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Inside the Right-Wing Christian Law School That Brought Us Michele Bachmann

When Oral Roberts University sought to set up a law school, it called in Christian Reconstructionist Herb Titus. Michele Bachmann is the law school's most famous graduate.

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“I would say to you that someone who holds a Christian view such as Michele Bachmann does would be much more accommodating of different views than any liberals,” he told me, because her views would permit the public posting of the Ten Commandments, for example, but a liberal’s would not. 

That’s because, of course, under a “liberal” (i.e., accepted by the Supreme Court, at least for now) view of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, the government cannot act in a way that does, or appears to, endorse a particular religion.

Titus contends, however, that religion, as used in the Establishment Clause (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”) does not mean, well, a religion. Rather, Titus insists that this clause means that Congress cannot make you do anything that you are otherwise commanded by God to do: in other words, Congress cannot flout God.

Religion, Titus told the IOTC audience, “is the duty which we owe our Creator.” As Julie Ingersoll has described in detail, Rushdoony argued that God granted certain jurisdictional authority to the government, the church, and the family—therefore any government action exceeding its God-granted authority is in violation of God’s commands. Titus says the government has the power to make you, say, pay taxes, but other “duties we owe to God exclusively” cannot be enforced by the government.  

In Titus’ view, the First Amendment prohibition against Congress establishing a religion was actually intended to prevent Congress from establishing institutions that he maintains are tantamount to a religion, like public education, or National Public Radio. “I don’t believe what they teach in public schools,” Titus told his IOTC audience. “They don’t even believe in the first thing—that God is the source of knowledge.”

Indeed, as Titus himself was aware, the activism that launched Bachmann’s political career was an extended crusade against public schools in Minnesota (which, oddly enough, included a failed bid for a spot on her local school board, even though her own children did not attend public schools).

According to a 2006 Minneapolis City Pages profile, in 1993 Bachmann helped found a charter school in Stillwater “that ran afoul of many parents and the local school board when it became apparent that the school—which received public money and therefore was bound to observe the legal separation of church and state—was injecting Christian elements into the curriculum.” Later, Bachmann “became a prolific speaker and writer on the evils of public education.” 

Health Care, Guns, and Slavery 

In a 2009 interview with Glenn Beck, Bachmann said, “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back.” Both that statement and her characterization of health care reform as federal government excess that amounts to creating “a nation of slaves” and “tyranny,” draw on her Reconstructionist understanding of the Constitution.

Indeed, Bachmann possesses an alarming misunderstanding of the history of slavery that at once celebrates it as a heyday of African-American family life, and engages in revisionism about the founders’ view of it. She recently signed a “marriage pledge” in Iowa that included the statement (since removed): “sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American president.” She has also stated, incorrectly, that the founders “worked tirelessly” to end slavery. 

Peroutka and the IOTC, for their part, express affection for the Confederacy. In bestowing the “Courage of Daniel Award” on Moore on June 3, Peroutka, who frequently ribs people for being from the “wrong side of the Mason-Dixon line,” cheerfully noted that it also happened to be the birthday of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.