Huckabee's radical religious friends

A list of religious extremists linked to the GOP candidate.

Published January 18, 2008 12:31PM (EST)

Mike Huckabee, the former Baptist preacher turned Arkansas governor and now Republican presidential candidate, has deep connections to some conservative Christians with radical political ideas. As Salon's Mike Madden details here, while Huckabee talks up his experience visiting Israel in response to questions about foreign policy, he is also campaigning with the support of prominent figures who see Israel as the site of a coming Armageddon. Huckabee's connections within the evangelical movement also extend to leaders whose focus is on the United States; a number of those leaders are working to transform the United States into a Christian nation governed by what they see as biblical principles. On Monday, as Salon columnist Joe Conason notes, Huckabee seemed to hint that he shares at least some of that vision. "It's a lot easier to change the Constitution," said Huckabee, "than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do, is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards."

Ideas like the ones some of Huckabee's supporters hold stem from two radical doctrines, reconstructionism and dominionism. As Conason writes, these ideas come down to "the notion that America, indeed every nation on earth, is meant to be governed by biblical law." Additionally, they stem from a belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, then betrayed by secular humanist liberals who created a myth of separation of church and state in the 20th century, leading the country to immorality and godlessness, and that the United States must be taken back by Christians. Some of the proponents of this idea are unashamed about using the word "theocracy" to describe their goal. The most radical among them -- including two of the movement's leading lights and progenitors, R.J. Rushdoony and his son-in-law Gary North -- advocate a return to the practice of stoning as a method of execution, and expanding this death sentence to the crimes of homosexuality, blasphemy and cursing one's parents.

One of the early organizations to promote reconstructionist ideas was the Coalition on Revival. Rushdoony and North were members of its steering committee. In 1986, two years after its founding, the group produced "A Manifesto for the Christian Church," which says, among other things, "[The] Bible is the only absolute, objective, final test for all truth claims ... The Bible is not only God's statements to us regarding religion, salvation, eternity, and righteousness, but also the final measurement and depository of certain fundamental facts of reality and basic principles that God wants all mankind to know in the spheres of law, government, economics, business, education, arts and communication, medicine, psychology, and science." The group also released 17 tracts laying out its prescription for what the "Christian Worldview" should be on topics from government to law, medicine, family and economics. The introduction to these states, "We believe America can be turned around and once again function as a Christian nation as it did in its earlier years. We believe that wherever the pastors of any city in the world join together in unity to make Christ Lord of every sphere of life, and, with Spirit-led strategy, mobilize their people into a unified spiritual army; that city can and will become 'a city set upon a hill.'"

The list that follows is an examination of some of Huckabee's connections within the Christian right, including his most prominent connections to members and supporters of the Coalition on Revival and other proponents of reconstructionist and dominionist theology.

D. James Kennedy: Like Huckabee, Kennedy -- who died in 2007 -- denied that he was a reconstructionist or dominionist. But Kennedy, known in certain circles as the most influential evangelical leader no one outside the evangelical world has ever heard of, long associated himself with prominent members of both disciplines and was an important conduit for their mainstreaming. He was a member of the Coalition on Revival's steering committee and a signatory to the manifesto. Even if he had been just your run-of-the-mill televangelist, Kennedy's reach and influence during his life couldn't have been dismissed: His ministry, Florida's Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, claimed 10,000 members, and his radio and television shows reached millions in the United States and worldwide.

It was from Coral Ridge that Kennedy hosted an annual "Reclaiming America for Christ" conference. In 2005, a packet of information handed out at the conference included a message from Kennedy. "Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost," he wrote. "We are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government ... our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society." Kennedy also embraced the standard reconstructionist idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and should return to its roots. David Barton, one of the leading revisionist historians in this vein, was a speaker at some of the conferences. Along with Barton, Rushdoony and North were frequent guests on Kennedy's broadcasts. In 2006, Huckabee spoke at an awards dinner during "Reclaiming America for Christ." But Huckabee's primary connection to Kennedy is through his strong ties to Kennedy's followers and former employees.

George Grant: The former executive director of Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries, Grant co-wrote one of Huckabee's books, "Kids Who Kill: Confronting Our Culture of Violence," which was released in 1998. About 10 years before, Grant, a prolific author and, according to Reason Magazine, a "militant" reconstructionist, had written a book called "The Changing of the Guard: The Vital Role Christians Play in America's Cultural Drama." In one now infamous passage from that book, he wrote:

Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less...
Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land -- of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ.

Janet Folger: Folger is the founder of Faith2Action, an antiabortion, anti-gay Christian conservative organization dedicated to winning the "cultural wars." She also hosts her own Faith2Action radio show. In the 1990s, she worked as the national director at the Center for Reclaiming America, D. James Kennedy's group. A longtime associate of Huckabee, she is a co-chair of his Faith and Family Values Coalition, a group of campaign supporters and advisors. Her support of Huckabee became even more vociferous after he won the straw poll that followed the Values Voter Presidential Debate, which Folger organized. (Huckabee was the only leading Republican presidential candidate to attend.) At the debate, Folger personally arranged to have the Grand Avenue Choir of God perform its version of "Why Should God Bless America," a song that asks, "Why should God bless America?/ She's forgotten He exists/ And has turned her back on everything/ That made her what she is." Folger gained notoriety in the liberal blogosphere recently for her satirical prediction that, if elected, Hillary Clinton would imprison all Christians.

Pastor Rick Scarborough: Scarborough is the founder of Vision America, a group dedicated to increasing Christian conservatives' participation in politics. Huckabee depended on Scarborough's group, among others, to win Iowa; Vision America members gave Huckabee supporters rides to the polls. Scarborough describes himself not as a Republican but rather as a "Christocrat." In her book "Kingdom Coming," former Salon reporter Michelle Goldberg quotes from Scarborough's monograph "In Defense of ... Mixing Church and State," where the pastor asserts that the separation of church and state is "a lie introduced by Satan and fostered by the courts." Upon meeting Scarborough, Karl Rove told the pastor that his positions were "too strident and conservative." Tom DeLay, a close friend of Scarborough's, spoke via video at the 2005 "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" conference that Scarborough organized, where conservatives assailed "activist judges" and one speaker suggested the best way to gain control of the U.S. Supreme Court was through Justice Anthony Kennedy's death. Scarborough also led a 2004 national campaign to protest the dismissal of Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore, removed from the bench for installing a Ten Commandments tablet in his courthouse. Scarborough opposes all high school sex education courses and vehemently spoke out against Texas Gov. Rick Perry's promotion of HPV vaccines in high schools, stating "the governor's action seems to signify that God's moral law regarding sex outside of marriage can be transgressed without consequence."

Michael Farris: Farris is the co-founder and chairman of the board of the Home School Legal Defense Association, as well as the founder and now chancellor of Patrick Henry College, which is dedicated to educating home-schooled children in right-wing evangelical doctrines so they can pursue, in particular, careers in government. He serves on Huckabee's Faith and Family Values Coalition, and his endorsement is the main reason that home-schoolers were an important force for Huckabee and his victory in the Iowa caucuses. Farris traveled to Iowa ahead of last year's straw poll to organize for Huckabee and -- along with Scarborough -- participated in a conference call with Iowa pastors just before the caucuses, exhorting them to get their congregations out to vote, presumably for Huckabee. In the early 1990s, Farris ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor of Virginia; his campaign was derailed at least in part by charges of extremism stemming from his association with the Coalition on Revival. At the time, he claimed that he was a member of the group in 1984 and 1985, but left before the manifesto was issued in 1986. "It started heading to a theocracy," he said, "and I don't believe in a theocracy." But he was listed as a steering committee member, a signatory to the manifesto, as the coauthor of another of the group's documents, "The Christian World View of Law," and on group letterhead from 1990. "They put my name on stuff. I can't help their print shop," he said at the time. At Patrick Henry, Farris' ideas are put into a strict code for both students and faculty. While on campus, students are prohibited from dancing, kissing and any "prolonged embrace." They are not allowed to drink alcohol or smoke unless they are in the presence of their parents or they are out of the greater Washington, D.C., area while the school is on vacation.

Rev. Don Wildmon: The Huckabee campaign has embraced the "significant endorsement" of Wildmon, the chairman and founder of the American Family Association, a virulently antiabortion, anti-gay Christian conservative group, and Wildmon joined Huckabee on the campaign trail in Iowa. On his campaign Web site, Huckabee said of Wildmon that "Rev. Wildmon and I share the same values on faith and family, which are key issues for the Republican party." A member of the steering committee of the Coalition on Revival, since founding the AFA in 1977, Wildmon has dedicated much of his time to advocating for the censorship of such "controversial," "offensive" television programs as "Donahue," "The Wonder Years" and "Seinfeld." In 1988, Wildmon attracted attention for his claim that Mighty Mouse snorted cocaine in one of the show's episodes. Wildmon has also spearheaded boycotts against Ford and Ikea because of the companies' portrayal of gay consumers in their advertisements. Wildmon has frequently been accused of being anti-Semitic for numerous comments alleging Jewish control of the media.

Steven Hotze: When Huckabee went to a fundraiser at Hotze's home in December 2007, even conservative columnist Robert Novak had to stand up and take notice. Hotze, a signatory to "A Manifesto for the Christian Church," was for a time influential in Texas Republican Party politics, bringing reconstructionist ideals with him. A practicing doctor, Hotze is also, as the Houston Press revealed in a long investigation in 2005, a quack who claims board certifications he apparently does not hold, offers treatments without scientific basis for medical problems not ever documented to exist, and "tells his patients it's their fault if they don't get better." Later in 2005, the president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists sent CBS a letter complaining about Hotze's appearance on the network.

James Robison: The president of the Christian organization Life Outreach International, Robison is best known as a television evangelist and minister, but he was also Huckabee's religious mentor in the late 1970s. Huckabee worked in Robison's church as an announcer and public relations spokesman before leaving to establish a ministry of his own. Robison is firmly opposed to homosexuality. He came under scrutiny in the early 1980s for saying on his television program that he was "sick and tired of hearing about all of the radicals and the perverts and the liberals and the leftists and the Communists coming out of the closet," that it was "time for God's people to come out of the closet, out of the churches and change America." Huckabee's national media job at the time was to defend his boss's words. In 2002, Robison co-wrote a book, "The Absolutes: The Indisputable Principles of Civilized Society," with George Grant.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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2008 Elections Mike Huckabee Republican Party