Christian Right Leaders Escalate Anti-LGBTQ Threats

As marriage equality has advanced around the country, and the U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on the issue in June, threatening language is escalating on the Christian Right.   If these culture warriors actually follow through with their threats, the story of our time may turn on terms like civil disobedience, martyrdom and even civil war.  The operative word here is, “if.”

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In recent years, we have repeatedly heard threats of civil disobedience from Christian Right Leaders – everyone from the signers of the historic, 2009 Manhattan Declaration (which included top Roman Catholic prelates and evangelical and organized Christian right leaders), to Rick Warren.  We have heard predictions of civil war, revolution, and martyrdom from the likes of Catholic thinker John McCloskey, theocratic evangelical intellectual Peter Leithart, and even Christian Right electoral activist David Lane. We have also heard calls for political assassinations and secessionist civil war from White Southern Christian Nationalists, Michael Hill, David Whitney, and Michael Peroutka.

Most recently, some 200 Christian Right figures signed a renewed pledge of resistance to the anticipated Supreme Court decision favoring marriage equality.  At a press conference, they called this “A Bonhoeffer Moment in America.” The reference is to the famous Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who resisted the Nazi regime and was hanged for his role in an unsuccessful plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler.  Bonhoeffer is increasingly invoked by Christian Right leaders as they compare the situation in the United States to Nazi Germany and cast him—as they choose to define him—as a role model for Christian Right resistance.

The new manifesto says that extending marriage to same-sex couples violates their religious freedom, and that they want to “respectfully warn the Supreme Court” that they would adhere to “higher law.” Their language was (relatively) soft, but clear:  “Make no mistake about our resolve,” they concluded, “ …this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.”

Co-authored by Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel and Catholic activist Keith Fournier, signers of the declaration include such well known Christian Right leaders as James Dobson, Jim Garlow, Franklin Graham, John Hagee, William Boykin, and Frank Pavone; Southern Baptist Convention leaders Paige Patterson, Ed Young, Robert Jeffress and Richard Land; leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation, including Alveda King, Samuel Rodriguez, Cindy Jacobs, James Robison, Rick Joyner, and Joseph Mattera; and Republican politicians Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Tom DeLay.

Not to be outdone, anti-LGBTQ activist Scott Lively announced that the only way to thwart marriage equality is with the “threat of the mob.” Lively is walking a line as like those who have come before – wanting people to take his call seriously, even as he characterizes it as but a metaphor.

“The elites need to see the angry mob – liberals and conservatives together – surging through the streets, pitchforks and torches held aloft, ready to tear down Frankenstein’s castle with their bare hands if need be. For Christians it’s Jesus and the moneychangers time!  Making a whip of cords like He did with His own hands, and letting these arrogant puppet-masters know we mean to use it (metaphorically speaking).”

“The only way to deter the elites is with the threat of the mob,” Lively concluded. “They need to see the pitchforks and torches to know they’ve gone too far and need to back down.”

There is an art to brushing with incitement to violence.  It is an art with which the Far Right in the U.S. is very familiar.  Anti-choice militants often engage, or threaten to engage, in activities that walk up to or actually transgress personal and property boundaries of many kinds, including violence. But we have also seen the federal courts recognize that threatening language can morph into a “true threat” – as happened in the case of American Coalition of Life Activists v. Planned Parenthood.

As attorney Maria Vullo told me in an interview in 2002, that the case did not harm freedom of speech. “When you cross over the line into threatening violence,” she says, “it’s not free speech.”

Such concerns may take on new meaning since Christian Right leaders frequently compare the current Supreme Court same-sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges, to Roe v. Wade, and may be serious about waging a long term war of attrition against an unfavorable outcome.

Let’s consider for example, the implications of the lawsuit brought by Ugandan LGBTQ activists against Scott Lively – who, as PRA’s senior researcher Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma broke in 2009, was one of the leading U.S. culture warriors who promoted the virulent homophobia that led to the “kill the gays” bill in Uganda.

Sexual Minorities of Uganda v. Lively will be tried in September of 2015 in federal court in Springfield, Massachusetts – just two months after the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges; followed in October by the World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City. The latter will bring together some of the leading anti-LGBTQ militants in the world – some of whom have worked for legislation modeled on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law in their home countries.  

The case against Lively, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), relies on the Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign victims of crimes under international law access to American courts. SMUG v. Lively is the first such case brought to protect LGBTQ people.

Lively is accused of the crime of “persecution,” as defined under international law as systematically seeking to deprive people of their fundamental rights not only of life, but of equality under the law – including equal rights of speech, assembly, and association. Persecution is defined here as the “severe deprivation of fundamental rights” on the basis of identity, a “crime against humanity.”

Lively’s claim that LBGTQ people are, among other things, predatory pedophiles has fueled rage not because of what people have done, but because of who they are. Even though the Anti-Homosexuality Bill had not yet passed when the lawsuit was filed (it later passed, was then struck down by the courts on procedural grounds, and now may make its return in the Ugandan parliament), SMUG said that vigilantes were acting as though it had.  People feared for their lives and possible arrest, received death threats, and were excluded from HIV-related education and health services. Meetings were raided, and LGBTQ leaders and attendees rounded-up and arrested.

CCR attorney Pamela Spees argued that since Lively first went to Uganda in 2002, no one had done more to strip away human rights protections for LGBTQ people. And although he was not present (as Lively’s attorney from Liberty Counsel noted) when specific criminal acts were perpetrated, nor did he supervise the crimes, Lively nevertheless participated in a wide-ranging conspiracy from which these crimes resulted. Lively was described as a “strategist” and an “architect.”

The nature of the civil disobedience being promised by various elements of the Christian Right in response to a potential pro-marriage equality ruling by the Supreme Court remains to be seen. It may turn out that some are just blowing smoke and will ultimately be able to live with the social changes taking place in the country. But it is likely that others can’t – or won’t. Some certainly believe that the survival of Christendom (as they understand it) is at stake.  And if their actions catch up with their words, there may be violence.

Party-Switching Theocrat Wins Primary, Claims Maryland Legislature is Invalid & Talks Revolution

A few months ago, former Constitution Party members Michael Peroutka (the Party’s 2004 presidential candidate) and David Whitney (his pastor and close confidant) teamed-up to run for local office in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Peroutka ran in the GOP primary for County Council, and for GOP Central Committee; while Whitney ran for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the same seat on the County Council, and for a seat on the Democratic Party’s Central Committee. Whitney lost decisively in both of his races, while Peroutka won a seat on the Republican Party Central Committee, effective July 5th, and if results hold after absentee and provisional ballots are counted, Peroutka will be the Republican nominee on the November ballot for County Council.

Michael Peroutka

Michael Peroutka

While PRA has worked to expose this remarkable story for several months (as has the Southern Poverty Law Center), the mainstream press’ first real exposé came out just before the election. On June 24, the weekend before the primary, The Baltimore Sun dug into the views of the theocratic pair, pointing out Peroutka and Whitney’s efforts to distance themselves from the racist, secessionist, League of the South (both are members). League president Michael Hill endorsed them anyway.

The day after the primary, Peroutka issued a pronouncement that is likely to make his fellow Republicans, to say the very least, uneasy. In his regular broadcast of The American View, he suggested that all of the laws of the state of Maryland may be invalid, because the state legislature is an invalid body of government for having considered initiatives that, in his view, “violate God’s Law.”

“For the past few years,” Peroutka declared, “the behavior of the legislature in my home state of Maryland raises the question whether the people of Maryland may be justified in reaching the conclusion that what we call our “General Assembly” is no longer a valid legislative body.

And if the case can be made that the legislature of Maryland or of your state is not a valid body, then, it follows that no validity should be given to any of its enactments.”

As we reported here at PRA regarding the pair’s seemingly inexplicable campaigns, Peroutka’s partner in the Institute on the Constitution, David Whitney, expressed a similar view in testimony before the Judiciary Committee of the State Senate, when it was considering marriage equality in 2011. He argued that if the legislature passed marriage equality, it would invalidate the entire state government and, thus, state laws should no longer be honored.

“Is it possible that those who are sworn to uphold the law, such as police and sheriffs and judges and prosecutors, may soon come to the conclusion that the enactments of this body,” Peroutka rhetorically asked, speaking of the state legislature, “should be ignored because they are based not in law, but in lawlessness? Indeed what can the people do—what should the people do when those who are entrusted with making and enforcing the law actually become the lawbreakers? What happens when they use the ‘law’ to break the law?”

This kind of call for defiance of state and federal law, and particularly of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, have a long history among Peroutka’s colleagues in the Constitution Party. In 1996, for example, the Constitution Party’s Vice Presidential candidate, Herb Titus, told me at a press conference that lower-level government officials (called “lesser magistrates” in the archaic language of the ideas on which his views are based), may refuse to enforce ungodly laws and policies of the government, and rise up against a government that has become corrupt or tyrannical. (I discuss this further in my book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, Common Courage Press, 1997.)

Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, agreed on the first page of his 1995 book Safeguarding Liberty: The Constitution & Citizen Militias that county sheriffs and other state and local officials need armed militias “to resist any tyrannical act on the part of the federal government.”

The first example Peroutka, in his video, gives of ungodly law and the need for resistance is abortion.  He declares that for law to be valid it has to be consistent with God’s Laws.  He offers as an example, “an enactment that allowed the taking of innocent life would violate God’s Commandment ‘Thou shalt not murder,’ and would, therefore, not constitute a law…” In the video, an image of a front page The New York Times report on the 1973 legalization of abortion by the Supreme Court scrolls by—followed by an image of a fetus in the womb.

He accuses the Maryland state legislature of, quoting the Declaration of Independence, “a long train of abuses and usurpations.” This is significant in part because the sentence goes on to say that this “Despotism” leads to the right and duty to, “throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

In a June 17th broadcast of The American View, he was even more explicit, arguing “When our local officials, including County Councilmen and Sheriffs, confront such “pretended legislation,” as the Declaration of Independence referred to invalid laws, “it is their duty to resist its implementation.”

Peroutka’s intentions are as unambiguous as they are eccentric, by the standards of most people across a wide spectrum of religious and political thought. But he is far from alone in thinking that resistance, including violence, and secessionist civil war may be necessary. His colleague David Whitney has been clear on the point, as have certain other leaders of the Christian Right. (See PRA’s recent report, Rumblings of Theocratic Violence.)

Peroutka borrows from the Declaration and other texts to justify a contemporary revolutionary view: that local law enforcement officers, led by county councilmen, should resist  the laws and the authority of the government of the United States, and the state of Maryland. From the standpoint of theocratic, secessionist revolution, that would certainly be a start.

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Maryland Neo-Confederate Candidates Back Plan to Defy Judge’s “No Sectarian Prayer” Order

whitney

Pastor David Whitney. image via YouTube

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.

Background

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.”

Solidarity Forever

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.