The Radical Background of Harry Reid’s GOP Opponent

Justin Elliott reports at TPM that Sharron Angle, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from Nevada was, in the 1990s, a member of the Independent American Party, the Nevada affiliate of the Constitution Party. 

The Constitution Party is not merely a political party that supports the Constitution, but rather a party that promotes a very specific interpretation of the Constitution: based on founder Howard Phillips’ Christian Reconstruction. No conspiracy theory here; Phillips has explicitly embraced R.J. Rushdoony as a mentor and publicly noted the influence of the “Father” of the movement on his own views and the views of his son Doug Phillips, the founder of Vision Forum, an organization which claims “a zeal for the restoration of Biblical patriarchy.”

In her book, Quiverfull, RD contributor Kathryn Joyce reported that the younger Phillips pressured members of the church in which he is an elder to support the Constitution Party. A significant division resulted when a female member of the congregation questioned him and was disciplined by the church leaders.

The elder Phillips was one of the founders of the new Christian Right in the 1980s and is still chairman of the Conservative Caucus. In 1992 he founded the U.S. Taxpayer’s Party which in 1999 changed its name to the Constitution Party. Phillips ran three times as the party’s candidate for President (with the endorsement of Ron Paul). The Constitution Party’s platform advocates “returning” American law to its “foundations” in “Biblical Law.”

The notion that the First Amendment’s religion clauses provide for a separation of church and state is rejected, based on the argument that the founders envisioned an institutional separation of church and state at the federal level in order to protect religion from an overreaching federal government. They contend that the founders always understood the U.S. to be a Christian nation founded on biblical law.

The Constitution Party opposes abortion in all instances (including some forms of contraception). It calls for the repeal of all federal gun laws. It supports state’s rights and localism including the elimination of any activities on the part of the federal government not explicitly delineated in the Constitution. It advocates reform of Congress including the elimination of pensions, return to the election of senators by state legislators, and repeal of the electoral college.

It supports repeal of the Voting Rights Act, Social Security, and the Patriot Act. It calls for the elimination of any control or support by government over education (as that is the God-given responsibility of families), for the right of “state and local governments to proscribe offensive sexual behavior,” and to limit marriage to heterosexual couples. It advocates a hard money currency, repeal of the Federal Reserve and elimination of fractional reserve banking.

As I reported here, the Constitution Party and Christian Reconstructionism have deeply influenced both Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul and his father. It sees itself in opposition not only to Democrats, but to Republicans; leaders have criticized Sarah Palin for calling on tea partiers to choose one of the major parties. The party is officially on the ballot in at least 17 states including Florida, where Bernie DeCastro, an ex-con turned prison minister, its candidate running for U.S. Senate, thinks tea party favorite Marco Rubio is too liberal

jingerso@unf.edu'

Julie Ingersoll is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Florida. She is the author of Evangelical Christian Women: War Stories in the Gender Battles and is currently writing a book on the influence of Christian Reconstructionism.