The extremist in Rutherford's closet
The founder and head of the Rutherford Institute, while financing Paula Jones' attack on the President, insists that he's "not out to get Bill Clinton." The same can't be said for his close friend, associate, and onetime Rutherford board member Frank Schaeffer, who has called Clinton and the Democratic Party the "spearhead of the new neo-Nazi eugenic movement." Schaeffer made these comments at an event organized by a group whose leader advocates the formation of militias and violence against abortion providers.
Analysis and Commentary by Mike Doughney and Lauren Sabina Kneisly
Rutherford and its founder, John Whitehead, are now financing the sexual discrimination lawsuit against President Clinton by Paula Jones that has spawned the most recent allegations of perjury involving Monica Lewinsky. Many have asked, why has Whitehead decided to take on such a case? How does Jones' case fit in with the Institute's announced goals, and is there some other, not-so-public agenda at work? And is there some broader "right-wing conspiracy" out to get the President by any means possible?
Whitehead is a protege' of notorious Christian "reconstructionist" R.J. Rushdoony, who advocates the death penalty for, among other things, homosexuality. He is also a student of theologian Francis Schaeffer, writer of A Christian Manifesto. Schaeffer advocated Christian action and political involvement in every aspect of life, as he thought the Christian influence would remedy social ills. Whitehead once said, "The challenge of the Christian attorney... is to be a vocal dynamic spokesman for the true legal profession - the one with Christ at its center - and to stop at nothing less than reclaiming the whole system." Central to Whitehead's thinking is that the foundations of the legal system are decaying and that the courts are becoming 'secularized,' and that Christians must act to return America to its alleged Biblical roots. "Part of the blame for the rise of violence in modern life rests with those who have advocated a valueless secularism. Without the checks and balances of traditional religion and its moral absolutes, the only way to maintain order is by using force."
While Whitehead may claim to be a changed man, other indications are that his changes may be primarily cosmetic. Whitehead shares with Rushdoony, along with many other far-right members of the Biblical America establishment, membership in the secretive Council for National Policy (CNP). As of 1996, both Whitehead and Rushdoony, along with others such as Pat Robertson, Howard Phillips of the U.S. Taxpayers Party, Oliver North, Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth, were members of the CNP.
Also disturbing is his relationship with Frank (Franky) Schaeffer, son of Francis Schaeffer and a founding board member of the Rutherford Institute. As recently as the summer of 1995, Schaeffer was a featured speaker as part of Rutherford's internship program. Schaeffer also produced Religious Apartheid and a number of other videos with Whitehead throughout Rutherford's history, including the film version of Whitehead's 1982 book, The Second American Revolution. An essay by Schaeffer appears in a 1985 Rutherford Institute report, Arresting Abortion.
We recently obtained a video of a speech Schaeffer made in Wisconsin in July 1992. The circumstances of the production of this video are of particular interest, as Schaeffer spoke at a prayer rally during the summer-long siege of Milwaukee abortion clinics organized by Missionaries to the Preborn. The Missionaries were founded, and are today led, by Matthew Trewhella, who is a signer of the Defensive Action statement endorsing violence "for the purpose of defending the lives of unborn children." Trewhella has also called for the formation of armed citizen militias. He has described Congress and others in the federal government as "low-life swine" and "totalitarian dogs."
Schaeffer was apparently quite aware of the Missionaries' activities and reputation. "Without people like Missionaries to the Preborn," he said, "there would be no letter writers to Congress because they would forget about the issue."
Schaeffer then launched into his vision of a totalitarian future with a remarkable misinterpretation of the Ridley Scott film, Bladerunner, claiming that the film "is the future of the United States of America if the pro-abortion side wins." He claimed that the film showed "yuppie fascists that control the society living in the high towers of Los Angeles, while on the street, it rains perpetually on second-class citizens, mutants, mere creations of genetic engineering in which false life forms are toyed with." That the genetically engineered "replicants" were not allowed on Earth, a fact central to the movie's plot, seems to have been missed completely by Schaeffer.
Schaeffer may well be accused of projecting Rushdoony's Reconstructionist vision onto a science fiction film. A different kind of sorting imposed on the human race is implied when Rushdoony writes, "The law here is human and also unsentimental. It recognizes that some people are by nature slaves and will always be so. It both requires that they be dealt with in a godly manner and also that the slave recognize his position and accept it with grace." Here the ruling elite are Christians, all others, slaves.
Having laid out the totalitarian future, Schaeffer then made it clear that the Democratic party and candidate were responsible for bringing that future closer to reality. "We have no excuse to tolerate any longer in our midst, whether they call themselves Democrats or not, such uncivilized behavior as that proposed by the national Democratic platform." The phrasing, "in our midst," is repeated later in his speech, when he says, "You have two tasks... One is to confront the uncivilized and barbarous second nation in our midst, those yuppie fascists who would tear the heart out of our country as they tear the limbs from children." It is clear that Schaeffer views our secular government as an illegitimate 'second nation,' that is not to be tolerated but instead removed and replaced with a government of a true nation from his viewpoint, solely based upon a particular interpretation of the Bible.
Schaeffer's comments about Clinton, therefore, should be viewed as nothing less than a call to civil war, which he openly acknowledged. "What we are engaged in, ladies and gentlemen, is not, is not a conflict of civil disobedience, it is not a political debate, it is not even a religious debate. We are engaged in the beginning of the second American civil war. That is the state of the union tonight." He echoes Whitehead's writing, in The Second American Revolution, "Like it or not, the church is at war."
As Schaeffer's comments are a call to war, he freely and openly uses wartime rhetoric, first evoking images of wars past. "Let us call Clinton and the Democratic party what they are. They are the spearhead of the new neo-Nazi eugenic movement." He then casts his enemy as uncivilized and barbaric, barely human. "These people are not civilized opponents with whom one can bandy words and arguments. These people for all their smiles and middle-class goodwill have about them the air and the stench of the concentration camp, the whip, the bullet in the nape of the neck, the curette, the saline solution, the oily smoke of human remains as it fouls our air."
"These people, these people are indeed our opponents. But they should be to us opponents in the same way that in Nazi Germany Hitler, Goebbels, Goering, Eichmann and company were opponents to Winston Churchill. That is the perspective on those who use death as a solution to social problems. They are beyond the pale."
Perhaps John Whitehead has done well in his attempt to develop his image of a reasonable, lawful man, distancing himself in the press from the more radical elements of Biblical America. The same cannot be said for one of his close associates, who has candidly and clearly laid out the terms of engagement of a new civil war - one that seeks to discredit, demonize and remove the leaders of our elected secular government and replace them with those who are sympathetic to the Biblical worldview and its literal interpretation by government.
The tape of Franky Schaeffer serves as a vivid illustration of exactly how some individuals feel about our elected government. The questions remain, to what degree do such attitudes fuel attacks on government leaders, are such attitudes widely held among our government leaders and functionaries, and is there any evidence of a 'conspiracy' of individuals or groups orchestrating such attacks?
We note that John Whitehead and R.J. Rushdoony, along with Rutherford founding board member Howard Ahmanson, are members of the Council for National Policy, a secretive organization that has been called the "virtual who's who of the Hard Right." Two members of the CNP, Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth, were seen lunching with a member of the judicial panel that appointed independent counsel Ken Starr. We see that allegations of abuse by Starr and his staff - the kinds of abuses that one might expect from people who have demonized their opponents, resorting to any means necessary to bring them down - are now surfacing.
The closest thing to a conspiracy may center on the Council for National Policy. Certainly this group is loaded with individuals who seek to use the Bible as a basis for American government, who attempt to rewrite our nation's history to make it appear as if that was the intention of this nation's founders, and who may be prepared to use antidemocratic methods to achieve their goals.
But perhaps a different, but no less dangerous, mechanism is at work. Three decades of the development and popularization of the ideology of Biblical America has created an enormous web of interaction among individuals and groups, which can be seen in the relationship among Whitehead, Schaeffer, Rushdoony, Ahmanson, and others. Whitehead wrote in The Stealing of America that the "rise of cosmic secularism" has created a situation with "ominous parallels to pre-Nazi Germany and the beginning of claims of total ownership by the state," using milder but very similar language that seems to have come from Schaeffer's vocabulary. While Biblical America views the secular world as the harbinger of the totalitarian state, its faithful minions have begun to act, not as a conspiracy but as a subculture, subverting democratic institutions to eventually warp our government into something resembling a fascist theocratic state. It is their vision of a future totalitarian regime, in which only approved Christians would have full citizenship, the Bible the basis of all law, and many of us live as slaves, that drives them.
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