Two Republican state representatives in South Carolina are encouraging people to create communities that ignore laws and court rulings they don’t agree with as part of their “Virtue Solution Project,” according to an article published on Friday by Charleston’s The Post and Courier.
Reps. Josiah Magnuson and Jonathon Hill both represent “tiny towns in the Upstate Bible Belt,” reports The Post and Courier’s Andrew Brown. Both are home-schooled sons of pastors who “are working to counteract the current political system in the House of Representatives by trying to nullify laws they determine are unconstitutional or morally evil.” They praised the jurors who refused to convict the Bundy brothers over their occupation of the federal wildlife refuge in Oregon.
The 25-year-old Magnuson is also at work on their longer-term plan:
He is already in the process of developing one of these so-called “lighthouses” or “islands of refuge” near Campabello on a roughly 1-acre tract of land just off U.S. Highway 176. He says the handful of other people involved at this point are planning other groups near Pickens, Simpsonville, Charleston and across the border in Georgia.
According to documents published by the group online, their long-term goal is to “train and equip one million neighborhood leaders” that are willing to “build a fresh beginning for America.”
Magnuson said his center in Campobello — an old barn that was purchased by an LLC he set up late last year — will start out as a coffee shop, but will hopefully grow into the vision that he and Hill have developed.
“It’s serving two purposes,” Magnuson told The Post and Courier. “As we build that strength, it prevents doomsday, and on the other hand, if we don’t succeed, then this provides, like, lifeboats.
“I think all Christians understand that there is a prophetic element to this, living in the end times and so forth,” he said.
There are plenty of Religious Right leaders—like Glenn Beck and Jim Bakker—who make money by promoting doomsday scenarios and encouraging people to buy gold or stockpile food. And there are others, like conservative writer Rod Dreher, who has promoted the notion that Christians in a hostile America should consider what he calls the “Benedict Option,” which focuses on building communities in which they can live out their vision of virtue as “local forms of resistance” against what America has become.
The Post and Courier article draws some additional comparisons:
Professors who have studied religion, politics and similar conservative Christian organizations say the ideas behind Magnuson and Hill’s plan aren’t new.
Some aspects of their proposal resembles militia groups in the Western United States. Other material produced by the state lawmakers looks like that of Christian nationalist groups.
“The way I would describe this group is the John Birch Society meets prepper-culture, combined with a kind of Christian restorationist sensibility and expressed in a business PowerPoint kind of way,” said David Sehat, a history professor at Georgia State University.
“That seems to me to sum up the group, which is super weird, also super interesting and super disturbing in some ways.”
But the oddest part of the entire group, several academics said, is that it is founded by two elected officials, in this case serving in the high halls of the state Legislature.
Magnuson says on YouTube videos of his group’s gatherings that he is not calling for armed insurrection, notes the article: “We’re not saying that everybody should go and pick up guns and go have a revolution.” And Hill says they aren’t calling for anarchy, but for communities in which people rely on themselves and their neighbors rather than government. “This isn’t some type of political overturning movement,” Magnuson said. “It’s more of a political and economic replacing movement.”