I've been so busy caught up this election cycle in covering a few specific issues, such as the Hawaii governor's race
, that I've neglected Tancredo and the Constitution Party. Better late than never:
The Constitution Party was founded in the early 1990s by followers of the late theologian R.J. Rushdoony, who advocated the imposition of Christian government based on his own interpretation of "Biblical law." A virulently racist Holocaust-denier, Rushdoony's vision of "Biblical law" included "Biblical" slavery and the stoning, beheading, or burning at the stake, as forms of capital punishment, of adulterers, homosexuals, and women who have intercourse before marriage. Rushdoony also believed that the Sun rotates around the Earth.
Though mainstream media coverage of this aspect has been sparse and shallow, a few alternative press writers such as Alternet's Adele Stan have covered Tom Tancredo's candidacy in the context of the Constitution Party's roots in Rushdoony's movement, called Christian Reconstructionism. As Stan writes,
To make his third-party bid, Tancredo signed on with the American Constitution Party, which despite its secular-sounding name, is a party based upon the principles of Christian Reconstructionism, whose adherents seek to have biblical law -- including the execution of LGBT people and the stoning of adulterers -- instituted as the law of the land. (Both Rand Paul and Sharron Angle have links to the Constitution Party, as we reported here.)...
Even as he surges on the Constitution Party ballot, Tancredo now seems to be seeking some distance from the party's extremist platform, which calls for an end to public education and all public "welfare" programs -- including Medicare and Social Security -- and the banning of abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. The platform's wording of its plank on HIV/AIDS prevention suggests that gay sex is "perverted."
"My joining the American Constitution Party this year is a marriage of convenience not of love," Tancredo told the Colorado Independent today. "This is not some [philosophical] metamorphosis. I needed to get on the ballot and the [American Constitution Party] needed to draw votes."
Tancredo's disavowal notwithstanding, he did not seem sufficiently opposed to the Constitution Party's goal of "returning" American jurisprudence to its alleged "Biblical foundations" to voice disagreement with the Constitution Party platform.
Tom Tancredo is one of a gaggle of politicians running in the 2010 election who have ties to the Constitution Party. In May of this year I noted Kentucky GOP candidate for US Senate Rand Paul's keynote address at the Minnesota Constitution Party's 2009 yearly convention, and Sharron Angle has perhaps even more pronounced ties to the Constitution Party as a leader in the party's Arizona affiliate, the American Independent Party.
As I explained in my June 2010 story (linked above),
What's Christian Reconstructionism ? Well it's a theocratic intellectual and political movement founded by the late Armenian theologian R.J. Rushdoony, and it burst onto the American political scene in 1992 with the founding of the U.S. Taxpayers Party, later renamed the Constitution Party. Founder of the two parties Howard Phillips was a member of Rushdoony's inner circle and called the theologian "my wise counseler" according to journalist Frederick Clarkson, a noted authority on Christian Reconstructionism.
R.J. Rushdoony gave a keynote address at the U.S. Taxpayers Party founding convention in 1992 and Rushdoony also spoke at the USTP presidential nominating convention in 1996, which selected Howard Phillips as the USTP nominee that year.
In April of 1996 Phillips gave a speech at San Jose, CA Christian Reconstructionist party thrown for R.J. Rushdoony's 80th birthday at which Phillips stated, "This country has a very, very special role to play in building God's Kingdom and restoring Christendom, in giving fulfillment to the postmillennial conclusions which have been reached by those who have been privileged to be part of the Chalcedon ministry."
In a 1995 interview published in the Chalcedon Report, put out by the flagship institution of the Christian Reconstructionist movement, the Chalcedon Foundation (founded by R.J. Rushdoony), Howard Phillips explained, "Our goal must be not merely to capture a party, or even a platform, but to install our policies in government."
In a 1989 fund raising letter for the Chalcedon Foundation Howard Phillips wrote, "Each of us who has read the Institutes of Biblical Law... has been uniquely privileged. God has blessed us with the opportunity for exposure to the insights and teachings of a great theologian and servant... I have no doubt that he will be ever after regarded as one of the most significant figures in the history of Christian thought and advocacy."
U.S. Republican Senator Jim DeMint seem to consider Christian Reconstructionists as a potentially valuable source of financial support for Sharron Angle's political campaign, reports Julie Ingersoll for Religion Dispatches. DeMint has purchased mailing lists from the Reconstructionism-linked group American Vision to power a fund-raising effort for Angle (a correction: Initially I wrote that American Vision donated its mailing lists to DeMint's effort. That was incorrect - the lists were purchased.
R.J. Rushdoony wanted to base American law and government on Old Testament scripture. He advocated stoning to death adulterers, women who have intercourse before marriage, active homosexuals, and people who strike or curse at their parents (the full list of miscreants who according to Rushdoony should be bashed to death with rocks is much longer than this.) Why rocks ? As Rushdoony's son-in-law Gary North, another leading Christian Reconstructionist, put it, "There are many reasons. First, the implements of execution are available to everyone at virtually no cost." North has described executions-by-stoning as "community projects."
R.J. Rushdoony had a number of other notable views - he was a geocentrist who thought the Sun orbited the Earth, and he was a Holocaust revisionist who claimed in his master work The Institutes of Biblical Law that less than one million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War Two and that most of those died from cold rather than execution.
Anti-Semitic tendencies in Christian Reconstructionism appear have survived Rushdoony. In 2007 on the Chalcedon Foundation web site, the Chalcedon Foundation's Communications Director Chris Ortiz wrote a post concerning anti-Semitism that contained a favorable reference to Michael Hoffman, who Syracuse University political scientist Michael Barkun has referred to, in his 2006 book A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America, as a "Holocaust denier and proponent of multiple conspiracy theories."
According to Rushdoony, the institution of pre-Civil War slavery in America represented a step up for Africans kidnapped, shipped to America, and forced to work on cotton plantations - "The move from Africa to America was a vast increase of freedom for the Negro, materially and spiritually as well as personally." But slavery was a net negative for the South according to Rushdoony, who wrote, "Only a minority of the slaves ever worked," thus forcing slave owners to hire hard-working whites to pick up the slack, claimed the Reconstructionist titan.
As Rushdoony wrote in Politics of Guilt and Pity (Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press,  1978),
the white man is being systematically indoctrinated into believing that he is guilty of enslaving and abusing the Negro. Granted that some Negroes were mistreated as slaves, the fact still remains that nowhere in all history or in the world today has the Negro been better off. The life expectancy of the Negro increased when he was transported to America. He was not taken from freedom into slavery, but from a vicious slavery to degenerate chiefs to a generally benevolent slavery in the United States. There is not the slightest evidence that any American Negro had ever lived in a "free society" in Africa; even the idea did not exist in Africa. The move from Africa to America was a vast increase of freedom for the Negro...
Writings of the late R.J. Rushdoony, especially his monumental Institutes of Biblical Law - which sought to establish how Old Testament scripture could be implemented in American jurisprudence, have heavily influenced the evolving Christian right, and Rushdoony's works have found a place at major evangelical right institutions such as the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and Pat Robertson's Regent University.
Sharron Angle's membership in the U.S. Taxpayers Party/Constitution Party affiliated Independent American Party of Nevada, raises serious questions about her candidacy given the viciously eliminationist nature of R.J. Rushdoony's writing.
On page 574 of Rushdoony's Institutes of Biblical Law he described Jesus and an "executioner" of non-believers, writing,
The significance of Jesus Christ as "the faithful and true witness" is that He not only witnesses against those who are at war against God, but He also executes them.
.... Jesus Christ as the witness is therefore the Lord and Judge over history. He gives witness concerning men and nations, passes sentence against them, and them proceeds to their judgment or execution.
... The cross therefore requires judgment. The false witness concerning Jesus Christ, to which all unbelievers, all apostate churchmen, and all nations and institutions which deny His sovereignty and His law-word, with one accord assent, that law requires their death (Deut. 19:16-21).
As the Constitution Party platform currently states, "The Constitution Party gratefully acknowledges the blessing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of these United States... This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ... The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations... The U.S. Constitution established a Republic rooted in Biblical law"
Should we consider Tom Tancredo fully in line with the Constitution Party's agenda? Perhaps not, but he seems happy enough with the co-branding implied by his running on the Party's ticket.
Is Colorado slowly slouching towards Margaret Atwood's Republic of Gilead? And if so, what responsibility does mainstream media bear for failing to inform Colorado's voters about Tom Tancredo and the Constitution Party?
It's a sad day for American Democracy when stories such as this get neglected and, whether Tom Tancredo prevails against John Hickenlooper or not, there will be future consequences. The Overton Window has been shoved hard towards the mainstreaming of R.J. Rushdoony's political vision and, in this era of corporate-driven tabloid journalism it is hard to see mainstream media shoving it back with responsible, in depth journalism.
A few years ago, in More From The Biblical Stoning & Legalized Slavery Movement, I covered the wider dimensions of a 1998 story in Reason magazine that concerned a controversy over Christian Reconstructionism's more severe positions. As Walter Olsen wrote in the Reason article,
"For connoisseurs of surrealism on the American right, it's hard to beat an exchange that appeared about a decade ago in the Heritage Foundation magazine Policy Review. It started when two associates of the Rev. Jerry Falwell wrote an article which criticized Christian Reconstructionism, the influential movement led by theologian Rousas John (R.J.) Rushdoony, for advocating positions that even they as committed fundamentalists found "scary." Among Reconstructionism's highlights, the article cited support for laws "mandating the death penalty for homosexuals and drunkards." The Rev. Rushdoony fired off a letter to the editor complaining that the article had got his followers' views all wrong: They didn't intend to put drunkards to death.
Ah, yes, accuracy does count."
Twelve years down the road, here we are.