A few months ago, former Constitution Party members Michael Peroutka (the Party’s 2004 presidential candidate) and David Whitney (his pastor and close confidant) teamed-up to run for local office in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Peroutka ran in the GOP primary for County Council, and for GOP Central Committee; while Whitney ran for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the same seat on the County Council, and for a seat on the Democratic Party’s Central Committee. Whitney lost decisively in both of his races, while Peroutka won a seat on the Republican Party Central Committee, effective July 5th, and if results hold after absentee and provisional ballots are counted, Peroutka will be the Republican nominee on the November ballot for County Council.
While PRA has worked to expose this remarkable story for several months (as has the Southern Poverty Law Center), the mainstream press’ first real exposé came out just before the election. On June 24, the weekend before the primary, The Baltimore Sun dug into the views of the theocratic pair, pointing out Peroutka and Whitney’s efforts to distance themselves from the racist, secessionist, League of the South (both are members). League president Michael Hill endorsed them anyway.
The day after the primary, Peroutka issued a pronouncement that is likely to make his fellow Republicans, to say the very least, uneasy. In his regular broadcast of The American View, he suggested that all of the laws of the state of Maryland may be invalid, because the state legislature is an invalid body of government for having considered initiatives that, in his view, “violate God’s Law.”
“For the past few years,” Peroutka declared, “the behavior of the legislature in my home state of Maryland raises the question whether the people of Maryland may be justified in reaching the conclusion that what we call our “General Assembly” is no longer a valid legislative body.
And if the case can be made that the legislature of Maryland or of your state is not a valid body, then, it follows that no validity should be given to any of its enactments.”
As we reported here at PRA regarding the pair’s seemingly inexplicable campaigns, Peroutka’s partner in the Institute on the Constitution, David Whitney, expressed a similar view in testimony before the Judiciary Committee of the State Senate, when it was considering marriage equality in 2011. He argued that if the legislature passed marriage equality, it would invalidate the entire state government and, thus, state laws should no longer be honored.
“Is it possible that those who are sworn to uphold the law, such as police and sheriffs and judges and prosecutors, may soon come to the conclusion that the enactments of this body,” Peroutka rhetorically asked, speaking of the state legislature, “should be ignored because they are based not in law, but in lawlessness? Indeed what can the people do—what should the people do when those who are entrusted with making and enforcing the law actually become the lawbreakers? What happens when they use the ‘law’ to break the law?”
This kind of call for defiance of state and federal law, and particularly of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, have a long history among Peroutka’s colleagues in the Constitution Party. In 1996, for example, the Constitution Party’s Vice Presidential candidate, Herb Titus, told me at a press conference that lower-level government officials (called “lesser magistrates” in the archaic language of the ideas on which his views are based), may refuse to enforce ungodly laws and policies of the government, and rise up against a government that has become corrupt or tyrannical. (I discuss this further in my book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, Common Courage Press, 1997.)
Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, agreed on the first page of his 1995 book Safeguarding Liberty: The Constitution & Citizen Militias that county sheriffs and other state and local officials need armed militias “to resist any tyrannical act on the part of the federal government.”
The first example Peroutka, in his video, gives of ungodly law and the need for resistance is abortion. He declares that for law to be valid it has to be consistent with God’s Laws. He offers as an example, “an enactment that allowed the taking of innocent life would violate God’s Commandment ‘Thou shalt not murder,’ and would, therefore, not constitute a law…” In the video, an image of a front page The New York Times report on the 1973 legalization of abortion by the Supreme Court scrolls by—followed by an image of a fetus in the womb.
He accuses the Maryland state legislature of, quoting the Declaration of Independence, “a long train of abuses and usurpations.” This is significant in part because the sentence goes on to say that this “Despotism” leads to the right and duty to, “throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
In a June 17th broadcast of The American View, he was even more explicit, arguing “When our local officials, including County Councilmen and Sheriffs, confront such “pretended legislation,” as the Declaration of Independence referred to invalid laws, “it is their duty to resist its implementation.”
Peroutka’s intentions are as unambiguous as they are eccentric, by the standards of most people across a wide spectrum of religious and political thought. But he is far from alone in thinking that resistance, including violence, and secessionist civil war may be necessary. His colleague David Whitney has been clear on the point, as have certain other leaders of the Christian Right. (See PRA’s recent report, Rumblings of Theocratic Violence.)
Peroutka borrows from the Declaration and other texts to justify a contemporary revolutionary view: that local law enforcement officers, led by county councilmen, should resist the laws and the authority of the government of the United States, and the state of Maryland. From the standpoint of theocratic, secessionist revolution, that would certainly be a start.