Michael Peroutka, God, and Christian Reconstructionists At Larry Klayman's Revolution

At last week’s less-than-spectacular kickoff for the Second American Revolution, Larry Klayman announced that President Obama has until this coming Friday, November 29, to resign. If he doesn’t, Klayman and his friends will move forward with their plan to organize mass civil disobedience, force the resignation of President Obama and the Congress, and replace them with a government-in-waiting to be formed in Philadelphia in the coming weeks.

The idea was even too much for Alan Keyes, who decided not to show up at Klayman’s rally in Washington DC last week.  Klayman read the crowd a letter from Keyes explaining his decision, then dismissed Keyes’ argument that Americans should rely on grassroots political organizing rather than Egyptian-style mass demonstrations. Klayman said he no longer believes America can be fixed through elections, at least not until he’s “cleaned house.” Klayman complained bitterly that none of the Tea Party-affiliated members of Congress was willing to attend his revolution rally.

One speaker who did show up at Klayman’s rally was Michael Peroutka, the U.S. Constitution Party’s presidential nominee in 2004 (he got about 150,000 votes). According to the party’s platform, “The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.” Peroutka is also a southern secessionist and Christian Reconstructionist who sees the Republican Party and “Godless” conservative movement as part of the problem.

Just last month, Peroutka wrote, “Anyone, including those who identify with the ‘Tea Party’, who loves America and desires real reform, would do well to disengage themselves from the Republican Party and their brand of worthless, Godless, unprincipled conservatism.” And in challenging Rush Limbaugh’s rhetoric about Republicans having been “hoodwinked” by Democrats and the media during the government shutdown showdown, Peroutka wrote,

Isn’t it more likely that those who have been “hoodwinked” are those that put their trust in the Republican party and the Godless, conservative movement? Isn’t it beyond time to return to the true American View of law and government, acknowledging the Creator God as the Supreme Judge of the Universe and the written Constitution as the Supreme law of the Land?

At the rally, Peroutka praised Klayman as a “legal restorer,” saying “an order has been denigrated and lost and needs to be found and recovered and restored.” His rhetoric echoes Christian Reconstructionist godfather Rousas John Rushdoony, who said, “The only true order is founded on Biblical law. All law is religious in nature, and every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion.” Klayman is a member of the secretive Council on National Policy, where he has had the chance to rub shoulders with people like Constitution Party founder Howard Phillips, who died earlier this year. In his introduction to Peroutka, Klayman praised Phillips as “a great American” and “one of the icons of the conservative movement.”

In addition to his association with the Constitution Party, Peroutka is the founder of the Institute on the Constitution, a Maryland-based group that spreads Christian Reconstructionist ideas about the law and Constitution through seminars presented around the country. Peroutka’s remarks at the rally echo the Institute’s message that the only law that matters is God’s law:

“There is a God. Our rights come from him. The purpose of civil government is to protect and defend God-given rights. This is the American view of law and government. It also happens to be the biblical view of law and government. America was founded upon the biblical view of law and government….”

According to this Christian Reconstructionist view, God has not granted government the authority to have any role, for example, in education or the alleviation of poverty; God gives that responsibility to churches and families. Religion scholar Julie Ingersoll describes Christian Reconstructionism this way:

For Reconstructionists, the civil government’s authority is limited to protecting citizens from criminals. Family and ecclesiastical authority are established to uphold (and enforce) other aspects of biblical law. That’s not to say that any of these institutions are understood as functioning autonomously; all are under the authority of God and are to function according to biblical law. But each is independent of the others.

The idea that the Bible puts strict limits on government’s “jurisdiction” is at the core of Christian Reconstructionist thinking, and is frequently embraced by more “mainstream” Religious Right leaders. Peroutka writes:

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.)

On a website promoting the Institute on the Constitution’s course, Peroutka says, “As American culture has moved away from the acknowledgment of God’s authority, and the desire for his blessing, American government has untethered itself from God’s requirement that it stay within its limited jurisdiction.” He argues that “When God’s law is ignored, chaos ensues.” Peroutka recently told right-wing radio host Steve Deece that “so-called civil rights laws” are not law because “there is no such thing as a civil right.” And he denounced the proposed Employment Non Discrimination Act as “federalizing perversion.”

Echoing a theme heard frequently at Religious Right events, Peroutka told rally participants they share the blame for the country’s problems because they have allowed “usurpers” who don’t have allegiance to his view of law and government to “rule over us.” He said, “We need to repent of these ways, these things that we have done. Because we have broken the law by allowing this to occur. We are responsible. We need to repent before God.”

Last year, the Human Rights Campaign noticed that Peroutka, a Maryland-based lawyer, was one of the biggest donors to the anti-marriage-equality effort in the state, and slammed his association with The League of the South. Peroutka denied that he is a white supremacist, but called himself a “proud member” of the group; in fact he is a board member. He was a featured speaker at the group’s conference last June, which was entitled, “Southern Independence: Antidote to Tyranny.” The group defines its mission this way: “The League of the South is a Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic.”   Also:

We also encourage individuals and families to personally withdraw (secede) from the corrupt and corrupting influence of post-Christian culture in America. We call this "abjuring the realm," and it's a real and dramatic first step all of us can take by simply withdrawing our support of and allegiance to the corrupt government in Washington that through its greed, corruption and lack of Christian values has destroyed your children's and grand children's future.

Plenty of other speakers, including a couple of clergy, claimed God’s endorsement.  Even W. Cleon Skausen, the late far-right Mormon conspiracy theorist, was invoked. Sheriff Richard Mack demonstrated a “political prayer” that he said Skausen had taught 250 law enforcement officers at a training session – a series of hand motions to go along with a recitation of the preamble to the Constitution. Skausen, also a member of the Council on National Policy, was popularized by Glenn Beck’s promotion of his book The 5000 Year Leap as divinely inspired. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the book as “an illustrated recipe for turning the United States into 50 little theocracies.”

Klayman himself wasn’t shy about invoking God’s blessing on his revolution:

“Our strength comes from God. We take orders only from him. We don’t take orders from Hussein over there. We take orders from our God, not his. So consequently we are moving forward and we look for your support and your help.” He ended his remarks by saying, “and most important of all, we have God on our side.”