Press Sanitizes or Ignores Howard Phillips' Role in Using Religion to Radicalize the Political Right
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Apr 25, 2013 at 05:28:16 PM EST
Following the death of Howard Phillips on April 20, the New York Times described Phillips as a "pillar of conservative activism," but with no mention of his role in the Religious Right or the Christian Reconstructionist base of the political party Phillips founded.  The Constitution Party, previously the U.S. Taxpayers Party, is described in the New York Times as "based on the founding documents of the nation and the original intent of the founding fathers" with no reference to the party's mission "to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations."

It's impossible to describe the significance of  Howard Phillips' career without mentioning religion, but mainstream press tried.  Like former Rep. Ron Paul, with whom he worked closely for many years, Phillips was at the nexus of the free market gospel and authoritarian Christianity, using biblical inerrancy as the justification for both social and economic policy. The redefining of libertarianism and "religious liberty" as part of a theocratic agenda, is a driving force behind the radicalization of today's political Right and its "Constitutional Conservatism."

The only reference to religion in the entire New York Times article was to acknowledge that Howard Phillips was raised Jewish and converted to Christianity.  That's it.  The mainstream press failed to explore the reasons why a political party with the name "U.S. Taxpayers" was based on the theocratic concept of restructuring America under biblical law, or why its 1992 founding convention featured as  speaker Rousas J. Rushdoony, the founding father of Christian Reconstruction.  (Other Reconstructionists chaired several of the first USTP state campaigns.)

The Washington Post article was equally devoid of substance, including only a brief reference to Phillips' social conservatism. Phillips, Richard Viguerie and Paul Weyrich's are described as leading the "New Right" into social conservative issues such as "abortion, gun control, school busing, prayer in schools and other social issues."  The Washington Post did at least reference a previous quote in which Phillips' Conservative Caucus is described as the "most militant" group of the New Right.

As described in Frederick Clarkson's book Eternal Hostility, Phillips' success was in fusing together "elements of the historic racist right (such as elements of the American Party of George Wallace and the former Populist Party of David Duke and Green Beret veteran Bo Gritz) with the Reconstructionist movement and Operation Rescue," a militant anti-abortion group led at that time by Randall Terry.  Clarkson has described Rushdoony as the "ideological guiding light" of the Phillips-founded USTP.

The preamble of the Constitution Party's platform 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. We hereby appeal to Him for mercy, aid, comfort, guidance and the protection of His Providence as we work to restore and preserve these United States.

This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been and are afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.

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.


The middle paragraph is a quote that was attributed to Patrick Henry by Christian nationalists, including David Barton in his 1992 book The Myth of Separation.  It has since been shown to be one of many falsely attributed to the founding fathers.  (The quote was actually the words of an author of a 1956 issue of The Virginian and repeated in the American Mercury.)

Rushdoony's foundation, Chalcedon, did not hesitate to claim Phillips, describing him as a "longtime Chalcedon colleague and supporter, and close personal friend to R. J. Rushdoony."  Gary North, Rushdoony's son-in-law, also wrote this past week in memory of Phillips.

If asked after 1979 who were the major intellectual influences were in his life, he said this: Leonard E. Read, who founded the Foundation for Economic Education in 1946, and R. J. Rushdoony, who founded Chalcedon in 1965. He was a believer in the free market and in Christianity.

Julie Ingersoll interviewed Phillips in 2009 in preparation for her book on Christian Reconstructionism.  In Religion Dispatches, Ingersoll describes how Phillips told her that he raised his kids on Rushdoony audio tapes.  Today his son Doug Phillips heads Vision Forum, a ministry known for its "Biblical Patriarchy" and described at length by Kathryn Joyce in her book Quiverfull.  

Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin wrote that he was asked by the family to lead Phillips' funeral at McLean Bible Church in Tyson's Corner.  (Ron Paul endorsed Baldwin in 2008 instead of John McCain.)  Baldwin has moved to Montana where he leads a church that "includes white supremacist Randy Weaver and April Gaede," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Baldwin aspires to make the state the "tip of the spear" in a fight against the government for liberty.

Howard Phillips founded the Conservative Caucus in 1974, a group that Russ Bellant described in his 1991 book The Coors Connection: How Coors Family Philanthropy Undermines Democratic Pluralism.

Another New Right group with long-standing ties to (and financial support from) Coors, is The Consevative Caucus (TCC), headed by Howard Phillips.
Bellant describes the TCC's project Citizens Cabinet Organizing Committee as a "shadow cabinet" established in February 1977 to counter the incoming Carter administration.  The Committee included Phillips, Joe Coors, Paul Weyrich, Richard Viguerie, William Rusher, and Larry McDonald ( head of the John Birch Society). Bellant continues,
The Committee was formed only months after Phillips, Rusher, Viguerie, and Weyrich had attempted to lead the Klan-infested American Independent Party.  The alternative cabinet proposed by Coors and his allies had a number of leading John Birch Society figures ands upporters among its twelve members, and Phillis continues to work closely with the John Birch Society and its allies.
According to Bellant, another Conservative Caucus board member and funder was Richard Schoff, the Grand Kilgrapp (state secretary) of the Indiana Ku Klux Klan.  Schoff claimed to leave the KKK in 1973.  

The Conservative Caucus partnership with the JBS continued.  Below is a 2009 graphic advertising the 35th anniversary gala of the Conservative Caucus with keynote speaker Rep. Ron Paul.  Other speakers included Doug Phillips, Richard Viguerie, John McManus (Chairman of JBS), and David Noebel, author of Christian nationalist textbooks and co-author of Mind Siege with Tim LaHaye.
Photobucket

Sarah Diamond wrote in 1991,

"Howard Phillips correctly sees third party building as a long-term proposition, and he's banking on the kind of economic downturns that will give his message greater resonance. 'My hope is that there are circumstances in which people are so upset at the way things are going that without even necessarily knowing or buying into all of the things that we advocate or believe, they will support us in protest against the things they disapprove,' Phillips said in an audio tape circulated to USTA supporters. 'The medicine we're prescribing doesn't taste good and people are only going to take it when they have no choice.'"

It is indicative of the sad state of coverage of religion's role in politics that Phillips' legacy is described simply in terms of his "conservatism" without referencing religion whatsoever. It is ironic that at his death the press has fallen into the very trap that Phillips described - ignoring what he actually advocated and believed.




Display:
... to the role of Christian Reconstructionism in regard to Ron Paul and Paul Broun of Georgia.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2013_04/ron_p aul_broun044378.php

by Rachel Tabachnick on Thu Apr 25, 2013 at 05:45:23 PM EST


And maybe Raw Story, too. This needs to be read far and wide. Too many "libertarians" think Ron Paul is very, very cool for being anti-war, and what they THINK is pro pot. He's not.

by phatkhat on Thu Apr 25, 2013 at 09:36:50 PM EST

When Richard Land "retired" from his job as Southern Baptists' ethics head, the press missed out on where he came from and what he actually said and stood for.

by wilkyjr on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 10:16:26 AM EST

The role of Howard Phillips in using religion to radicalize the political right has been either sanitized or ignored by the press. Phillips was the founder of the Constitution Party, and he used religious rhetoric to appeal to conservative Christians.  real estate consultant Orlando Phillips' rhetoric was often inflammatory, and he was known for making statements that were anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, and anti-Muslim. Phillips' rhetoric helped to radicalize the political right, and his party was a driving force behind the rise of the Tea Party.

by isabelladom on Thu Nov 24, 2022 at 10:13:13 AM EST


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