with the unnamed groups and individuals who accurately quote Leithart’s words. The problem lies with Leithart’s words and the ideas that they express. Let’s consider them.

Leithart can quibble about unnamed people misunderstanding the word “martyr” but he can’t hide the obviously violent and theocratic implications behind his use of the Latin words imperator and imperium in this context. He says that Christians must compel the rest of society to acknowledge Jesus as a contemporary analog of the Roman imperial government, and his particular totalist view of God and his church—or else.

Leithart doesn’t acknowledge it, but he also addressed the matter of martyrdom at First Things (which calls itself America’s most influential journal of religion and public life”) in 2013. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision, which struck down key portions of the Defense of Marriage Act, Leithart saw battle lines being drawn between conservative notions of Christianity and the emerging culture and law of the United States. He and others reject this emerging version of America.

In Greek, martyria means ‘witness,’ specifically, witness in a court,” he wrote. “At the very least, the decision challenges American Christians to continue to teach Christian sexual ethics without compromise or apology.”

The only America that actually exists,” he continued, “is one in which ‘marriage’ includes same-sex couples and women have a Constitutional right to kill their babies. To be faithful, Christian witness must be witness against America.”

Leithart’s make-or-break vision would either end what he describes as anti-Christian tyranny or, failing that, build a new Christian nation—or nations and new notions of the definition of Christendom. His call for martyrs to provoke society to the point of violence—or accept a theocratic imperium—is exactly the kind of demagogic threat that people are concerned about.

Leithart now insists that his notion of Christian martyrdom is to be carried out “peaceably”—by proclaiming “the truth about the unborn and the truth about marriage, regardless of what the Supreme Court has said or will say in the next few months.”

Martyrdom doesn’t involve killing,” he insists. “It’s jolly defiance, ready to be slandered, insulted, beaten, killed for the one who died for me.”

The degree and manner of civil disobedience envisioned by various elements of the Christian Right remains to be seen. There are clear tensions between those who can apparently live with the social changes taking place in the country and those who can’t. There are also those who see the so-called culture war as not about single issues, but about the survival their particular vision of Christendom itself, and whether or not their kind of Christians are willing to fight for it.

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While Fischer Takes the Blame, RNC Israel Trip Will Be Led By An Even More Influential Christian Nationalist

Much has been made of RNC chairman Reince Priebus and 60 members of the Republican National Committee taking a trip to Israel under the sponsorship of the SPLC-certified hate group American Family Association (AFA). But while AFA has tried to minimalize the controversy by firing Director of Issue Analysis Bryan Fischer (although he’ll continue hosting their radio program), the right-wing operative actually hosting the trip is a less known, but much more significant player.

This duplicity of those on the Right known for loudly declaring their love for Israel in an effort to inoculate their activism from charges of Christian supremacism has become increasingly transparent thanks to the RNC’s trip. Waving Israeli flags at rallies may no longer be enough to camouflage an agenda that attacks the rights of American Jews and those of other faiths

The host of the RNC’s trip, and the man we should be more concerned about, is David Lane, head of the American Renewal Project at the AFA. While Bryan Fischer has received most of the public notoriety for declaring that only Christians should have free exercise of religion and that immigrants should be forced to convert to Christianity, David Lane’s work has successfully flown under the radar—until now.

Christian Right political operative David Lane

Christian Right political operative David Lane

David Lane: Wage War to Restore a Christian America

Lane just finished up his duties organizing The Response in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a religio-political rally headlined by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and funded by AFA.  Lane, a self-declared political operative, has mostly stayed out of the limelight for the last decade, while hosting over 10,000 pastors in more than 10 states encouraging pastors to run for office, known as “Pastors’ Policy Briefings” or “Pastors and Pews.”  These briefings are often held over a couple of days in luxury hotels, with all-expenses-paid for pastors and their spouses, and have featured numerous politicians. For example, one event last year in Iowa featured Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) (and his father) and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R), and was also attended by billionaire brothers Dan and Farris Wilks. Another Iowa event on the schedule for this coming March will include Jindal and Cruz.

As noted by PRA Fellow Frederick Clarkson, Lane’s rhetoric has become increasingly militant. An article by Lane later removed from the WorldNetDaily website was titled “Wage War to Restore a Christian America.”

As to the future of America – and the collapse of this once-Christian nation – Christians must not only be allowed to have opinions, but politically, Christians must be retrained to war for the Soul of America and quit believing the fabricated whopper of the “Separation of Church and State,” the lie repeated ad nauseum by the left and liberals to keep Christian America – the moral majority – from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning and pagan media.

Lane frequently quotes Christian Reconstructionist Peter Leithart’s call for Christian martyrs, and says“Christianity has always been persecuted beginning in Acts 4 and throughout 2000 years of history.” According to Lane, the only exception is in the U.S., where Christians have had religious and civil liberty for about 200 years, but he adds that Christian America is now in ruins, “destroyed by liberal secularists.”  He equates the supposed failure of Christian America to fight back against secularism with the failure of the church of Germany to fight back against the rising Nazi party.

Gene Mills, head of the Tony Perkins-founded Louisiana Family Forum, presents Governor Bobby Jindal with the "Gladiator Award"

Gene Mills, head of the Tony Perkins-founded Louisiana Family Forum, presents Governor Bobby Jindal with the “Gladiator Award”

Events organized by Lane have also featured calls for like-minded Christians to “take back” government and society.  One of the organizers of The Response in LA was Gene Mills, head of the Tony Perkins-founded Louisiana Family Forum.  During his speech, Mills challenged the audience to take back the “seven mountains” from “enemy occupation.” This is a reference to a campaign marketed internationally for like-minded Christians to take control over society by taking dominion over arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media, and religion.  Mills presents annual awards each year to politicians who support the organization’s agenda, a number that he says has quadrupled during his tenure.  This past year he awarded the sword for the “Gladiator Award” to Gov. Jindal.

A Christian Nationalist Rewriting of History

AFA’s Bryan Fischer, at the heart of the RNC trip controversy, is known for his virulent homophobia. In Fischer’s version of Nazi history, Adoph Hitler himself was an active homosexual, who recruited other homosexuals.  Therefore, in his version of history, homosexuals were not victims but the villains of the Holocaust.

Lane has taken politicians to Israel, including former Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) and Rand Paul, and is credited with helping the latter improve his credentials with evangelicals.  This past November, Lane hosted a group of “political and faith leaders” on a trip to Europe, including former Arkansas Governor and Fox News personality Mike Huckabee, as well as pastors from Iowa and South Carolina. The trip was dubbed “The Journey: A Spiritual Awakening,” and the itinerary included sites related to the lives of Pope John Paul II, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and concluded at the Ronald Reagan Library.

Also on the trip was Floyd Brown, founder of Citizens United and the political operative behind the infamous Willie Horton ad and the ExposeObama website. Brown wrote about the trip in an article titled “Huckabee Declaring Holy War?,” and quotes Huckabee as calling for resistance against tyranny.  But the tyranny they claim to be fighting is that of President Obama’s administration and the “cultural Marxism” that Lane believes is part of a communist plot to indoctrinate Americans.

Stops at Auschwitz and Birkenau were also included, but they were spun by Lane and Huckabee and (as well as in coverage of the trip by conservative media) as a warning to rise up against encroaching threats in America.  An article in the Christian Post about the trip equated the actions of the Nazis with America today, saying, “The comparison to America could not be more blantant. The article quoted Austrian-born Kitty Werthmann, president of the North Dakota chapter of the Eagle Forum, the anti-ERA organization founded by Phyllis Schlafly, who gives speeches based on her claimed experiences in Nazi-occupied Austria and portraying Hitler as a leftist who abolished free enterprise and insisted on “equal rights for women”

Inoculating Christian Nationalism with Christian Zionism


Many Christians feel affinity with the Holy Land and the state of Israel, but Christian Zionism refers to activism attempting to hasten the second coming of Jesus, and helping Jews along with the role they are supposed to play in the drama of the end times. In recent decades, leaders embracing Dominion Theology have often rejected Christian Zionism, but some Charismatic Christians have embraced a different form of dominionism that couples aggressive Christian triumphalism with “pro-Israel” activism. In this hybrid narrative, Jews must be converted (particularly in Israel) to bring about Jesus’ kingdom on earth.

Although this brand of Charismatic dominionism is sweeping the globe like wildfire, many Jewish leaders either remain unaware of its agenda, or are hesitant to criticize the religious bigotry of those labelled pro-Israel.  The Israeli flag waving, shofar blowing, and Messianic music are sometimes mistaken as affection, when these are actually expressions of Christian triumphalism and a strategy to build Messianic congregations and communities. (Messianics are Jews who convert to Christianity but retain trappings of Judaism and a Jewish identity.)

This coupling of Christian nationalism with pro-Zionist activism is most visible among the modern-day “apostles” of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), many of whom helped David Lane organize, market, and lead The Response prayer rallies headlined by Rick Perry in 2011 and Bobby Jindal last week.  At both of these events, a designated “prayer for Israel” segment of the program included overt calls for the conversion of Jews.  At the Perry event in 2011, the call was made by Apostle Don Finto and Marty Waldman, rabbi of one of the nation’s largest Messianic congregations.  Finto is known for his role in promoting the “Israel Mandate” directing Christians to support Messianics.

The leader of the afternoon segment of Perry’s 2011 all-day prayer rally was Mike Bickle, head of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, an international youth-oriented ministry that also prioritizes the Israel Mandate.  The Response events were patterned after, and incorporated leaders from, TheCall, a tax-affiliated ministry of IHOP led by Lou Engle. TheCall holds large-venue events around the world that include prayers for conversion of Jews, including TheCall Jerusalem in 2008.

At David Lane’s prayer rally last weekend, the Prayer For Israel speakers included Rosemary Schindler, a distant relative of Oskar Schindler and a prominent speaker among Christian Zionists and Messianics. Last year, Rosemary married Jim Garlow, a pastor who organized support for California’s Proposition 8. Another speaker at Lane’s rally shouted, “We declare as a united body, revival in the land of Israel in the name of Jesus!”  (Garlow also spoke at both Perry and Jindal’s rally.)

This shift in theology has resulted in ugly undertones of religious bigotry among people who claim to love Israel, and a new acceptability in evangelizing Jews.  For example, the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute (MJBI), led primarily by NAR apostles and Messianics (including Rabbi Marty Waldman), featured Glenn Beck in 2012 at their annual gala and fundraiser. The following year the event featured former President George W. Bush.

The RNC’s trip with Lane will be accompanied by popular Messianic writer Joel Rosenberg, who also calls for the evangelization of Jews and has recently immigrated to Israel.  The Haaretz article also quoted David Lane from a past interview with Glenn Beck saying “Restoring America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establishing a Christian culture is the only way that we get out of where we are.”

Haaretz published an oped I wrote in August, 2011, when Glenn Beck was hosting events in Israel.  Beck had already alienated many American Jews with the promotion of virulently anti-Semitic writers and an attack on George Soros using anti-Semitic memes. His anti-Semitic words caused a protest from 400 rabbis, representing all four branches of Judaism. In the op-ed, I warned that Beck’s embrace by Israeli leaders would be further indication to Americans that support for Israel is linked to an extremist political agenda in the United States—one that threatens to further alienate both Jews and Christians, Democrats and Republicans.  Likewise, Reince Priebus and the RNC’s trip with David Lane risk further alienating not only American Jews, but all Americans who value religious pluralism and the separation of church and state.

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Rumblings of Theocratic Violence

Some Christian Right activists have lost hope that a Christian Nation can be achieved in the United States through the formal political process—including a high-level GOP operative. They are calling for martyrs and thinking about religious war.

As its long-held dream of a national "return to Christ" seems to fade, the Christian Right is considering violent and secessionist alternatives. Photo courtesy of Chris Wieland.

As its long-held dream of a national “return to Christ” seems to fade, the Christian Right is considering violent and secessionist alternatives. Photo courtesy of Chris Wieland.

“If the American experiment with freedom is to end after 237 years,” wrote Republican campaign strategist David Lane in an essay published on a popular conservative website in 2013, “let each of us commit to brawl all the way to the end.” Quoting Winston Churchill from the darkest days of the German bombing of Britain during World War II, Lane added that “upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization.”1

Such rhetoric is so common on the farther reaches of the Right that it can be easy to dismiss. But something has changed in recent years. Such disturbing claims are appearing more frequently, more prominently, and in ways that suggest that they are expressions of deeply held beliefs more than provocative political hyperbole.2 What’s more, there are powerful indications in the writings of some Christian Right leaders that elements of their movement have lost confidence in the bright political vision of the United States as the once and future Christian nation—and that they are desperately seeking alternatives.

The 59-year-old Lane, who generally keeps a low media profile, epitomizes the trend. Lane has been a key strategist in the conservative movement and a behind-the-scenes power broker and adviser to GOP presidential candidates for two decades.3 His main vehicle has been “Pastors’ Policy Briefings,” in which conservative Christian clergy and their spouses are provided expenses-paid trips to (usually) closed-door, invitation-only conferences. Speakers at these events included top GOP politicians and office holders, as well as Christian Right ideologues such as David Barton and experts in the mechanics of church-based electoral mobilization. During the 2010 midterm elections, such events were held in six states (Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Iowa). The elections swept unprecedented numbers of Christian conservatives into state legislatures and the Congress, largely under the rubric of the Tea Party, helping catalyze the successful effort to oust three pro-marriage equality justices of the Iowa Supreme Court.4

The Iowa Renewal Project, which hosted a briefing in October 2013, is one of several state-level units of the American Renewal Project—which is, in turn, a political development and mobilization project of the Mississippi-based American Family Association. Its most prominent figures are founder Don Wildmon and the abrasive radio host Bryan Fischer. Lane told the Dallas Morning News that the goal of the event, which featured Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX),5 was the same as the others: “the mobilization of pastors and pews to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establish a Christian culture.” Lane said: “We’ve been in 15 states now, largely under the radar, and we’ve had 10,000 pastors plus spouses that we’ve put up overnight and fed three meals. The purpose is to get the pastors—the shepherds in America—to engage the culture through better registration and get out the vote.”6

In one sense, little has changed since the methods that have defined the Christian Right were developed in the latter part of the twentieth century. But the heyday of high-profile, mediagenic leaders like Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and Phyllis Schlafly—and their national organizations—is long gone. Their legacy is a generation of hands-on political operatives who now sustain a more decentralized Christian Right. No one now qualifies as the “leader” of the Christian Right. Instead, a constellation of smaller, electorally focused organizations has emerged, and others have evolved.

Lane’s method turns on the role of clergy in inspiring, sustaining, and expanding the electoral capacity of Christian conservatives. By Lane’s analysis, about half of eligible evangelical voters are either not registered or do not vote—and he believes pastors are the key to changing this, and thereby to sustaining the Christian Right’s strategic capacity for skillful voter mobilization, and exercising outsized political influence en route to dominant political power and governmental authority.7 As such, Lane epitomizes the long-haul political vision of the Christian Right. He has promoted Mike Huckabee at similar events since his runs for statewide office in Arkansas in the 1990s, and as a presidential candidate in 2008.8 Lane also masterminded the 2011 prayer rally that drew 30,000 people to launch Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s short-lived 2012 campaign for president.

Like many other evangelicals, especially those influenced by the Neocharismatic movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation,9 Lane is counting on a revival—another Great Awakening—to sweep Christians of the right sort into positions of power. This would result in the kind of Christian nation that he and his close ally, the historical revisionist (and accused fabulist) David Barton—whose books and interpretations are influential among conservative evangelicals—believe was intended by the nation’s founders. Barton is well known, for example, for his claim that the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state is a “myth,” as well as the variation that the wall is “one directional,” that is, intended only to protect the church from the state.10 A Bartonesque Christian nationalism is the vision that animates Lane’s work across the election calendar.11

But for all the energy he invests in traditional electoral work, Lane clearly is not convinced that his shining vision of America is likely—or even possible. Hence his doubt-filled essay about “the American experiment with freedom” possibly ending. The piece, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” was published on World Net Daily (WND), a leading and influential news site of the farther secular and religious Right. WND quickly removed the essay in June 2013 after bloggers called attention to it,12 but Lane soon demonstrated that it was not an aberration. He told conservative Iowa radio talk show host Steve Deace the following month that “car bombs in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Des Moines, Iowa” would be merciful punishment from God for legalized abortion and for “homosexuals praying at the Inauguration [of President Obama’s second term].” Without such divine mercy, Lane suggested, America might “get judgment like Nazi Germany.”13

Lane’s apparent lack of confidence that the Christian Right’s efforts to establish theocratic governance can succeed by using the tools of democracy epitomizes his belief that martyrdom and elections are not mutually exclusive, and that horrific confrontations lie ahead. Indeed, Lane opened his WND essay with a quote from a leading thinker who does not believe that the U.S. can be salvaged via conventional politics: the theologian Peter Leithart, 55, a Christian Reconstructionist (hardline theocrat) who makes even David Barton seem meek and mild by comparison.14 “Throughout Scripture,” Leithart declared in a passage from his 2012 book Between Babel and Beast, “the only power that can overcome the seemingly invincible omnipotence of a Babel or a Beast is the power of martyrdom, the power of the witness to King Jesus to the point of loss and death.”15

“You ask,” Lane wrote in his WND essay, elaborating on Leithart’s theme, “‘What is our goal?’ To wage war to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage with all of our might and strength that God will give us. You ask, ‘What is our aim?’ One word only: victory, in spite of all intimidation and terror.”

Lane’s essay is a clarion call for a contemporary religious war against the supposedly pagan government of the United States. And his notion of war is not just a metaphor for politics. He even called for a contemporary “Gideon” and a “Rahab the Harlot” to rise to the occasion. Gideon is the Biblical figure who leads an Israelite army in an ethnic cleansing of the Midianites who were both oppressors and worshiped false gods. The story of Rahab turns on how she sheltered two Israelite spies in preparation for the sacking of the city of Jericho by Joshua’s army, resulting in the massacre of everyone but Rahab and her family. One does not invoke Gideon and Rahab in this way if one is simply calling for religious revival, or seeking to advance a legislative agenda.16

Coming from a top GOP operative, such exhortations to religious war are extraordinary. Lane’s articulation demonstrates an alarming degree of militancy at a high level of American politics. As such, it is a bellwether of an ideological reorganization, or at least reconsideration, now taking place within the Christian Right. It sounds like an expression of the cognitive dissonance experienced by a man whose job is to mobilize political constituencies toward common goals—but who doubts that the enterprise can succeed.

Christian Right leaders and activists have been particularly provoked by the Supreme Court's 2013 ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act. Photo courtesy of Southern Reformation.

Christian Right leaders and activists have been particularly provoked by the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act. Photo courtesy of Southern Reformation.

As a result, at least some of the historic culture warriors of the Christian Right seem to be considering an ostensibly unlikely coalition with the Neo-Confederate movement. The coalition would lead their followers in religious and political directions in which violence is as likely as the outcomes are uncertain. It is an unlikely coalition, not necessarily because the Christian Right and most Neo-Confederates differ much on issues, but because Christian nationalism is so fundamentally at odds with the notion of fracturing the nation due to a loss of hope and faith in the role of the United States in God’s plan.

Witness Against America

The accelerating advance of LGBTQ rights, especially marriage equality, has become a flashpoint for the Christian Right’s revolutionary impulses. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor in 2013, Peter Leithart took to the influential blog of the journal First Things (founded by the late neoconservative Catholic thinker Richard John Neuhaus) to declare that the decision “presents American Christians with a call to martyrdom.”17

In 2013, influential GOP operative David Lane wrote an essay titled “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” a clarion call for a contemporary religious war against the supposedly pagan government of the United States. Lane later told a radio host that car bombs in U.S. cities would be “merciful judgement” from God for the nation’s tolerance of legalized abortion and homosexuality.

Leithart is the former dean of graduate studies at New Saint Andrew’s College, whose founder and eminence grise is Douglas Wilson. (Leithart remains an adjunct fellow at the school, which is based in the university town of Moscow, Idaho.) In 2012, Leithart struck off on his own, founding a small school and related think tank, Trinity House, in Birmingham, AL. It seeks to serve as a center for a new Reformed Protestantism, called Federal Vision, whose leading lights include Neo-Confederate authors Wilson and Steven Wilkins.18

Together, Wilson and Wilkins have probably done more than anyone to construct the theology now animating much of the Neo-Confederate movement. Wilkins was one of the founders of the League of the South, the leading organization of contemporary Neo-Confederatism.19 As scholars Edward Sebesta and Euan Hague have written, the League views the Civil War as a “theological war” that continues in contemporary America. The heart of their argument is that the old Confederacy was an orthodox Christian nation fighting for the future against the heretical and tyrannical Union states.  Sebesta and Hague also report that that New York Times best-selling author Thomas E. Woods, a traditionalist Catholic and a founder of the League, has argued that “struggles against liberalism, big government and the New World Order comprise ‘Christendom’s Last Stand.’”20

Wilson and Wilkins are notorious for a booklet they published that claimed that slavery was not so bad. Nick Gier, a professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Idaho, observes that they made a number of historically inaccurate but ideologically significant claims, notably that, “By the time of the [Civil] War, the leadership of the South was conservative, orthodox, and Christian,” and that the leadership of the North had become “radical and Unitarian.” While the Confederates were righteous, “the abolitionists in the North were ‘wicked’ and ‘driven by a zealous hatred for the Word of God.’”21

In his First Things piece , Leithart avoids calling too directly for Christians to risk their lives (perhaps because of the flap over David Lane’s essay). But his call to martyrdom is clear enough. “In Greek, martyria means ‘witness,’ specifically, witness in a court,” he wrote. “At the very least, the decision challenges American Christians to continue to teach Christian sexual ethics without compromise or apology. But Windsor presents a call to martyrdom in a more specific sense. There will be a cost for speaking the truth, a cost in reputation, opportunity, and funds if not in freedoms. [Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia’s reference [in Windsor] to the pagan Roman claim that Christians are ‘enemies of mankind’ was probably not fortuitous.”

“The only America that actually exists,” he continued, “is one in which ‘marriage’ includes same-sex couples and women have a Constitutional right to kill their babies. To be faithful, Christian witness must be witness against America.”22

“If America is to be put in its place—put right,” he concluded (in David Lane’s hair-raising invocation of a passage from Leithart’s book Between Babel and Beast), “Christians must risk martyrdom and force Babel to the crux where it has to decide either to acknowledge Jesus an imperator and the church as God’s imperium or to begin drinking holy blood.”23

In Between Babel and Beast, Leithart declared that Christians must respond to the heresy of “Americanism,” by which some conflate the nation with Christianity itself. He called for repenting of Americanism and beginning to cultivate “believers who are martyrs in the original sense of ‘witness’ and in the later sense of men and women ready to follow the Lamb all the way to an imperial cross.”24

Significantly, Leithart has also proposed “the end of Protestantism” in a way that suggests a growing affinity for the kind of Catholicism expressed by George Weigel—a U.S. Catholic culture warrior, neoconservative, signer of the Manhattan Declaration, and fellow First Things blogger. Leithart also proposes the related notion of a “Reformational Catholicism,” which foresees a Rome-based Christian unity.25 He envisions this mutual accommodation as a kind of Christian maturity necessary for Christendom not only to survive but to prevail.

Leithart’s make-or-break vision would either end what he describes as anti-Christian tyranny or, failing that, build a new Christian nation—or nations. He is less concerned with the ups and downs of single issues than with the long-term advance of Christendom. This is consistent with the revolutionary visions of an influential Catholic thinker, Father C. John McCloskey, who believes that regional American strongholds of conservative Christianity may be necessary in light of the culture of religious pluralism and the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state.

Ending the Tyrannical Regime

The accelerating advance of LGBTQ rights, especially marriage equality, has become a flashpoint for the Christian Right’s revolutionary impulses. “The only America that actually exists,” Christian theocrat Peter Leithart has written, “is one in which ‘marriage’ includes same-sex couples and women have a Constitutional right to kill their babies. To be faithful, Christian witness must be witness against America.”

McCloskey, a 61-year-old priest in the conservative order Opus Dei, is best known for his role in the religious conversions of Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and various other prominent and influential conservatives, including Newt Gingrich, Robert Bork, economist Lawrence Kudlow, financier Lewis Lehrman, and the late journalist Robert Novak.

McCloskey told columnist Terry Mattingly in July 2013 that “the United States is no longer a Christian country.” Because this is so, he explained, traditionalists will need to cluster in states that are more congenial to their views on such matters as abortion, marriage, parents rights, and homeschooling. “No one in this country has ever really suffered for their faith in any meaningful way,” McCloskey said. “Those days are ending, especially in certain states . . . Among Catholics, we may soon find that many are Americans more than they are Catholics.”26

Leithart has called for Christians to "risk martyrdom and force Babel" and either acknowledge Jesus or "begin drinking holy blood." Photo courtesy of Zac Calvert

Leithart has called for Christians to “risk martyrdom and force Babel” and either acknowledge Jesus or “begin drinking holy blood.” Photo courtesy of Zac Calvert

McCloskey predicted in 2001, and again in 2012, that conservative Catholics and evangelicals would need to band together in a civil war of secession. The “secession of the ‘Culture of Life’ states,” he predicted, would emphasize “the fundamental issues of the sanctity of marriage, the rights of parents, and the sacredness of human life,” and that the secession would precipitate “a short and bloody civil war” that would break the country into what he calls “the Regional States of America.”27 He repeated this general view in an essay in January 2014, in which he discussed separating from the “tyrannical regime” in Washington, D.C.28 McCloskey, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Faith and Reason Institute, has not said how he thinks this might happen, but he has said that the civil war may be all over by 2030. (Unsurprisingly, McCloskey has favorably reviewed one of the books of the prominent Catholic Neo-Confederate Thomas E. Woods, a founder of the League of the South.29)

McCloskey, like the rest of the Republican-oriented Christian Right, believes that the current electoral strategy of seeking political control of the Red states might sufficiently reduce the number of abortions without having to overturn Roe. But he avers that while people from those states who seek abortions “retain the option of traveling to the nearest blue state,” there is “much hope in this area for at least regional decreases in abortions.”30

Centuries of political and military conflict between Christian factions are being set aside in favor of strategic alliances that target the culture and constitutional structure of religious pluralism—and the supposedly “tyrannical” federal government. It may be more a matter of how, rather than when, the conversation about secession unfolds.

McCloskey finds encouragement in nullificationist activity in the Red states against what he considers “unjust laws” that protect abortion rights and access. He points to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback,31 who in 2013 signed legislation that defined life as beginning at conception as part of a bill that severely restricts, but doesn’t ban, abortion.32 Brownback has promoted nullification as a strategy of resistance to what is viewed as federal intrusions on state sovereignty regarding, among other things, gun control.33

“The red state/blue state dichotomy could—perhaps sooner than we might think—result in states opting to pull out of the union,” McCloskey wrote in January 2014. He wondered about what secession might mean for a superpower such as the United States, and about how the armed forces might react.“[B]ut ultimately,” he concluded, “the protection of innocent life trumps any tyrannical regime.”34 McCloskey has said he hopes that it will not come to the violence he has predicted, but for more than a decade he has openly said that a conflict with what he calls “the atheistic American Herods” is probably inevitable.35

This kind of thinking is not new within the farther reaches of the religious and political Right. The Christian Right theorist and prolific author Gary North, for example, wrote about the long-term revolutionary implications of what he and others were doing. North objected to the 1994 assassination of a Florida abortion provider and his escort by a fellow Christian Reconstructionist, Paul Hill, who had also authored a manifesto in which he called for Christian militias to rise up against the federal government.36 North argued that the assassination was premature and that the foundation for theocratic Christian revolution had not been properly laid. Nevertheless, North felt that something serious was already underway. “For the first time in over 300 years,” he wrote in 1987, “a growing number of Christians are starting to view themselves as an army on the move.  This army will grow.” He concluded: “We are self-consciously firing the first shot.”37

It is not clear that the Christian Right is any more ready to revolt now than it was in 1994 —a period that was marked by a wave of arsons, bombings, and assassinations against abortion providers, as well as the rise of the militia movement. (Post 9/11, these violent movements were largely neutralized by federal law enforcement.) But as the 2009 Manhattan Declaration and other compacts created between Christian conservatives in recent decades have shown, the religious wars that have pitted Christian factions against one another for millennia, politically and militarily, are being resolved in favor of strategic alliances against the culture and constitutional structure of religious pluralism, and against the allegedly “tyrannical” federal government.38 Thus the Catholic/evangelical conversation may be taking a surprising turn.

It may be more a matter of how, rather than when, the conversation about secession unfolds. Some see restoring the Christian nation (which arguably never was) as a hopeless cause. Others hope that a revival-powered wave of Christian nationalism will propel a profound cultural and political transformation. But if such a transformed America is not to be, a coalition with the avatars of Confederate revivalism will become more appealing, and will be well-aligned with McCloskey’s vision of the secession of conservative states.

Theology of Neo-Confederatism

Those who have long lived at the intersections of the Christian Right and the Neo-Confederate movement will find much in common with the culture warring, secessionist, violent visionary sensibilities of Lane and McCloskey, if variations on the theology of Neo-Confederatism gain further traction. Pastor David Whitney, 56, who leads the small Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Pasadena, MD (near Washington, D.C.), may epitomize the trend.

Though not widely known, Whitney is a well-connected figure on the Far Right. He is chaplain of the Maryland chapter of the League of the South and is a signatory of the “Covenant” of the six-year-old Southern National Congress, which openly seeks an “independent republic.”39 He travels the country as the senior instructor at the Institute on the Constitution, which offers theocratic interpretations of U.S. history, and he is a perennial candidate for political office who has run on the Republican and Constitution Party tickets. In 2014 he ran in a Democratic primary for county council.

Like Lane and McCloskey, Whitney is revealing himself to be increasingly revolutionary.40 He declared on Independence Day 2010, for example, that if government does not conform to God’s law, “the people have a right to secede” from the “wicked regime in Washington, D.C.” and its “despicable and evil tyranny.” He believes that we therefore may eventually have to make the “same difficult decision which our forebears reached on that hot July day in Philadelphia.”41

Whitney has become only more overtly militant since then. In February 2011, he threatened secession in testimony before the Judicial Proceedings Committee of the Maryland State Senate. For example, he claimed that passage of marriage-equality legislation would delegitimize the state government, such that state laws should not be obeyed; that the state courts and executive branch have no authority; that taxes should not be paid; and that “we should from this point forward consider it as our Founders considered King George III.” If the legislation passed, he said, “multitudes” would want to secede from the state.42 While there is no obvious secessionist uprising seeking to fracture Maryland in the wake of the passage of marriage-equality legislation, that issue is hardly Whitney’s only concern—and his seething sensibility has taken a turn to vigilantism.

In a June 2013 sermon, he justified the murder of abortion providers. In discussing a Christian’s duty to defend life, he said that this included the prevention of “the murder of the unborn” and that “we need to understand that there is such a thing as Biblically justifiable homicide.”43 This places him in a distinct lineage of justification for murder that goes back at least to Paul Hill and was specifically rejected as a legal defense by the Florida courts. Hill had advocated the notion of justifiable homicide for more than a year before he decided to take action himself.44

A May 2013 sermon helps to establish the context for Whitney’s notions of extrajudicial killings.  “When you talk to people about God’s law being restored in America,” he declared, “they say, ‘Awww, you’re some ayatollah. Awww, you want a theocracy.’” He explained that, “Well yes, I want obedience to God’s law because that is where liberty comes from. Liberty comes from God’s law.  Tyranny comes when God’s law is rejected by a society as it has been rejected in our day.” He went on to say that any law that “contradicts God’s law… is not law at all.”45

Consistent with his deeply theocratic bent, Whitney wrote in February 2014 that we should “restrict citizenship” to Christians of the right sort: Christians who—whether voting or serving as jurors, government officials, or “in the Militia”—operate according to “God’s Law.”46 In October 2013, he preached that “God’s word is wise in how to structure a human civil government. Because if a human civil government allows a tyrant to control an army, you are going to lose your freedom. It’s only when you, the people, are armed in a militia structure that you can prevent that kind of tyranny from overwhelming the country.”

In a sermon in March 2014, Whitney called for imprecatory prayer against the White House staff (presumably including President Obama), apparently because of the Affordable Care Act. “There are many enemies that we could pray against them that God would do unto them what they are seeking to do unto us,” he told his congregation. “There are those, including those in the White House, through their death panels, who intend to kill us. May God do to them what they intend to do to us.”47

Such Words as These

It could be argued that the so-called culture wars have been long on metaphor and relatively short on violence. That would be fair, even when we consider the violence directed against LGBTQ people and the four decades of arsons, bombings, and assassinations directed at abortion providers since Roe. But the protagonists of the story of the various elements of the Christian Right see themselves as playing a different role than that cast by visionaries of perpetual social progress. There are also clear tensions between those who can live with the social changes taking place in the country, those who can’t, and those who do not see the battle as one of single issues, but one of the survival of Christendom—and whether or not Christians are willing to fight for it.

Taken singly, the views of any of the Christian Right leaders described here would not necessarily signal a trend. But taken together, the commonalities of their views take the edge off of their many differences and reveal distinct, overlapping factions of a dynamic movement towards the ideas of nullification and secession—and the possibility of violence and revolution.

One does not have to believe that secession or revolution of any kind would be successful, or that widespread violence is likely anytime soon, to recognize that the political tensions preceding any major matters of nullification, and moves towards secession by any state, would likely beget violence of many kinds. Which is why ignoring Lane, Leithart, McCloskey, Whitney, and their like—or assuming that they are anything less than deadly serious—could be an error of historic significance.

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1 David Lane, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” World Net Daily, June 6, 2013.
2 This is also different than, but not necessarily mutually exclusive with, “eliminationist” rhetoric as described in David Neiwert, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, (PoliPointPress, 2009).
3 Grace Wyler, “10 Evangelical Powerbrokers Behind Rick Perry’s Prayer Rally To Save America,” Business Insider, Aug. 5, 2011, www.businessinsider.com/here-are-the-masterminds-behind-rick-perrys-prayer-rally-to-save-america-2011-8?op=1.
4 Eric Eckholm, “An Iowa Stop in a Broad Effort To Revitalize the Religious Right,” New York Times, Apr. 3, 2011, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9806E5DF1E30F930A35757C0A9679D8B63&pagewanted=1; Grace Wyler, “10 Evangelical Powerbrokers Behind Rick Perry’s Prayer Rally To Save America,” Business Insider, Aug. 5, 2011, www.businessinsider.com/here-are-the-masterminds-behind-rick-perrys-prayer-rally-to-save-america-2011-8?op=1.
5 Bruce Wilson, “Ted Cruz Anointed by Pro-Religious War, Antigay Pastors,” Talk to Action, Oct. 11, 2013, www.talk2action.org/story/2013/10/11/173533/73.
6 Wayne Slater, “Ted Cruz headed to Iowa to speak with influential conservative pastors,” Dallas Morning News, June 6, 2013, www.dallasnews.com/news/columnists/wayne-slater/20130606-wayne-slater-ted-cruz-headed-to-iowa-to-speak-with-influential-conservative-pastors.ece; David Brody, “EXCLUSIVE: Evangelical Pastors Ready to Mobilize for 2014 Election, Say ‘America Has Left God,’” The Brody File, CBN, Feb. 25, 2013, http://blogs.cbn.com/thebrodyfile/archive/2013/02/25/exclusive-evangelical-pastors-ready-to-mobilize-for-2014-election-say.aspx.
7 David Brody (guest host for Glenn Beck), interview with David Lane, “David Lane on Glenn Beck Show,” The Blaze, Dec. 3, 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wRBJZF8vKw.
8 Huckabee was also featured at the February 2014 Pastors’ Policy Briefing in North Carolina. See Sarah Posner, “The Revival of the Pastors’ Policy Briefings,” Religion Dispatches, Mar. 1, 2011. www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/4320/the_revival_of_the_pastors’_policy_briefing.
9 Rachel Tabachnick, “Spiritual Warriors with an Antigay Mission: The New Apostolic Reformation,” Public Eye, Mar. 22, 2013, www.politicalresearch.org/2013/03/22/spiritual-warriors-with-an-antigay-mission.
10 Rob Boston, “Sects, Lies and Videotape:  David Barton’s Distorted History,” Church & State (April 1993). For more on Barton and Christian nationalism, see also, Frederick Clarkson, “History is Powerful:  Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters,” Public Eye, Spring 2007, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2007/03/05/history-is-powerfulwhy-the-christian-right-distorts-history-and-why-it-matters/.
11 David Brody, “Revival in America? Time to Get off the Sidelines!” Christian Broadcasting Network, Aug. 1, 2013, www.cbn.com/cbnnews/politics/2013/July/Time-to-Get-Off-Sidelines-Iowa-Pastors-Say-Yes.
12 Denise Oliver Velez, “Rand Paul’s outreach coordinator declares ‘holy war’ on us,” Daily Kos, June 16, 2013, www.dailykos.com/story/2013/06/16/1214807/-Rand-Paul-s-outreach-coordinator-declares-holy-war-on-us.
13 Brian Tashman, “David Lane Predicts Car Bombings in LA, DC and Des Moines over Gay Inauguration Prayers,” Right Wing Watch, July 23, 2013, www.rightwingwatch.org/content/david-lane-predicts-car-bombings-la-dc-and-des-moines-over-gay-inauguration-prayers.
14 Frederick Clarkson, “Christian Reconstructionism: Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence,” Public Eye (March/June 1994), www.publiceye.org/magazine/v08n1/chrisrec.html.
15 Lane, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation.”
16 Lane often calls for the rise of Gideons and Rahabs in his published writings, notably in David Lane, “Will a Gideon or the Harlot please stand?” Christian Response Alerts, Oct. 17, 2012, www.christianresponsealerts.com/2012/10/will-a-gideon-or-the-harlot-please-stand.
17 Peter J. Leithart, “A Call to Martyrdom,” First Things, July 2, 2013, www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2013/07/02/a-call-to-martyrdom.
18 Leithart’s father, Paul Leithart, is a longtime leader of the John Birch Society, including current membership on the National Council.
19 Mark Potok,“Doug Wilson’s Religious Empire Expanding in the Northwest:  A religious empire based in Idaho is part of the far-right theological movement fueling neo-Confederate groups,” Intelligence Report (Spring 2004), www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2004/spring/taliban-on-the-palouse; Nick Gier, “Douglas Wilson, Southern Presbyterians, and Neo-Confederates,” Talk to Action, Jan. 11, 2008, www.talk2action.org/story/2008/1/11/191549/134.
20 Edward H. Sebesta and Euan Hague, “The U.S. Civil War as a Theological War: Confederate Christian Nationalism and the League of the South,” Canadian Review of American Studies (2002), 270.
21 Nick Gier, “Douglas Wilson, Southern Presbyterians, and Neo-Confederates,” Talk to Action, Jan. 11, 2008, www.talk2action.org/story/2008/1/11/191549/134.
22 Peter J. Leithart, “A Call to Martyrdom,” First Things, July 2, 2013, www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2013/07/02/a-call-to-martyrdom.
23 David Lane, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” World Net Daily, June 6, 2013, citing Peter J. Leithart, Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective (Cascade Books, 2012), 152.
24 Lane, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” citing Leithart, Between Babel and Beast, xiii.
25 Peter J. Leithart, “The End of Protestantism,” First Things, Nov. 8, 2013, www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2013/11/the-end-of-protestantism. Interestingly, David Lane organized a private dinner for clergy with Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) so they could hear his story of conversion from Hinduism to “evangelical Catholicism”:  Tom Hamburger, “Bobby Jindal, raised Hindu, uses Christian conversion to woo GOP base for 2016 run,” Washington Post, May 12, 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/politics/bobby-jindal-raised-hindu-uses-christian-conversion-to-woo-gop-base-for-2016-run/2014/05/12/c446fa34-d989-11e3-8009-71de85b9c527_story.html?hpid=z1.
26 Terry Mattingly, “John Paul II and the death of Christian America,” Press-Republican, July 8, 2013, www.pressrepublican.com/0205_columns/x881892943/John-Paul-II-and-the-death-of-Christian-America.
27 C. John McCloskey III, “2030 Revisited,” The Catholic Thing, Mar. 15, 2012, www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2012/2030-revisited.html; Frederick Clarkson, “God is My Co-Belligerent: Avatar Priests, Hijacked Theologians, and Other Figures of Right-Wing Revolt,” Religion Dispatches, July 23, 2012, www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/6207/god_is_my_co_belligerent__avatar_priests__hijacked_theologians__and_other_figures_of_right_wing_revolt/;  For more on McCloskey, see Frank L. Cocozzelli, “The Politics of Schism in the Catholic Church,” Public Eye, Fall 2009, www.publiceye.org/magazine/v24n3/politics-schism-catholic-hurch.html.
28 C. J. McCloskey, “Hope for the Pro-life Movement,” Truth and Charity Forum (2014), www.truthandcharityforum.org/hope-for-the-pro-life-movement. See also Frank Cocozzelli, “Opus Dei Priest’s Secessionist Roadmap to Theocracy,” Talk to Action, Apr. 1, 2014, www.talk2action.org/story/2014/4/1/142834/8120.
29 C. John McCloskey, “Battle for Marriage Heats Up in California,” National Catholic Register, Sept. 4, 2005, www.ncregister.com/site/article/battle_for_marriage_heats_up_in_california.
30 C. J. McCloskey, “Hope for the Gospel of Life in America,” Truth and Charity Forum, June 12, 2013, www.truthandcharityforum.org/hope-for-the-gospel-of-life-in-america.
31 C. J. McCloskey, “Hope for the Gospel of Life in America,” Truth and Charity Forum, June 12, 2013, www.truthandcharityforum.org/hope-for-the-gospel-of-life-in-america.
32 Katie McDonough, “Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signs sweeping anti-choice bill into law,” Salon, Apr. 22, 2013, www.salon.com/2013/04/22/kansas_gov_sam_brownback_signs_sweeping_anti_choice_bill_into_law.
33 Rachel Tabachnick and Frank Cocozzelli, “Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right,” Public Eye (Fall 2013), www.politicalresearch.org/2013/11/22/nullification-neo-confederates-and-the-revenge-of-the-old-right.
34 C. J. McCloskey, “Hope for the Pro-life Movement,” Truth and Charity Forum, Jan. 13, 2014, www.truthandcharityforum.org/hope-for-the-pro-life-movement.
35 Quote is from C. J. McCloskey, “The 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Dr. Nathanson the Prophet,” Truth and Charity Forum, Jan. 14, 2013, www.truthandcharityforum.org/the-40th-anniversary-of-roe-v-wade-and-dr-nathanson-the-prophet. Also see C. J. McCloskey, “2030: Looking Backwards,” CatholiCity (May 2000), www.catholicity.com/mccloskey/2030.html.
36 Frederick Clarkson, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy (Common Courage Press, 1997), 141-142.
37 Gary North, “What Are Biblical Blueprints?” in Gary DeMar, Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Blueprints for Government (Dominion Press, 1987), 270.
38 Frederick Clarkson, “Christian Right Seeks Renewal in Deepening Catholic-Protestant Alliance,” Public Eye (Summer 2013), www.politicalresearch.org/christian-right-seeks-renewal-in-deepening-catholic-protestant-alliance.
39 “The Southern National Covenant,” Southern National Congress, www.southernnationalcongress.org/Southern_National_Covenant.
40 Frederick Clarkson, “Two Neo-Confederate Leaders Join Republican & Democratic Parties to Run For Office,” Political Research Associates, Feb. 27, 2014, www.politicalresearch.org/2014/02/27/two-neo-confederate-leaders-join-republican-democratic-parties-to-run-for-office.
41 Clarkson, “Two Neo-Confederate Leaders Join Republican & Democratic Parties to Run For Office.” The sermon was taken down after PRA exposed it. However, the relevant audio clip of Whitney’s July 4, 2010, sermon survives: see “David Whitney on the God-given right to secede,” YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn3O0-n5chY.
42 David Whitney, “Pastor Whitney testifies before Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee,” American View, Feb. 23, 2011, www.theamericanview.com/pastor-whitney-testifies-before-maryland-senate-judicial-proceedings-committee.
43 Adele M. Stan, “Anti-Choice Proponent of ‘Justifiable Homicide’ Vies for Spot on Democratic Council,” RH Reality Check, Feb. 28, 2014, http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/02/28/anti-choice-proponent-justifiable-homicide-vies-spot-democratic-council. The church has taken down this sermon (and others) since PRA ran the original story, but we have a copy.
44 Clarkson, Eternal Hostility.
45 David Whitney, “The Price of Liberty,” Sermon, May 5, 2013. Retrieved from http://cornerstone.dnsalias.org:8000/Cornerstone/CEFC.htm The link to this sermon is no longer available, but PRA has the excerpt posted on YouTube. See “David Whitney says if it’s not God’s law, it’s ‘pretend law,’” YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAV_Deg7Cfw.
46 David Whitney, “Rethinking Citizenship,” Western Journalism Center, Feb. 21, 2014, www.westernjournalism.com/rethinking-citizenship.
47 David Whitney, “The American View Sermon Series – March 16, 2014,” Mar. 16, 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Z_HzA20Z6s.

Greasing the Line: Multiple Court Rulings Advance Government Sectarian Prayer

The combined case of Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius may be one of the most important religious liberty cases in American history.  But the recently decided—but less well known—case Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway should not get lost in the shadows.  These cases’ impact on how we manage the intersection of religion and public life may be transformative.

(Stephanie Ragusky of Loudoun County, Virginia demonstrates outside the U.S. Supreme Court as it hears arguments in the case of Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway, in Washington November 6, 2013.  REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan )

(Stephanie Ragusky of Loudoun County, Virginia demonstrates outside the U.S. Supreme Court as it hears arguments in the case of Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway, in Washington November 6, 2013. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan )

At issue in Greece was the practice of opening town meetings with Christian prayers over a ten year period. Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit on behalf of two citizens (one Jewish, one atheist) objecting to the practice—which they said made them feel alienated and unwelcome. The case was originally decided in their favor, but when appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices ruled 5-4 in favor of the Town, overturning the lower court’s decision and declaring that sectarian prayer was constitutionally permissible. The author of the majority opinion however, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, sought to limit the practice to what he called “ceremonial prayers,” to open governmental meetings.  But the justices offered a variety of concurring and dissenting opinions, so it is clear that the courts have a long way to go with an issue that may be forever litigated and never completely resolved.

“The Supreme Court just relegated millions of Americans—both believers and nonbelievers—to second-class citizenship,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “Government should not be in the business of forcing faith on anyone, and now all who attend meetings of their local boards could be subjected to the religion of the majority.”

For the Greece decision, SCOTUS relied on a 1983 decision in which the court had ruled that state legislatures may pay for official chaplains and open sessions with prayers.  The Kennedy-led majority in Greece believes that the reasoning of this case authorizes the town’s practice. (Underscoring how divided the judiciary and the country is on these matters, the decision in 1983 case was also a 5-4 vote.)

Indeed, Justice Kennedy explicitly rejected the argument that government-sponsored prayers must be non-sectarian. “Respondents argue, in effect, that legislative prayer may be addressed only to a generic God,” Kennedy wrote. “The law and the Court could not draw this line for each specific prayer or seek to require ministers to set aside their nuanced and deeply personal beliefs for vague and artificial ones.”

Paradoxically, Kennedy also suggested that even as he thinks the depth of religious expression should not be limited, there also are limits.

“If the course and practice over time shows that the invocations denigrate nonbeliev­ers or religious minorities, threaten damnation, or preach conversion, many present may consider the prayer to fall short of the desire to elevate the purpose of the occasion and to unite lawmakers in their common effort,” Kennedy declared,. “That circumstance would present a different case than the one presently before the Court.”

Justice Elena Kagan, writing in dissent, said the decision will foster majoritarianism rather than respect for religious differences and the rights of individuals. “I think the Town of Greece’s prayer practices violate that norm of religious equality – the breathtakingly generous constitutional idea that our public institutions belong no less to the Buddhist or Hindu than to the Methodist or Episcopalian,” she wrote.

The two Greece residents who brought the suit, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, objected to the town board’s practice of inviting clergy to open meetings with prayers that left them feeling unwelcome and alienated. That, Kennedy feels is OK, because if they don’t like Christian prayers, they can step out for the prayer and come back for the meeting. No one is coercing anyone to pray.

But since the board had not required that the invocations be inclusive and non-sectarian, unsurprisingly, town records showed that about two-thirds of the 120 recorded invocations over about ten years contained references to “Jesus Christ,” “Jesus,” “Your Son” or the “Holy Spirit.”  And almost all of the prayer-givers have been Christian clergy.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in May 2012 against the Town. Judge Guido Calabresi said “a given legislative prayer practice, viewed in its entirety, may not advance a single religious sect.”  Nevertheless, the Kennedy-led majority of the SCOTUS saw it differently.

“This ruling is out of step with the realities of modern-day America,” Lynn added. “In a country where pluralism and diversity are expanding every day, a Supreme Court decision that gives the green light to ‘majority-rules’ prayer at local government is exactly what we don’t need.”

Sectarianism Today, Sectarianism… Forever?

One of the first results of the SCOTUS ruling in Greece was the lifting of a preliminary injunction against sectarian prayer imposed earlier this year by a federal judge on the Carroll County, Maryland Board of Commissioners.  The judge had essentially put the case on pause until SCOTUS ruled in the similar case of Greece vs. Galloway.   In the Carroll County case, a Catholic and a deist said they had been made to feel unwelcome by the Christian prayers offered at meetings of the county Board of Commissioners.

The Carroll County case is different from Greece v. Galloway in one important respect, and will continue despite SCOTUS’ ruling.

“The sectarian prayers being said here are being said by the elected officials themselves, whereas in the Greece case the prayers were said by invitees, usually clergy,” David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association explained to The Washington Post. “When an elected official speaks, he or she presumably speaks for the government, whereas when someone else is invited in from the outside it is not the government endorsing the prayers.

Supporters of the sectarian Commissioners might agree with Niose on this point, albeit for very different reasons.

Christian Right political operative, David Lane of the American Renewal Project, has also denounced  the preliminary injunction and the judge who issued it.

Christian Right political operative, David Lane of the American Renewal Project, has also denounced the preliminary injunction and the judge who issued it.

As we previously reported here at Eyes Right, Pastor David Whitney of Anne Arundel County, Maryland was very animated about the prayer issue in nearby Carroll County and the role of the Federal Courts.  Whitney said 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.”

Similarly, a leading national Christian Right political operative, David Lane of the American Renewal Project, has also denounced  the preliminary injunction and the judge who issued it—U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr., who was appointed by President George W. Bush.

Mockingly referring to “Emperor Quarles,” Lane wrote, “[u]nelected and unaccountable Judges imposing a false religion of political correctness, multiculturalism and secularism have no right to rule a free people…”

“The pretension and foolishness of the U.S. Supreme — and inferior courts – Court,” Lane continued, “is mind-blowing.”

Lane is widely seen as a behind-the-scenes “kingmaker” who has helped develop the national profiles of major political leaders and 2016 presidential prospects who have demonstrated appeal to the Christian Right.  These include Fox News personality Mike Huckabee, Governors Rick Perry (R-TX) and Bobby Jindal (R-LA), and Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX).

“Let’s decide if America is a Christian or pagan nation,” Lane concluded, “and get on with it.”

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