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

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

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

image via the Florida League of the South's website

image via the Florida League of the South’s website

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hill continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.”

The John Birch Society’s Anti-Civil Rights Campaign of the 1960s, and Its Relevance Today

Founded in 1958, the John Birch Society (JBS) fiercely opposed the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s and 1970s.  Decades later, the rise of the Tea Party and the ongoing “Ron Paul Revolution” have helped the JBS make a comeback as it attracts young people by re-branding itself as “libertarian.” The organization is a significant force behind promoting the nullification of federal laws, as described in the most recent issue of The Public Eye.  The JBS has also helped provide fodder for accusations that President Obama, considered by most Democrats to have governed as a centrist, is a Marxist.

While many Americans have been puzzled by the use of the term “anti-colonialist” within the context of such accusations, author Claire Conner has helped illuminate the historical and rhetorical linkages among the JBS, opposition to civil rights, anti-Communism, and accusations of anti-colonialism. Her recent book, Wrapped in the Flag, is an autobiographical account of growing up as the daughter of two of the organization’s earliest and most dedicated members. (See an interview with Conner by Theo Anderson, editor of The Public Eye.) Conner’s descriptions of the JBS’ opposition to the Civil Rights Movement are further supported by many primary sources, including the JBS’ own media campaigns. Examples include pamphlets republished as advertisements in newspapers in the mid-1960s, in which the Civil Rights Movement is described as a communist conspiracy to form a “Negro Soviet Republic,” as well as a pamphlet written by a member of the JBS National Council most famously known as the father of the Koch brothers. Both publications are described below:

“What’s Wrong with Civil Rights?”

The first example of the JBS campaign to oppose the Civil Rights Movement is an advertisement in the October 31, 1965 issue of the Palm Beach Post titled, “The John Birch Society Asks: What’s Wrong With Civil Rights?

The half-page advertisement begins with the statement that nothing is wrong with civil rights, just with the Civil Rights Movement.  According to the JBS, it constituted a communist plot to build a “Negro Soviet Republic” in the United States.  The “average American Negro,” according to the JBS in 1965, “has complete freedom of religion, freedom of movement, and freedom to run his own life as he pleases.”  Moreover, “The pursuit of happiness enjoyed by the average American Negro has been far superior to that of any race or any people among at least ninety percent of the earth’s population.”jbs civil rights ad copy 2

The ad continues, “So what is all the complaining about?”  The problem, according to the JBS, is that communist agitators are beginning to see the results from “patiently building up to this present stage for more than forty years.”  The reader is informed that this Soviet strategy in the U.S. is a continuation of anti-colonialism fermented by communists in Africa and Asia and conducted by those who have no interest in civil rights.  According to the John Birch Society, both the push for civil rights in the U.S. and anti-colonialist activism in Africa and Asia are a communist plot to destroy all that is good and holy—namely, capitalism.

The advertisement then seeks to expose the “big-lie” of anti-colonialism: “Its specific core of falsehood has been that the colonial peoples of Asia and Africa wanted and deserved their ‘independence’ from the nations of Europe which were oppressing and exploiting them. Actually, by 1926, the French in Indochina or Algeria, the Dutch in Indonesia, the Belgian in the Congo, and other ‘imperialistic’ powers, were giving their colonial subjects a very enlightened and benevolent rule.”

The next step in this communist plot, as stated in the ad, is the formation of a “Negro Soviet Republic” in the U.S. that would include the major cities of the South. JBS claimed this to be the real intent of American civil rights leaders. The ad continues,  “A careful study quickly reveals that every part of the civil rights program has been designed, and in is being carried forward, as a step in the Communist strategy for these purposes. And the current leaders of the nationwide civil rights campaign have such extensive records of affiliating with Communists of Communists, of being guided, trained, and supported by Communists, and of themselves supporting Communists agents and causes, as to make their real purposes as obvious a sunrise to anybody who will simply use honestly the intelligence that God gave him.”

The JBS authors close by stating that “American Negroes as a whole” did not plan this or want this and and “are no bigger dupes in yielding to the propaganda and coercion of the comaymps among them, than are the white people in the United States in swallowing the portions of that propaganda which are labeled idealism.  “Comaymps” was JBS shorthand for communist sympathizers.

Across the bottom of the half-page ad is marketing of other JBS pamplets and books through American Opinion publishing, including It’s Very Simple and New York: Communist Terror in the Streets, both by Alan Stang.  Stang published many works  through the John Birch Society’s American Media, and also wrote widely on Christian Reconstructionism.  Stang was a contributor to the Gary North-edited The Theology of Christian Resistance, one of many examples of the overlap between the JBS and theocratic Christian Reconstructionism.

Stang passed away in 2009 and was eulogized in the pages of the JBS’ New American magazine.  Yet other 1960s-era JBS leaders are again leading the charge in a contemporary state’s rights projects: nullification.  Leaders who were involved with the organization in the 1960s include its current president, John McManus. McManus was the surprise guest speaker at the Ron Paul Rally for the Republic, the counter-rally to the Republican National Convention in 200.  In his remarks, he told the audience, “If you like Ron Paul, you’re going to love the John Birch Society.”

A Businessman Looks at Communism

Published by the Farmville Herald (VA) in 1963, A Businessman Looks at Communism was written by Fred Koch and provides an account of his work in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. The pamphlet provided support for JBS’ claim to insider knowledge of the communist agenda.Fred Koch's pamphlet copy

Page sixteen of the pamphlet sums up Koch’s attitude about labor unions. “Labor Unions have long been a Communist goal,” Koch asserts. “The effort is frequently made to have the worker do as little as possible for the money he receives. This practice alone can destroy our country.”

On page 25, Koch explains his fear of the Civil Rights Movement: “You may be sure the Communists are fishing furiously in the troubled waters of integration on both sides. The Communists are not interested in the aspirations of the negro except as a means to stir up racial hatred … The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America.”

Koch continues, “I have been told by the ex-Communists that the Communist Party has been influential in changing the relief laws of New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit, and Chicago to make it attractive for rural Southern Negroes and Puerto Ricans to come to those cities.  In the first place, the Communist Party intends to use the votes of these people to swing the balance in these populous states; secondly, when the Party is ready to take over these cities it will use the colored people by getting a vicious race war started.”

This 1963 pamphlet was celebrated in the pages of The New American magazine in 2010, in an article titled, “Fred Koch: Oil Man Against Communism,” and closing with these words about Koch: “He would probably be dismayed, however, that the United States is still enmeshed in the United Nations, and that she has traveled very far down the road to socialist serfdom. He would no doubt perceive the irony that, despite the demise of the Bolsheviks, their program for America, as a wispy little revolutionary explained it to him so long ago, is still very much in force.”

This and other JBS media provide a window into the underlying foundations of the worldview that has spread throughout the Tea Party Movement and much of the Right.

Thanks to Claire Conner for pointing out Fred Koch’s 1963 pamphlet. For more coverage and analysis on the JBS and the resurgence of nullification ideology, see PRA’s profile on the John Birch Society and “Nullification, Neo-Confederates and the Revenge of the Old Right,” by Rachel Tabachnick and Frank Cocozzelli.

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.

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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: Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association

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Sheriff Richard Mack speaking at the Nullify Now! event in Downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) was founded in 2011 by Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff. Mack was also a lobbyist for Gun Owners of America (GOA), and he is known for his challenge to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and his role in the organization Oath Keepers, which is led by former Ron Paul Congressional staffer Stewart Rhodes.

Mack formed the CSPOA to organize county sheriffs around a mission similar to Oath Keepers—that is, to refuse to enforce laws that they believe are unconstitutional. “The greatest threat we face today is not terrorists,” according to Mack.It is our own federal government. CSPOA’s stated mission is to train sheriffs and police, and then “local governments will issue our new Declaration to the Federal Government regarding the abuses that we will no longer tolerate or accept,” according to the CSPOA website. “Said declaration will be enforced by our Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers. In short, the CSPOA will be the army to set our nation free.” Sheriffs around the country have received letters from the organization asking where they stand on “executive orders to unlawfully derail the Second Amendment.” The letter was sent by the Liberty Group Coalition, comprised of the CSPOA, GOA, Oath Keepers, the John Birch Society (JBS), Tenth Amendment Center, and other organizations.

The CSPOA has grown dramatically since the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in 2012 and the subsequent rise in gun-control activism. To date it lists by name and location nearly 500 county sheriffs and 18 state sheriff associations that have “gone on record” with the CSPOA to affirm “the constitutional second amendment rights of citizens in his or her jurisdiction.” Sheriffs who don’t cooperate may find themselves on the “Red Coat List.” Thomas Woods headlined CSPOA’s 2012 conference, co-sponsored by the JBS. Though countering gun control is the CSPOA’s major issue, sheriffs speaking at the conference also reported challenging federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management and the Food and Drug Administration.

The May 2013 conference featured religion-infused rhetoric against “tyranny.” Speakers included the Constitution Party’s Michael Peroutka, GOA’s Larry Pratt, Joe Wolverton of the JBS, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), and Mike Zullo. The latter is Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s chief “birther” investigator. Part of the conference was dedicated to his latest revelations in this ongoing pursuit. Conference speakers also included several county sheriffs and Tea Party leaders.

In January 2013, Pennsylvania’s Gilberton Borough passed an ordinance “nullifying all federal, state or local acts in violation of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” The police chief behind the ordinance, Mark Kessler, spoke at the 2013 CSPOA conference, and CSPOA created a new register on its website for police chiefs, with Kessler as the first on the list. CSPOA later distanced itself from Kessler and removed him from the list when his behavior became increasingly erratic. In a video posted online, for example, Kessler cursed “libtards” and fired city-issued weapons at a target representing Democrat Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Kessler was later dismissed by the borough.

While some CSPOA members are associated with organized racist groups, members are technically prohibited from advocating for “discrimination, violence or hatred toward any person or group based on race, nationality, or color.” As stated in PRA’s Up In Arms report, however, the group often “does directly engage in issues whose outcome is, by necessity, to support maintaining white racial demographics at current levels and to oppose a redistribution of social and economic power in society across racial lines.”

Some people affiliated with CSPOA have entered the political mainstream in recent years. Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, CSPOA’s “Sheriff of the Year” in 2013, spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Just the year before, he tweeted, “Before long, Black Lives Matter will join forces with ISIS to b[r]ing down our legal constituted republic.” More recently, when former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio was convicted for defying a federal court order in 2017, President Trump pardoned him. Arpaio had endorsed Trump when he was on the campaign trail in 2016.

 

Related Patriot Movement Profiles:

Oath Keepers

Three Percenters

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.

Also read, “Trump’s “Second Amendment People”?: The U.S. Patriot Movement Today.”

Updated 5/9/18.