Will the Real Institute on the Constitution Please Stand Up?

Last week, a representative of the Institute on the Constitution, John Lofton, touted a  new initiative to alert elected officials that they must administer God’s law rather than make their own laws. Called the God and Government project, Lofton wants followers to go to town council, school board and other local government meetings with 2-3 minutes speeches promoting the IOTC view of civil government.  You can read all of them at the link, but I will cite the first one.

Suggested Statement for Those Going Alone

(The greeting you are most comfortable with but one that is respectful)

My name is __________________. And I wanted to come here this evening to tell about what God says is the duty of those holding the public office you hold.

In the 13th chapter of the book of Romans in the New Testament, God’s says that those who govern us, such as this (yourselves, this Council, whatever) are ministers of God — that actual word “minister” is used. And that you are a minister of God to us for good, for good, as defined by God’s Word. And that you are, conversely, to bring wrath on those who are evil — evil as defined by God’s Word.

Thus, your job is ministerial and not legislative. Your job is to administer and apply God’s Law. And this means it is not the role of government to house or feed or clothe or give health care or education or welfare to anyone.  There is no Biblical authority for that kind of thing. The provision of those things is the job of Christ’s Church.

Romans 13 also tells us that a law is just or unjust depending on whether it is in accord with what God says or whether it is at odds with God’s Law. That is the teaching of the Bible, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, the British jurist William Blackstone and Martin Luther King in his “Letter From The Birmingham Jail.”

In that “Letter,” Dr. King said, and I quote: “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God….An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law,” unquote. King said, and again I quote him directly: “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’.” The word legal in this letter is in direct quotes, King’s point being that what Hitler did in Nazi Germany was not  legal because it was against the Laws of God.

Thank you very much. And may God bless us all as we obey Him.

There is a lot wrong here, but I want to focus on the surprising citation of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let’s review: The IOTC’s founder and director is Michael Peroutka who is a board member of the neo-Confederate, Southern secessionist League of the South. Peroutka pledged the resources of the IOTC to the League and even told a League audience that he acquired what he knows about government from the League. What does the League think of Martin Luther King, Jr.?

One could start with this review of a book on Martin Luther King, Jr., by John Lofton. After reviewing recitations of allegations about King’s character and morality, Lofton concludes:

In a nutshell,’ what Mr. Garrow’s book demonstrates is that King was one of the most grossly immoral hypocrites in American history.

and then

Well, indeed, Martin Luther King was not a saint, to put it charitably. And thanks to the scholarship of David Garrow, we now know that he was “perhaps worse” than even Buchanan imagined. But to think that this man is honored with a national holiday, and for as much as a week at a time he is honored as a saint in thousands of our public schools. What a disgrace! 

If he is such immoral person, then why quote him Mr. Lofton?

Then, in a press release in 2005 from the League of the South on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day we learn the League’s view. Written by Peroutka’s fellow board member and League president Michael Hill, the release leaves no doubt about the League’s position on King:

In a day when every facet of traditional Anglo-Celtic Southern heritage is called evil—including the thoughts and actions of Lee and Jackson—I am in no mood to mince words. The “Reverend” “Dr.” Martin Luther King, Jr., far from being the saint of recent liberal myth, was nothing but a philandering, plagiarizing, left-wing agitator. Conversely, Lee and Jackson were paragons of Christian manhood, though not without fault. But this year, as always, King is the object of veneration by liberals of every color and stripe, while Lee and Jackson are held in utter disdain. Even some so-called “conservatives” sing MLK’s praises, choosing to keep silent about Lee and Jackson, in hopes that they will not be called “racists” by the left-wing media.

and…

Only a sick and reprobate society would elevate Martin Luther King, Jr., and demonize Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The former sought to manipulate white guilt and use the power of national government for the ends of black racial advancement; the latter risked their lives on the field of battle to preserve the true principles of Constitutional government and the integrity of their homeland. To King and his ilk (both then and now), the U.S. Constitution and the Bible are nothing more than words to be twisted in service of the liberal vision of the good life. To Lee and Jackson, and those who honor them, they are the wellsprings of Christian liberty and prosperity.

There can be no compromise between the worldviews of those who follow MLK and those who salute Lee and Jackson. Moreover, there is no way that a man can, in good conscience, pay homage to both sides at the same time. 

At present, the IOTC appears to pay homage to both sides. On one hand, Michael Peroutka writes for League publications, speaks at League meetings, gladly joined the League’s board of directors and pledged the resources of the IOTC to the League. On the other hand, his organization favorably cites Martin Luther King, Jr. What a hypocritical ploy this is.

King’s letter from the Birmingham jail was addressed to clergy who opposed his non-violent resistance approach to inequality. The League of the South has no sympathy for African-Americans who suffered under Jim Crow laws and worse. In fact, Michael Hill defended Jim Crow laws. In a League essay, Hill said:

Whereas whites and blacks in the antebellum South had lived and worked together in close proximity, once the situation changed at the end of the war (especially with the passage of the Reconstruction amendments) some new arrangement became necessary if whites were to preserve their society. Few Southerners of the late nineteenth century believed that whites and blacks could live together in a state of equality without serious social consequences for both races. Therefore, postbellum Southern blacks were disenfranchised and “Jim Crow” laws resulted in a segregated South (today “Jim Crow” has been replaced by what might be called “Jim Snow” policies that discriminate against whites). Through these measures white Southerners were able to exert some control over a still primitive black population. Nonetheless, the “black community” of the late nineteenth century began to experience problems largely absent prior to 1865: black-on-black crime, illegitimacy, abject poverty, disease, and family disintegration, among others. Despite trillions spent on welfare and other programs, these problems–and many others–still plague the “black community” in the present day. Clearly there is an ever-present problem here that emancipation and money did not solve. 

In another essay (see also this one), Hill decried the civil rights movement led by King:

Sadly, our true interests were compromised and sold for a mess of pottage by our so-called leaders a long time ago. For instance, if the South had had real leaders of the people there would have been no second reconstruction known as the civil rights movement. 

Either the IOTC has betrayed the League or there is an effort to obscure the sentiment of the League to which the IOTC has been pledged.  If the IOTC really wants to celebrate civil rights and the legacy of King, publicly and decisively step away from the League of the South.

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  • Anne

    They also don’t seem to understand what “minister” means. To minister is not to be a priest, to minister is to care for someone, to “feed or clothe or give health care or education or welfare.”

    I don’t think that government officials are ministers, but it’s pretty silly to insist that this is their primary job and then insist that they have no authority to do it.

  • Richard Willmer

    This ‘God’s Law’ stuff is really very dodgy. Jesus (the Human Face of God – the Word) never laid down a ‘detail prescription’ for how a society should be ‘run’.

    MLK was surely quite right to say that “an unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.” But what is the moral law really about? I think the exchange between the Word Made Flesh and a young theological (‘lawyer’) that led to telling of the parable of the Good Samaritan is most revealing (Luke 10 : 25 – 29).

    (The JB translation has Jesus asking he lawyer “How do you read it [ie. the Law]? This is interesting, as the question being asked is surely “what does ‘the Law’ really mean? what is really about?”)

  • James Ferguson

    Unbelievable! Obviously, these persons can’t hear themselves speak. Yet, this seems to be the thoughts of the Tea Party and its offshoots these days. I have to figure that guys like Peroutka and Lofton would have been much more comfortable with the Articles of Confederation than they are with the Constitution, which contradicts virtually everything they have to say.

  • JCF

    God, I can read that racist sh*t w/o wanting to take a bath. Absolutely disgusting. [ "exert some control over a still primitive black population": who was "primitive"? The lynch-mobs or their victims?]

  • Patrocles

    Perhaps, if you don’t accept MLK as an authority, you shouldn’t accept his doctrine about God’s law. I don’t know, and it doesn’t follow, from a logical point of view.

    But certainly, if you accept MLK as an authority, you should accept his doctrine about God’s law, too. And do you?

    (Richard Willmer doesn’t, but he is one of the more thoughtful persons here.)

    The problem you try to avoid is the problem that there are two variants of theocracy, a rightwing and a leftwing. And you won’t see that because you won’t have to decide between a leftwing theocracy and no theocracy at all.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

      Pat – Someday when I understand what you are talking about, I may be able to answer your questions.

  • David M

    In 2010, Bruce Loebs published a fascinating study entitled “Hitler’s Rhetorical Theory.” It’s fairly easy to find online. Two of the principles of Hitler’s rhetoric might be of some help here in understanding the contradictions apparent in IOTC and LoS materials.

    First, “Propaganda, propaganda, all that matters is propaganda” (Mein Kampf [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1943]). Hitler wrote, “The function of propaganda is not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right you have set out to argue for… Propaganda’s task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly” (MK 182). I presume then, if one can twist the words of an enemy like MLK Jr to say what you want to say, so much the better.

    Second, tell a big lie, not a small one. “In the size of the lie there is a certain factor of credibility, because, with the primitive simplicity of their feelings the masses fall victim more easily to a big lie than to a small one… And

    even with the explanation of the matter the masses long hesitate and vacilate and accept some ground as true. Consequently, from the most bold lie something will remain” (MK 231-2). So perhaps the idea that this new Confederacy will be welcoming to blacks and other races is a big lie, intended to make the idea of the Confederacy more palatable to the emotions of the masses (for which Hitler had contempt). Using a misappropriated quote here and there from MLK would only reinforce this big lie.

    From what I’ve seen here, I cannot say for sure that IOTC and LoS are following Hitler’s rhetorical playbook. Perhaps though, knowing Hitler’s theory gives us a paradigm by which we might understand the split-tongued nature of their communications.

  • David M

    Pat, I think you have misread Richard Wilmer, though I certainly want to let Richard speak for himself. I think Richard is calling into question the right-wing version of theocracy by which the specific commands of God (Thou shalt not…) are immediately translated into human laws.

    What you call a left-wing version of theocracy is not theocracy in the normal understanding of that word. It doesn’t take the specific commands of God and make them civil laws. Rather — and I think this is what Richard is getting at — it takes the value of love (as represented by the two commands Jesus says sum up the law) and tries to work out what those might mean in society today. There is no promulgation of the laws to love God and love neighbor as civil laws per se. In short, I think your so-called left wing version of theocracy is a rhetorical device to obfuscate the sharp differences between living by biblical laws and living by biblical values (which are also widely held human values). Clever, but illogical.

  • John Lofton

    What King’s view on what constitutes a just law proves is that even “one of the most grossly immoral hypocrites in American history” can, on occasion, by God’s grace, be right about something.