I recently published a story about a neo-Confederate theocrat in Democrat's clothing running for office in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. He is also running in the June 24th primary for the county Democratic Party Central Committee. In my story, I detailed how Pastor David Whitney is a dyed in the wool theocrat who has a history with the theocratic Constitution Party and with its 2004 presidential candidate, Michael Peroutka. Peroutka and Whitney are running as an odd couple ticket for the District 5 seat on the County Council. Whitney is running for the Democratic nomination, and Peroutka is running for the GOP nomination. (Peroutka is also running for the GOP County Central Committee.)
But in a blog post based on his sermon at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church, in Pasadena, MD on Sunday he denounced, but didn't deny my story. Let's examine what he said.
"As many of you already know," he declared, "I filed for the County Council campaign this past Monday in the 5th district of Anne Arundel County."
That much is certainly true. However, he never denies that he is a theocrat -- but perhaps because he lives so close to Washington, DC, he issues that staple of dishonest political discourse, a non-denial denial.
"It is interesting to watch some of the reactions. There are those who decry my campaign claiming I would impose a theocracy upon our county. It would appear that they think my belief system is a danger to their liberty."Yes, I am concerned indeed about his theocratic views. That is why I wrote about them.
"People say they want liberty yet God’s Word clearly teaches us that liberty under Gods’ Law is the only true path to freedom. All else is simply one or another road to serfdom and slavery."English teachers take note of the wonderful example of Orwellian doublespeak here. Whitney's totalitarian notions of God's Law are "the only true path to freedom." (Theocracy = Freedom) Logicians, also please note the illuminating example of the "no true Scotsman" logical fallacy. The only true path to freedom, you see, is via Whitney's notion of theocracy, which requires everyone -- individuals, families, church and civil government -- to knuckle under.
"So ultimately it is God’s direction and not our choices that lead to the path of blessing and the path of liberty. This is true not only for us individually, and as families and churches but also civil government. God’s Law is always the best for all because God’s Law is universal, it applies to everyone, everywhere and at all times."He concludes:
"So while the world around us falsely believes that there can be freedom apart from God’s Law, we know differently. We know true freedom comes in walking the path of liberty under God’s Law."Whitney suggests that those of us who do not accept his particular view of God's Law "would rather have a government that violates the law of God rather than keeps the law of God."
But Whitney was not always so skittish about declaring for theocracy. As I reported, he sermonized as recently as May 5th 2013:
“When you talk to people about God’s Law being restored in America, they say, 'Awww, you’re some ayatollah. Awww, you want a theocracy.' Well yes, I want obedience to God’s Law because that is where liberty comes from. Liberty comes from God’s Law. Tyranny comes when God’s law is rejected by a society as it has been rejected in our day. Indeed, any law made that contradicts God’s Law, what is it? It’s not law at all. You could call it unlaw or you could call it, as our founders did, pretended law. But it is not law if it violates God’s Law.”[see audio clip below]
Such views are not new for Pastor Whitney. In 2011, for example, he testified before the State Senate against marriage equality. He claimed that passage of marriage equality legislation would delegitimize the government. To make his argument, he invoked language from the Declaration of Independence in support of his notion of a "contract" between the government and the people. It is a ploy of last resort for theocrats because it mentions God. Unfortunately for theocrats everywhere, the Declaration has zero constitutional or contractual authority in the U.S. When we set out to establish a government, we wrote and adopted the document we call the Constitution. But he also invoked the Declaration in a contemporary revolutionary sense:
"In delegitimizing this current Government you will proclaim to the inhabitants of the Free State that the laws of this Government are not to be obeyed, that the taxes this Government claims are due, are not to be paid, that the courts of this Government as of now have no authority, that the executive branch and all its multitude of regulations and regulators can now be ignored and that We the People of the good State of Maryland are free from any obligation morally or legally to this Government, and we should from this point forward consider it as our Founders considered King George III."True North
There is one technical definitional distinction behind which Whitney could hide. But unfortunately, it is a distinction without much, if any, of a difference. The universal application of God's Law as Whitney describes it, is technically called "theonomy." The implementation of God's Law via clergy or clerically approved figures, is theocracy. But Whitney's vision of clerically vetted office holders gets him well within the definition of theocracy. In his sermon on February 17th, titled Rethinking Citizenship, he declared that citizenship should be restricted to Christians of the right sort.
"This means, as we have seen in the commands of Scripture, that we restrict citizenship to those who, because they are committed to the Covenant of Disciples of Jesus Christ, are willing to submit themselves to serve in the roles of responsibility in choosing leaders who will preserve God ordained order."Christian Right theorist Gary North, a prolific and influential Christian Reconstructionist writer, has long recognized that the problem theocrats have (and he does not shy away from the word or the idea) is that the Constitution of the United States and those who authored it and the states that ratified it were explicitly rejecting theocracy. By including Article 6, which proscribed religious tests for public office, everyone understood that this would lead to the disestablishment of state churches, extend the right to vote to all citizens, bar religious tests for citizenship itself, and be the bulwark of the very idea of religious pluralism. And that is exactly what has happened. (I discuss this in my book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy.)
But the wily North believes that the theocrats can prevail in what he thinks will be "an escalating religious war." He thinks that the answer for theocrats is very much like what Whitney prescribed. He thinks that the Constitution can be amended to limit citizenship to members of the correct sect, and that, "The long term national goal has to be the substitution of a Trinitarian national oath for the present prohibition against religious test oaths."
In 2012, I was honored to write an essay for The Islamic Monthly magazine about the meaning of religious freedom in our public life. I underscored how Thomas Jefferson, nearing the end of his life wanted to get in the last word on the meaning of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom -- which served as the model for the approach taken by the Constitution and its later modification, the First Amendment. He wanted us to remember that religious freedom was not just for Christians or for Christians of the correct sect, and the totalist keepers of Orthodoxy who decree who and what is correct. The statute, Jefferson wrote, contained "within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohametan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."
Theocrats like Pastor Whitney have never liked the Constitution and the First Amendment. This is why.