White Warriors on the March

League of the South is an Alabama-based theocratic, neo-confederate group that has long advocated for southern secession.

Among the groups leading the recent Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia was the League of the South – an Alabama-based theocratic, neo-confederate group that has long advocated for southern secession. League leader Michael Hill was among the scheduled speakers for the planned rally to save a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from removal from a public park. While the rally was cancelled, the League’s presence was well documented by cameras and video. Amidst the televised brawls, some League members were strikingly visible, thanks in part to the white shields with black crosses they carried into the fray. Most notoriously, longtime Florida state chapter leader and League Chief of Staff, Michael Tubbs, a former Green Beret, was ID’d by the Southern Poverty Law Center, based on photos and videos, as on the scene when an African-American counter protester was viciously clubbed, apparently by League members.

Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia and at the 2017 annual conference of the League of the South held in Wetumpka, Alabama in June, bear out PRA’s warning in 2014 that threats of violence from the League of the South need to be taken seriously. The League’s involvement in Charlottesville, and several other public struggles over the removal of Confederate monuments from public spaces, suggests that these will continue to be symbolic and actual battle grounds of choice – perhaps with escalating levels of violence.

We reported in 2014, that Hill had published an essay titled, “A Bazooka in Every Pot,” that advocated for the deployment of death squads 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.”

Hill followed-up with another 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 saw 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?”

League of the South is a political home for violent, would-be revolutionaries who intend to make their vision a reality.

Unsurprisingly, the League is a political home for violent, would-be revolutionaries who intend to make their vision a reality.  Michael Tubbs, for example, was arrested in 1989 with arms, explosives, and a hit list that included newspapers, television stations, and businesses owned by Jews and Blacks. He served four years in prison, but Hill and other league leaders nevertheless allowed Tubbs to stay on as a League leader in Florida, saying he’d “paid his debt to society.”

Hill and Tubbs formed a secret paramilitary unit in 2014. But by the League’s 2017 annual conference, Hill revealed that they are now openly forming an army. While it is unclear how far along they may be in creating a fighting force of any consequence, Hill spoke convincingly about his intentions in his speech titled, “The War Has Already Begun!”  In it, he declared that we are currently in a period of relative calm before the storm of a race war in the United States. He claimed, to applause, that over the past 40 years, “the number of black on white violent crimes and murders has been astronomical. There is a war against YOU, White men and White woman (sic) in the streets of our cities!”  (Unsurprisingly, keynote speaker David Duke, a longtime leader of far right, white supremacist factions sounded similar themes.)

Hill said that the current war has essentially been going on for two generations and it began with that “accursed thing called the Civil Rights Movement.”  He spoke nostalgically of a time when the South was “White man’s land” and of the need to take it back as a “righteous cause.”

He spoke nostalgically of a time when the South was “White man’s land” and of the need to take it back as a “righteous cause.”

He spoke of how White culture, “stretching back into the mist of antiquity, is that of a warrior.”  Being a warrior is a “calling,” he said, and he wanted the warriors at the conference to emulate confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and his “favorite,” Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. The latter was, of course, a winking reference to the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, and was greeted with knowing laughter and appreciative applause.

He went on to speak of needing to learn to organize, and to train in the necessary skills for the war. To that end, he noted that the present war is not like traditional wars, but that the battlefield is “everywhere” and the enemy is legion and “does not necessarily wear a uniform, and sometimes you can tell the enemy because the skin he is wearing becomes his uniform.”

He insisted that after the Confederate flags and statues currently at issue, “when they finish with the stone and the fabrics… they are coming after you. Don’t ever doubt that.”  He characterized those who will come for them “as the children of the father of lies” and that his audience and allies beyond are the children of “the living God.”  He said that they are living in a biblically prophesized scenario in which God’s people fight it out to the end with the forces of Satan. But they will win.

He spoke openly about how the League has created a body he calls the Southern Defense Force, and that it will be not just a modern Confederate army but will actually be the “Army of the True Living God.”  In closing he offered-up what he calls an Old Testament vision of “destroying the enemies of our land, our people and of our God.”

Images from the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville continue to circulate social media, including this Twitter post showing League of the South founder Michael Hill assaulting another person.

If the League members on the scene in Charlottesville acted with a wanton aggression, it might be because Michael Hill has long been preparing them for battle with what he sees as “demonic” forces, particularly Black people. Tubbs is featured in cell phone videos taken at the scene of one of the bloodiest incidents of the mob violence at the march. The beating of a young African American and Charlottesville public school employee, Deandre Harris, according to the SPLC, was carried out by members of the Florida chapter of the League of which Tubbs is still chapter president.  “I was chased and beat with metal poles,” Harris wrote on Facebook. “I was knocked unconscious repeatedly. Every time I went to stand up I was knocked back down. If it was not for my friends that I came with I would have been beaten to a pulp.”

One does not have to believe that the small League of the South and their allies are capable of being the military arm of political secession, let alone an effective End Times Army of God, to recognize that they are intent on and capable, as we have seen in Charlottesville, of wreaking havoc in the furtherance of their perceived war with much of the rest of society.

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.”

supreme court cross

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.

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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Neo-Confederate Group Forms Paramilitary Unit—While Claiming It Isn’t

Michael Hill, president of the theocratic, White nationalist League of the South, has been escalating his threats of violence in recent months. As PRA has previously reported, Hill has gone so far as to call for the formation of death squads to target government officials and journalists of whom he does not approve. Hill now claims he was misunderstood—even as fresh evidence of his violent intentions has surfaced.

michael hill, league of the south

Michael Hill

In an essay published on the League’s web site on September 2nd, Hill does not quite deny that he meant what he said about violence, but he now claims he was just discussing ideas, and that the progressive writers who noticed his deadly assertions are “bedwetting” and “whining.”

Let’s look again at what he wrote.

Free men,” he declares, have the right not only to own guns, but to form militias in response to tyrannical governments. (And of course, he has many times stated that the government of the US is tyrannical.) He also says that since it would be impossible for the citizens to fight a conventional war against the police and the military, that a modern theory of guerrilla war known as “Fourth Generation Warfare” makes the most sense.

Here are his unambiguous words:

“As the Founders made explicit… the right to keep and bear arms is not really about hunting and sport shooting. Rather, it is about the citizens— the militia—having enough firepower to control their government if it should fall into the hands of tyrants….

In 4Gen Warfare the lines between the military and the political, economic, cultural, and social are blurred past the point of recognition. To oversimplify, the primary targets will not be enemy soldiers; 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.

4Gen Warfare doesn’t require that the populace be armed equal to the military and law enforcement. In fact, having such firepower, with few exceptions (such as full-auto “assault weapons,” silencers, and a handful of other esoteric toys), would be a logistical and tactical burden to the common 3- to 5-man group so common in this type of warfare.”

He concluded, “’Blessed be the Lord my strength who teaches my hands to war and my fingers to fight.’—Psalm 144:1”

But all this, he claims in his response to critics, was really just a discussion of the nature of 4th generation warfare, adding: “I’ll challenge all you bedwetting progs [sic] with this. You find proof that The League of the South is forming paramilitary “death squads” and then get back to your readership with it.”

Of course, what we had reported was that Hill had called for the formation of such groups, not that he had already done so.

However, on September 5th, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Ryan Lenz reported that the League had been organizing a secret paramilitary unit for months. They call themselves, “The Indomitables.” This, Lenz writes, follows “years of escalating and violent rhetoric from the League as well as a search for more ideologically extreme white nationalists to enliven their membership –– a pattern that has been ongoing since 2007, when the LOS national conference was titled ‘Southern Secession: Antidote to Empire and Tyranny.’”

The Indomitables unit features White supremacist military veterans, notably the League’s Florida chapter Chairman Michael Tubbs, who is a former Green Beret, demolitions expert, and convicted felon. He was released from prison in 1995, having served about four years.

Hill appointed Tubbs as his “Chief of Staff” in June of this year.

Tubbs has a long history of racism and criminal activity, as documented in 2004 by Mark Potok in Intelligence Report magazine:

“In 1987, prosecutors say Sgt. First Class Michael R. Tubbs and another Army Green Beret, toting automatic weapons fitted with silencers and dressed completely in black, robbed two fellow soldiers of their M-16 rifles during a routine exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C. ‘This is for the KKK,’ the holdup men shouted as they fled….

Ultimately, five caches of weapons were found, including machine guns, 25 pounds of TNT, land mines, an anti-aircraft machine gun, grenades, booby traps, 45 pounds of C- 4 plastic explosive and more. (Authorities believe that the arsenal was stolen from Fort Bragg and Fort Campbell, Ky.)

They also found notes written by Tubbs that showed that he and his brother, John Tubbs, were setting up a violently racist group called the Knights of the New Order. Officials said Michael Tubbs had drawn up lists of targets including newspapers, television stations and businesses owned by Jews and blacks.

There was even a group pledge authored by Tubbs: ‘I dedicate my heart to oppose the enemies of my race, my nation and the New Order. … I dedicate my life from this moment forward to fostering the welfare of the white Aryan race.'”

Try as he might to divert our attention by debating definitions and name calling–Hill has been caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. He called for the formation of guerrilla paramilitary units while simultaneously claiming he and the League were not.

Image from the League of the South's Florida Chapter's Facebook page

Image from the League of the South’s Florida Chapter’s Facebook page

Hill concluded his September 5th post:

“Even if we are –– and you really have no idea on earth if we are or not ––setting up a Southern militia or some other form of paramilitary organization, we are doing nothing that free men have not done for centuries. Deal with it and stop your whining.”

Hill would also rather not have us recall his other recent call for for violence–on which PRA also reported.

In a July 25th essay, Hill called 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.”

Hill knows that history teaches us that small groups of determined revolutionaries can wreak havoc. And he has made his intentions clear.

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If Democracy is a Crime Under Religious Right’s Biblical Law, What is the Punishment?

The League of the South, best known for its advocacy of white supremacy and the secession of Southern states in the name of Southern Independence, has another less well known dimension: The advocacy of Old Testament notions of the “law of the Bible” as the standard for contemporary civil law— including the prescribed criminal punishments for non-believers.

The League and its leaders are not exactly household names, although New York Times best-selling author Thomas Woods is an unapologetic founding member and close confederate of Ron Paul. But they overlap with the more extreme elements of anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice movements, and led by elements of the virulently theocratic theological strain, Christian Reconstructionism.

image via the Florida League of the South's website

image via the Florida League of the South’s website

Contemporary Christian Right leaders have focused on matters of sexuality, notably homosexuality and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).  But it wasn’t until the notorious “kill the gays bill” in Uganda, where the notion of the death penalty was formally raised. But if the Old Testament Biblical Laws that are foundational to the contemporary Christian Right are to be the standard, then it stands to reason that the biblically prescribed punishments would, in their view, fit the crimes. If that is so, then many of us who think that democracy and religious pluralism are good things may, come the theocracy, find ourselves guilty of capital crimes.

League of the South president Michael Hill laid it out in stark terms in a recent column.

In a piece titled The League and Theocracy, Hill claims that theocracy is what God wants for us, and that anyone who says otherwise is committing treason against God’s Laws. While this is serious enough coming from an organizational leader, in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, it is worth considering that such views maybe more common than usually meet the eye.

Hill argues that religious pluralism is an affront to “the law of the Bible,” and anything other than a theocratic approach to Christianity and government is, he declares, “watered-down, emasculated, wimpy, liberal-sotted ‘Christianity-lite’.” A theocracy, he insists, “is a government ruled by the triune God of the Bible: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. More precisely, it is a government whose code of law is firmly grounded in the law of the Bible.”

Before we get into this further, it is worth noting that Hill’s views are at odds with history. The ratification of the Constitution by the original 13 states, most of which had been miniature theocracies for a century and a half, set in motion the disestablishment of state churches and the elevation of religious equality and the individual’s right to believe (or not) as they choose as a central value of our society. It is this right to believe as we will, and to believe differently than the rich and the powerful, which was the original contribution of the framers of the Constitution and a central part of our story as a nation. We can’t have religious freedom without religious equality, and we can’t have religious equality without religious pluralism.

In light of this, Hill’s argument may sound arcane and his reasoning circular—but it is nevertheless worth understanding because Hill is far from alone in such views, and arguably versions of his thesis are part of the driving ideology of the wider leadership of the Christian Right and their agenda.

Hill continues:

“Simply put, locate the source of law for a society and you have found its god. In a democracy, for instance, the people serve as god – the ultimate source of sovereignty…. All societies are theocracies, whether they realize it or not. But there is a major difference in what traditional Christians (regardless of denomination), on the one hand, and pagans, on the other, have believed and that is this: a society that is not explicitly Christian is a theocracy under the sway of a false god. The false god of the modern American Empire is the god who demands tolerance and pluralism…”

In this way, Hill identifies democracy as idolatry (worship of a false god) or apostasy (abandonment of the faith.) Either way, as Hill understands it, these will not be matters of religious but civil law. And they may well be capital offenses. These, along with more than 30 others, were enumerated by the leading theocratic theologian of the 20thcentury, R. J. Rushdoony—an American whose work has been profoundly influential in catalyzing the contemporary Christian Right. Beyond such crimes as murder and kidnapping, death penalties apply, according to Rushdoony and the influential Christian Reconstructionist movement he launched, are mostly related to religion and sexuality. In addition to idolatry and apostasy, there is blasphemy, and the propagation of false religions, and specifically, astrology and witchcraft. Crimes related to sexuality include adultery, homosexuality, and premarital sex (for women only).

In his foundational tome, Institutes of Biblical Law, Rushdoony called idolatry, “treason” against “the one true God.”

These things said, there are many contemporary theocrats who do not follow Rushdoony down every detail of what ought to be the basis of a criminal code in the U.S. and everywhere else in the world. But since Rushdoony was the first to systematize what he calls “Biblical Law,” everyone interested in the topic measures where they are stand in relation to him.  (Biblically approved methods of execution, according to Reconstructionists, include stoning, hanging and “the sword.”) How the law would be implemented, would depend entirely on the interpretation of the Bible, and the political predilections of the leading faction at the time.

Hill writes:  “There is really only the choice between pagan law and Christian law and nothing else. There is no neutral position where one can comfortably sit. The God of the Bible specifically forbids pluralism (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” Ex 20:3).” Hill couldn’t be clearer that in his view that religious pluralism under the law, is idolatry. “The simple choice that lies before nations,” he concludes, “is either pluralism or faithful obedience to God’s word, and the two are mutually exclusive.”

Like his fellow members of the League of the South, Maryland Republican candidates Michael Peroutka and David Whitney, Hill argues that if governmental leaders fall out of synch with Biblical Law—“If they rule unfaithfully, and thus tyrannically, they are illegitimate and their decrees have no authority.” Peroutka and Whitney have previously made this point regarding the Maryland legislature’s endorsement of marriage equality.

So this is the problem for contemporary Americans wrangling with the definition of religious liberty. Is religious liberty to be reserved only for Christians of the right sort, as defined by the likes of Hill, Peroutka and Whitney (or other leaders of the Religious Right and the Catholic Bishops)? Or is religious liberty something that belongs to all citizens without regard to their stated religious or non-religious identity at any particular time?

Such questions have, in centuries past, been the stuff of religious wars. And some Christian Right leaders are coming to see violence as an inevitable result of contemporary religious and political tensions on these matters. The question of whether, or to what extent, opponents of contraception and abortion get to define the standard for religious liberty in these matters was not settled by the Hobby Lobby decision. And who gets to be the arbiter of religious liberty on marriage equality is also deeply contentious, in light of the spread of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which has been proposed in several states and signed into law in Mississippi and allows businesses to discriminate against LGTBQ employees and customers if their personal faith does not approve of homosexuality. The legislation is modeled on a bill which was originally crafted in large part by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund), and the Arizona political affiliate of Focus on the Family. But in North Carolina, the mainline protestant United Church of Christ (UCC) has filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s constitutional amendment banning the performance of same-sex marriage ceremonies. The UCC argues that this law violates the religious liberty of their church, its clergy and its members. The million member denomination has officially recognized same-sex marriages since 2005. As it happens, a recent federal court ruling in Virginia overturning a similar amendment, may also apply to North Carolina which is located in the same federal court jurisdiction. At this writing, it appears that will be the case.

But even as the courts are recognizing marriage equality and the debate over religious liberty continues, the view of doctrinaire theocrats that governments and government officials and others who do not comport with God’s Law as they understand it, remains unchanged. How they reconcile their views with the contemporary struggles over the law is also a struggle whose outcome remains to be seen. However, it is worth not losing sight of the fact that for some, there is no answer but armed resistance. Hill has called not only for the South to rise again, but to lead the resurrection  with vigilante death squads targeting government officials, journalists and others who do not comport with their particular religious and political views.

We have become almost accustomed to hearing declarations from the likes of these men justifying vigilante violence against everyone from abortion providers to government officials, said to be tyrants. But it is helpful to remind ourselves that the society that they envision is not only based on Biblical Laws, but on Biblical punishments. And those who advocate for religious liberty, and if the theocrats ever achieve their desired governmental control, are likely to find themselves charged with a variety of crimes, and punished accordingly.

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