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).