Let’s Not Ignore the Overt Calls for Violence from the League of the South

Since FebruaryPRA has been covering the emergence of theocratic, white nationalist candidates from both major parties running for public office in Maryland. Now, two of them, Joe Delimater and Michael Peroutka, are, respectively, the Republican candidates for sheriff and county council. Peroutka, a wealthy attorney and 2004 Constitution Party presidential candidate, has a good chance at winning in his historically Republican council district. The controversy over his candidacy has become hot in the media and in state politics—but there is still an elephant in the room.

Leading Democrats, Republicans, and editorial writers in Maryland have called on Peroutka to disavow the neo-Confederate agenda of, and his personal involvement in, the white nationalist, secessionist League of the South. (Peroutka was a member of the board of directors of the League in 2013, and remains a defiantly proud member.). A conservative columnist recently worried that Peroutka will be a drag on the national Republican Party in 2014.  Others have called on the GOP to decide if it will stand by and allow Peroutka to win his race for county council in his historically Republican district.

Michael Peroutka. Photo via The American View.

That is a useful discussion.  But there is an eerie silence about other obvious aspects of the vision of the League, Peroutka, and his closest religious and political associates.  The fact is that they are involved not in an eccentric nostalgia for retrograde racial politics and wishful thinking about secession of the Southern states so much as a revolutionary vision of theocratic, white nationalist violence.

Peroutka certainly holds views that are far beyond anything that could be described as “conservative.” But let’s consider the views of his close friends and allies in the League of the South, the organization he used to lead and which he refuses to distance himself.  For example, his friend and ally Michael Hill, the president of the Alabama-based League of the South has, among other things, called for the formation of death squads to take out 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. 

On July 15, just a week after Peroutka’s upset win in the primary for the GOP nomination for Anne Arundel County Council, League president Michael Hill published an essay on the organization’s web site.  Hill’s essay advocated for the deployment of death squads in the context of guerrilla civil war, in which “the lines between the military and the political, economic, cultural, and social are blurred past the point of recognition.”  This essay, titled “A Bazooka in Every Pot,” describes this effort as featuring “three-to-five-man” units with a hair-raising mission: “The primary targets will not be enemy soldiers,” Hill wrote.  “Instead, they will be political leaders, members of the hostile media, cultural icons, bureaucrats, and other of the managerial elite without whom the engines of tyranny don’t run.”

On July 25, Hill followed up with an essay in which he calls on the young men of “Christendom” to become “citizen-soldiers” in the battles against the tyranny of our time.  He sees himself and his comrades as part of a long line of such men, 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 co-exist—that is not possible.  One must win and the other must disappear.  It is indeed the ultimate Zero Sum game.”

In his 2102 keynote address at the League national conference, Peroutka declared:  “I don’t disagree with Dr. Hill at all that this regime [apparently referring to the Obama administration] is beyond reform, and I think that’s an obvious fact, and I agree with him.”  Then he added a glimpse of his own theocratic vision for what might come next:

“However, I agree that when you secede, or however the destruction of the rubble of this regime takes place and how it plays out, you’re going to need to take a biblical world view, and apply it to civil law and government. That’s what you’re still going to need to do.  We’re going to have to have this foundational information in the hearts and minds of the people or else liberty won’t survive the secession either.”

The Past is Prologue

Michael Hill epitomizes the escalation of the open expression of violent ideologies, as I discussed in an essay in The Public Eye in June titled “Rumblings of Theocratic Violence.” One of the featured characters was David Whitney, who leads a small church in Pasadena, Maryland, and is Peroutka’s pastor and business partner in the Institute on the Constitution.  Whitney has justified the assassination of abortion providers—calling it “biblically justifiable homicide.”  He has also called for establishing theocratic governance under Biblical law; restricting citizenship to Christians of the right sort; forming citizen militias to resist governmental tyranny; and leading imprecatory prayer against the White House staff—including, presumably, against President Obama.  Whitney is the chaplain of the Maryland chapter of the League of the South.

On July 8, Peroutka e-mailed Hill asking him to help get League members to support his campaign.  (Hill posted the e-mail under the headline: “A political victory for us in Maryland!”)  Peroutka wrote, “I ask you to ask the membership for prayers and for whatever financial support they can muster. I am grateful for our friendship and for the work of LS. [League of the South].”  (Apparently the members came through, because the League has already sponsored telephone polls in his district.)

Peroutka and his running mate, GOP candidate for county sheriff Joe Delimater, provide the League a measure of democratic legitimacy for its anti-democratic, revolutionary aims.  But Hill’s vision of armed resistance to the alleged tyranny of the state and federal government and his open call for covert teams of assassins make Michael Peroutka’s claim to oppose racism seem like a small bit of political spin in a gathering political storm of far greater consequence.

From the Florida League of the South’s Facebook page, posted on May 25.

Unsurprisingly, the League is a political home for other would-be violent revolutionaries.  Former Green Beret Michael Tubbs, for example, was a League leader in Florida when Intelligence Report, the magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center, revealed in 2004 that Tubbs was actually a convicted “Aryan” terrorist.  Tubbs had been arrested with arms, explosives, and a hit list that included newspapers, television stations, and businesses owned by Jews and Blacks.  As the SPLC’s profile on the League reports, “When these embarrassing facts were revealed, Hill and other league leaders allowed Tubbs to stay on, saying he’d paid his debt to society.”

So far, the political community has been eerily silent about the explicitly violent intentions of the emerging Peroutka faction of American public life.  Hill’s recent call for the formation of death squads has been reported only by Jonathan Hutson at the Huffington Post and Van Smith at the Baltimore City Paper.  This explicit and specific call for violence is part of several related trends involving ideologies and actions related to the ideas of nullification and secession, as well as related ideologies of theocratic violence among elements of the Christian Right.  We are seeing one manifestation of these trends on vivid display in Anne Arundel County. Some of us, that is.

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GOP Voters in Maryland Face Dilemma as Theocrats Win Party Primaries

Something unusual is happening in the politics of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Michael Peroutka, one-time presidential candidate of the Constitution Party, won the Republican primary for a seat on the County Council and GOP Central Committee. His pastor, and partner in the Christian historical revisionist Institute on the Constitution, David Whitney, ran for the same County Council seat as a Democrat and for his party’s central committee (he lost both races). PRA has reported on these races since February, but we also now know that Joseph “Joe” Delimater III, an ideological ally and pupil of Peroutka and Whitney, won the uncontested GOP primary for county sheriff.

This election season in Anne Arundel County (which includes the state capital of Annapolis) appears to be intended as a church-based electoral pilot project, from which like-minded theocratic factions can learn. It is also may signal a small, but significant, national trend in applied theocratic theory.

Joseph Delimater

Joseph “Joe” Delimater, III. Image via Facebook

As PRA has reported, Peroutka and his ilk believe that holding local office empowers them to defy state and federal law under the rubric of an ancient concept called The Doctrine of the Lower Civil Magistrate. The Capital Gazette (the daily newspaper serving Annapolis) also recently reported on Peroutka’s unusual views.

“Peroutka has called the federal government and Maryland’s state government ‘lawless,’ because of their failure to abide by biblical precepts. Four days before the primary, he posted a video on the institute’s website in which he called the General Assembly ‘invalid.’”

Peroutka’s spokesman, John Lofton, who also worked on Peroutka’s 2004 presidential campaign, told the Gazette “that as a County Councilman, Peroutka would evaluate each piece of legislation to be sure it was authorized by God in the Bible, the U.S. Constitution and the Anne Arundel County Charter.” He also suggested to the Gazette that government programs and services as road work and fire departments could be privatized.

The Doctrine of the Lesser Civil Magistrate, which Peroutka, Lofton and Delimater believe justifies their view of the nullification-role of county sheriffs and councilors, has been adopted by conservative Christian leaders who are opposed to religious pluralism and separation of church and state, as well as such matters as abortion, LGBTQ rights, taxes, public education and gun control laws—roles they say are empowered to overthrow “tyrannical government.” Indeed, many contemporary theocratic activists look to the example of Oliver Cromwell who, as a member of Parliament in 17th Century England (and thus a lesser magistrate), led the Puritan-controlled Parliament in a revolt against the King of England. Cromwell’s forces ultimately drove the king out of power and chopped off his head.

Interestingly, Delimater, as a church elder and a graduate of Peroutka and Whitney’s Institute on the Constitution, is the third member of the Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church to run for county office this year. Delimater is so close to Peroutka and Whitney that on his campaign website he plagiarizes an entire June 17th Peroutka essay titled “It’s the Law”—the same piece on which PRA and the Gazette recently reported. “When our local officials,” Delimater plagiarized, “including county councilman and sheriff’s [sic] confront such “pretended legislation,” it is their duty to resist its implementation.”

An Applied Doctrine of Theocratic Revolution

This notion of the duty to resist ungodly laws, leaders and government, based on the Doctrine of the Lower or Lesser Magistrate has a long history among the overtly theocratic elements of the Christian Right. They would like it to become a trend, and two recent books are seeking to make it so.

In 2012, Mathew Colvin self-published a translation of the 16th century Magdeburg Confession—a statement by Protestant clergy in the German town of Magdeburg, who refused an order by King Charles V to renounce their anti-Catholic heresy.  This statement informed later, better known arguments regarding religious resistance to governmental authority. Colvin’s translation enjoyed a scholarly introduction by American theocratic author George Grant, of Franklin, TN.

Then, in August 2013, longtime Constitution Party activist and anti-abortion militant, Rev. Matt Trewhella of Wisconsin, published The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates:  A Proper Resistance to Tyranny and a Repudiation of Unlimited Obedience to Civil Government. Trewhella, who also claims to have played a role in publishing Colvin’s book, sells both via a web site appropriately titled LesserMagistrate.com.

Trewhella is best known as an anti-abortion militant who distinguished himself by signing the 1994 Defensive Action Statement, which sought to justify the murder of abortion providers. He later gained national notoriety when Planned Parenthood Federation of America published video excerpts of a speech he gave at a state convention of the Constitution Party’s predecessor, the U.S. Taxpayer’s Party, in which he advocated church-based militias and told his congregants to do “the most loving thing” by buying their children “an SKS rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition.” He said he was teaching his own 16-month-old the location of his “trigger finger.”

While Trewhella has faded from national attention, when the Christian News Network needed a comment regarding the removal of references to marriage and abortion from the Clark County, Nevada GOP platform in April 2014, they called Trewhella and Peroutka.

“When will Christians ever learn they are getting played by the GOP?” Trewhella said in the interview. “It is like Lucy pulling the football out from in front of Charlie Brown so that he falls on his back again and again.”

“We need people to be Biblical and constitutional,” Michael Peroutka added. “Republican is not the standard.”

Understandably, Peroutka (as the former Constitution Party and League of the South leader) is giving Anne Arundel County Republicans pause— and a dilemma. If Peroutka wins, the probable configuration of the council will be three Republicans, three Democrats, and Peroutka. And he will scrutinize everything they do through his idiosyncratic notions of an ability to void all government and laws that don’t line up with what he believes are God’s laws.

Similarly, Delimater promises to only enforce laws according to a similar, perhaps an identical, idiosyncratic standard. Delimater writes in a Q&A section of his campaign website

Q. What makes you such an expert on the U.S. and Maryland Constitutions?

A. I have attended 12 week courses given by The Institute On The Constitution both for the U.S. Constitution and the Maryland Constitution.  Since then I have been taking additional courses on the Maryland court system, the Federalist Papers, duties of a jurist, etc.”

The day after Peroutka’s surprising win, The Capital Gazette issued a strongly-worded editorial naming the stakes in November’s general election. “Peroutka told voters the truth,” the editorial reads, “when he stressed that he was against taxes and stormwater fees. He didn’t stress that he’s also a theocrat and secessionist who thinks it would be great if local officials refused to uphold state laws.”

So will Republicans, who are the majority in the council member district 5 and in the county, vote for the theocrats who are hell-bent on throwing monkey wrenches into the normal functioning of government? Or will they vote for the Democrats?

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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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Homeland Security Helped Maryland Spy on Activists

We’ve know since the Summer of 2008 that the Maryland State Police spied on activists and their lawful political activities from 2005 to 2007.  Troopers entered citizens into a database in which they labeled 53 individuals as “terrorists.”  Now we know that federal agencies assisted state police in spying.

Since the investigation into this outrageous misconduct began, law enforcement has insisted that other agencies were not involved.  The ACLU and community groups have long suspected otherwise.  After all, the state’s Intelligence Fusion Center is located in the same building as the State Police.  Now, we know that at least one federal agencies was gathering and sharing intelligence with Maryland troopers.

The groups targeted by an undercover police detective included:  Coalition To End the Death Penalty, Veterans for Peace, Baltimore United for Peace and Justice, Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, Amnesty International, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.  For the ACLU’s report on this, go here.

The undercover trooper who spied on these groups has been promoted twice.  She has not been reprimanded.  Using a false name, she infiltrated organizations, took names, and made regular reports to superiors that were sent to at least seven federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including the NSA.  Logs of the surveillance do not contain any reports of illegal activity.

On February 17, 2009, it was revealed to the Washington Post that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) joined in this wasteful witch hunt.  The DHS office in Atlanta forwarded two emails from an affiliate of the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) to the Maryland State Police concerning upcoming demonstrations at a military recruiting center in Silver Spring, MD in June 2005.  The information received from DHS described only lawful First Amendment activity.

The presence of these DHS emails in the Maryland State Police file on DAWN indicates that federal agencies were part of Maryland’s intelligence gathering.  It also shows that the Homeland Security is wasting taxpayer money monitoring lawful anti-war activism, rather than keeping the country safe from Al-Qaeda.

If the First Amendment is not sacred to government officials, it begs County Joe’s question, “. . . And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?”