The Past Repeats: Christian Right Turns to Nullification to Counter Marriage Equality

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R)

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R)

Last year in The Public Eye magazine, Rachel Tabachnick and Frank L. Cocozzelli warned of the trend on the religious and political Right toward the use of “nullification” as a means of resistance by states to federal laws of which they do not approve. So it should come as no surprise that we are now seeing Christian Right leaders turn to nullification tactics in an attempt to thwart the marriage equality ruling at the Supreme Court.

In Kansas, Republican Governor Sam Brownback has issued “EXECUTIVE ORDER 15-05: Preservation and Protection of Religious Freedom,” which seeks to indemnify anti-LGBTQ discrimination under the rubric of the state’s modified version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Brownback writes in the Order that  “the recent imposition of same sex marriage by the United States Supreme Court poses potential infringements on the civil right of religious liberty” and that, therefore, the state government shall not take  “action against a religious organization, including those providing social services, wholly or partially on the basis that such organization declines or will decline to solemnize any marriage or to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, celebration or recognition of any marriage, based upon or consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction…”

WHAT IS NULLIFICATION? Nullification refers to an attempt by a state, city, or municipal government to declare a law written by a higher governing body illegal and/or void within its jurisdiction. The idea of nullification gained notoriety during the civil rights movement, when Southern states attempted to declare federal civil rights laws nullified within their borders. These attempts are almost always unconstitutional. See more here: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2013/11/22/nullification-neo-confederates-and-the-revenge-of-the-old-right/

WHAT IS NULLIFICATION? Nullification refers to an attempt by a state, city, or municipal government to declare a law written by a higher governing body illegal and/or void within its jurisdiction. The idea of nullification gained notoriety during the civil rights movement, when Southern States attempted to declare federal civil rights laws nullified within their borders. These attempts are almost always unconstitutional. See more here: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2013/11/22/nullification-neo-confederates-and-the-revenge-of-the-old-right/

Thomas Witt, the executive director of Equality Kansas responded, saying “Our initial interpretation of this order is simple:  It’s one part scare tactics, one part ducking his constitutional responsibility.” He notes that the section of the Order stating that clergy will not be required to officiate at same-sex marriages is “nothing but political scare tactic.”

Brownback’s solution to a non-existent problem is, of course, consistent with the scare tactics against marriage equality being used elsewhere by Christian Right leaders.  In fact, no church or clergy has ever been required to solemnize any marriage of which they did not approve, including traditional heterosexual marriages.  This remains unchanged nationwide.

“The rest of the order,” Witt added, “is more problematic.”

“The plain language seems to suggest that religious organizations that have contracts to provide taxpayer-funded social services will be able to deny taxpayer-funded services to LGBT Kansans.  We are still having this analyzed by our attorneys, but if this proves to be the case, the Governor should be prepared to find himself on the losing end of more expensive litigation.”

Witt also points out that federally funded institutions like hospitals may not want to jeopardize their funding by invoking a religious freedom to discriminate, or allowing their employees to do so.

Also worthy of note is that Brownback is expanding the definition of sincerely held religious belief to “moral conviction.”  The plain meaning here is that one need not even offer the fig leaf of religious opposition, but merely claim a religiously denatured “moral conviction” of opposition to anything other than traditional marriage.

Governor Brownback told FRC president Tony Perkins (pictured)

Governor Brownback appeared on FRC president Tony Perkins’ (pictured) podcast to defend his attempt to nullify the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality.

The implication, Witt also notes, is that in light of the trend towards privatization of government services, state contractors and grantees for adoption services, foster care placement, and Medicaid will be allowed to discriminate. Witt and others also claim that cities and counties also contract with church-connected organizations “to provide low-income medical services, mental health services, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and domestic violence and human trafficking safe-houses,” and thus may also be afforded the right to discriminate. Witt says that by including the phrase “political subdivisions” in his order, the governor has “just declared himself the supreme ruler of every local school board, every state university, every community college, and every independent commission, hospital board, library board, township, city and county in our state.”

There is considerable initial dispute about whether the executive order extends that far (the governor belatedly said it does not). But if it does, the Order could conflict (among other things) with the anti-discrimination policies of major cities such as Lawrence and Topeka.

These are the kinds of legal tangles that are likely to continue to mark resistance to the implementation of marriage equality, whether or not the demagogues who take such actions expect them to succeed or not. Indeed, such political grandstanding is likely to make religious liberty a continuing issue in the 2016 election season.

The Kansas City Star reported that Brownback was interviewed by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council on his regular podcast. Perkins, noted that “Brownback’s order was similar to one previously issued by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican candidate for president.”

Brownback told Perkins:

“[The Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges] sent a shudder across the faith community across America, saying wait a minute, don’t we have religious liberty protections?”

“And what this, my effort here, is to express that yes, in the state of Kansas you’re not going to see the entities of state government used against your religious liberty protections when it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage,” Brownback said.

The governor said the issue needs to be front and center in the 2016 presidential election and warned that a “very fundamental right (is) being attacked in the United States.”

The partial nullification of federally guaranteed rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and applied to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment, as articulated by the Supreme Court in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, may be something we see more of in the next few years.  The court’s holding in the case was simple enough, “The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.”

But opponents want to nullify as much of the reach of the rights of same-sex married couples as they can get away with, using the excuse of (and redefined notion of) religious freedom to do so.  Many obstacles will be thrown in the way of full equality by the likes of Sam Brownback.

However, it is worth marking that Brownback was not so unwise as to actually use the word “nullification,” even though that is exactly what he did last year when he signed legislation limiting the reach of federal gun control in the state.  The term has an ugly history as a Supremacy Clause-violating justification for state resistance to federal court decisions requiring equal protection under the law for African Americans. Those stands were taken under the colors of the Confederate battle flag. While Confederate flags are coming down, the Confederate nullification philosophy for which they stood still stands.

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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The Nullification of Religious Liberty

It’s true. Religious liberty is under sustained attack in America—but not in the way the Christian Right would have us believe. A theocratic (and sometimes Neo-Confederate) movement within the broader Christian Right is targeting the religious liberty of those they don’t agree with. Marriage equality is currently on the front lines of this historic assault. And while it has not always been framed as an issue of religious liberty by LGBTQ activists and progressive allies, that is changing—even as advances in marriage equality in the courts and federal policy are causing some Christian Right leaders to discuss potential state-level nullification.

United Church of Christ's Rev. J. Bennett Guess

United Church of Christ’s Rev. J. Bennett Guess

But the narrative promoted by the Christian Right—that they are upholding religious liberty against a creeping secular totalitarianism—is unraveling. People are getting wise to how the religious liberty of those, religious or non-religious, who wish to marry the person of their choice is being stricken by organized theocratic factions bent on using any tool they can find to ensure that only their definition of marriage and of religious liberty prevails.

An historic example came last week. The mainline United Church of Christ (UCC) won their federal court challenge to a North Carolina law which banned same-sex marriage. The UCC, the first national Christian denomination to recognize same-sex marriage back in 2005, noted that North Carolina’s Amendment One not only made it illegal for their members to marry as same-sex couples, but also made it illegal for their clergy to perform the religious ceremony— even if that ceremony carried no legal weight. The federal judge recognized this infringement of true religious liberty, and made that clear in his ruling for the plaintiffs.

“We are thrilled by this clear victory for both religious freedom and marriage equality in the state of North Carolina,” said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, a UCC national officer. “In lifting North Carolina’s ban on same-gender marriage, the court’s directive makes it plain that the First Amendment arguments… were both persuasive and spot-on. Any law that threatens clergy who choose to solemnize a union of same-sex couples, and threatens them with civil or criminal penalties, is unconstitutional.”

But even as the court victories pile up— the backlash has also begun.

In response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to let stand seven lower court rulings legalizing marriage equality, a leading Republican presidential prospect for 2016, and perhaps the leading politician on the Christian Right, has come out in favor of state nullification of decisions of the Court. Former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) says he hopes that “somewhere there will be a governor who will simply say, ‘No, I’m not going to enforce that.’”

Miranda Blue at Right Wing Watch reports that Huckabee told Iowa conservative talk show host Steve Deace that states should have also ignored Roe v. Wade, and the Court’s rulings banning school-sponsored prayer. “Well, the courts have spoken,” Huckabee declared, “and it’s an important voice, but it’s not the voice of God and the Supreme Court isn’t God.”

“When Deace pressed him on the ‘maelstrom’ that would be set off if state governments simply ignored court rulings on marriage,” Blue’s article continues, “Huckabee responded that it was in fact the courts that have set off a ‘constitutional crisis’ by ruling in favor of marriage equality.”

Rachel Tabachnick and Frank Cocozzelli documented the rise of modern unconstitutional nullification efforts in a recent article in The Public Eye magazine. I followed up with an essay detailing public predictions by Christian Right leaders of violence that would likely follow from the political tensions generated if states defied federal laws, regulations and court decisions. A glimpse of how such tensions are building is revealed in how Republican religious and political leaders are now being forced to try and walk back and manage the blossoming Neo-Confederate surge. This was on vivid display at the 2014 Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC, where radio talk show host Mark Levin explicitly warned against the Neo-Confederate temptation.

The Huckabee interview was significant, in part, because Deace is a powerful voice in Iowa where the first presidential party caucuses will be held. Huckabee, along with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) have been the main headliners over the past year at Pastor Policy Briefings, organized by the American Renewal Project, which has been one of the main organizing vehicles of the Christian Right for the past decade. Huckabee has frequently headlined these events over the years, while hosting a show on Fox News on Sunday nights. All of which may make him the most trusted and well-known political leader of the Christian Right.

Huckabee’s remarkable view also invites potentially unflattering comparisons to the segregationist southern governors of the Civil Rights era. Gov. George Wallace (D-AL) for one, drew the scorn of Martin Luther King, Jr. in his famous I Have a Dream speech: “I have a dream that one day in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Although Huckabee shrewdly did not use the words—nullification and interposition were exactly what he meant.

Huckabee thus brings a decidedly Christian Reconstructionist element to the openly nullification-supportive wing of the GOP, which to date has been identified primarily with Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

Uncoincidentally, Deace suggested in a column on The American View (the website of Neo-Confederate politician Michael Peroutka) in August that a breakup of the GOP is imminent, given the tensions between the so-called establishment and movement conservatives. He also foresees the possibility of a breakup of the U.S. itself, between what he calls “government states” and “liberty states.” According to Deace, officials of the latter “will be pressured by their constituents to defy the feds’ immoral edicts, and defend the people’s freedom instead. This will take America down a dark path it last walked in the 1850s.” He thinks a religious revival like the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries may be the only hope. Such dark appraisals are not uncommon these days.

But in the small world that is politics, these leaders and activists are part of a profound and wide-ranging ranging conversation about the religious and political future that is becoming both increasingly urgent and increasingly public. It is also clear that whatever their differences, they agree that the religious liberty of those who disagree with them on the leading issues of the culture war, are but collateral damage in the creating a more theocratic union – if in fact they think it is a union that they still want, or think is even possible.

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VVS14 Analysis: Glenn Beck, Mark Levin Try to Quell Christian Right Neo-Confederates

The Christian Right’s annual trade show, Values Voter Summit, is a good place to check the vital signs of the movement that is often—and wrongly—declared dead or dying. And this year’s conference offered a peek into the struggle by Christian Right leaders to tamp down the Neo-Confederate and secessionist ideology growing in, and threatening to break, their ranks.

Right-wing media personality Glenn Beck holds up The Bible and Rules for Radicals at VVS14

Right-wing media personality Glenn Beck holds up The Bible and Rules for Radicals at VVS14

Some critics tend to cast the Christian Right movement as monolithic, when in actuality it has always been at just as fractious and dynamic as it has been powerful and influential. And yet, its considerable successes are sometimes obscured by its leaders’ perennial fear that they may ultimately fail to “restore” their notion of the Christian Nation—and that an evil darkness will fall upon the land. (Yes, much of the public rhetoric at the Values Voter Summit was that prosaic.)

But a deepening shadow of doubt has crept across the Christian Right’s vision of a shining city on a hill since at least 2012 election. Some leaders of the Religious (and non-religious) Right are revealing their loss of faith in American nationhood, and are turning to Neo-Confederate alternatives, including support to secede from the Union (including by some candidates), and a movement to nullify federal laws, regulations and court decisions—all with the full understanding of the political tensions and violence that would likely accompany most of these efforts.

This Neo-Confederatization of elements of the political and Religious Right is such a problem that the State Policy Network of business/libertarian think tanks, (which work in close coalition with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)) issued a PR manual in 2013 which urged members to avoid language that smacks of “extreme views,” advising: “Stay away from words like radical, nullify, or autonomy,” and especially “states’ rights.”

At the Values Voter Summit, we saw a continued effort to hold the fractious Christian Right movement together, and sharp warnings to those who are considering or turning to these Neo-Confederate options. All of which suggests that the leaders may be more worried about their cohesion than meets the eye.

But rather than deliver the main message themselves, the conference leaders left it to popular, non-evangelical co-belligerents: New York right-wing radio host Mark Levin, who is Jewish, and Mormon right-wing broadcaster Glenn Beck.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, staged a conversation with Levin during a conference plenary which offered some thoughts about how to proceed in the face of Christians being “silenced,” and their religious freedom being “under assault” from so many directions.

Perkins observed (at about 17:30 in the YouTube video) that President Obama has described Islam as a religion of peace, and that the problem we have with Islam is not just far away but right here at home.

“How can we fight an enemy,” Perkins asked, that “transcends not only our international foreign policy but our domestic policy. We are at risk here at home, and we cannot come to the point where we can truly speak the truth because political correctness has basically blinded us to that truth.”

“Well, we need to reject political correctness,” Levin replied on cue. “We need to reject the attempt by the Left to keep us in little boxes, or to move us out to extremes. We are the heart of America,” he declared, jabbing his index finger into the air for emphasis.

“Our belief system is the heart of America. We are the majority of America. And they treat us like we are some minor cult. We are not some minor cult. I don’t need to be lectured by Barack Obama about any damn thing let alone religion or Islam…. I think we need to fight this effort to silence us…. We need to speak out. We need to stand up.”

Levin’s solution is to cast the Religious Right as mainstream America.

At VVS14, right-wing radio host Mark Levin chastises the growing Neo-Confederate movement among the Christian Right

At VVS14, right-wing radio host Mark Levin chastises the growing Neo-Confederate movement among the Christian Right

“You know, I view the political spectrum quite differently,” he explained. “We are in the middle! You’ve got the radical leftists who’ve taken over the Democrat Party [sic]. You have… this Neo-Confederate group out there,” he said, pointing and waving to his right, “that doesn’t really believe in the Constitution and keeps talking about secession and so forth. We are traditional conservatives who embrace the Constitution, who embrace our heritage. This president does not—from his values to his comments to his attacks on my country—does not represent me, period!”

Likewise, Glenn Beck urged the evangelical conference attendees not to succumb to the temptation of “rage” at anti-Christian persecution and the threats to religious freedom in our time. Jesus, he said, was about a “revolution through peace and love” not violence. “Which spirit is leading you,” he wondered. “Which spirit is leading all of us?” You could hear a pin drop in the carpeted room as Beck failed to answer his own rhetorical question.

That the popular Beck was featured to deliver this sermon suggests that conference leadership recognizes they may have led their people over a hate and fear mongering bridge too far. Part of their task now seems to be to bring them back from the Neo-Confederate temptation.

Pointing to the example of Martin Luther King, Jr., Beck said “the Lord would never tell us to do something out of hate, or vengeance, or rage.” He emphasized the need to come together as Americans in the face of the external threat of ISIS, and not to hate one another. Not even LGBTQ people, he said.

Like Levin, Beck sought to position the Christian Right and the conservative movement generally—not as the Right, but as ideologically middle America. He did it in a sly slam on the Tea Party (at about 43:35 in the YouTube video), in which he held up a copy of legendary progressive and civil rights movement organizer Saul Alinsky’s 1971 book, Rules for Radicals—which had been promoted by Tea Party leaders—notably Dick Armey (head of the Koch brothers bankrolled group Freedom Works)—as a manual for anti-establishment disruption.

Beck didn’t mention any of this back story, but stuck to the old Manichean story line. Alinsky had jokingly dedicated the book to Lucifer, giving Beck the opening to read from the book’s dedication, which he said offers a “tip of the hat to the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that at least he won his own Kingdom—Lucifer.” He claimed that “for many in America, this [Rules for Radicals] is their Scripture.”

We have a choice, he declared, between The Bible and Rules for Radicals.

In fairness, Alinsky was obviously being humorous and provocative, and was not really dedicating his book to Satan. But Beck’s target was not Alinsky so much as the colorfully disruptive and often overtly hate-mongering Tea Partiers, many of whom are conservative Christians, with whom VVS leaders seek to contrast themselves as the mainstream of the GOP (if not America itself). They wish to be seen not as the party of mean spiritedness—but as the standard bearers of religious freedom.

Whether they can sufficiently recover to make the center hold, or whether the Christian Right has tea-partied itself into a stupor of permanent neo-Confederate division, remains to be seen.

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Ted Cruz & ALEC: Seceding from the Union One Law at a Time

Ted Cruz tea party oath keepers flag

Tea Partiers, Tenthers, and the corporate sponsors who support them have come up with a variety of ways to circumvent the federal government and bypass the federal regulatory system, including efforts to hold an Article V Convention, commonly called a “Con Con,” to amend the Constitution and the Sen. Ted Cruz(R, TX)-developed plan for use of “interstate compacts” to block federal law.

In a report for the Center for American Progress, Ian Milhiser described these state’s rights efforts as a project for “seceding from the union one law at a time.”  These initiatives could result in a Balkanized confederation of states that would be no match against the power of international corporations and would allow for eliminating the regulatory system and the social safety net.

The most recent issue of The Public Eye magazine includes two extensive articles on the efforts of conservatives to shift power to the states, including Frederick Clarkson’s article on the State Policy Network’s growing influence, and my article on the growing nullification movement (co-authored by Frank Cocozzelli).

Nullification is based on a legal theory that states can block enforcement of federal laws individual states deem unconstitutional. But another route to “nullification” was popularized by Senator Cruz before he even became a senator, and promoted through Tea Party organizations and the highly-controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Ted Cruz was mentored at an early age through Rolland Storey’s Free Enterprise Education Center, where Cruz learned Austrian economics, read Cleon Skousen, and intensively drilled in delivering speeches. As an adult, Cruz joined the board of Storey’s Free Enterprise Institute, described as “forming conservative leaders since 1976.”  The board includes Leo Linbeck III and Chairman Emeritus Robert McNair, one of the co-founders of the “flat tax” organization Americans for Fair Taxation.

Ted Cruz was mentored at an early age through Rolland Storey’s Free Enterprise Education Center, where Cruz learned Austrian economics, read Cleon Skousen, and intensively drilled in delivering speeches. As an adult, Cruz joined the board of Storey’s Free Enterprise Institute, described as “forming conservative leaders since 1976.” The board includes Leo Linbeck III and Chairman Emeritus Robert McNair, one of the co-founders of the “flat tax” organization Americans for Fair Taxation.

Cruz’s idea is to use “interstate compacts” to shield states from federal laws. He developed the concept in 2010 as an alternative option for “nullifying Obamacare.” Just prior to his election as senator, Cruz worked as senior fellow with the Center for Tenth Amendment Studies at the Texas Public Policy Center, the state’s “free market” think tank and a State Policy Network member. While the concept of interstate compacts is not new, Cruz’s idea to use them as a strategy for shielding states from federal laws is uniquely original, which he freely admitted to Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard  in January 2011.

The Constitution, in Article I, Section 10, allows for states to form interstate compacts with the consent of Congress.  This is most commonly done to oversee shared resources, such as waterways.  One of the earliest formed and better known of these compacts is the New York – New Jersey Port Authority. But Cruz is claiming that interstate compacts can be expanded as a way to circumvent presidential veto power.

“With congressional consent, federalized interstate compacts could shield entire areas of state regulation from the power of the federal government,” wrote Cruz and Mario Loyola in a December 2010 report for the Center for Tenth Amendment Studies. In the introduction, Cruz and Loyola state:

“Under our Constitution, interstate compacts that regulate matters within the enumerated powers of the federal government require congressional consent. That consent can be expressed (an affirmative majority vote in Congress) or even implied by congressional acquiescence. In the case of express congressional consent, historically that has been accomplished through either a bill or a resolution that typically has been presented to the President for his signature into law. 

Critically, once Congress consents to an interstate compact, the compact carries the force of federal law, trumping all prior federal and state law.”

In other words, Cruz and Loyola claim that an interstate compact can be formed and made the supreme law of the land, including trumping the Affordable Care Act, by simple “acquiescence” of Congress and therefore bypassing the need for the president’s signature.

By early 2011, this concept had already been promoted through the Sam Adams Alliance and Tea Party organizations, as described in the Weekly Standard:

“In October, Eric O’Keefe of the Sam Adams Alliance broached the compact strategy with the leaders of Tea Party Patriots, Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin. And in November, they, in turn, took the idea to their national council, gathered in Washington to conduct an orientation session for newly elected members of Congress (only Republicans showed up).

When O’Keefe and a panel explained the strategy, they got a standing ovation from the 180 members of the council. ‘I’ve never heard of a panel getting a standing ovation,’ O’Keefe says. At least 37 of them signed up as state coordinators for winning legislative approval of the health care compact. An experienced political consultant, Mike Barnhart, was hired as national coordinator.”

The concept was also promoted through the State Policy Network’s “Federalism in Action” program, and Cruz himself presented the idea at the 2010 American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference, where it promptly became the foundation for ALEC’s “Health Care Compact ACT” model legislation for state legislators.

To date, this Healthcare Compact Act has been passed in eight states: Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Missouri, Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. The healthcare compact is promoted and tracked through an organization called the Healthcare Compact Alliance, a project of Competitive Governance Action, a 501(c)(4) co-founded by Texas businessman Leo Linbeck III and Eric O’Keefe and sharing the address of the Linbeck Group, LLC, in Houston.

The vision of shielding entire areas of state regulation from the federal government has been further enshrined by ALEC in the form of a model bill developed by their International Task Force, and approved by the ALEC board of directors.  Under the title “State Legislature United Compact,” the model bill provides validation for those who half-jokingly warn about the “United States of ALEC,” apparently giving ALEC a role in forming and running the commission that would organize the interstate compact, and ensuring that like-minded conservatives would control the topics and outcomes of a convention.

ALEC’s December 2013 States and Nation Summit in D.C. was sponsored, in part, by another Linbeck and O’Keefe nonprofit, called the Citizens for Self Governance.  Its legal name is the John Hancock Committee of the States and it’s the parent organization of the Convention of the States (one of several organizations promoting an Article V convention to amend the Constitution).  The organization was incubated prior to gaining its own nonprofit status by American Majority, an organization founded by Drew and Ned Ryun to “infuse new Tea Party blood into the political system.”

Until now, the only method used to amend the Constitution has been through a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress, followed by ratification by three-fourths of the states. However, there is another process in Article V that allows for a convention to be called by two thirds of state legislatures.  Mark Meckler, cofounder of the Tea Party Patriots, is now president of the Citizens for Self Governance and is overseeing the group’s Article V convention efforts.

UPDATE: The Georgia State Senate has just become the nation's first legislative body to pass a Convention of States application. It passed on February 4, 2014, by a vote of 37-17

UPDATE: The Georgia State Senate has just become the nation’s first legislative body to pass a Convention of States application. It passed on February 4, 2014, by a vote of 37-17. You can see a copy of the application here.

Meckler promoted the Convention of the States project in a session at ALEC’s December summit. On the Saturday following the summit, roughly 100 state legislators from 32 states met at Mt. Vernon to advance convention plans.  Ferris’ reflections on the event acknowledged that there are divisions in conservative ranks between those who want the “con-con,” and those who fear a “runaway con-con” infiltrated and overrun by liberals. Historical revisionist David Barton has just recently endorsed a Constitutional Convention, while both Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum and the John Birch Society (JBS) fall into the second category.

As noted in The Public Eye article Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Right, the JBS has become a major force behind state nullification efforts across the country.

Despite misgivings about a “runaway con-con,” there are several right-wing groups around the country working to organize a convention, but with some disagreements about how it would work.  PRA senior fellow Frederick Clarkson, Salon’s Paul Rosenberg, and I have all listened in on conference calls by one such organization that has differences of opinion with the Convention of the States on how to proceed (you can read Rosenberg’s story about it in Salon). The leader of that organization has a plan for the first amendment to be a “Sovereignty and State’s Rights Amendment,” allowing any federal law to be “countermanded” by the agreement of 30 states.

This state’s rights movement is gaining traction across the country, including among some on the political Left, but the money and organizing behind the effort is solidly conservative­—or perhaps better described as paleo-libertarian, or a combination of radical anti-government philosophies wedded to social conservatism.

PRA’s Rachel Tabachnick Exposes Ron Paul’s Paleoconservative Agenda in AlterNet

PRA research fellow Rachel Tabachnick is featured heavily in the latest article on AlterNet.com, discussing her report exposing Ron Paul’s involvement in creating and pushing the movement for nullification.

Check out the snippet below, and don’t miss the full article here.

AlterNet logo

The battle for the heart and soul of the GOP is more than social conservatives parrying with establishment Republicans. It is a pantomime that has many actors performing on a number of stages, but with only one clown: libertarians.

Libertarians are a funny bunch. By funny I mean ignorant not only of basic economics but also the ride they’ve been taken on by the Christian Right and the neo-Confederates within the Republican Party.

Nullification is the common cause that drives this anti-establishment triumvirate. Nullification of the federal government is now the weapon of choice for theocrats, libertarians and white supremacists. Since 2010, state legislatures have put forward nearly 200 bills challenging federal laws its sponsors deem unconstitutional. Typically, laws the nullifiers believe challenge “religious liberty,” the Affordable Care Act and gun control.

Recently, Kansas signed into law the Second Amendment Protection Act, which prohibits the enforcement of federal laws regulating guns manufactured and used within the state. Missouri put forward a bill that would have allowed for the arrest of federal agents enforcing gun laws. Similar bills have been introduced in 37 other states.

Of course, the ACA has been a high-priority target for the nullification movement with more than 20 bills introduced in state legislatures to nullify the president’s healthcare law. The Hobby Lobby, with the backing of the right, is attempting to nullify the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate in the Supreme Court. A favorable ruling will mean privately owned businesses are free to discriminate against gays, women and anyone else on the basis of religious liberty.

A report published by Political Research Associates says, “The nullification movement’s ideology is rooted in reverence for states’ rights and a theocratic and neo-Confederate interpretation of U.S. history. And Ron Paul, who is often portrayed as a libertarian, is the engine behind the movement.”

Nullification Bills Already on the Move in 2014

CSPOA's Richard Mack speaks at an event in Utah. Image courtesy of fox13now.com

CSPOA’s Richard Mack speaks at an event in Utah. Image courtesy of fox13now.com

The most recent issue of The Public Eye includes an extensive report on nullification, an idea based on the legal theory that states can block federal laws that those states deem to be unconstitutional, and its growing traction across the United States.  One of the most dramatic showdowns of 2013 was in Missouri, where the legislature failed by only one vote to override Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill nullifying certain federal gun laws.

Now, less than a month into 2014, nullification initiatives are continuing to make their way through state legislatures.  In Oklahoma, a new “Second Amendment Preservation Act” has already been introduced as Senate Bill 613, and (if passed) would make it a Class A misdemeanor for federal employees, including law enforcement officers such as F.B.I. SWAT teams, to enforce federal firearm laws declared invalid by the bill. [1]  The Senate bill was followed by a similar bill in the state House of Representatives on January 15.

Oklahoma is riding the coattails of its neighbor:  In April 2013, Kansas passed a Second Amendment Protection Act, which claimed the state had the right to manufacture and sell semi-automatic weapons without federal oversight.  The law exempts these “made in Kansas” guns from federal regulations, and makes it a felony for federal law enforcement officers to enforce federal laws in regard to these guns and their owners.

The latest nullification bill out of Missouri has an interesting twist. The law does not take effect until 2017, or until four other states have passed similar laws.  (Nullification proponents believe that their efforts will be more successful if multiple states enact the same laws.) Missouri State Senator Brian Nieves (R), who proposed the bill, told the Missouri News Tribune,  “‘We continue to see the federal government overreach their rightful bounds, and if we can create a situation where we have some unity among states, then I think it puts us in a better position to make that argument.’”[2]

Missouri legislators have also been creative in their efforts to nullify the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”  According to the St. Louis Dispatch, a bill introduced in the Missouri Senate “would suspend insurance companies’ state licenses if they accepted subsidies offered by the federal government to help pay health insurance premiums for low- and middle-income Missourians.”  The bill would ban the state from setting up exchanges.[3]

As Paul Rosenberg recently reported in Salon, there are a number of conservative groups working to organize Article V conventions to amend the Constitution.  Rosenberg, Frederick Clarkson, and I listened in on a conference call of one of these groups, which has a plan for a so-called Sovereignty and States Rights amendment.  The amendment would allow states to “countermand” federal law.[4]

In the meantime, activists are working to promote resistance to the federal government at the local level.  As noted in The Public Eye article, one particularly active organization is the Constitutional Sheriffs and Police Officers Association (CSPOA).  Founded by former sheriff Richard Mack, a board member of the Oath Keepers, the CSPOA instructs local county sheriffs to resist federal gun laws they believe to be unconstitutional.  The CSPOA works closely with the Tenth Amendment Center, John Birch Society and Gun Owners of America on promoting Second Amendment Preservation Acts and encouraging sheriffs to refuse to enforce federal gun laws.  (See PRA’s profile on the CSPOA.)[5]

The CSPOA has also begun to challenge same-sex marriage.  On January 4 in Utah, it sponsored an event—advertised as an “uprising against gay marriage”—in response to the recent court ruling which struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Mack, who led the event, stated, “The way you take back freedom in America is one county at a time. The sheriffs need to defend the county clerks in saying, ‘No, we’re not going to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals.'”  Mack later added, “The people of Utah have rights, too, not just the homosexuals. The homosexuals are shoving their agenda down our throats.”[6]

As 2014 progresses, we’ll continue to provide briefings and updates on the status of conservatives’ nullification attempts, as this growing trend is unlikely to diminish anytime soon.

PRA Fellows Identify the Right’s Latest Push for Power in Salon.com Article

PRA fellows Fred Clarkson and Rachel Tabachnick

PRA fellows Fred Clarkson and Rachel Tabachnick

PRA fellows Fred Clarkson and Rachel Tabachnick are featured prominently in the latest article out of Salon. They discuss the disturbing new trend emerging from the Right, a push for a Constitutional Convention which would strip power away from the United States and feed it to conservatives in state legislatures.

Check out the snippet below, and read the full Salon article by author Paul Rosenberg here.

salon logoWhat if there were a fourth branch of government that would allow the fans of “Duck Dynasty” to overturn Roe v. Wade, repeal Obamacare and pretty much nullify any federal law or Supreme Court decision they don’t like, based on the support of as little as 12 percent of the nation’s population? And what if that fourth branch already existed in the American constitutional order, just waiting to be properly realized?

That’s basically the dream of conservative activist Charles Kacprowicz, as described in a recent conference call with supporters, effectively summing up many of the deepest hopes and fears of right-wing America in the post-Bush era.

In tandem, the two blind spots have obscured the story of state-level conservative radicalization throughout the post-Vietnam era. The most recent issue of the Public Eye magazine from Political Research Associates is devoted to highlighting this neglected concern, and two of the contributing authors, Frederick Clarkson and Rachel Tabachnick, monitored Kacprowicz’s call and shared some thoughts about it.

Clarkson wroteExposed: How the Right’s State-Based Think Tanks are Transforming U.S. Politics,” while Tabachnick co-authored the article “Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right” with Frank L. Cocozzelli. The first story examines the extensive state-level networks of Heritage-style free market think tanks (the State Policy Network) and Family Research Council-style social conservative think tanks (the Family Policy Councils). These have been instrumental in nourishing a culture of state-level right-wing activism that goes largely unnoticed by the national media. Clarkson called Kacprowicz “an obscure figure who may have found the missing link — the unifying logic that can unite far right factions into a campaign to make the greatest change in the Constitution since ratification. At least in his own mind.” While his ideas may be too radical to succeed, Clarkson warns, “The amendment’s very radical nature could generate an inflammatory debate that makes other competing proposals seem moderate by comparison, even though there is nothing moderate them.”

The second story examines the ideological infrastructure at play behind recent state-level political developments, which it traces back to the Old Right “paleoconservatives” whose ideas have often been presented as libertarian in the hands of Ron Paul and his associates. As it quickly points out, “Since 2010, state legislators have introduced nearly 200 bills — on 11 issues alone — challenging federal laws that they deem  unconstitutional,” including anti-gun control bills in at least 38 states, and anti-Obamacare laws in at least 20 states. Such activism even “extends beyond the 50 state legislatures, spreading to county and local governments, including about 500 county sheriffs who have affirmed their commitment to ‘saying “no” to Obama gun control.’”

Of course, nullification is unconstitutional. …

Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right

 

Co-Author: Frank L. Cocozzelli
Frank L. Cocozzelli writes a regular column on Roman Catholic conservatism at Talk2Action.org and is a contributor to Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America. A former director of the Institute for Progressive Christianity, he is working on a book on American liberalism as well as documentary on Msgr. John A. Ryan’s quest for a living wage. See more of Frank’s writing here.

Behind the recent surge of nullification bills in state legislatures there is an ongoing battle for the soul of the GOP—and the future of the union itself. The nullification movement’s ideology is rooted in reverence for states’ rights and a theocratic and neo-Confederate interpretation of U.S. history. And Ron Paul, who is often portrayed as a libertarian, is the engine behind the movement.

***

 

ronpaul

Ron Paul speaking at a rally in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

“I have a dream that one day in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” —Martin Luther King Jr., August 28, 19631

Nullification is once again a strategic weapon in the battle for states’ rights. Since 2010, state legislators have introduced nearly 200 bills—on eleven issues alone—challenging federal laws that they deem unconstitutional.2

Advocates base their argument for nullification and its ideological twin, secession, on the “compact theory,” which holds that the U.S. government was formed by a compact among sovereign states that have the right to nullify federal laws—or leave the union.3 Their work has the potential to provoke the most dramatic showdown over states’ rights since President John F. Kennedy federalized Alabama’s National Guard in response to Gov. George Wallace’s refusal to desegregate the University of Alabama.4

If there is a showdown, it may come in Kansas. In April 2013, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law the Second Amendment Protection Act, which prohibits the enforcement of federal laws regulating guns produced and used within the state of Kansas.5 U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has warned Brownback that the law is unconstitutional. Similar bills have been introduced in at least 37 other states.6 In September, the Missouri legislature narrowly failed to override the governor’s veto of a nullification bill that would have allowed for the arrest of federal agents attempting to enforce gun laws.7 At least nine states have announced that they will not issue military identification cards to same-sex spouses at 114 Army and Air National Guard facilities, refusing to comply with Department of Defense policy.8

Click here for the

Click here for the full profile on CSPOA

In addition to gun-control laws, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare,” has been a prime target of nullification activists. At least 20 bills have been introduced in state legislatures to nullify the ACA. In North Dakota, the bill became law. The original version of a bill introduced earlier this year in the South Carolina House would have made implementation of the ACA by state employees a crime punishable by a fine of up to a thousand dollars, two years imprisonment, or both.9 And the wave of challenges to federal law extends beyond the 50 state legislatures, spreading to county and local governments,10 including about 500 county sheriffs who have affirmed their commitment to “saying ‘no’ to Obama gun control.”11 [See related profile.]

But the movement’s significance cannot be measured by ordinances and proposed legislation alone. Though nullification bills have sometimes been dismissed as political theater,12 activists are organizing across the nation, and their work has real implications. They are mainstreaming interpretations of American history and law that delegitimize the regulatory role of the federal government—interpretations that have been central to the emergence of the Tea Party and to the recent Congressional battles over the federal budget.

Whatever its implications for electoral politics in the United States, though, the nullification movement is not limited to helping a particular party gain control of Congress or the presidency. Its goal is much more ambitious: to discredit and dismantle the federal government. Thus the movement’s rising popularity poses a dilemma for the Republican Party—and the nation more broadly. At stake are the definition and future of the union itself.

Warring Visions: Old Right vs. New Right

The resurgence of the nullification movement predates Barack Obama’s presidency and the emergence of the Tea Party. Indeed, the current tension is half a century in the making and has emerged from a struggle between the Old Right and the New Right, also known as “paleoconservatives” and “neoconservatives,” respectively.

In a collection of essays published in 1999, leading intellectuals of the Old Right described “paleoconservatism” as “a phrase that came into circulation during the 1980s, perhaps as a rejoinder to the rise of neoconservative influence on the American Right.”13 Identifying themselves as the true heirs of the Old Right’s ideology, these paleoconservatives included Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, Allan Carlson, M.E. Bradford, Sam Francis, Thomas Fleming, and Murray Rothbard.

The struggle between these two camps—abbreviated as paleos and neocons—has often been bitter. Paleos accuse neocons of supporting open borders and being statists, globalists, and imperialists. Neocons, in turn, accuse paleos of being isolationist, racist, anti-Semitic, and inclined toward conspiratorial thinking.

Paleos embrace the charge of isolationism and identify as cultural conservatives, or traditionalists. As a paleo once described their principles, they “share the Founding Fathers’ distrust of standing armies, look to the original American foreign policy of isolationism as a guide to any post-Cold War era, and see the welfare state as a moral and Constitutional monstrosity.”14

Even paleos with libertarian leanings are usually antichoice, opposed to LGBTQ rights, and hostile to what they call “multiculturalism”—used interchangeably with the terms “Cultural Marxism” and “political correctness”—which they believe is a stealth effort to level society. Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation produced a booklet in 2004 providing an account of the conspiracy that the organization claimed had infiltrated American society. This Marxist conspiracy was supposedly organized by a group of intellectuals—members of the Frankfurt School—who fled Nazi Germany and were exiles in the United States in the 1930s.15

In their media, paleos often recount with bitterness the pivotal events that resulted in decades of their marginalization by neoconservatives. One such event was William F. Buckley’s 1962 “excommunicationof the John Birch Society—a bastion of the Old Right—from the conservative movement.16 Another flashpoint was the firing of neoconservative Richard John Neuhaus in 1989 by the paleoconservative Rockford Institute. The firing followed Neuhaus’s accusations against Thomas Fleming—editor of the institute’s magazine—of “nativism, racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia”and “a penchant for authoritarian politics.”17 The Rockford Institute subsequently lost about $700,000 in funding from conservative foundations.

Despite such setbacks, paleos were far from idle during these decades. In 1992, a paleo alliance came together to support Patrick Buchanan’s GOP primary challenge to President George H.W. Bush’s bid for re-election. Buchanan’s supporters included Llewellyn “Lew” Rockwell Jr., founder of the paleoconservative Ludwig von Mises Institute; and anarcho-capitalist Murray Rothbard, the organization’s most prominent economist.18

In their Rothbard-Rockwell Report, Rothbard and Rockwell described Buchanan’s candidacy as “an unprecedented opportunity to forge a powerful paleo coalition, to create a new libertarian-conservative, Old Right movement that can grow, can become extraordinarily influential, and that can even take over the presidency within a short period of time.” The article included a reassurance that Ron Paul, the Libertarian candidate for president in 1988, had declined to run and was supporting Buchanan.19

The late Rothbard, who described himself as a member of the Old Right faction since 1946, was a Jewish New Yorker who supported Strom Thurmond’s States’ Rights Party in 1948. Bemoaning the neoconservatives’ success in establishing themselves as the only right-wing alternative to the Left, Rothbard called for a resurgence of the Old Right to “repeal the twentieth century.” In the 1960s, Rothbard temporarily formed an alliance with the antiwar New Left, including Students for a Democratic Society.20 He later molded a paleo alliance limited to what he considered “good” libertarians. As described in a 1990 issue of the John Birch Society’s New American magazine, this would mean purging undesirable elements from the Libertarian Party, including “hippies, druggies, antinomians, and militantly anti-Christian atheists.”21

As their hopes for capturing the White House faded with Buchanan’s failed presidential bids in 1992 and 1996, paleos focused on building a movement opposed to both liberal and neoconservative “statists.” In 1995, inspired by the dissolution of the Soviet Union several years earlier, the Ludwig von Mises Institute hosted a conference on the legality and viability of secession. It was held in Charleston, SC. Following the conference, the Mises Institute published Secession, State, and Liberty, a collection of the proceedings that featured several of the institute’s scholars.22

A prominent paleoconservative had noted in 1987 that the waning of neoconservativism might in fact “bring forward a much harder and more radical right, with serious political prospects.” His quote was reprinted in a 2012 article in the American Conservative, co-founded by Patrick Buchanan.23 With the mainstreaming of nullification and secessionist rhetoric in recent years—and a well-organized movement to promote them—those words now seem prophetic.

The Ron Paul Revolution and “One Nation Indivisible”

Ron Paul’s retirement from Congress in 2012 did not end his political activism. The former U.S. Representative from Texas is developing a paleoconservative movement around his allies and the nonprofits that he has founded since 1976.24 The Ron Paul Revolution, as his supporters call it, provides the vital connective tissue for a small but growing network of organizations devoted to the cause of nullification.

Paul’s agenda has included the rejuvenation of paleoconservatism through his youth outreach and a strong emphasis on his “libertarian” credentials, despite his record as the most conservative legislator in the modern history of the U.S. Congress.25 The libertarian elements of Paul’s political agenda derive primarily from his allegiance to states’ rights, which is often mistaken as support for civil liberties.

Paul is far more transparent about his paleoconservative—rather than libertarian—agenda when he speaks to audiences made up of social conservatives, as when he assured LifeSiteNews that he opposed federal regulatory power and supported state-level banning of abortion, and that he would veto a same-sex marriage bill if he were a governor.26

He also told an enthusiastic audience at the fundamentalist Bob Jones University in 2008 that “you don’t have to wait till the courts are changed” to outlaw abortion, pointing out that his plan for removing jurisdiction from the federal courts would allow South Carolina to enact laws against abortion. And he sponsored the “We the People Act,” which proposed stripping the federal courts of jurisdiction in cases related to religion and privacy, freeing state legislatures to regulate sexual acts, birth control, and religious matters.

Paul, who has been called the “father of the Tea Party,”27 has long been rooted in the paleoconservative Right, a world inhabited by a substantial number of neo-Confederates and theocrats. Though largely ignored or downplayed by the mainstream media, these connections are freely talked about in certain circles. For example, during Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, the former editor of Southern Partisan, a neo-Confederate publication, endorsed Paul on his personal blog. He described Paul as being an honorary member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans for at least 12 years, writing that he “has given countless speeches in front of Confederate flags for Southern Heritage groups and has never faltered from his defense of Dixie.28 When Paul was initially confronted with the racist, reactionary, and conspiracy-filled commentary of newsletters published by his own organization in the 1980s and 1990s, he staunchly defended them—before changing course during the 2008 election and claiming that he had no knowledge of their content.29

The 1995 Mises Institute conference on secession included a session led by Paul, in which he applauded the willingness of Mises’s leadership to talk openly about secession, as opposed to those who were a “bit more shy” and talked in terms of the Tenth Amendment.30 In 2012, Paul confirmed his position on secession “as a deeply American principle” on his House of Representatives website.31 In a YouTube video posted in 2009 by one of his nonprofits, Campaign for Liberty, he blamed the notion of an “indivisible” nation on “avowed socialist” Francis Bellamy, author of the Pledge of Allegiance.32

The nonprofits and projects that comprise the Ron Paul Revolution are a vehicle for advancing the paleoconservative agenda, rebranded as libertarian, with young people as a special focus of the movement. Paul’s emphasis on liberty, along with his antiwar stance and opposition to federal marijuana laws, have obscured his ties to theocrats and neo-Confederates and have endeared him to a generation of young libertarians (and even some people on the Left). As Paul’s collaborator Lew Rockwell has written, “The young are increasingly with us. The neocons are yesterday’s men.”33

Youth appeal: libertarians and the Old Right join forces

The Tenth Amendment Center (TAC) is a prime example of nullification’s crossover appeal—that is, the energy the movement generates by casting itself as libertarian rather than paleoconservative in origins.

The TAC was founded in 2007 by Michael Boldin, a Californian whose libertarianism is rooted, he says, in objections to the Iraq War and to federal excesses in the “psychotic war on drugs.”34 The TAC is a source for model legislation, and it tracks the progress of nullification bills across the country. Its concerns span the political spectrum and include NSA spying, the Second Amendment, marijuana and hemp laws, the military’s use of drones, Obamacare, and environmental regulations, among other things.Its website offers a “Nullification Organizer’s Toolkit” with resources for activists. 35 Since the TAC is not registered as a nonprofit, little information is available about its finances, but it appears to function primarily as an internet-based organization with affiliates in most states.36

Click here for the full profile on the John Birch Society (JBS)

Click here for the full profile on the John Birch Society (JBS)

The TAC has promoted state nullification through its ongoing Nullify Now! tour of cities across the United States, starting in Ft. Worth, TX, in September 2010. The John Birch Society advertised the launch and has provided speakers.37 [See related profile for more about the John Birch Society’s role in the tour.] The most recent event was held in Raleigh, NC, in October 2013, and was co-sponsored by the League of the South, an Alabama-based organization founded in 1994 and dedicated to promoting states’ rights and Southern secession. In 1995, the League of the South published a “New Dixie Manifesto” in the Washington Post, calling for Southern states to take control of their own governments and oppose “the government’s campaign against our Christian traditions.”38

A previous Atlanta TAC event was sponsored by Ray McBerry, a candidate for governor of Georgia in 2010. McBerry is a former head of the Georgia League of the South and provides public relations for the Georgia Sons of the Confederacy. He was the top funder—at $250,000—of the Revolution political action committee that supported Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in 2012.39

An important Tenth Amendment Center ally in nullification advocacy—Young Americans for Liberty (YAL)—was formed from the estimated 26,000 students who participated in Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign.40 YAL recently announced the creation of its 500th campus chapter (at Cornell University) and claims to have 125,000 student activists. Its mission is to “cast the leaders of tomorrow and reclaim the policies, candidates, and direction of our government.”41

Founded on the belief that “government is the negation of liberty,” YAL holds a national, invitation-only summit each year featuring Ron Paul and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). The 2013 event included a Senate Roundtable with Rand Paul, Mike Lee (R-UT), and Ted Cruz (R-TX). Training partners for the YAL chapters include Ron Paul’s nonprofit Campaign for Liberty, along with Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. The latter two organizations were formed from the split of Citizens for a Sound Economy, founded in 1984 by Charles and David Koch. Ron Paul was its first chairman.42

YAL’s director of outreach is Jack Hunter, who was dismissed from Rand Paul’s Senate staff in July 2013 after his neo-Confederate beliefs—particularly his speaking persona as the Rebel flag-masked “Southern Avenger”—became a public controversy.43 Hunter, who has worked as Ron Paul’s official blogger and co-authored a book with Rand Paul, is a regular speaker on the Nullify Now! tour.44

The lead speaker of the Nullify Now! tour, Thomas E. Woods, is a partner in another Ron Paul venture. Woods, who has degrees from Harvard University and Columbia University, is one of the producers of the Ron Paul Curriculum, a homeschooling program introduced in 2013. In a 1997 essay, Woods described the “War Between the States” as the South’s “struggle against an atheistic individualism and an unrelenting rationalism in politics and religion, in favor of a Christian understanding of authority, social order and theology itself.” His author biography noted that he was “a founding member of the League of the South.”45

Woods wrote Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century—described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as the “Bible of the movement46—and he is the star of the film Nullification: The Rightful Remedy, which is being shown on the Nullify Now! tour. Since the 1990s, Woods has been a regular speaker at neo-Confederate events, and he was one of the contributors to the “American Secession Project,” which aims to “place the concept of secession in the mainstream of political thought.”47 His work has reached a general audience through his New York Times bestsellers—including The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and Meltdown—and regular appearances in conservative media.

A convert to Catholicism, Woods is also recognized for his books attacking the post-Vatican II church and promoting laissez-faire economics to Catholics.48 While headlining the Nullify Now! tour, he has shared the stage with state legislators across the country49 and has been referenced by legislators introducing nullification bills.50 In Idaho, GOP legislators distributed Woods’s book on nullification to their Democratic colleagues and to the governor.51

God, guns, and a Civil War theology

A consistent theme of the states’ rights and nullification movement is the sacralization of the Old South’s “lost cause.” In this interpretation of what is called the “War of Northern Aggression,” Abraham Lincoln is the great villain of American history—sometimes portrayed as a Marxist—whose intent was to establish an imperialistic federal government. Racism in America is described as a product of Reconstruction, rather than of slavery, which is defined as a benign and biblical institution.52 This interpretation has broad appeal beyond the South and across the religious spectrum, and its adherents include a surprising number of traditionalist Catholics.53

neverforgetconfederateflag (1)

Photo taken in South Carolina by author Rachel Tabachnick in 2013

In an article in the Canadian Review of American Studies, Euan Hague and Edward Sebesta describe the interpretation as a “Civil War theology” that casts the Civil War as battle over the “future of American religiosity fought between devout Confederate and heretical Union states.”54 The article tracks this narrative from the Southern Presbyterian church of the Confederate era to its post-World War II revival by “Southern Agrarian” writers and, later, the late Christian Reconstructionist Rousas J. Rushdoony. It made its way into neo-Confederate magazines like Southern Partisan and religious publications like Rushdoony’s Chalcedon Report, and since then into popular books and media.

The sacralized “lost cause” of the South is often undergirded by Christian Reconstructionism—that is, the belief that the United States and other nations must be reconstructed and governed according to biblical law.55 Reconstructionism merges theocracy with laissez-faire capitalism, or “biblical economics,” to arrive at a vision of government that promotes biblically aligned law at the local level and a radically limited federal government. 56

This narrative has been a part of some Christian homeschooling and private-school curricula for decades. A Christian Reconstructionist text published in 1989 and still used today provides this summary of the events following the “War Between the States”:

After the war an ungodly Republican element gained control of the Congress.  They wanted to centralize power and shape the nation according to their philosophy. In order to do this, they had to remove the force of Calvinism in America, which was centered in the South at this time, and rid the South, which was opposed to centralization, of its political power. They used their post-war control of Congress to reconstruct the South, pass the Fourteenth Amendment, and in many ways accomplish their goals.57

Rushdoony—the father of Christian Reconstructionism and a pioneer of the modern homeschooling movement—advocated localism and a “Protestant feudal restoration” as a “libertarian” alternative to central government.58 His work is in keeping with a long tradition of using religion to fight the New Deal specifically and the federal government’s regulatory power more broadly.59 As early as 1978, the newsletter of Rushdoony’s disciple and son-in-law, Gary North, had introduced nullification as a biblical way to fight the centralized “totalitarian State.”60

Christian Reconstructionism has also played a significant role in the ideology of the civilian militia movement. Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America since 1976, was the “chief theoretician of the militia movement” of the 1990s.61 More recently, he has helped expand this potential source of armed resistance to the federal government to include elected county sheriffs across the nation. [See profile.]

In one of the early Christian Reconstructionist publications, Pratt contributed an essay titled “Tools of Biblical Resistance,” in which he claims that the Supreme Court has “taken the authority to find rights that never existed and taken away rights bestowed by God and set forth in the Constitution drawn up two hundred years ago.62 Militias are necessary, according to Pratt, because, “anti-Christian governments such as we have in the United States cannot be counted on to keep the peace.”63

Pratt’s book Safeguarding Liberty opens with the story of the Lincoln County, MT, militia being deputized by Sheriff Ray Nixon as a defense against the federal government.64 His 1990 book Armed People Victorious extols the virtue of armed citizen militias and uses the examples of Guatemala and the Philippines as a model for the United States.65 He has also traveled to Ireland to call for the Protestant population to arm itself and has promoted unregulated gun access in South Africa.

Pratt made news in 1996, when he was ousted as co-chair of Patrick Buchanan’s presidential campaign after being exposed for his role at White supremacist gatherings.66 More recently, Pratt spoke at the Southern Heritage Conference and was a sponsor (along with Ron Paul, the Chalcedon Foundation, and the Texas League of the South) of the Southern Historical Conference. Both are Christian Reconstructionist, neo-Confederate events.67

Pratt appeared in the political documentary Molon Labe: How the Second Amendment Guarantees America’s Freedom, which premiered in October 2013. The film, which also features Ron Paul and Patrick Buchanan, is about the “duty” of citizens to keep and bear arms as part of their militia responsibilities. According to the producer, “We the people will never regain the power of the purse or the power of the sword until and unless we re-establish the 50 Militias in each and every one of our 50 states.”68 The film is part of a series starring Paul and Buchanan. Other films include one about the possibility of a third party winning the presidency. Another is titled Cultural Marxism.

The Movement’s Think Tanks

The work of developing the intellectual underpinnings of the nullification movement—and reviving neo-Confederate ideology—is taking place at two influential think tanks, the Abbeville Institute and the Ludwig von Mises Institute. The former’s work is largely behind the scenes; the latter is intensely popular among fans of Ron Paul.

The Mises Institute has a multi-million dollar budget and claims 350-plus faculty and donors in 80 countries.69 Based in Auburn, AL, it touts its website as the “most trafficked institutional economics site in the world.”70 Mises was founded in 1982 by Lew Rockwell Jr., former Congressional chief of staff for Ron Paul and creator of the popular LewRockwell.com blog. He credits several people with helping to found the think tank, including Ron Paul. Rockwell has served on the national board of advisors for the Southern Heritage Society and describes himself as the only “copperhead” on the board.71

The Abbeville Institute is named for the birthplace of John C. Calhoun, a U.S. Senator from South Carolina known for his role in the Nullification Crisis of 1832 and as an outspoken supporter of slavery and secession. The institute has a post office box in McClellan, SC, and an annual budget of less than $200,000 dollars, but it hosts an influential annual scholars’ conference and summer program.

Abbeville was founded in 2003 by an Emory University philosophy professor, Donald Livingston, who also founded and led the League of the South’s educational arm.72 Abbeville claims to have about a hundred affiliated scholars, though only about three dozen are listed publicly on its website. Most of the scholars are college and university faculty, and many have also been affiliated with the League of the South and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.73 Time described Abbeville’s group of scholars as the “Lincoln loathers,” and a Chronicle of Higher Education article summed up their online lectures: “Abraham Lincoln is not the Great Emancipator; he is Dishonest Abe, a president hellbent on creating a big central government, even if that meant waging war.”74

In 2009, the Abbeville Institute Scholars’ Conference focused on the superior religiosity of the South. It was held at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, founded by the late Jerry Falwell. According to the conference summary, “Northerners became progressively liberal and secular, the political doctrine of human rights replacing the Gospel in importance and in doing so lost influence; whereas Southerners and their section remained orthodox and flourished in Christian and humanitarian influence.” 75

In 2010, the Abbeville Institute hosted “State Nullification, Secession, and the Human Scale of Political Order.” It featured speakers affiliated with Abbeville and Mises, including Lawrence Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), and leaders from the Second Vermont Republic and the Middlebury Institute.76 FEE is the “grandaddy of all libertarian organizations,” with a founding board of directors that included the creator of the John Birch Society, Robert Welch.77 Before going to FEE, Reed was president for 20 years of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, one of the first and largest of the state free-market think tanks. Reed has been described as having “nurtured so many state policy groups that he has been called the movement’s Johnny Appleseed.”78

The 2010 Abbeville event was promoted by the John Birch Society and the Tenth Amendment Center.79 Speakers focused on the “peaceful secession” of states from the Soviet Union as a model. “Nullification and secession were understood by the Founders as remedies to unconstitutional acts of the central government,” according to an ad for the event. “Yet over a century of nationalist indoctrination and policy has largely hidden this inheritance from public scrutiny. The aim of the conference is to recover an understanding of that part of the American tradition and to explore its intimations for today.”80

Mises and Abbeville have several scholars in common, including Livingston, Woods, and Thomas DiLorenzo, all of whom have been affiliated with the League of the South and are regulars on the neo-Confederate speaking circuit. Livingston and DiLorenzo are both listed as faculty for the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ education arm.81

Their books and media have gone mainstream, and they make regular appearances in a variety of media venues, including Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. DiLorenzo’s 2003 book The Real Lincoln became one of the top-selling selections of the Conservative Book Club.82 These scholars are also called on to testify as “experts” before legislative bodies. Livingston, for example, was invited by South Carolina Rep. Bill Chumley to testify before the state legislature in February 2013 in support of nullifying the Affordable Care Act.83

The Conservative Schism and the GOP’s Dilemma

The nullification movement, cloaked in the language of liberty, poses a serious challenge to conservatives and the Republican Party. The New Right infrastructure developed over the last several decades has an ongoing agenda of shifting power from the federal government to the states, but it has generally avoided promoting nullification. In 2012, The Heritage Foundation published a forceful denunciation of nullification, titled “Nullification: Unlawful and Unconstitutional.”84 (This was prior to Jim DeMint’s arrival as head of Heritage. DeMint, a Tea Party leader and former Republican U.S. Senator from South Carolina, is now deviating from previous positions held by the conservative foundation.85 The new Heritage Action, formed in 2010, took a leading role in promoting the 2013 government shutdown and, as a senator, DeMint called for governors to refuse to implement the ACA.)86 In 2013, the libertarian Cato Institute also began warning about the limits of nullification.87 It recently expressed concern about the rise of “Confederate-defenders” gaining traction in libertarianism,88 and posted a video that warned viewers not to be seduced by neo-Confederate ideology.89

In particular, the GOP’s hopes to expand its coalition and attract more minorities are threatened by the radicalism of the Ron Paul Revolution. For example, Paul has signed a proclamation calling for an end to public education, 90 and his book The School Revolution, published in 2013, also calls for the abolition of public schools. He stresses home-schooling as an essential part of his vision—and has a Christian Reconstructionist, Gary North, serving as the director of the new Ron Paul Curriculum for homeschoolers. A Mises scholar and former Congressional staffer from Paul’s first term in the House, North has written that he is “trying to lay the biblical foundations of an alternative society to humanism’s present social order.”91

An example of Paul’s ability to use his libertarian brand to promote reactionary ideas and organizations—and cause headaches for the Republican Party—was the Rally for the Republic, his GOP counter-convention, held in Minneapolis in 2008. As the Republican National Convention took place across the river, an estimated 10,000 people gathered to cheer their hero and a roster of speakers, including one special, secret guest. The rally’s emcee, Tucker Carlson, was surprised by the special guest’s identity—John McManus, longtime president of the JBS—and declined to introduce him. Carlson was “apparently scandalized at the prospect of introducing someone from the JBS,” according to a JBS account of the event. McManus nonetheless took the stage and closed his well-received speech by saying, “If you like Ron Paul, you’ll love the John Birch Society.”92 A few weeks after his 2008 Rally for the Republic, Paul gave the keynote speech at JBS’s 50th anniversary.93

Paul and the nullification movement pose challenges for progressives, too, who face the temptation of using state nullification as a way to counter the federal government on multiple issues, including privacy violations, marijuana laws, and the military’s use of drones. Whatever the short-term gains it might yield, collaboration with paleoconservatives could strengthen the position of “tenthers” (a term used by many nullification advocates to describe themselves, referring to their reverence for the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution) who would use their interpretation of states’ rights to restrict civil liberties.

Partly because of its broad appeal, the nullification movement continues to escalate, and its base is expanding. Right-wing radicalism is hardly a new phenomenon in American society, but its modern manifestation is unprecedented since the era of resistance to school integration. Those threatening to resist federal law and regulation are no longer just patriot militias in camouflage, training in isolation in the woods. They are elected county sheriffs, politicians, and state legislators, declaring that their resistance to the federal government is grounded in their interpretation of the Constitution and U.S. history. Understanding the ideology behind their work is crucial to navigating the challenges that lie ahead.

This article will be featured in the upcoming issue of The Public Eye magazine.


1 Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream,” Aug. 28, 1963, www.archives.gov/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf.

2 These issues are the Affordable Care Act, food regulation, government-issued identification cards, gun control, marijuana laws, the Federal Reserve, the use of the National Guard, the National Defense Authorization Act, the Transportation Security Administration, and “war on terror” concerns such as privacy violations and the use of drones by the U.S. government. See the Tenth Amendment Center’s “Action Center Home,” http://tracking.tenthamendmentcenter.com; and the National Conference on State Legislatures, “State Legislation and Actions Challenging Certain Health Reforms,” www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-laws-and-actions-challenging-ppaca.aspx.

3 Samuel Hutchinson Beer, To Make a Nation: The Rediscovery of American Federalism (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998), 313.

4 Claude Sitton, “Alabama Admits Negro Students; Wallace Bows to Federal Force; Kennedy Sees ‘Moral Crisis’ in U.S.,” New York Times, June 12, 1963, http://partners.nytimes.com/library/national/race/061263race-ra.html.

5 Rachel Weiner, “Fight brewing in Kansas over gun-control nullification laws,” Washington Post, May 3, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/05/03/fight-brewing-in-kansas-over-gun-control-nullification-laws.

6 Lois Beckett, “Nullification: How States Are Making It a Felony to Enforce Federal Gun Laws,” ProPublica, May 2, 2013, www.propublica.org/article/nullification-how-states-are-making-it-a-felony-to-enforce-federal-gun-laws.

7 Leslie Bentz and George Howell, “Missouri lawmakers fail to override governor’s gun bill veto,” CNN, Sept. 12, 2013, www.cnn.com/2013/09/11/us/missouri-gun-laws-challenge, and David Neiwert, “Missouri Gun-Law ‘Nullification’ Bill Had Roots in ’90s ‘Patriot’ Movement,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Sept. 18, 2013, http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2013/09/18/missouri-gun-law-nullification-bill-had-roots-in-90s-patriot-movement.

8 Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube, “Defense Secretary Hagel calls out 9 states for refusing to issue military IDs to same-sex spouses,” NBC News, Oct. 31, 2013, <http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/31/21268214-defense-secretary-hagel-calls-out-9-states-for-refusing-to-issue-military-ids-to-same-sex-spouses.

9 South Carolina General Assembly, “South Carolina Freedom of Health Care Protection Act,” Dec. 11, 2012, http://scstatehouse.gov/sess120_2013-2014/prever/3101_20121211.htm.

10 Jeff Stewart, “Easton, KS Passes Ordinance to Nullify Federal Gun Control,” Tenth Amendment Center, Oct. 2, 2013, http://blog.tenthamendmentcenter.com/2013/10/easton-ks-passes-ordinance-to-nullify-federal-gun-control.

11 “Growing List Of Sheriffs, Associations and Police Chiefs Saying ‘No’ to Obama Gun Control,” Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, July 31, 2013, http://cspoa.org/sheriffs-gun-rights.

12 Robert Schlesinger, “Montana’s Governor Scores One for Modernity,” U.S. News & World Report, Mar. 28, 2013, www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/robert-schlesinger/2013/03/28/montana-governor-vetoes-gun-control-nullification-bill.

13 The Paleoconservatives: New Voices of the Old Right, ed. Joseph Scotchie (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1999), 1.

14 Lew Rockwell, “Paleos, Neos, and Libertarians,” New American, Feb. 26, 1990, 5.

15  “’Political Correctness:’ A Short History of an Ideology,” ed. William Lind, (Free Congress Foundation, 2004), www.lust-for-life.org/Lust-For-Life/PoliticalCorrectnessAShortHistory/PoliticalCorrectnessAShortHistory.pdf. Lind is on the board of American Ideas Institute DBA, The American Conservative.

16 William F. Buckley Jr.,” Goldwater, the John Birch Society, and Me,” Commentary, Mar. 1, 2008, www.commentarymagazine.com/article/goldwater-the-john-birch-society-and-me; and Murray N. Rothbard, “A Strategy for the Right,” LewRockwell.com, Jan. 1992, http://archive.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/ir/Ch1.html.

17 John Judis, “The Conservative Crack Up,” American Prospect, Dec. 4, 2000, http://prospect.org/article/conservative-crackup.

18 The Mises Institute is the hub of the “Austrian School” of economics.

19 Murray N. Rothbard and Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr., “For President: Pat Buchanan,” Rothbard-Rockwell Report, Jan. 1992, 1.

20 John Payne, “Rothbard’s Time on the Left,” Journal of Libertarian Studies (Winter 2005), 7-24,  http://mises.org/journals/jls/19_1/19_1_2.pdf  and http://mises.org/daily/2762.

21  Lew Rockwell, “Paleos, Neos, and Libertarians,” New American, Feb. 26, 1990, 7.

22 David Gordon, ed., Secession, State, and Liberty (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1998). Contributors also included Donald Livingston, Clyde Wilson, Hans-Hermanne Hoppe, and Thomas DiLorenzo, https://mises.org/store/Secession-State-and-Liberty-P88.aspx.

23 Eugene Genovese, quoted in a reprint of a 1987 article by Paul Gottfried, “Toward a New Fusionism?” American Conservative, Oct. 17, 2012, www.theamericanconservative.com/repository/toward-a-new-fusionism.

24 In 1976 Paul founded the nonprofit Foundation for Rational Economics and Education, which publishes “Ron Paul’s Freedom Report.” A recently established project of that foundation is the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. Two nonprofits—Campaign for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty—emerged from Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign.

25 Ranking based on common space scores explained in Keith T. Poole, “Recovering a Basic Space From a Set of Issue Scales,” American Journal of Political Science (July 1998), 954-993. The 2004 ranking showed Ron Paul as the most conservative of the 3,320 legislators tracked since 1937. “Is John Kerry A Liberal?” Voteview.com, Oct. 13, 2004, http://voteview.com/is_john_kerry_a_liberal.htm.

26 Kathleen Gilbert, “LifeSiteNews interviews Ron Paul: protect family, marriage, life by protecting subsidiarity,” LifeSiteNews, Jan. 19, 2012, www.lifesitenews.com/news/lifesitenews-interviews-ron-paul-protect-family-marriage-life-by-protecting.

27 Paul has taken credit for initiating the Tea Party and was labeled “father of the Tea Party” in a book by that title in 2011. The author, Jason Rink, was also the producer and director of the movie Nullification: The Rightful Remedy.

28 Tim Manning Jr., “An Open Letter to Neo-Confederates On Behalf of Ron Paul,” Southern Heritage News and Views, Dec.19, 2007, http://shnv.blogspot.com/2007/12/open-letter-to-neo-confederates-on_19.html.

29 Judd Legum, “FACT CHECK: Ron Paul Personally Defended Racist Newsletters,” Dec. 27, 2011, http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/12/27/395391/fact-check-ron-paul-personally-defended-racist-newsletters.

30 Ron Paul, “The Moral Promise of Political Independence,” YouTube, Mar. 26, 2011, www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHKmr69JbhE.

31 Joe Wolverton II, “Ron Paul: Free People Have the Right to Secede,” New American, Nov. 21, 2012, www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/constitution/item/13712-ron-paul-free-people-have-the-right-to-secede.

32 “Ron Paul: Secession Is an American Principle,” RonPaul.com, Nov. 13, 2012 (reposted from 2009), www.ronpaul.com/2012-11-13/ron-paul-secession-is-an-american-principle.

33 Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr., “Why Do the Neocons Hate LRC?” LewRockwell.com, Dec. 27, 2012, www.lewrockwell.com/2012/12/lew-rockwell/why-do-the-neocons-hate-lrc.

34 Michael Boldin, “Body Control: The War on Drugs is War on You,” CounterPunch, Apr. 3-5, 2009, www.counterpunch.org/2009/04/03/the-war-on-drugs-is-a-war-on-you. Also see Stephanie Mencimer, “If at First You Don’t Secede,” Mother Jones, July/Aug. 2010, www.motherjones.com/politics/2010/07/michael-boldin-tenth-amendment.

35 “Welcome to the Tenther Action Center!” Tenth Amendment Center, http://tracking.tenthamendmentcenter.com.

36 State affiliates can be accessed by (name of state).tenthamendmentcenter.com. For example, http://texas.tenthamendmentcenter.com.

37 Bill Hahn, “The John Birch Society Announces Sponsorship of Tenth Amendment Center’s Nullify Now! Tour,” John Birch Society, Sept. 1, 2010, www.jbs.org/press-room/the-john-birch-society-announces-sponsorship-of-tenth-amendment-center-s-nullify-now-tour.

38 Michael Hill and Thomas Fleming, “The New Dixie Manifesto: States’ Rights Will Rise Again,” League of the South, Oct. 29, 1995, http://dixienet.org/rights/2013/new_dixie_manifesto.php.

39 Matthew Ericson, Haeyoun Park, Alicia Parlapiano and Derek Willis, “Who’s Financing the ‘Super PACs,’” New York Times, May 7, 2012, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/01/31/us/politics/super-pac-donors.html?_r=0.

40 “History of YAL,” Young Americans for Liberty, www.yaliberty.org/about/history.

41 “Mission,” Young Americans for Liberty, www.yaliberty.org/about/mission.

42 Ron Paul, Letter to National Taxpayers Legal Fund, Dec. 3, 1984, www.lib.ku.edu/paul/RonPaulCitizensforaSoundEconomy.pdf.

43 James Kirchick, “What Rand Paul Aide Jack Hunter and His Resignation Say About His Boss,” Daily Beast, July 23, 2013, www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/07/23/what-rand-paul-aide-jack-hunter-and-his-resignation-say-about-his-boss.html.

44 Hunter is the co-author, with Rand Paul, of The Tea Party Goes to Washington, and he wrote the “Paulitical Ticker” blog for Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign. He introduced Thomas Woods when he spoke about nullification at CPAC in 2011, at a session sponsored by Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty. Tom Woods, “Tom Woods on Rollback, CPAC 2011,” YouTube, Feb. 11, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcAX0oX9ANU.

45 Thomas E. Woods, Jr., “Christendom’s Last Stand,” Southern Partisan Magazine, 1997, reprinted in Studies in Reformed Theology, 1998, http://web.archive.org/web/19991023114339/http://reformed-theology.org/html/issue04/christendom.htm.

46 David Neiwert, “Missouri Gun-Law ‘Nullification’ Bill Had Roots in ’90s ‘Patriot’ Movement,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Sept. 18, 2013, www.splcenter.org/blog/2013/09/18/missouri-gun-law-nullification-bill-had-roots-in-90s-patriot-movement.

47  Woods is author of Secessionist No. 10, titled “Secede!”  http://archive.lewrockwell.com/orig/woods3.html. He has been featured at numerous neo-Confederate events hosted by League of the South and the Southern Historical Conference, the latter hosted by the Texas League of the South members in conjunction with the Bonnie Blue Ball. Woods and Ron Paul spoke at the premiere event in 2003.

48 These include The Church and the Market (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005), which won the 2006 Templeton Enterprise Award.

49 William Cherry, “Nullification Rally Sets Stage for Opposition to Obamacare,” New American. Sept. 8, 2010, www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/politics/item/3314-nullification-rally-sets-stage-for-opposition-to-obamacare.

50 “Book Discussion on Nullification,” North Dakota Policy Council, Sept. 11, 2010, www.c-spanvideo.org/program/295582-1.

51 Scott Logan, “Nullification sails through House committee,” KBOI TV, Jan. 26, 2011, http://www.kboi2.com/news/local/114683304.html; Ian Millhiser, “Idaho Lawmakers Cite Founder Of Neo-Confederate Hate Group To Justify Plan To Nullify Health Reform,” ThinkProgress, Jan. 21, 2011, http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/01/21/140123/tom-woods-idaho.

52 See for example the pamphlet Southern Slavery: As it Was (Canon Press, 1996) by Christian Reconstructionists Steven Wilkins and Douglas Wilson. Wilkins is also a former board member of League of the South and the founder of the Southern Heritage Society.

53 Many major leaders are Catholic, including Thomas Woods, Lew Rockwell, Thomas DiLorenzo, and League of the South co-founder Thomas Fleming. See Frank Cocozzelli, “Thomas E. Woods, Jr. and the Neo-Confederate Catholic Right,” Talk to Action, May 1, 2013, www.talk2action.org/story/2013/5/1/163858/0598; and Frederick Clarkson, “A Talk to Action Anthology on Nullification and Secession”, Talk to Action, Sept. 12, 2013, www.talk2action.org/story/2013/7/9/03849/39753.

54 Edward H. Sebesta and Euan Hague, “The US Civil War as a Theological War: Confederate Christian Nationalism and the League of the South,” Canadian Review of American History (2002), www.theocracywatch.org/civil_war_canadian_review.htm. See also Euan Hague, Heidi Beirich, and Edward H. Sebesta, eds., Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010).

55 Frederick Clarkson, “Christian Reconstructionism: Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence,” Public Eye, Mar./June 1994, www.publiceye.org/magazine/v08n1/chrisrec.html.

56 See, for example, the story of Micah Hurd, a 24-year-old Texan who recently left the National Guard to join a local militia: Bud Kennedy, “In Texas, if at first you can’t secede, try — joining a militia?,” Star-Telegram, Sept. 7, 2013, www.star-telegram.com/2013/09/07/5142554/in-texas-if-at-first-you-cant.html.

57 Mark A. Beliles and Stephen K. McDowell, America’s Providential History (The Providence Foundation, 1989), 243.

58 Rousas J. Rushdoony, The Nature of the American System (Ross House Books, 2002). Originally published in 1965.

59 See Michael McVicar, “Reconstructing America: Religion, American Conservatism, and the Political Theology of Rousas John Rushdoony” (Ph.D. diss.,The Ohio State University, 2010), and Kim Phillips-Fein, Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal (W.W. Norton & Co., 2009).

60 Tom Rose, “How to Reclaim the American Dream Via Constitutional and Christian Reconstruction,” Biblical Economics Today (Apr./May 1978), A-8, A-9.

61 Frederick Clarkson, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1997), 103.

62 Lawrence Pratt, “Tools of Biblical Resistance” in Gary North, ed. Christianity and Civilization: The Theology of Christian Resistance. No. 2., (Tyler, TX: Geneva Divinity School Press, 1983), 436.

63 Pratt, “Tools of Biblical Resistance,” 442.

64 Larry Pratt, ed., Safeguarding Liberty: The Constitution & Citizen Militias (Franklin TN: Legacy Communications, 1995), p. ix.

65 Larry Pratt, Armed People Victorious, (Springfield, VA: Gun Owners Foundation, 1990).   Reconstructionists promoted their ideology in Guatemala following the 1982 coup of Efraín Rios Montt, who was supported by many in the U.S. Christian Right. Rios Montt was tried and found guilty for genocide in 2013, but the guilty verdict was overturned in May 2013. “The Trial of Efrain Rios Montt & Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez,” Open Society Justice Initiative, www.riosmontt-trial.org.

66 Clarkson, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, 21.

67 “Thanks to Our Sponsors,” Foundation for Christian Alternatives, http://web.archive.org/web/20041207005902/http://sincerelysouthern.com/sponsors.htm. In 2007, the parent organization of the Southern Historical Conference sponsored a fundraising ball for Ron Paul.

69 “About the Mises Institute,” Ludwig von Mises Institute, http://mises.org/page/1448/About-The-Mises-Institute; and “Senior Fellows, Faculty Members, and Staff,” Ludwig von Mises Institute, http://mises.org/Faculty. Also see Chip Berlet, “Ludwig von Mises Rises from the Scrap Heap of History,” Public Eye, http://www.publiceye.org/economic_justice/labor/anti_labor/history/von-mises.html.

70 “Frequently Asked Questions,” Ludwig von Mises Institute, http://mises.org/page/1479/Frequently-Asked-Questions.

72 According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Livingston left the League of the South because of its increasingly overt racism. Livingston insists that there is nothing racist about the scholarship of his institute.

73 “Associates,” Abbeville Institute, http://abbevilleinstitute.org/index.php/associates.

74 “Scholars Nostalgic for the Old South Study the Virtues of Secession, Quietly,” Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec. 6, 2009, http://chronicle.com/article/Secretive-Scholars-of-the-Old/49337.

75 “The Older Religiousness of the South,” Abbeville Institute Scholars’ Conference, 2009, https://web.archive.org/web/20110829061826/http://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/archschol/09Scholars/09schol.php.

76 The Second Vermont Republic and Middlebury Institute, founded by Thomas Naylor and Kirkpatrick Sale, represent the “left” wing of the secession movement. However, both embraced much of the neo-Confederate ideology of their secessionist partners.

77 Gary North in Gary Galles, ed., Apostle of Peace: The Radical Mind of Leonard Read (Baltimore: Laissez Faire Books, 2013).

78 Jason DeParle, “Right of Center Guru Goes Wide With the Gospel of Small Government,” New York Times, Nov. 17, 2006.

www.nytimes.com/2006/11/17/us/politics/17thinktank.html?ex=1321419600&en=3b6af3fbfa4ff01e&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss. Mackinac’s biannual Leadership Conference has trained nearly 500 think-tank executives from 42 nations and nearly every U.S. state: www.mackinac.org/8154.

79 FEE is the senior organization of this group, founded in 1946 with funding from J. Howard Pew and others, to roll back the reforms of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. FEE became a vehicle for the sacralization of unfettered free market ideology while opposing the minimum wage, labor regulations, and Social Security. Ludwig von Mises was on the staff and wrote for its publication, Freeman. In the 1960s and ‘70s, Reconstructionist Gary North became a regular contributor to Freeman, providing a theological foundation to the publication’s Christian libertarian philosophy. North compiled some of his Freeman contributions into his 1973 volume, An Introduction to Christian Economics. There has been significant overlap between FEE and the JBS, as there has been with the JBS, Reconstructionism, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

80 “State Nullification, Secession, and the Human Scale of Political Order,” Foundation for Economic Education, www.fee.org/publications/detail/state-nullification-secession-and-the-human-scale-of-political-order#ixzz2hrIq6X5M.

81 The Stephen D. Lee Institute lists an ad for the John Birch Society and Tenth Amendment Center event: www.stephendleeinstitute.com/faculty.html.

82 “The Real DiLorenzo: A ‘Southern Partisan’ Interview,” LewRockwell.com, June 17, 2004, http://archive.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo68.html.

83 Ben Lewis, “A Professor’s Defense of Nullification,” Tenth Amendment Center, Mar. 23, 2013, http://ohio.tenthamendmentcenter.com/2013/03/23/a-professors-defense-of-nullification and “Written Testimony on Behalf of Nullification,” Tom Woods, Mar. 5, 2013, www.tomwoods.com/blog/written-testimony-on-behalf-of-nullification.

84 “Nullification: Unlawful and Unconstitutional,” Heritage Foundation, Feb. 8, 2012, www.heritage.org/research/factsheets/2012/02/nullification-unlawful-and-unconstitutional.

85 Jennifer Rubin, “Jim DeMint’s Destruction of the Heritage Foundation,” Washington Post, Oct. 21, 2013, www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2013/10/21/jim-demints-destruction-of-the-heritage-foundation.

86 “DeMint Statement on Supreme Court Ruling on Obamacare,” Jim DeMint: U.S. Senator, South Carolina, June 28, 2012, http://web.archive.org/web/20120724193426/http://www.demint.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=85303109-8c0c-491b-972e-5816836350a0.

87 Robert A. Levy, “The Limits of Nullification,” New York Times, Sept. 3, 2013, http://nytimes.com/2013/09/04/opinion/the-limits-of-nullification.html?_r=0.

88 Jonathan Blanks, “Why ‘Libertarian’ Defenses of the Confederacy and ‘State’s Rights’ are Incoherent,” Libertarianism.org, Feb. 22, 2012, http://libertarianism.org/publications/essays/why-libertarian-defenses-confederacy-states-rights-are-incoherent.

89 Jason Kuznicki writes in “Rand Paul, the Confederacy and Liberty” that “anyone who cares about human liberty—to whatever degree—ought to despise the Confederacy”:

www.libertarianism.org/media/libertarian-view/libertarians-confederacy.

90  “Our Proclamation,” Alliance for the Separation of School and State, May 27, 2009, www.schoolandstate.org/proclamation.htm.

91 Gary North, Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), ix. For a description of the book and a link to the full text in pdf format, see www.garynorth.com/freebooks/docs/21f2_47e.htm.

92 “John McManus Rocks the Rally for the Republic,” John Birch Society, Sept. 2, 2008, www.jbs.org/presidents-corner/john-mcmanus-rocks-the-rally-for-the-republic. Paul has a long history with the John Birch Society. He was featured in a JBS movie in 1998 supporting his American Sovereignty Restoration Act, which he introduced in 1997 and reintroduced in 2009, calling for the United States to end participation in the United Nations. The movie included John McManus and schismatic traditionalist Catholic leaders, known for their narratives about the New World Order plot of “Judeo-Masonic” conspirators. See “Ron Paul to Keynote Catholic Traditionalist Summit with NeoFascist and Overtly Anti-Semitic Speakers,” Talk To Action, Aug. 23, 2013, www.talk2action.org/story/2013/8/23/144536/636. On Sept. 11, 2013, Paul keynoted a conference led by these same schismatic Catholics. McManus was also on the program.

93 Brian Farmer, “Ron Paul Addresses the John Birch Society,” New American, Oct. 8, 2008, www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/constitution/item/7623-ron-paul-addresses-john-birch-society and www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/32002684.html.

Profiles on the Right: John Birch Society

John Birch Society

John Birch Society: The Old Right Reemerges

A key partner in the Nullify Now! tour is the John Birch Society (JBS), founded in 1958 to fight the perceived infiltration of communism throughout American society. Fred Koch, father of the billionaires Charles and David Koch, was one of its founding members. Marginalized for decades for its outlandish conspiracy theories, it has recently made a comeback, largely via the Tea Party movement and as part of the Ron Paul Revolution.[1

The JBS was a major force in the battle against the Civil Rights Movement. In addition to the publication of books and pamphlets, the JBS placed advertisements in newspapers in 1965, asking, “What’s Wrong with Civil Rights?” The ads filled a full half page with fine print outlining the communist conspiracy and United Nations plot that the JBS believed to be behind the movement, including plans for a “Soviet Negro Republic” in the United States. Like many segregationists, the JBS claimed that racial unrest resulted from the Civil Rights Movement, not from previously existing discrimination against African-Americans.

John Birch Society2The JBS promotes nullification as a possible way to avoid secession. As an essay on the organization’s website puts it, “states weary of the assault on their sovereignty don’t need to secede to rid themselves of this repugnant despotism and unrepentant cronyism. They need only nullify every act of the central government that exceeds its constitutional authority, every time, without exception.”

The JBS works directly with state legislators on enacting model bills. In early 2013, a “JBS Weekly Update” on the Florida Tenth Amendment Center website featured Oklahoma State Rep. Mike Ritze (R), who was described as having “recently introduced HB 1021 to nullify ObamaCare.” In an accompanying video, Ritze identifies the JBS as the organization “providing the leadership,” and he calls for new members to help add more Birchers to the Oklahoma legislature.

JBS has also led efforts to nullify the Affordable Care Act and current and potential federal gun laws. It produces extensive guides for activists, and its media productions regularly track, report on, and encourage activism on nullification legislation. Recent articles in the JBS magazine, the New American, have included “States Aim to Nullify Obama Gun Control” and “Sheriffs and Legislators Are Acting to Nullify Obama Gun Controls.

Next ProfileThis profile, along with a full-length article on nullification and neo-Confederates, are part of the Fall 2013 issue of The Public Eye Magazine.


[1] Hundreds of Tea Party websites and meetups have helped disseminate JBS publications and videos.