Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Christian Reconstructionism and the American congress

Remember the good old days, when Clinton used to drive some very whacky people over the edge? Sigh. I now regret the wicked delights of watching the lunatics go rabid. They're still crazy, they're still rabid, but now they have power. We need to watch the politicians named in this article. [emphases and links are mine, by way of background, review this and this and this] News | In theocracy they trust
By Michelle Goldberg

April 11, 2005 | According to David Gibbs, the attorney for Terri Schiavo's parents, Terri sobbed in her mother's arms after the courts condemned her to death. "Terri Schiavo was as alive as any person sitting here," he said. "Anything you saw on the videos, multiply times two hundred. I mean completely animated, completely responsive...

Gibbs was speaking to a banquet of religious right activists and conservative operatives last Thursday, the first night of the Confronting the Judicial War on Faith conference in Washington. The 100 or so people in the audience had converged on the Washington Marriott from 25 states...

... The event was remarkable in bringing together lawmakers and Capitol Hill staffers with unabashed theocrats. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., shared the stage with prominent adherents of Christian Reconstructionism, a Calvinist doctrine that calls for the subordination of American civil law to biblical law.

Other strains of the religious right were represented as well -- Alveda King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s conservative niece, was there, as was Catholic anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly. Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court Justice who lost his job after he refused to remove a two-ton granite Ten Commandments monument from his courthouse, received an adulatory welcome. There was Tom Jipping, a counselor to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch who used to work at Concerned Women for America, and Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council. All were united by a frantic sense of crisis symbolized by Schiavo, who has become a mythical figure, martyred and quasi-divine, in the stories that percolate through America's evangelical subculture.

... ideas offered at the conference ranged from ending the filibuster and impeaching all but the most right-wing judges to abolishing all federal courts below the Supreme Court altogether. At least one panelist dropped coy hints about murder.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, originally scheduled as the keynote speaker, was called away to Pope John Paul II's funeral, but he delivered a laudatory welcome via video. DeLay accused the judiciary of having "run amok," and said that to rein it in, it would be necessary to "reassert Congress' constitutional authority over the courts." His endorsement was one of many signs that this intense conclave, with all its apocalyptic despair and exhilarated calls for national renewal, represented something more than a frustrated eruption by the febrile fringe. However odd the ideas emanating from the conference seemed to a secularist, they are taken seriously by people with real power in our nation. Indeed, they're taken more seriously than such oft-derided relics as "separation of church and state," which the conferees treated as a devilish heresy.

The Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration [jf: by which they mean establishment of a theocratic state] is a new coalition whose membership includes major figures in the religious right. Jerry Falwell, Schlafly and Ray Flynn, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, are among those on its executive committee...

... The sense that America is on the cusp of chaos was nearly universal at the conference, leading to calls for a radical restructuring of American government. On panel after panel, speakers -- including Michael Schwartz, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn's chief of staff -- demanded the impeachment of judges who disagree with the doctrine of Antonin Scalia-style strict constructionism. Several asserted the right of the president and Congress to disregard court decisions they think are unconstitutional. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was excoriated with the kind of venom the right once reserved for Hillary Clinton.

On a Friday panel titled "Remedies to Judicial Tyranny," a constitutional lawyer named Edwin Vieira discussed Kennedy's majority opinion in Lawrence vs. Texas, which struck down that state's anti-sodomy law. Vieira accused Kennedy of relying on "Marxist, Leninist, Satanic principals drawn from foreign law" in his jurisprudence.

What to do about communist judges in thrall to Beelzebub? Vieira said, "Here again I draw on the wisdom of Stalin. We're talking about the greatest political figure of the 20th century … He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him whenever he ran into difficulty. 'No man, no problem.'"

...The affair finished with a rousing speech by recent Republican senatorial candidate Alan Keyes, who drew enthusiastic applause when he said, "I believe that in our country today the judiciary is the focus of evil."

... With each new lunacy perpetrated by religious fundamentalists, progressives tell each other that any second the pendulum will swing the other way and some equilibrium will return to our national life. They've been telling each other that for more than four years. But the influence of religious authoritarianism keeps growing...

...One conference speaker was Howard Phillips, the hulking former Nixon staffer who helped midwife the new right. Years ago, Phillips, along with Richard Viguerie and Paul Weyrich, recruited a little-known Baptist preacher named Jerry Falwell to start the Moral Majority. Though he was raised Jewish, Phillips is now an evangelical Christian who told me he was profoundly influenced by the late R.J. Rushdoony, the founder of Christian Reconstructionism. "Rushdoony had a tremendous impact on my thinking," Phillips said. As time goes on, he said, Rushdoony's influence is growing.

Christian Reconstructionism calls for a system that is both radically decentralized, with most government functions devolved to the county level, and socially totalitarian. It calls for the death penalty for homosexuals, abortion doctors and women guilty of "unchastity before marriage," among other moral crimes. To be fair, Phillips told me that "just because a crime is capital doesn't mean you must impose the death penalty. It means it's an option." Public humiliation, he said, could sometimes be used instead.

Herb Titus, another Rushdoony follower, also spoke. He was the dean of the law school at Pat Robertson's Regent University...

... The pope's funeral gave DeLay an excuse not to show up in person, and Republican Sens. Sam Brownback and Tom Coburn, both initially listed on the conference Web site, also dropped out.
These are people who could sit down to dinner with bin Laden and readily come to a mutual agreement about how society ought to be ordered. They might have some issues about cosmetics, but on the fundamentals they would find common ground. They are not going to go away.

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