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Alaska GOP official defends fondness for biblical law advocate Rushdoony

Craig Medred

As if the Alaska Republican Party wasn't swimming in enough controversy -- what with the chairman-elect ousted and appealing, his replacement booted and thinking about appeal, and both claiming they were wrongly removed -- it now turns out the party rules committee chairman, who might or might not be the rules committee chairman, is a fan of the late Rousas Rushdoony.

Rushdoony was an advocate for the implementation of Biblical law in the U.S. He might be thought of something of the Christian version of the mullahs calling for sharia law in countries where Islam is the dominant religion.

Fairbanks North Star Borough Assemblyman Lance Roberts, whom Kasilof's Debbie Brown appointed to chair the party's rules committee before she herself was ousted has head of the Alaska GOP, said this week he is a fan of Rushdoony. His association with one of the leaders of philosophy of Christian Dominionism became an issue when a Fairbanks resident raised the question of why Rushdoony was so often quoted on Roberts' Facebook page.

Roberts in an email, his preferred means of communication, said he is prepared to be judged by both the electorate and God on this issue.

"I have no problem quoting a Christian like him, as I am a Christian and won't be apologizing for being one," he wrote. "I don't see there being a problem with someone attacking my faith in Fairbanks; that's most of what they attacked when I got elected, and most voters saw through it.  If they don't next time, then I'll have more free time."

Roberts is a newly elected member of the Fairbanks Assembly. His status as an official of the Alaska Republican Party is less clear. He was appointed chair of the rules committee by Brown just before she was voted out as party chairwoman. He was never confirmed, as required, by the party's state central committee. His main party action to date was to chair a teleconference of a Brown-appointed rules committee which decided a complaint against Brown was unfounded and thus shouldn't be heard by the party's state executive committee.

Attorneys for the party have since said Brown's rules committee had no authority to try to cut off a hearing on the complaint against her. They also said that it appeared she was legally removed by the executive committee and that Peter Goldberg was appointed party chairman per party rules. But the party sent two chairmen to the meeting of the Republican National Committee in Hollywood this month as it continues to sort through the question of who really should be in charge.

That is not going to be officially decided until the state executive committee meets in Homer on May 25 to hear an appeal in the case of Russ Millette, the party chairman who never was. Leader of a Libertarian-Christian takeover of the party in April 2012, chairman-elect Millette was voted out of office as incompetent by the party's executive committee the day before he was to take office.

Party politics have been wild ever since, with Roberts' fondness for the controversial Rushdoony now headlining the show. Rushdoony, in a friendly 1998 interview with Bill Moyers of PBS, said that while he might not like some of God's laws -- for instance, the death penalty for adultery or homosexuality -- those laws need to be implemented in the U.S. to save society.

"I'm saying that this is what God requires," Rushdoony said. "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."

Rushdoony, who died in 2001 at age 84, remains to this day controversial enough that some political commentators have suggested current political fans of his, like Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and others, might not be familiar with Rushdoony's views on Biblical law.

"Granted, it's not clear that all of these candidates have read or even heard of Rushdoony's work. But Michael McVicar, an Ohio State University scholar who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the obscure theologian's impact on conservative thought, insists that the man has exerted a profound, if subterranean, influence on the modern Right," reporter Chris Smith wrote in the fall 2012 issue of California magazine.

California is published by the Cal Alumni Association at the University of California at Berkeley. UC Berkeley has a special interest in Rushdoony. He is an alumnus who went on to financial success. He founded the Chalcedon Foundation, a million-dollar, nonprofit think tank now run by his son, Mark.

Chalcedon advocates an American theocracy:

"In a theocracy ... God and His law rule. The state ceases to be the over-lord and ruler of man. God's tax, the tithe, is used by godly men to create schools, hospitals, welfare agencies, counsellors, and more. It provides, as it did in Scripture, for music and more." 

Roberts said he is familiar with all of this and indicated no concerns with Rushdoonian philosophy. He also defended the founder of Chalcedon against accusations that he was an anti-Semite.

"He's certainly no anti-Semite," Rorberts said. "If you look at the SPLC's (Southern Poverty Law Center's) hate group list, you'll find a ton of Christian, Catholic and pro-life groups in there.  Their strategy is to pick obvious hate groups like skinheads and the KKK and mix in the conservative groups to try and force the association in people's minds. Rushdoony was also big in the homeschool movement when it was getting started so that brings out the liberal ire."

Others, both right and left, have lodged similar charges against the Southern Poverty Law Center. Dana Milbank, a columnist for The Washington Post, called the organization "reckless" in the way it tosses around the label "hate group."

And the evidence that Rushdoony was an anti-Semite does appears thin, but the same is not true with charges he is a Holocaust denier. In his book, "The Institutes of Biblical Law," Rushdoony claimed the commonly cited death count of 6 million Jews was a lie, and suggested the number should be somewhere between 896,292 and 1.2 million. He also argued that many of those likely died of "epidemics," not Nazi executions.

Historian Raul Hillberg's book, "The Destruction of the European Jews," based on German records from the Second World War, put the number of dead at 4.9 to 5.4 million. Though the book has been criticized by some as underplaying the horror of the Holocaust, it is considered by most to be a definitive work.

Still, Roberts said, if Rushdoony argued only a fraction of that many people died in Adolph Hitler's death camps, the possibility should be considered.

Rushdoony "came out of the Armenian genocide," Roberts wrote, "so I don't think he would ever discount the Holocaust. But he's an extremely accurate historian; if he has a take on different numbers, then that bears looking into. I've never bothered to study those numbers."

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com