Over at the Quinton Report, John Lofton, the Communications Director for the Institute on the Constitution, John Lofton, responded to my criticisms of IOTC founder Michael Peroutka and extremist Christian Reconstructionist beliefs that undergird the IOTC’s teachings on the Constitution.
Jeff had solicited my comments as to why I thought a potential Peroutka candidacy seeking the Republican nomination for Attorney General of Maryland would be dangerous.
Since the comments section of Jeff’s blog is not the best place to thoroughly respond to Mr. Lofton, I am going to do that here.
The first thing I notice about the criticism of Michael Peroutka by Mr. Olson and Mr. Newgent is that their respective remarks are a rhetorical, drive-by shooting. They cite nothing specific he has ever said and refute nothing he has ever said. For example, Mr. Olson says that Michael Peroutka “is a longtime purveyor of eccentric (to be charitable) ideas on the U.S. Constitution, the role of religion in government…” Really? Such as? Well, such as — nothing. No examples are cited by Mr. Olson of any specific “eccentric” views. Mr. Newgent says re: Michael Peroutka: “His Christian reconstructionist beliefs are just as statist as any progressive vision of government. His notion that government comes from God twists history and the words of our Founders into a bizzaro world philosophy.”
While I won’t speak for Walter, and he knows far more about the subject than I do, my criticisms are grounded in his research and other research about Christian Reconstructionist theology, Peroutka’s views and IOTC documents. So, of course our comments to Jeff are going to be top-level analysis of what we know about Peroutka and the IOTC. Of course a seasoned communications guy like Lofton would know this…right? And, as I will demonstrate later, Peroutka’s vision does indeed twist history and the words of our founders.
So, what are Michael Peroutka’s ideas about the US Constitution and “the role of religion in government?” Well, first, he believes there IS a US Constitution. He believes it is the highest man-made law in our country. He believes it is a document our government officials take an oath about and swear to uphold and obey. Is this an “eccentric” view? Not at all.
If Lofton had stopped there, he may have had a point. But Lofton being the zealot he is just can’t help himself.
Next, “the role of religion in government.” Michael Peroutka is not a “religionist.” He is a Bible-believing Christian. Thus, he believes that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord of and over all things, including government. He believes all governments must obey God and His Word or we get what we have now — Godless government which is disastrous. Is this an “eccentric” view? Not at all. It is a solidly Biblical view of civil government.
Got that? Peroutka believes in “a solidly biblical view of government,” a view, which Lofton proselytizes through the IOTC’s God and Government Project. The purpose of the project according to the website is an outreach mission to “inform all our civil government officials that their first duty is to obey God, to administer and apply His Law in whatever office they hold.”
Lofton seeks adherents to go before city and county governing bodies, and during the time allotted for citizens to speak, he has prepared remarks for them to make to elected officials.
Here is one:
(The greeting you are most comfortable with but one that is respectful)
My name is __________________. And I wanted to come here this evening to tell about what God says is the duty of those holding the public office you hold.In the 13th chapter of the book of Romans in the New Testament, God’s says that those who govern us, such as this (yourselves, this Council, whatever) are ministers of God — that actual word “minister” is used. And that you are a minister of God to us for good, for good, as defined by God’s Word. And that you are, conversely, to bring wrath on those who are evil — evil as defined by God’s Word.Thus, your job is ministerial and not legislative. Your job is to administer and apply God’s Law. And this means it is not the role of government to house or feed or clothe or give health care or education or welfare to anyone. There is no Biblical authority for that kind of thing. The provision of those things is the job of Christ’s Church.
Romans 13 also tells us that a law is just or unjust depending on whether it is in accord with what God says or whether it is at odds with God’s Law. That is the teaching of the Bible, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, the British jurist William Blackstone and Martin Luther King in his “Letter From The Birmingham Jail.”In that “Letter,” Dr. King said, and I quote: “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God….An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law,” unquote. King said, and again I quote him directly: “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’.” The word legal in this letter is in direct quotes, King’s point being that what Hitler did in Nazi Germany was not legal because it was against the Laws of God.
Thank you very much. And may God bless us all as we obey Him.
I repeat, Lofton said he and Peroutka believe “there IS a US Constitution. He believes it is the highest man-made law in our country. He believes it is a document our government officials take an oath about and swear to uphold and obey.”
Well, these same elected officials Lofton wants to remind of their “first duty” to obey and enforce God’s law also take an oath of office. In Maryland, that oath, laid out in Article I Section 9 of the Constitution of Maryland says in part:
Every person elected, or appointed, to any office of profit or trust, under this Constitution, or under the Laws, made pursuant thereto, shall, before he enters upon the duties of such office, take and subscribe the following oath, or affirmation: I, _______________, do swear, (or affirm, as the case may be,) that I will support the Constitution of the United States; and that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the State of Maryland, and support the Constitution and Laws thereof; and that I will, to the best of my skill and judgment, diligently and faithfully, without partiality or prejudice, execute the office of________________, according to the Constitution and Laws of this State,
Local elected official take a similar oath of office based on Article I Section 9.
Article VIII of the Maryland Constitution enshrines the right of every Marylander to a “thorough and efficient” education, and provides the framework for the General Assembly to provide for that right. Now, according to Lofton and Peroutka, it is NOT the role of government to provide education.
So which one is it? What is the first duty of elected officials for Lofton and Peroutka? Uphold their oath of office, which requires them to ensure the provisions of Article VIII, or is to follow God’s law--as Lofton and Peroutka perceive it?
I would argue it is the latter.
And Lofton is not shy about telling us that.
Peroutka and Lofton’s “theological mentor”, Rousas Rushdoony, is the founder of Christian Reconstructionism. Lofton’s Facebook profile picture is a photo of Rushdoony, and his writings and views are plastered all over the IOTC website.
As Warren Throckmorton points out, the IOTC website directs readers to this 1988 interview Rushdoony did with Bill Moyers.
Here’s a transcript of the relevant portion.
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?
Rushdoony: Yes.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?
…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.
The father of Lofton and Peroutka’s core philosophy believes in a civil government who’s first duty is to carry out a religious mandate to do what God requires as written in the Old Testament, including executions for adulterers and homosexuals.
One wonders if Lofton would have called for a public stoning of Alexander Hamilton, given his affair with Maria Reynolds.
But this gets me to another point. Lofton alludes to Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence when he says, “our Founders said our rights come from the ‘Creator’ God and that it is the purpose of government to protect these God-given rights.” I agree with Lofton that we are indeed born with God-given rights and that the purpose of government is to protect those rights. But I’m not entirely sure Lofton consistently agrees with his own assertion here, given his fidelity to Rushdoony’s biblical conception of the role of government, which is clearly at odds with the conception of the role of government laid out by Jefferson in the Declaration, which in full says:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;
Government instituted among men to secure our natural rights is not the same as government comes from God.
Government—as conceived by Lofton mentor and IOTC lodestar Rusdoony—would deprive the rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness to some of its citizens simply because the fact that they are gay or committed adultery.
Lofton’s prepared God and Government statements appropriate the words Dr. Martin Luther King to imbue his twisted philosophy of government with sense moral authority. This is interesting given Peroutka believes the civil rights laws King fought so hard for, “…are not laws, and that re not law, they never should’ve been passed, they’re not law now, they weren’t law then, they aren’t law now because there is no such thing as a civil right.”
Lofton himself posted to the IOTC website a 1956 essay by Frederick Nymeyer arguing for discrimination based on race.
It is also curious that Lofton would use King’s words given he had this to say about King on the IOTC website: “Don’t Need Federal Holidays And Certainly Not One “Honoring” The Dishonorable Martin Luther King, Jr. Who Fails His Own Character Test.
Lofton also conveniently leaves out Peroutka’s and the IOTC’s ties the secessionist, white nationalist League of the South. Peroutka was (there seems to be some confusion on the matter) either appointed or elected to the League of the South’s Board of Directors last summer. It is curious though that Peroutka does not appear on the current list of League’s board members. Although a Google search does return a dead link titled “League of the South Board of Directors: Michael Peroutka”
However, here is video of Peroutka speaking at the League of the South’s annual convention, thanking its president Michael Hill and board members for his appointment/election and pledging the resources of the IOTC and the Peroutka family to the League of the South.
On its FAQ page The League of the South says in part that its mission is “to advance the cultural, social, economic, and political well-being and independence of the Southern people by all honourable means,” through legal secession. The League also seeks to protect the “Anglo-Celtic core population and culture of the South”
Should that not be enough to convince you of what the League of the South stands for, here is League president Michael Hill in his own words:
And, God willing, we shall one day have a name and place among the nations of the earth.”
Here’s Peroutka speaking about his IOTC course to the League of the South:
We have a basic Constitution course, now again I don’t disagree with Dr. Hill at all, that this regime is beyond reform. I think that’s an obvious fact and I agree with him. However, I do agree that when you secede, or however the destruction and the rubble of this regime takes place and how it plays out, you’re going to need to take a biblical worldview and apply it to civil law and government. That’s what you’re still going to need to do. Whether we’re going to have to have this foundational information in the hearts and minds of the people, or else liberty won’t survive the secession either. You see what I’m saying? So this view, I saying that because I don’t want the League of the South, for one minute to think that I am about reforming the current regime, and that studying the Constitution is about reforming the regime. I like many of you, and like Patrick Henry, probably have come to the conclusion that we smelled a rat, smelled a rat from the beginning. However, we believe that it is essential to take a biblical view of law and government and then make those applications so we publish actually three courses of instruction.
I’m in the commercial mode now, this is a commercial. We publish a course on the U.S. Constitution. We feel like it would be a great builder for you in your workshops, in your, when Dr. Hill said somebody called and said, ‘nothing’s going on.’ Well this could be going on. This is something you could do. You could be discussing with your neighbors a true American view of law and government, and then discussing how that could be applied. And then you could be reading the Grey Book too as well which is also a great vision for how, for what a civil government should look like in America. This is a 12 week course of study, excuse me, it is 12 lectures, we do it every 12 weeks but you could do it faster or slower. But it is I believe a great party building or organization building tool because it creates the commonality of understanding on which we’re going to march forward, that is to say, there is an American view of law and government and a biblical view that we need to understand. So that’s what our U.S. course is about.
We actually conduct it three ways, we conduct it live in person in Pasadena, MD, Pastor David Whitney, myself and some other instructors give this class. It’s conducted around the country by people who take this kit itself and do it. This is like a turnkey operation here, you can take this and use the student manual, there’s a teacher’s manual, it’s like a home school course on the U.S. Constitution and American history. We rehearse what an American view of law and government looks like, like I’ve just been doing. We talk about the religious belief of the founders, we talk about the biblical beliefs of the founders and the political philosophy of the founders. Then we talk basically about the Constitution in the words of the Constitution itself. In other words, ‘thou shalt know the rules.’ And then we talk about how courts have degradated [sic] and moved away, and subverted the Constitution, and we talk about ways we can move back to this biblical understanding.
Is Peroutka interested in upholding our current constitutional order, or does he as the League of the South does, want a new order based on his biblical beliefs?
Imagine the field day the media, not to mention Democrats, would have with a hypothetical Peroutka for Attorney General campaign!
Perhaps certain MDGOP insiders were concerned more about the prospect of having a self-funded candidate on the ballot, than the embarrassment and drag on other candidates. It’s not like this information is a few clicks away, but hey I’m just a lazy blogger what do I know.
Lastly, Lofton takes issue with my assertion that Peroutka’s Christian Reconstructionist beliefs are “just as statist as any progressive vision of government.” He writes:
Finally, a correction re: something Mr. Newgent says. If we had Christian government that obeyed God it would be much smaller and hugely less expensive than the Godless government we have now. Thus, what Michael Peroutka believes is NOT “just as statist as any progressive vision of government.” Such an assertion is embarrassingly ignorant since there would be no Welfare State under Godly government.
Lofton’s statement assumes—wrongly—that statist government comes in only progressive flavors. I direct Mr. Lofton to Saudi Arabia and other Islamic statist governments, which derive their laws from the Qur’an.
A Biblical view of civil government does not immunize its self-appointed mandarins from the statist temptation.
Much like the progressives who envision a technocratic utopia run by enlightened government bureaucrats, Peroutka and Lofton, as their theological mentor Rushdoony did, envision a society with a civil government executing Biblical mandates—as interpreted and determined by men like them.
Peroutka and Lofton’s goal of a civil government implementing God’s law, as they see it, is just as statist as H.G. Wells’ progressive vision of society run by “liberal fascisti.”