Thursday, April 19, 2007

It never ceases to amaze

One of the things I've been doing during my hiatus from blogging has been to focus my attention on the dominionist movement and it's influence and impact on the conservative movement. I've got lots of notes on this and it will be a central feature of my blogging if my brain chemistry can be restored (I start a medication program today). But I came across another tidbit that I wanted to write up a quick note for.

I've always believed that the impeachment of Bill Clinton was one of the most inane and ridiculous things to ever happen in American politics, but the more I've started to look back on it the more I've started to see it as a harbinger of bad things to come in America's future. I say this because the more you look at that time period the more you see that Clinton's impeachment was the end result of an authoritarian anti-democratic movement's attempt to overturn the 1992 election. I will get more into this later, but here's the latest example I've come across ...

A few days ago after reading this post at the Atheist Ethicist about anti-atheist discriminatory laws in state constitutions I consulted my copy of The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America and sent Mr. Fyfe the following e-mail:

I just skimmed your post on Constitutional changes and thought you might find it worth noting that in the Fundementals of Extremism edited by Kimberly Blaker, there is chapter that covers that subject. In chapter 7, "Inerrancy Turned Political", Herb Silverman recounts his experience of trying to get the law prohibiting atheists from running for governor overturned. It went like this:

Silverman was a math professor, self-described as a "liberal, Yankee atheist Jew", who moved to S.C. in 1976 to teach mathematics at the College of Charleston. In 1990 a colleague pointed out to the aforementioned law and talked him into running for governor to challenge the law. he went to the local chapter of the ACLU and started going through the process, but was met with all kind of ridiculous legal obstacles and personal character attacks ... eventually he brought a case against ... someone, I forget who ... which was dismissed even though he was clearly in the right, at which point his resources and patience were spent and he gave up.

However, in the course of his efforts he had discovered that South Carolina's laws were even more primitive than he thought, as the constitution actually prohibited atheists from holding ANY public office. He dediced to challenge that law by applying for a notary public licene in October of 1991. His application was denied because he crossed out the section that said "so help me god". According to him, S.C. is one of the easiest states in the union to get a notary licence, but to his knowledge he's the only person in the history of the state to be rejected for one. Again, he had to go through all kind of legal obstacles and obstruction from as high up as the governor, but finally did receive his licence. Six years later on Aug. 8 1997!

Silverman remarked, "it took longer for me to receive my notary commission than my Ph.D. in mathematics!"

In that chapter Silverman mentions in passing that one of his court cases was based on precedent set by the case of Paula Jones. Her attorney was John Whitehead, founder of the Rutherford Institute, and author of The Second American Revolution, in which Whitehead argues that the Supreme Court striking down religous requirements for public office is anti-American and is itself religious persecution against Christians. What is significant here is that the "right-wing" of the religious right (I hope that makes sense, I'm dashing this off pretty quickly) thought that Clinton was an agent of Satan and part of a socialist/communist one world government conspiracy (New World Order conspiracy was one of the primary motivations of Timothy McVeigh.) I've got further notes on connections between efforts to impeach Clinton and dominionist organizations but I'll hold off on that until later (really, I'm probably going to have to write an essay series or something, as I've gotten so much about this stuff backed up in my notes.)

It is simply remarkable how figures within the conservative and dominionist movement (there is much more overlap than people generally are aware of) feel that unless they are persecuting someone they themselves are being persecuted. The best way to get an understanding about this authoritarian impulse is to read The Authoritarians by social psychologist Robert Altemeyer (it is available at that link for on-line reading free of charge). In the future I'm going to be relating a lot of what I write in regards to the conservatiev movement to Altemeyer's research.

1 comment:

steeplebob said...


Altemeyer's book is fascinating, and eminently readable, even the notes. I'm starting Chapter 2 now....