The Institute on the Constitution's God and Government Project: A Call to Abandon the First AmendmentSaturday, October 12, 2013
Yesterday, the Institute on the Constitution dropped a press release about their God and Government program. From the Christian Newswire release:
The "Institute on the Constitution" has launched "The God And Government Project" the purpose of which is to remind elected officials, and those who seek civil government offices, that government is from God and their first duty must be to obey God and His Word (Romans 13.)
The folks at IOTC want citizens to use open mic time before city council meetings to tell officials that they need to use the Bible as the basis for civil law. IOTC encourages followers to use IOTC-prepared scripts. See an earlier post on the subject and this article for more on what IOTC encourages their followers to do.
The GaG (appropriate) program is consistent with IOTC's Christian reconstructionist worldview. During his course on the Constitution, Peroutka twists history to make it appear that the founders deliberately created a biblical form of government in line with IOTC views. In a current commentary on his IOTC website, Michael Peroutka makes a case that civil government officials are obligated to govern in accord with his view of the Bible.
Since civil government is ordained by God in order to protect God-given rights, then the function of civil government is to obey God and to enforce God’s law – PERIOD.
It is not the role of civil government to house, feed, clothe, educate or give heath care to…ANYBODY! (Or to operate a Panda-cam at the National Zoo.)
According to Peroutka, government can only do what he thinks God says government can do.
The IOTC website enshrines Rousas Rushdoony, the father of Christian reconstructionism. IOTC's Director of Communications, John Lofton, calls Rushdoony his "theological mentor" on more than one occasion. Rushdoony's articles on theocracy and dominionism, politics, taxation, and religion in law are available along with many others. Mark Rushdoony's (son of Rousas) speech on Christian reconstructionism is cited approvingly as well.
According to Mark Rushdoony, Christian reconstructionism sees the church as Israel.
In 1987 Ross House Books (which is now part of Chalcedon) published a book on covenant theology by Charles D. Provan called The Church Is Israel Now.That title sums up the heart of covenant theology, that the Christian church is heir of the promises to and the responsibility of the Hebrew nation of old.
Thus the proper society is ruled by an Old Testament style regime where the Christian reconstructionist's understanding of the Bible is the basis for civil law. This is exactly what IOTC's God and Government program promotes as the message followers should tell elected officials.
Even after his death, Rushdoony's views are controversial. IOTC does not back away from this. On the IOTC website, readers are directed to an interview given to Bill Moyers in 1988 by Rousas Rushdoony. In this interview, Rushdoony affirms that civil government should be based on the Bible, including injuctions that would lead to the death penalty for 15 crimes, including adulterers, homosexuals, and truly incorrigible sons. :
(Click the link to view the video) Christian Reconstructionism in a Nutshell
Listen to the entire segment to get the context. The section on the death penalty is as follows:
Moyers: You've written that the Bible calls for the death penalty, and I'm just running down a variety of things as you can see. You've written that the Bible calls for the death penalty of some 15 crimes: rape, sodomy, adultery.
Rushdoony: Adultery because in the Bible the basic institution is the family. There's no law of treason against the state. The Bible doesn't even imagine anything remotely like that. But the basic institution is the family. And so, several of the death penalties are associated with the family and its life.
Moyers: So adultery was considered a theft of the family.
Rushdoony: It was, yes, it was treason to the family.
Rushdoony: Yes, it was treason to the family.
Moyers: Worthy of the death sentence?
Moyers: Worthy of the death sentence?
Moyers: Deserving of the death sentence?
Rushdoony: Yes, that's what Paul says.
Moyers: But you would re-instate the death penalty for some of these or all of these Biblical crimes?
Rushdoony: I wouldn't---
Moyers: But the reconstructive society--
Rushdoony: I'm saying that this is what God requires. I'm not saying that everything in the Bible, I like. Some of it rubs me the wrong way. But I'm simply saying, this is what God requires. This is what God says is justice. Therefore, I don't feel I have a choice.
Moyers: And the agents of God would carry out the laws.
Rushdoony: The civil government would, on these things.
Moyers: So you would have a civil government, based upon--
Rushdoony: Oh yes. I'm not an anarchist. I'm close to being a libertarian. But--
Moyers: But the civil law would be based on the biblical law. And so you'd have a civil government carrying out a religious mandate.
Rushdoony: Oh yes.
Given their reverence for Rushdoony and the link to this interview, I think it is a fair assumption that IOTC is in sympathy with these views. Since they won't answer my requests for information, I will ask here publicly - IOTC leaders (Peroutka, Lofton), do you agree with Rushdoony here? Would you, in the government you are calling for, put people to death for adultery, homosexuality and the other crimes delineated by Rushdoony?
One thing I don't need to ask about is the IOTC view of public schools. In the citation above, Peroutka says civil government has no role in education. Historically, reconstructionists have been strong supporters of Christian schools as alternatives to public education. One of the leading reconstructionists, and Rushdoony's son-in-law Gary North, said this about the relationship between Christian schools and religious liberty (for a longer quote and commentary, see this article).
The major churches of any society are all maneuvering for power, so that their idea of lawful legislation will become predominant. They are all perfectly willing to use the ideal of religious liberty as a device to gain power, until the day comes that abortion is legalized (denying the right of life to infants) or prohibited (denying the “right of control over her own body,” after conception, to each woman). Everyone talks about religious liberty, but no one believes it.
So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God. Murder, abortion, and pornography will be illegal. God’s law will be enforced. It will take time. A minority religion cannot do this. Theocracy must flow from the hearts of a majority of citizens, just as compulsory education came only after most people had their children in schools of some sort. But religious anarchy, like “democratic freedom” in ancient Greece, is a temporary phenomenon; it lasts only as long as no single group gets sufficient power and accepted authority to abandon the principle. Religious anarchy, as a long-term legal framework for organizing a society, is as mythical as neutrality is. Both views assume that the institutions of civil government can create and enforce neutral law. They are cousins, and people believe in them only temporarily, until they make up their minds concerning which God they will serve.
While I doubt this will ever happen, it seems clear that the IOTC and like-minded reconstructionists will keep on trying to make it a reality. For IOTC supporters who love the First Amendment, you have a rude awakening coming. As Peroutka and Lofton proclaim, civil law should obey and enforce God's law, and by that they mean their interpretation of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Someone's religion must be obeyed according to Rushdoony, and the folks at IOTC want to make sure it is their religion. For now, they will use freedom of speech and religion at city council meetings to get their voices heard but if ever they get their way, one cannot count on these rights remaining. If you really believe in freedom of conscience and religious liberty, then you cannot fully embrace IOTC's GaG program. While the folks at IOTC want freedom of religion to speak at public meetings, they very openly proclaim that they want civil government to obey their religious views to the exclusion of all others.
In contrast, I want the reconstructionists to be able to speak their mind, but I don't want civil officials to use one religion as the basis for their governing. In contrast to Peroutka's odd construction, using one religion as the basis for civil law is prohibited by the First Amendment. Gary North says no one really believes in religious liberty. He is wrong; the framers most certainly did.
Cincinnati Christian Leaders Call On National Religious Broadcasters To Drop Institute On The ConstitutionMonday, September 23, 2013
To sign the pastor's petition on this matter, click this link.
A multi-ethnic group of Cincinnati area ministers are calling on the National Religious Broadcasters' Network to drop ties to a controversial speaker who is a leader in the neo-Confederate group League of the South. Led by Cincinnati ministers Chris Beard, Michael Wolf and Ray McMillian, the group is troubled by Institute on the Constitution teacher Michael Peroutka's course on the Constitution which has been shown on the NRB Network weekly since July. Peroutka is a long time member and newly elected board member of the League of the South, a group dedicated to Southern secession to form a separate nation to preserve the "Anglo-Celtic" (white) people. More about the League of the South/Institute on the Constitution can be found here.
Here is the press release in full:
Evangelical pastors unite to hold National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) accountable for its airing of Michael Peroutka’s Institute on the Constitution.
* * * * * * * * *
Friday, September 20, 2013
Cincinnati Area Pastors is a multi-ethnic group of evangelical leaders, committed to creating and preserving unity in the Body of Christ. It has come to our attention that NRB airs, and endorses, a program by Michael Peroutka: Institute on the Constitution. Mr. Peroutka is an unashamed board member of the League of the South, and has pledged his business and family resources to that effort. League of the South is a neo-Confederate movement endorsing secession from the current government, and a return to the Confederate Constitution of 1861. League of the South’s main goal is to see the South become a separate nation led only by whites. Its leader, Michael Hill, applauds slavery, as well as Jim Crow; and is vehemently against multiculturalism and diversity.
Our commitment to unity makes it impossible for us to overlook this promotion by the NRB. As leaders, we must hold NRB responsible for the divisive ideology it has espoused through connection with Mr. Peroutka. Our specific issues with the NRB are as follows:
- We contend that one cannot separate Michael Peroutka from his alliance to League of the South.
- We contend that by endorsing Michael Peroutka, NRB also endorses secessionism and extreme anti-American government sentiments.
- We contend that NRB is responsible for giving Mr. Peroutka an enormous platform of influence and sway within the Body of Christ.
- We contend that NRB is also promoting the racial divide within the Body of Christ, by promoting someone who idealizes the Confederate Constitution.
- We contend that NRB has left its guiding principle and “holy obligation to boldly and creatively proclaim a Christ-centered Gospel, rather than a ‘man-centered’ message.” A company cannot promote pro-slavery documents, and still proclaim a Christ-centered Gospel.
- We contend that NRB cannot promote a man who is against multiculturalism, without promoting the division of the Body of Christ along color and ethnic lines.
The Cincinnati Area Pastors contacted Frank Wright, CEO and president of NRB, three weeks ago with our concerns. Mr. Wright acknowledged receipt of our concerns, and has chosen to take no action against Michael Peroutka.
Therefore, we are urging all pastors, and their congregations, to take action with us in an email/letter writing campaign or by signing our petition (https://www.change.org/petitions/national-religious-broadcasters-drop-institute-on-the-constitution). NRB leadership will either have to decry the ideology Michael Peroutka/League of the South espouses, and, distance itself from that connection; or, NRB will have to acknowledge that it embraces the ideologies of Michael Peroutka/League of the South, and we will then distance ourselves from all things NRB (memberships, products, etc.). Please write and ask that NRB distance itself from Institute on the Constitution.
Frank Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org
Troy A. Miller at email@example.com
National Religious Broadcasters, Frank Wright, President
9510 Technology Drive
Manassas, VA 20110 or Call: (703) 330-7000
Reading Senator Ted Cruz’s endorsement of David Barton in Monday’s edition of Politico brought to mind Barton’s narrow reading of the First Amendment. First, let’s note again Cruz remarks:
"David’s historical research has helped millions rediscover the founding principles of our nation and the incredible sacrifices that men and women of faith made to bequeath to us the freest and most prosperous nation in the world."
One founding principle Barton has written about is the freedom of religion and First Amendment. What does Barton believe about the First Amendment?
In a 2010 Amicus brief filed in McCollum v. CA Dept. of Corrections, Barton argued that the word religion in the First Amendment meant monotheism. The case involved Wiccan minister Patrick McCollum who was excluded from a job in the CA prison system since he was not one of the five faiths allowed to be a prison chaplain in CA: Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Native American.
In his brief, Barton wrote that the framers defined religion to exclude any religion which is not monotheistic. Thus, the First Amendment should not apply to religions which are not monotheistic.
"Whether “religion” meant monotheism or some subset of it, such as Christianity, then whatever the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses address, they do not address paganism or witchcraft. In reality, research shows that “religion” was sometimes used as a synonym for Christianity, but that it was also used for monotheism. But that still excludes paganism and witchcraft." (p. 9)
"The true historic meaning of 'religion' excludes paganism and witchcraft…"(p. 7)
"…paganism and witchcraft were never intended to receive the protections of the Religion Clauses." (p. 9)
"The Founders did not intend to extend the protection of the Religion Clauses to paganism and witchcraft as eight of the then-sitting nine Justices of the Supreme Court have recently acknowledged." (pp. 17-18)
I wonder if Sen. Cruz also believes this way. He also said in Politico that he isn’t “in a position to opine on academic disputes between historians,” but he may soon run for a position — the GOP presidential nomination — where his views on such disputes will garner intense scrutiny. Since Cruz thinks so highly of Barton’s views on the founding principles, it is a fair question to ask what he believes about the First Amendment. Are all religions covered? Just some? Which ones?
Barton’s position raises some important questions about application of the First Amendment in the present day. If we are to understand the definition of religion now in terms of the religions extant at the time of the framers, then what is the Constitutional status of religions developed since then? Take, for example, the Latter Day Saint church established in 1820s.
Furthermore, if the protection of the religion clauses extends only to monotheistic religions then what about religions which hold that there is more than one god? Take, for example, the Latter Day Saints.
While LDS apologists would deny they are polytheistic, at the same time, they do not believe monotheism describes them or most Christians well. They don’t hold to the trinity as most Christians do and they do believe that men may someday become gods, and even if not worshiped in this dispensation, may be elsewhere. Surely, this process has been taking place throughout the universe; thus there would have to be multiple gods.
By Barton’s logic, the LDS church would be a questionable Constitutional case. However, as I have established before several times, the framers envisioned First Amendment protections for freedom of conscience, whether no god, one god or several are involved.
Back to Ted Cruz; what does he believe? If he believes Barton’s history lessons have helped millions rediscover the founding principles, then presumably he is one of those millions. I certainly want to know if he believes all religions and people of all faiths have First Amendment protections.
Politico’s Stephanie Simon has an eye-opening article out today regarding David Barton and his evangelical supporters. Although I don’t agree that Barton’s reputation has fully bounced back, the article correctly reveals the disappointing pragmatism that plagues some Christian organizations. I will have more on this article in a separate post.
This section is especially disturbing:
Focus on the Family, meanwhile, edited two videos on its website featuring a lengthy interview Barton gave to Focus radio. The editing deleted a segment in which Barton declares that Congress printed the first English-language Bible in America — and intended it to be used in schools. That’s one of Barton’s signature stories — it’s a highlight in his Capitol tour — but historians who have reviewed the documentation say it’s simply not true. Focus also cut an inaccurate anecdote about a contemporary legal case, which Barton cited to make the point that society today punishes people of faith.
Asked why the videos were edited, Carrie Gordon Earll, a senior director of public policy at Focus on the Family, at first said they had not been, though before-and-after footage can be publicly viewed on websites archiving Focus broadcasts. Earll then said she could not comment beyond a statement noting that Focus “has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with David Barton” and respects his “broad base of knowledge” about early American history.
In an interview with POLITICO, Barton said his remarks were sometimes taken out of context but defended his scholarship as impeccable.
A subset of the evangelical historians who raised issues with Family Research Council brought these problems to Focus on the Family’s attention this summer. In a post on my personal blog, I point out which sections were removed without notice. According to Politico, Focus on the Family denied they had edited the material. If true, that is shocking. Why is David Barton’s reputation so important that a Christian group would resort to subterfuge to cover up his errors?