Meet the Christian Reconstructionists Behind the Latest Birther Theory

Forget the birth certificate. President Obama is not eligible to be president of the United States because he is not a “natural born citizen” as defined by Article II of the Constitution, which was based on Deuteronomy 17.

This was the message delivered by Herb Titus at yesterday’s “First Friday” lecture hosted by the Institute on the Constitution, an organization run by lawyer and former Constitution Party presidential candidate Michael Peroutka, which purports “reconnect Americans to the history of the American Republic.” The republic, the IOTC maintains, is comprised of “Sovereign States with a central government of purposely limited powers based on Biblical principles.” Titus spoke to an audience of about 200 people at the Heritage Community Church in Severn, Maryland.

During the question and answer session of Titus’ lecture on what he claims is the true meaning of the First Amendment, several audience members raised questions reflecting anti-immigrant sentiment, one in opposition to the DREAM Act, and the other in opposition to citizenship of “anchor babies.” The anchor baby question prompted Titus and Peroutka to launch into a discussion of whether Obama was a “natural born citizen” and therefore eligible to be president. He is not, they insisted, because he has “divided loyalties.”

Afterwards, John Lofton, the communications director for the IOTC, told me that Titus has been speaking about his theory to Jerome Corsi and Joseph Farah. Corsi is best known for his false and conspiracy-mongering books Unfit for Command (swiftboating John Kerry) and The Obama Nation (published in 2008). Farah is the editor of WND, the website that has played a key role in promoting birtherism. Lofton said he expected Titus’ theory to figure in Corsi’s forthcoming book, which is already being promoted on WND. (Lofton was critical of WND for focusing too much on the birth certificate rather than on this, in his view, more critical question.)

Both Lofton and Titus are admirers of R.J. Rushdoony, the intellectual godfather of Christian Reconstructionism. Although Titus has denied the label Christian Reconstructionist, he nonetheless doesn’t deny its influence on him, telling me last year that Rushdoony’s seminal Institutes of Biblical Law has shaped his jurisprudential thinking. Titus ran on the Constitution Party (then known as the US Taxpayers Party) presidential ticket with Constitution Party founder Howard Phillips in 1996. The Constitution Party’s platform includes the aim of restoring “American jurisprudence to its biblical premises.”

Titus’ clients have included the far-right Gun Owners of America, which opposes all gun regulation, Rep. Ron Paul (in a challenge to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law), and former judge Roy Moore, who lost his position for defying a federal court order to remove his 2.6-ton monument to the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore is a hero to the IOTC; Peroutka told the First Friday audience that he was “honored” to serve on Moore’s presidential exploratory committee, and that Moore would be the speaker at next month’s First Friday event.

Titus’ “natural born citizen” theory, which he appears to have come up with entirely on his own, goes something like this: the birth certificate issue is irrelevant. Rather, President Obama, who Titus has called a “demagogue,” is ineligible to be president because he didn’t have two loyal American citizens as parents. Titus claims that the Founders, in putting the “natural born citizen” requirement in Article II of the Constitution, meant to ensure that presidents are “singularly loyal to the Constitution.” That concept, he insists (without proof), comes from Deuteromony 17:

Deuteronomy 17 says you shall not take a king from anyone other than from your brethren. In other words, if you are the son of a father who is from Judah, and a mother who’s from Moab, you are not eligible to be king. Why? By the law of nature, when you are placed in a particular nation, it comes with a loyalty, a built-in loyalty to that nation. Look at how divided Barack Obama is. He’s divided. He has a very weak mother in terms of her loyalty to the nation and a strong father who is disloyal to the nation. No wonder he does what he does. He’s inclined to be that way. That’s why he doesn’t meet the natural born citizen requirement for president of the United States.

Peroutka chimed in: “all the debate that’s been about where he was born doesn’t matter. The point is, who’s your daddy, and your mommy, that’s where your loyalty is. . . . His father — he’s not eligible to be president of the United States.”

Afterwards, Lofton provided me with a recording of an interview he did with Titus late last month, in which Titus laid out this theory in greater detail. He noted how others, like Dinesh D’Souza, have hinted at it by saying Obama exhibits the “Kenyan, anti-colonialist” behavior of his father. He asserted that Obama also demonstrated disloyalty by aiming to be a “global citizen.”

Titus maintained that Obama’s presidential eligibility is not a legal question for the courts to resolve (perhaps because he doesn’t trust the courts to interpret the Constitution in his own, singularly “biblical” way. Or, as Peroutka put it, case law demonstrates the “evil of evolutionary thinking.”) Rather, Titus predicted, his completely novel and baseless claim that Obama is not a “natural born citizen” will be a political issue in the 2012 presidential campagn.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email