Michele Bachman, Christian Reconstructionism and the Law

By Mike Appleton (Guest Blogger)

When Byron York asked Michelle Bachmann last week whether, if elected President, she would be “submissive” to her husband, the audience reacted with a collective gasp, followed by scattered boos.  After a brief pause, Rep. Bachmann calmly replied that her relationship with her husband is one of mutual love and respect.

The criticism of the question was immediate and fierce.  Was it not sexist, paternalistic and condescending?  Did it not violate the spirit of religious pluralism? Did it not offend the principle underlying the constitutional ban on religious tests for public office?  Besides, had not the issue of a President’s private religious views been permanently placed off limits in 1960 when a Roman Catholic named John F. Kennedy assured the Greater Houston Ministerial Association of his commitment to “an America where the separation of church and state is absolute-where no Catholic prelate would tell the President, should he be a Catholic, how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote-where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference…”?

Appearing on Fox News the following day, Mr. York meekly defended his question as an effort to prepare Rep. Bachmann for what she can expect during the coming campaign, and stated that she had handled it quite well.  Mr. York’s timid explanation means that he did not understand the profound significance of his own inquiry.  Rep. Bachmann’s disingenuous answer means that she did.

In my view Rep. Bachmann’s religious beliefs are a mandatory topic for thorough examination and public debate.  Why?  Because she espouses a brand of Christianity that seeks not merely to transform the institutions of government, but to absorb them into a reconstructed society build upon a foundation of Old Testament law, a goal which implicates the Constitution and which strikes at the heart of the idea of secular government.

Michele Bachmann’s religion is grounded in the Christian reconstruction theology of A.J. Rushdoony, the late pastor and neo-Calvinist theologian.  At the center of Mr. Rushdoony’s teaching is the idea that the source of all human knowledge is God, and that the acquisition of knowledge must come through  the truth revealed by God in the sacred scriptures.  This belief required that he reject the rationalism of the Enlightenment as a sort of idolatry, the worship of autonomous human reason independent of God.     It follows from this thesis that the legitimacy of government requires its submission to the sovereignty of God through compliance with God’s law as outlined in the Bible, particularly the Mosaic law of the Old Testament.  His three-volume work “The Institutes of Biblical Law” is widely taught in Christian schools and colleges.  Reconstructionist theology demands of Christians that they exercise dominion over all creation, including social, legal and political institutions, and restructure them to properly reflect the sovereignty of God through biblical law.  Rushdoony thus shared with the Pilgrims the view of America as the shining city on the hill, the Kingdom of God on earth.  As a pure theocrat, Rushdoony regarded all law as religious in nature and firmly denounced democracy.

One of Rushdoony’s early disciples was Herb Titus, the Harvard trained lawyer who recently defended Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore in his unsuccessful effort to avoid removal from the bench after defying a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the state courthouse.  Mr. Titus was instrumental in the creation of the O.W. Coburn School of Law at Oral Roberts University and helped secure accreditation from the ABA despite the requirement that all students sign a pledge professing their Christianity.  The school’s goal was the training of lawyers committed to the principle that biblical law is the only acceptable foundation for civil law.  Rep. Bachmann was in the first graduating class.  The law school has since been closed and transferred to the law shool at Regent University, whose alumni include Monica Goodling, the former DOJ lawyer forced to resign after it was revealed that she was requiring prospective DOJ lawyers to satisfy ideological purity tests.  A prominent member of the faculty is John Ashcroft, the former U.S. attorney general under Pres. Bush who felt compelled to cover the bare breasts of the “Spirit of Justice” sculpture in the Justice Department.

Christian reconstructionists reject both religious pluralism and the concept of separation of church and state as a false notion championed by secular humanists.  They support the abolition of unions, elimination of minimum wage laws, the criminal prosecution of homosexuals and the dismantling of social welfare programs.  They regard the public school system as an un-Christian vehicle for collectivist indoctrinatiion of children.  It may be recalled that Rep. Bachmann first came to prominence in Minnesota through her activist promotion of home schooling. And yes, they embrace the biblical model of the patriarchal family with the husband at its head, guiding, protecting, instructing and correcting his wife and children.

So the question posed to Rep. Bachmann by Byron York was neither impertinent nor irrelevant.  If he and other journalists can be criticized for anything, it is for not asking the hard questions, for not asking Rep. Bachmann to explain the potential impact of her religious beliefs on the future structure of American legal, political and religious institutions.

Sources: Sharlet, J., “The Family” (2008); Phillips, K., “American Theocracy” (2006); Jacoby, S., “Freethinkers” (2004); McVicar, M.J., “The Liberation Theocrats,” 22 The Public Eye, No. 3 (Fall, 2007); Schutt, M.P., “Law and the Biblical Tradition: Select Bibliography for Christian Law Students” (found at lawcf.org).

51 thoughts on “Michele Bachman, Christian Reconstructionism and the Law

  1. It seems that she has already answered that question by spending a significant portion of her working life doing things she would not have been inclined to choose for herself by grounding her skills in a field she hated by her own admission.

    I agree that the depth of her religious belief and how that has worked and will work to inform her public life needs to be examined publicly and in depth.

    Good posting Mike A, thought provoking. Thanks for the genealogy of some of the major players and a brief history of Christian reconstruction theology.

    “…The question stemmed from a speech she gave in 2006 when she was running for Congress.

    Bachmann told a church in Brooklyn Park, Minn., that she hated taxes, but went on to study tax law in order to be “submissive” to her husband.

    “My husband said, now you need to go and get a post-doctorate degree in tax law. Tax law, I hate taxes. Why should I go and do something like that? But the Lord says, ‘Be submissive.’ Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands,” Bachmann told the crowd at the Living Word Christian Center. “Never had a tax course in my background, never had a desire for it, but by faith, I was going to be faithful to what I thought God was calling me to do through my husband, and I finished that course of that study.””


  2. The Constitution’s provision (in Article VI) that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States,” is widely misunderstood. It means that no person may be disqualified by law from holding office merely because of membership in a particular religious sect, or because of refusal to adhere to one. It does not mean, and never did, that the voters are barred from considering a person’s religious views as they might impact his or her conduct in office.

    This is especially important where a person expresses intentions to impose his or her religious views on those of us who do not share them. Had JFK not declared his intention to not let the Vatican dictate the shape of American civil law, non-Catholics would have been perfectly justified in voting against him. Lately Rep. Bachmann has been making noises to the effect that she believes in the separation of Church and State, but she has a long history of speaking and acting otherwise. That history is fair game, and the media should not allow themselves to be intimidated out of inquiring into it.

  3. Bruce, I agree with your contentions.

    I remember the Kennedy campaign and a hot topic even among those who were going to vote for him revolved how he could handle the ‘Catholic thing’ and weather or not the party had chosen the wrong man to be the candidate because of his religion. I recall my father talking with friends that had been disappointed that Kennedy distanced himself from his religion and saying that Kennedy had to make that declaration to get votes and that even as a Catholic himself he (my father) was not voting for the Pope, the Pope wasn’t in the race.

    Bachmann has also said recently to the effect that she doesn’t bear gay people ill will but has in the last few days called for the re-imposition of DADT. Is that her speaking or is it Marcus? These obvious contradictions in her positions need follow-up questions and some resolution.

  4. I was a teenager when Kennedy ran. My dad received a spoofed request from a fictitious Catholic group. He was asked to contribute a bowling ball to the group’s project of building a rosary for the Statue of Liberty. He was promised that – upon Kennedy’s election – the Statue of Liberty would be renamed Our Lady of the Harbor.

  5. I was ten when Kennedy ran. My folks were farmers and lived a community where my Dad could tell you who was related to who and how. Anyway, it was white, Christian and rural. The only ‘odd’ religion was one where the members didn’t eat meat. That just meant the other people would want to sit beside them at the pancake and sausage breakfasts so they could have the sausage.

    My parents had always been iinvoled in the local Democractic party. I remember riding into town with them to attend a political meeting. They were talking about how a lot of fellow Democrats didn’t want to support Kennedy. I asked why and the said because he was Catholic. To which I replied, “What’s a Catholic?”

  6. God called…I did not answer…Now I’m trying to return the call and I get the following messages: 1) the number has been disconnected; 2) that the person you are calling does not accepted private or restricted calls; 3) the wait time is 10 minutes and you have 9 minutes left on your prepaid phone; 4) your call has been placed in a que and yours will be the next one answered;5) your number has been blocked……and my favorite, please press *9 to have your options repeated…..

  7. What Bruce said. Fair game. Her religion is, sorrowfully, a major part of her campaign. She must now defend her position. She’s running for POTUS, for goodness sake. Everything she, her family, her ministers, her neighbors and friends have ever said, done or thought is subject to question and illumination by the media. Or at least it was for ONE of the 2008 candidates.

  8. Bachmann: God Told Me To Introduce Constitutional Amendment Prohibiting Same-Sex Marriage In MN
    By Igor Volsky on Apr 12, 2011
    Think Progress

    Potential 2012 presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (R-MN) stressed her conservative social policy credentials during an appearance in Iowa organized by the anti-gay group The FAMiLY Leader. To the pleasure of her hosts, Bachmann highlighted her support for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the almost defunct Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, while also speaking out against LGBT-friendly legislation like the 2009 Hate Crimes legislation and the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA).

    Bachmann said she has supported so-called traditional values all her life, but became aware of the importance of “defending” marriage in 2003, after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that denying marriage rights to same-sex couples violated the state constitution. After hearing about the ruling from a local Christian radio station, Bachmann — then a member of the Minnesota State Senate — went on a walk and, through prayer, discovered that God wanted her to introduce an amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman:

    BACHMANN: When that happened, I heard the news on my local Christian radio station in Minneapolis, St. Paul and I was devastated. And I took a walk and I just went to prayer and I said Lord, what would you have me do in the Minnesota state senate? And just through prayer I knew that I was to introduce the marriage amendment in Minnesota.

  9. pardon me?

    Ryan Lizza, the author of the New Yorker article, was interviewed on Fresh Air on NPR last week:

    The Books And Beliefs Shaping Michele Bachmann

    “To understand her, you have to understand the movement that she came out of,” Lizza tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “Her early ideological roots were formed by opposition to abortion … and she’s always been concerned with social issues, the culture war issues. … She takes her Christianity very seriously. She comes out of a religious evangelical conservative movement that is very much concerned with developing a biblical worldview and applying it to all corners of one’s life.”

    The Influence Of Francis Schaeffer And Nancy Pearcey

    Bachmann’s road to being born again started when she was in high school. She then went to Winona State University in Minnesota, where she met her husband, Marcus. In 1977, the Bachmanns watched a series of movies that were produced by the evangelical Francis Schaeffer called How Should We Then Live? Bachmann has cited the series on the campaign trail, telling an audience in Iowa that it was a profound influence on her life.

    “[In the series, Schaeffer] takes the audience through the entire history of Western culture through Roe v. Wade,” says Lizza. “The beginning chapters of this movie are all about where Christianity took wrong turns. For Schaeffer, it’s the Enlightenment. It’s the Italian Renaissance. It’s Darwinism. It’s secular humanism. It’s any point in history where he believes man turns away from God and turns away from putting God at the center of life.”

    But in 1973, Schaeffer’s focus began to shift from Western art and culture to abortion and the dangers of genetic engineering.

    “Schaeffer decides that all of his philosophy and all of the teachings that he had been teaching about the dangers of moving away from a Christ-centered world — everything he warned about — is now coming to fruition with the Roe decision,” says Lizza. “That the government is, in his terms, being taken over by an authoritarian elite. … I emphasize this to show that this is the movie that Michelle Bachmann says changed her life. This is the movie that got her radicalized on the abortion issue. To understand her, I think you have to understand Schaeffer a little bit.”

    Bachmann was also influenced by a student of Schaeffer’s named Nancy Pearcey, a well-known creationist and an advocate of Dominionism, the view that Christians are biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns.

    “Michele Bachmann has mentioned Pearcey’s book [Total Truth] as one that was important to her,” he says. “[The book] is in line with the Schaeffer-ite view of taking your Christian faith and making sure that it permeates all parts of your life. The key thing here is Christians should not just be go-to-church-on-Sunday Christians. Their religion should permeate all aspects of life.”

    The Influence Of John Eidsmoe

    In 1979, Bachmann enrolled in the first law school class at Oral Roberts University. Students at Oral Roberts were required to sign a “code of honor” attesting to their Christian beliefs and commitment.

    “It’s a law school that taught its students biblical law,” says Lizza. “[The school said] ‘You need to understand the Bible, you need to understand biblical law and that’s what the United States Constitution is built upon. And as a legal mind, you should understand when American law is and is not consistent with biblical law.'”

    While at Oral Roberts, Bachmann worked as a research assistant for one of the professors, John Eidsmoe. She has brought up his influence on the campaign trail, telling one audience in Iowa this year that he “taught me so many aspects of our godly heritage.”

    Eidsmoe’s 1987 book, Christianity and the Constitution, tells Christians that “they need to get politically active and they need to get involved with the legal system and they need to make sure American law is more biblically based,” says Lizza. “That’s what the book ends on, a clarion call for his students to get involved. … Eidsmoe is someone who believes American law should be based on the Bible. He believes that the United States is a Christian nation, should remain a Christian nation and that our politics and our law should be permeated by one’s Christian faith.”

  10. Why would we limit the inquiry solely to Rep. Bachmann? I’d say all candidates should be subject to this kind of scrutiny even if their religion is no religion. Any candidate can refuse to answer questions she finds too personal, and if that includes her religious beliefs or values, so be it.

  11. OS,

    I have still smiling about Marcus and Michelle eating the corned dog….M&M….guess they do not melt in your hand…..

  12. As SwM so well reminded us the Rev. Wright issue dogged Obama and was considered fair game. In Obama’s case it wasn’t him who brought his religion up. In Bachman’s case and in Rick Perry’s case their religion is central to both their campaigns, thus fair game for questioning.

  13. I agree with Swarthmore Mom and Mike S. on this one. Bachmann never hesitates to remind the listener of her religion and her desire to melt religion and government together.

  14. Mike S.,

    “In Bachman’s case and in Rick Perry’s case their religion is central to both their campaigns, thus fair game for questioning.”

    I agree. If you wear your religion on your sleeve, people will take notice. Bachmann has made her religious beliefs part of her politics. We, therefore, have the right to question the religious beliefs of a presidential candidate like her.

  15. eniobob,

    Sometimes pictures leave the imagination wide open…I could turn it into a Flynt style moment….but I leave the production credits to Larry…

  16. When I hear statements like ” I hate taxes” from Michelle Bachmann and
    Rick Perry’s desire to make Washington, DC as inconseqential as possible
    in our daily lives , I become concerned. Are they really touting their faith
    or are they just using talking points? Their eagerness to please the rich
    and the powerful would seem to go against what the Bible teaches about
    caring for this world and caring for each other. When they pray to God are
    they really listening or are they trying to conform the ministry of Jesus to
    their own belief system?

  17. @Curt Sjostrand:
    They do not abide by any ministry, they simply wish to use big money as the reagent in their desire to spread their false Christendom like cancer, and worship both Him and Mammon both. Every society warns us of those like them, from ancient tribes to Enlightenment secularists.

    I’m an atheist and even I’m offended at what they’ve done to religion.

  18. http://www.democracynow.org/2011/8/15/bachmanns_iowa_straw_poll_win_signals

    SARAH POSNER: Well, Bachmann went to the law school at Oral Roberts University, which, later, after she graduated, got absorbed into Regent University, the university founded by Pat Robertson in Virginia Beach. But I did a story last month about Oral Roberts and the type of legal education that she got there, and it was very much along the lines of what I just described before with this view of constitutional law, that God grants certain authority to government, the Church and the family, and that your rights are granted by God, and if the government infringes on those rights by exceeding the authority that it was granted by God, then that’s tyranny. The whole aim of Oral—founding Oral Roberts University was to, in the mind of the founders, reinstitute biblical law over man’s law in jurisprudence and in politics, and to train lawyers and future leaders, just like Michele Bachmann, to rise to the level of leadership that she has risen to.

  19. If the governor and the congress-woman make religion the cornerstone of their campaigns, thereby attempting to out-Jesus each other, they deserve to be grilled to the point of adopting atheism.

    I think it’s safe to say that the majority of Americans do not want to live in a theocracy, and if you think Fascism is bad, wait until you see the joys these people have in mind for us.

  20. John Kennedy, while pursuing the Presidency, would have been cautiously aware of the defeat of Al Smith in the 1928 Presidential Election. As Smith was both a Catholic and an anti-prohibitionist, he was an easy target for narrow-minded discrimination of the voters. I doubt that Hoover’s advisors had to resort to dirty campaign advertising.
    In parts of our country anti-Catholicism could still be found during the 50’s and 60’s. As well as other prejudices.

  21. Michele Bachmann: Crazy Like a Fox
    She won the Ames straw poll on Saturday and is the clear favorite to win the Iowa caucuses in January. There’s a method to Michele Bachmann’s madness.
    —By Tim Murphy
    Mother Jones, 8/15/2011

    THERE’S A STORY Michele Bachmann likes to tell when she speaks to religious audiences. It arrives about three-quarters through her stump speech, after the warning to opponents that she is “one tough cookie” and the crowd-pleasing pledge to make Barack Obama a—say it together—”One. Term. President.”

    As Bachmann tells it, America’s national sovereignty is slipping away, and the sanctity of the family is being overrun by an encroaching nanny state. But we can find hope in the story of the Israelites, who, after drifting from their faith and coming under siege in their own land, shunned their false idolatry and pushed back the invaders with God’s help: “The men of Issachar understood the times that they lived in, and they knew what to do,” she says, referring to one of the 12 tribes of Israel. “They had the courage to carry it out.” Although Bachmann doesn’t note this, it’s the only episode in the Bible in which men are led into battle by a woman, Deborah.

    This is Michele Bachmann’s message, in its biblical essence: America will be restored to its founding glory by a righteous few, and it’s going to take a fight. “It is my opinion that God has not given up on the United States of America,” she says, the crowd beginning to feel it, “and we shouldn’t either.”

    Since her election to Congress in 2006, Bachmann has earned a reputation as one of the lower chamber’s biggest bomb throwers. She has accused the president of harboring “anti-American” views, warned that census data could be used to round up dissenters into internment camps, and declared that the Treasury Department is quietly planning on replacing the dollar with a global currency. To her critics, Bachmann is flat-out crazy, a purveyor of, as Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) put it, “psycho talk.”

    But beneath language that seems cribbed straight from Glenn Beck’s magical chalkboard, there is a method to the congresswoman’s madness. Her rise was not a fluke, and she is not, as Fox News’ Chris Wallace clumsily implied in June, a “flake.” Bachmann’s candidacy represents the crest of a movement, four decades in the making, to restore faith as the foundation of public life in America—from public schools on up to the White House.

    From her days as an abortion protester and conservative foot soldier, she has climbed the ranks, at every step of the way reshaping the political dynamic around her to reflect her own frenzied style. In some respects, her career arc mirrors the president’s—a restless youth, a life-changing trip abroad, a stint as a community organizer, and then a rapid rise from the state legislature to the US Capitol. Now she wants Obama’s job.

  22. I loved Bill Maher’s piece about Bachmann even though it was past history from several months ago.

    There was one mistake in it that actually makes the point even more emphatically. At the beginning and the end there is a note about sheeple with the sound of sheep baaing in the background. The picture, however, shows an Angora goat. This is more appropriate because the individuals who take Bachmann seriously are the “goats” that, according to the New Testament, will be cast from God’s presence on Judgment Day.

  23. Michele needs to be asked, over and over, until she answers without equivocation:
    “Suppose you are elected President. If you decide on Policy X but your husband says, ‘no, I deem that you should pursue Policy Y,’ which would you pursue – your policy or your husband’s?
    That is, would your husband have an absolute right to review and overrule your actions? Who would be president, you or your husband?”

    And this needs to be hammered at her again and again until she answers.

    (And while we’re at it, I’d like to have someone ask her how old she thinks the earth is…..)

  24. Mespo,
    I don’t know if the question actually has to be asked. She will spit it out in one way or another during her so-called campaign without even asking. She is trying to live and die by her alleged Christianity, as is Perry.

  25. Bachmann Still Claiming Income From Federally-Subsidized Farm She Insists She Doesn’t Benefit From
    By Pat Garofalo
    Think Progress Economy
    Aug 16, 2011

    A few months ago, the Los Angeles Times pointed out that virulenty anti-government spending Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was receiving income from a farm that collected federal subsidies. Bachmann responded by claiming, “the farm is my father-in-law’s farm, it’s not my husband and my farm. My husband and I have never gotten a penny of money from the farm.” However, Bachmann claimed income from the farm on her 2009 financial disclosure form.

    As McClatchy noted today, Bachmann — all her protests aside — claimed income from the farm again in 2010, which were filed last week:

    Despite repeatedly asserting that she has never received income from a family farm that has drawn federal subsidies in the past, Rep. Michele Bachmann again listed the farm as a source of income when she filed her 2010 personal financial disclosures late last week. Bachmann, R-Minn., also reported that the farm had more than doubled in value since 2009. […]

    Bachmann’s financial disclosures paint a different picture. Since 2006, she has reported receiving between $37,504 and $120,000 in income from the farm, including between $5,001 and $15,000 that she disclosed for the 2010 calendar year.

    Bachmann also reported that her farm doubled in value over the past year: “In 2009, Bachmann listed the farm as an asset worth between $100,001 and $250,000. In her 2010 forms, Bachmann valued the farm between $500,001 and $1 million.” The counseling clinic that Bachmann runs with her husband has also received federal funding.

  26. If we brought back biblical law then females wouldn’t be running for office, and any male who even looked at a woman with lust in his eyes would be subject to stoning? Divorce of course, would go away and so would a lot of other things that this world prides itself in, including the sin of pride. Now that would be an interesting world indeed. Would probably wipe out the largest majority of the population, because coveting money is a big no-no. Hmmmm…. Things to ponder.

  27. […] In other words, Christian reconstructionism  is both a religion and a set of laws, thus contradicting Cain’s assertion that Islam is unlike at least one of America’s religions that at least one of the GOP’s candidates subscribes to.  Michele Bachmann subscribes to this version of Christianity, as noted by Mike Appleton in his article, Michele Bachmann, Christian Reconstructionism and the Law. […]

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