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eXiled Alert! / May 6, 2011

Separated at Stone Age: Holocaust-denier R J Rushdoony…
…and Holocaust-dreamer al-Zawahiri?

On Tuesday May 3, a lawyer for the rightwing Rutherford Institute sent a threatening letter to The eXiled to punish and intimidate us because we reminded our readers about the dark, extremist homophobic ideology behind the early years of the Rutherford Institute and its co-founder, John Whitehead. The Rutherford Institute has waged a 15-year public relations campaign to recast itself as a “civil liberties” outfit similar to the ACLU, yet this same “defender of civil liberties” wants to crush The eXiled’s First Amendment rights to free speech over the crime of reminding readers that the outfit was co-founded by one of the most extreme anti-Semitic, homophobic monsters of our time, a Holocaust denier and eugenicist named R. J. Rushdoony.

Rutherford’s attorney sent us a letter objecting to two fully-sourced and documented statements in our April 28 article, Did You Fall for It? America’s Outrage Over TSA “Porn Scanners” Was Right-Wing PR to Prevent Workers from Unionizing:

1) Characterizing Rutherford Institute president John Whitehead as “a one-time Christian Reconstructionist,” which is true;

2) That his “outfit once advocated the death penalty for homosexuals,” which is true.

Rutherford’s lawyer, Tom Neuberger, wrote, “Neither The Rutherford Institute nor Mr. Whitehead, its president, have ever subscribed to Christian ‘reconstructionist’ ideologies. … And the outrageous assertion that the Institute ‘once advocated the death penalty for homosexuals” is clearly a complete fabrication.”

This is an outrageous, baseless and disgusting attack on independent journalism. An outfit that claims to be for civil liberties yet threatens journalists who print the truth, simply because the Rutherford Institute is trying to whitewash its past, is the height of hypocrisy and reveals that the Rutherford Institute has not changed one bit from its beginnings as an attack dog for far-right Holocaust deniers, anti-Semites and neo-Confederate fascists whose one goal was to intimidate and crush any opposition to their plan to turn America into a fundamentalist Christian nation along the lines of the Taliban.

We will report more about the Rutherford Institute’s threats to The eXiled and to others–one reader pointed us to a story in Delaware which resulted in a kind of pogrom against two Jewish families fighting a lawsuit against rabid Christian fundamentalists represented by the Rutherford Institute– and we’ll get into the dark, sordid history of the Institute’s founders and their beliefs, which make our factual statements that they object to seem as though, if anything, we were going far too light on Rutherford.

And to survive this assault, we will be asking for our readers’ support. Gary Brecher has agreed to return to the field of action, but only on condition that you support our effort to resist a 30-year-old rightwing outfit’s efforts to crush independent journalism.

God Hates Fags…So did Rutherford Institute co-founders

But first, there are so many credible sources backing our statement in our article characterizing John Whitehead as “a onetime Christian ‘reconstructionist’… whose outfit once advocated the death penalty for homosexuals” that they are too numerous to list. Here we provide a small sample of sources which repeat, expand on, and/or support this:

* From American University Professor Alan Lichtman’s book White Protestant Nation, a finalist for the 2008 National Book Critic’s Award for Non-Fiction:

“A movement known as Christian Reconstruction or Dominion Theology, led by Rousas John Rushdoony of the Chalcedon Foundation, Gary North of the Institute for Christian Economics, and John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, extended Schaffer’s absolutist thinking. Dominion leaders aimed to make America a Christian nation. They desired to ‘take back government from the state and put it in the hands of Christians.’ This meant replacing secular ‘self-law’ with ‘God’s law,’ which meted out harsh punishments, including death penalty for adulterers and homosexuals.” [pp 349, Atlantic Monthly Press, hardcover edition]

* David Brock’s bestselling book from 2002, Blinded By The Right:

“When various settlement offers were rejected by [Paula] Jones [the woman who sued President Bill Clinton for sexual harassment], Davis and Cammarata quit the case and were replaced by lawyers working with the right-wing Rutherford Institute, which had been founded with the support of Christian Right reconstructionist R. J. Rushdoony, who was an early board member.* …The Reverend R. J. Rushdoony believed that civil law should be replaced by Biblical law ‘to suppress, control, and/or eliminate the ungodly.’ He advocated the death penalty for abortion, adultery, sodomy, and incest as well as for blasphemers and ‘propagators of false doctrines.’ Rushdoony was also a Holocaust denier.” [pp 201. Three Rivers Press. 2002 paperback edition.]

* Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family, a 2008 New York Times bestseller:

“John W. Whitehead, a constitutional lawyer who counts Rushdoony as one of his greatest influences [pp. 349]…Rushdoony is best known as the founder of Christian Reconstructionism, a politically defunct but subtly influential school of thought that drifted so far to the right that it dropped off the edge of the world, disavowed as ‘scary’ even by Jerry Falwell. Most notably, Rushdoony proposed the death penalty for an ever-expanding subset of sinners, starting with gay men and growing to include blasphemers and badly behaved children.” [pp.347. Harper Perennial. 2008 paperback.]

* Mark Crispin Miller’s 2004 book, published by W.W. Norton, Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney’s New World Order:

“John Whitehead, an ex-student of Rushdoony’s, and introduced by him once at the council as a man ‘chosen by God,’ directs the Rutherford Foundation, a legal arm of the Chalcedon Foundation (which until his death was run by Rushdoony and funded by Howard Ahmanson). Rutherford’s important mission is to fight the legal battles on behalf of Reconstructionism.” [pp. 263]

* Frederick Clarkson, journalist, author and activist, in a chapter from the 1999 book Eyes Right: Challenging The Rightwing Backlash edited by Chip Berlet:

“The Rutherford Institute’s John Whitehead was a student of both Schaeffer and Rushdoony, and credits them as the two major influences on his thought. … [I]t is not surprising that Whitehead goes to great lengths to deny that he is a Reconstructionist. Rushdoony, introducing Whitehead at a Reconstructionist conference, called him a man ‘chosen by God.’ Rushdoony then spoke of ‘our plans, through Rutherford, to fight the battle against statism and the freedom of Christ’s Kingdom.’” … “The Rutherford Institute was founded as a legal project of R. J. Rushdoony’s Chalcedon Foundation, with Rushdoony and fellow Chalcedon director Howard Ahmanson on its original board of directors. Whitehead credits Rushdoony with providing the outline for his first book, which he researched in Rushdoony’s library. ” [p.69]

* Chris Hedges, writing about Whitehead’s mentor and partner in the Rutherford Institute in his 2006 book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America:

“The racist and brutal intolerance of the intellectual godfathers of today’s Christian Reconstructionism is a chilling reminder of the movement’s lust for repression. The Institutes of Biblical Law by R. J. Rushdoony, written in 1973, is the most important book for the dominionist movement. Rushdoony calls for a Christian society that is harsh, unforgiving and violent. The death penalty is to be imposed not only for offenses such as rape, kidnapping and murder, but also for adultery, blasphemy, homosexuality, astrology, incest, striking a parent, incorrigible juvenile delinquency, and, in the case of women, ‘un-chastity before marriage.’ The world is to be subdued and ruled by a Christian United States.  Rushdoony dismissed the widely accepted estimate of 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust as an inflated figure, and his theories on race often echo those found in Nazi eugenics, in which there are higher and lower forms of human beings. Those considered by the Christian state to be immoral and incapable of reform are to be exterminated.” [pp.12-13]

* The Southern Poverty Law Center’s magazine Intelligence Report called Rushdoony “a racist and a holocaust denier.” The SPLC describes the Rushdoony-founded Chalcedon Foundation, for which the Rutherford Institute was set up to act as its legal arm: “Rushdoony supported the death penalty for homosexuals, among other ‘abominators.’ He also opposed what he called ‘unequal yoking’ — interracial marriage — and ‘enforced integration,’ insisting that “[a]ll men are NOT created equal before God” (the Bible, he explained, ‘recognizes that some people are by nature slaves’). Rushdoony also denied the Holocaust, saying the murder of 6 million Jews was ‘false witness.’”

* Another co-founder of the Rutherford Institute, Rushdoony’s son-in-law, Gary North, has been described as a “bloodthirsty theologian” who “may actually be a psychopath” by Jeff Sharlet in his 2008 book The Family: “North […] may actually be a psychopath—he favors stoning as a method of execution because it would double as a ‘community project.’” [pp.348]. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Gary North advocates hiding the true agenda of the Christian Reconstructionist movement for obvious reasons: “Theonomists, and especially Reconstructionists, know their views are an anathema to most Americans. Reconstructionist ideologue Gary North, in fact, has written that Reconstructionists need ‘the noise of contemporary events’ to hide their goals. ‘If [non-believers] fully understood the long-term threat to their civilization that our ideas pose, they … would be wise to take steps to crush us.’” (“Confederates on the Pulpit” SPLC Intelligence Report. Spring 2001).

* From a Public Research Associates article:

“Whitehead believes, according to an article by Martin Mawyer published in the May 1983 issue of the Moral Majority Report, ‘That courts must place themselves under the authority of God’s law.’ Mawyer’s article explains, ‘The Institute states that ‘all of civil affairs and government, including law, should be based upon principles found in the Bible.’ That statement is a simplified definition of Christian Reconstruction, an important movement within evangelical Christianity.”

* Bill Moyers, interviewing R J Rushdoony in 1988, (six years after the founding of Rutherford Institute):

Moyers: You’ve written that the Bible calls for the death penalty, and I’m just running down a variety of things as you can see. You’ve written that the Bible calls for the death penalty of some 15 crimes: rape, sodomy, adultery.
Rushdoony: Adultery because in the Bible the basic institution is the family. There’s no law of treason against the state. The Bible doesn’t even imagine anything remotely like that. But the basic institution is the family. And so, several of the death penalties are associated with the family and its life.
Moyers: So adultery was considered a theft of the family.
Rushdoony: It was, yes, it was treason to the family.
Moyers: Homosexuality.
Rushdoony: Yes, it was treason to the family.
Moyers: Worthy of the death sentence?
Rushdoony: What?
Moyers: Worthy of the death sentence?.
Rushdoony: Yes.
Moyers: Deserving of the death sentence?
Rushdoony: Yes, that’s what [Apostle] Paul says.

Moyers: But you would re-instate the death penalty for some of these or all of these Biblical crimes?
Rushdoony: I wouldn’t—
Moyers: But the reconstructive society–
Rushdoony: I’m saying that this is what God requires. I’m not saying that everything in the Bible, I like. Some of it rubs me the wrong way. But I’m simply saying, this is what God requires. This is what God says is justice. Therefore, I don’t feel I have a choice.
Moyers: And the agents of God would carry out the laws.
Rushdoony: The civil government would, on these things.
Moyers: So you would have a civil government, based upon–
Rushdoony: Oh yes. I’m not an anarchist. I’m close to being a libertarian. But–
Moyers: But the civil law would be based on the biblical law. And so you’d have a civil government carrying out a religious mandate.
Rushdoony: Oh yes.

* Rushdoony and North were not only co-founders of the Rutherford Institute, but they were also regularly featured members of the “Rutherford Institute Seminars” speakers bureau. In other words, they were intimately tied to, part of, and speaking on behalf of the Rutherford Institute. Here is from a 1994 Anti-Defamation League report:

In the fall of 1986, the Traditional Values Coalition and Citizens for Excellence in Education advertised “Rutherford Institute Seminars” in which Rushdoony was a featured speaker — along with Rutherford Institute founder John Whitehead. Rushdoony was described in the advertisement as a “theologian…who presents scriptural framework for building orderly structures in society [sic].”

Whitehead, one of the country’s leading conservative evangelical attorneys, has called Rushdoony one of the two major influences on his thought. Rushdoony wrote the introduction for Whitehead’s The Separation Illusion, and the reconstructionist patriarch is the most frequently cited author in the bibliography for Whitehead’s The Second American Revolution — a favored text among evangelical activists (The Institutes for Biblical Law is among the works cited).

Rushdoony reportedly helped Whitehead found the Rutherford Institute, and has been a director of the Institute and a participant in its speakers bureau.

[Source: The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance & Pluralism in America. A publication of the Anti-Defamation League. (1994). pp 111]

Finally, we are not surprised that the Rutherford Institute—which claims to defend civil liberties, but seemingly behaves more like a right-wing attack dog outfit trying to intimidate critics of its far-right Christian agenda— sends a letter from a lawyer to suppress journalists from exercising their first amendment rights. From its very beginning in the early Reagan years, as Whitehead explained in a 1983 interview, “We need to be very aggressive, not passive. Take the initiative. Sue rather than waiting to be sued. That’s where we’ve [the Christian far-right] been weak. We’ve always been on the defensive. We need to frame the issue and pick the court. The [Rutherford] institute, if necessary, will charge that government is violating religious freedoms rather than the church waiting for the government to charge it with violating the law.” [Institute for First Amendment Studies.]

We’ve answered the Rutherford’s outrageous, anti-Constitutional threats and attempts to crush our civil liberties. Now we would like the Rutherford Institute to explain to us and to readers of The eXiled why it failed to successfully challenge the statements made by the authors in passages cited above, and how it claims to be a “civil liberties” outfit that has distanced itself from its extremist hateful past when it threatens to crush anyone who dares to report the truthful past.

—Mark Ames and Yasha Levine

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  • 1. Nacl  |  July 8th, 2013 at 8:23 am

    1st time to this site. Doing research on John W. Whitehead led me here. Good article in pointing out Whitehead’s beliefs, hypocrisy, and background. This information is important especially to those who are currently in the “religious right” camp who start to question their fearless leaders. By definition I’m “right” definitely not left, but that doesn’t mean I’m complicit with the beliefs of Rushdoony or Whitehead. I believe the vast majority of Right wingers neglect to vet their leaders and fully understand who they are blindly following. Their zeal for a more “moral” country lends them to follow some of the most corrupt and immoral of men. This is a catch 22. Just remember to temper your words and sarcasm knowing that your information may win a soul away from these mad men.

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