The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

School for Scoundrels: Online ‘Patriot’ University Opens Doors

By Leah Nelson on June 8, 2012 - 3:54 pm, Posted in Patriot

Attention, students and lovers of learning: If you’ve been seeking an education with a “moral and nationalist perspective,” unencumbered by government censorship and “political correctness,” your search is finally over. The Roger Sherman Institute (RSI), a new and unusual institute of higher learning that presents a “‘spin’ on America” that “is distinctly nationalist, patriotic, biblical, and constitutional,” this week marked its “inaugural semester,” opening its virtual doors to aspiring scholars everywhere.

Founded in 2012 by an encyclopedia salesman, a movie stuntman, and a building inspector, RSI doesn’t teach “theoretical physics, double-entry accounting, or Freudian voodoo.” Instead, it offers courses on conspiracy theories, farm science and aquaculture, and “the sociotheosphere, where you can learn about historical battles between dominant religions and government.”

RSI was named after Roger Sherman, a Connecticut lawyer who served in the U.S. Senate in the 1790s and signed both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. According to the school’s website, Sherman was “a man of impeccable moral fibre” with an “absolute hatred of paper money,” who “walked to the beat of a vastly different drummer than those who occupy modern Wall Street and Washington, D.C.”

Aaron Bollinger (Prospective theology students who fear the name of the institute is “some form of man-centric idolatry” are told to “take heart. He can be an example to others, in much the same way as any of the Apostles or Reformers now have Seminaries named for their achievements. We do not think him a ‘saint’ in any way. Those decisions are left to the Ultimate Judge of us all.”)

Such caveats are not the only thing that sets the online-only Sherman Institute apart from its competitors. As RSI co-founder Aaron Bollinger, a former Encyclopedia Britannica salesman who signs E-mails “Disciple Aaron,” explains in an online video promoting the school, “This is not a higher learning institution that will politically correct historical fact to protect someone’s feelings.”

What’s more, he says, “Our instructors don’t follow the script written by state and federal governments or specific organized religions about education in the realms of political science, theology, or general studies.” Instead, “we allow you to research down whatever rabbit-holes you choose.”

Bollinger knows a thing or two about rabbit holes. A pale, bearded character who appears in the promotional video clad in a black suit, narrow black tie and broad-brimmed black hat of the kind favored by traveling preachers of yesteryear, “Disciple Aaron” is a longtime radical-right activist who has mingled and worked with the some of founding fathers of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement.

In 1981, fresh out of high school, he joined the “Committee to Restore the Constitution,” a Colorado-based operation run by the late Archibald E. Roberts, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who despised the United Nations and who once wrote that “men of unbalanced and dangerous brilliance” – presumably Jews – had “perfected a sophisticated and systematized plan, incorporating brainwashing and genetic prostitution, to achieve soviet-style control over the American social order.”

Bollinger has worked for Liberty Lobby, an anti-Semitic organization founded by infamous Holocaust denier Willis Carto, and as a researcher for the far-right Gun Owners of America, whose founder, gun rights absolutist Larry Pratt, played a crucial role in introducing the concept of citizen militias to the radical right. In the mid-2000s, Bollinger became involved with Christian Exodus, a fundamentalist effort to take control of South Carolina and, “if necessary,” declare it a sovereign republic that would enforce “Christian” morality through the power of government.

(The Christian Exodus movement still exists online, where website administrator Keith Humphrey – who also manages one of the Sherman Institute’s websites – rails against birth control and abortion and “promotes the preservation of Christian culture for generations to come, through disentanglement from the flesh-hooks of imperial servitude, and a return to the fundamentals of Christian living.”)

These days, Bollinger works as legislative director for Restore the Republic (RTR), a conspiracy-minded Patriot group that wants to eliminate the Federal Reserve and the IRS, end globalization, and make it illegal to implant microchips in people (no signs that is happening, but according to RTR, plans are in the works). Bollinger also serves on the advisory board for Committees of Safety, another Patriot group, along with lawyer and radical-right thinker Edwin Vieira, under whom he studied “constitutional law” in the early 1980s.

Though he is its most visible representative, Bollinger did not found the Sherman Institute alone. One of his partners is David Irons, an antigovernment activist who in 2008 mounted a failed campaign for the Michigan House of Representatives on a platform of abolishing the income tax. Irons also owned a building inspection business, which – ironically, given his disdain for government – is accredited by the Federal Housing Administration, the agency that insures mortgages.

RSI’s other co-founder is David Schied, a former movie stuntman who claims to be working with longtime radical tax protestor Bob Schulz to establish “Constitutional Lobbies” in each state.

The rest of the school’s faculty is similarly credentialed. Its dean of theology is David Whitney, a pastor who says churches should help arm and train people in self-defense. Whitney is chaplain to the Maryland League of the South, a neo-Confederate and theocratic hate group that advocates a second Southern secession and the creation of a “godly” nation run by “Anglo-Celtic” (white) elites.

Serving as dean of justice studies is Greg Evensen, a militia sympathizer and former Kansas state trooper whose essays and radio broadcasts are widely disseminated on apocalyptic Christian and militia websites and who, following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, suggested that “alien hybrids” pretending to be U.S. troops would enforce the evacuation of up to 40 million people from the Gulf Coast area.

Every online university needs a dean of distance learning – and at RSI, that title belongs to Veronica Ann Hannevig (or “Veronica Ann; Hannevig,” as she spells it in court documents), an apparent adherent of the radical antigovernment “sovereign citizens” movement (whose followers believe they are exempt from most federal laws and taxes and who often indicate their movement affiliation by inserting punctuation marks into their names). Hannevig maintains a personal website, The Truth Store, which features prominently a notice to the government that she was “born in the United States of diplomatic representatives by hereditary succession of the Kingdom of Heaven” and that she claims “the property, rights, privileges and immunities granted to me and my heirs by hereditary succession by Our Father, Y’hw(v)’h, the Creator and sovereign ruler of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.”

Also teaching classes at RSI are Michael Peroutka, a League of the South member who was the far-right Constitution Party’s 2004 presidential candidate; Mark Anderson, editor of the American Free Press, a conspiracist, anti-Semitic weekly that bills itself as “America’s Last Real Newspaper;” and Karen Ruff, a South Carolina tea party activist whose course on conspiracies in contemporary politics will cover, among other things, “the well documented forgery of the birth certificate and selective service documents of Barack Obama.”

According to its website, enrollment at RSI is still open. Course standards are rigorous, but students will learn to think for themselves. As Bollinger notes in his video advertisement, “If you are going to spend your money for an education, shouldn’t you get the most for it – without political correctness getting in the way of learning, and without the censorship or preconceived notions of government and organized religion influencing what you can learn?”

RSI, which according to Bollinger has the “most cost-efficient program in America,” prefers that students pay in silver (Bollinger, for instance, charges seven troy ounces of “Pre 1965 silver coin” for undergraduate courses and nine troy ounces for graduate courses) but will accept “Federal Reserve Notes” (cash) and postal money orders as well.

  • Julia

    He’s connected to another hate group, “Lawless America”” and William (Bill) M. Windsor of lawlessamerica.com
    This man is scamming, stalking, bullying and fraudulently using identifying personal information and much more.

  • Matt

    One of the supposed strenghts of getting an online degree is that you don’t have to drive (or fly-if far away) to classes, and don’t have to put up with everyone else in the classes asking obvious or irrelevant questions, or just generally consuming everyone’s time. However, in this case, the tuition, fees, etc. would only be worth it if one were able to get into a classroom with the people who think they need to “learn” from this place. Of course, it’s free to just walk around in Walmart all day long and talk to its patrons…

    Also, if going with the online option, there must be a diploma mill out there that can give out these degrees for free. What difference would it really make?

  • Reynardine

    Oh, Hell, Aron, Disciple Hunter is just a genuine pate-rot.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Hey Disciple Hunter, might I enquire as to the purpose of your post? Because aside from misplaced criticism, I didn’t get much out of it…

  • http://www.superheroesindisguise.com Disciple Hunter

    I thought I would stop by and see what all the haters have to say about the Sherman Institute. I agree with Linnea, “Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do for those who choose to be stupid. Well said. The comment from Reynardine, “You know, there used to be laws against such Prostitutions of Higher Learning.” You know there used to be laws against snake oil salesman, now we give them a license and call them “doctors.” Now they poison your children with your permission. And how about your government sanctioned clergy men? Did you know they take a license from the state to preach the Gospel. Since when do I need a license to talk about Jesus Christ? But who am I kidding, you people probably eat at Burgerking, and drink diet coke and eat dinner from a box. My last point here is simple…even you impoverished people at SPLC can understand it. You call this HATEWATCH, but as far as I can tell, that’s what you are spewing forth, maybe you should be watching yourselves. Matthew 12:37 you call this a school for scoundrels, yes it is- ever heard of Han Solo? I can only pray for you poor people. May God bless you and keep you from all the haters out there. John 15:18 Can I get an AMEN!

  • Tobias A. Weissman

    How insidious this “Patriot School of scoundrels” shows how wonderful this country is. To give rights to these idiots. It also shows the intelligence of the American People not to fall for them.

  • Peter Hockley

    Is Glen Beck an alumnus?

  • Steve

    My gosh, I wasted all that money on my education. I could have gone wack-job U instead. What was I thinking? ” wink, wink, nudge, nudge “.

  • http://www.burnthebibleassociation.com Charles Dan Austin

    Gosh Higher education for the likes of Alex Jones!

  • underwriter

    Gregory, apparently minted prescious metals are preferred. I agree, Federal Reserve notes and postal money orders are not consistent. Shoes might be good in view of Roger’s profession!

  • Democratic Cats

    As we all know from the musical “1776,” Roger Sherman declined to write the Declaration of Independence because “I don’t know a participle from a predicate / I am just a simple cobbler from Connecticut.”

  • Gregory

    According to the school’s website, Sherman was “a man of impeccable moral fibre” with an “absolute hatred of paper money,” who “walked to the beat of a vastly different drummer than those who occupy modern Wall Street and Washington, D.C.”

    If they share an absolute hatred of “paper money” then what do the accept for tuition payments? Cows, camels or precious metals?

  • Reynardine

    Actually, what they meant to say is they’re a pate-rot school…

  • Linnea

    Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do for those who choose to be stupid.

  • Ithink

    “Reynardine said,
    on June 11th, 2012 at 10:20 am
    You know, there used to be laws against such Prostitutions of Higher Learning.”

    Brilliant and pithy point that was Rey! Unfortunately short of violence and malicious intent, anybody is allowed to open these sort of mind-control cyber cults masquerading as legitimate educational institutes without fear of our largely out-of-touch federal government coming to take a whizz all over their parade. Suddenly, DeVry and University of Phoenix have a new aura of legitmacy, in direct contrast anyways…

  • Ian

    Today I learned that “politically correct” is a verb.

  • Reynardine

    You know, there used to be laws against such Prostitutions of Higher Learning.

  • Shadow Wolf

    Erika,
    You summed up a good point in your last comment. When the fool’s who attend and then eventually graduate from that “con university”. They may have a very difficult time seeking employment in the real world. Because their degrees/certificates is seen as non-legit.

  • Reynardine

    Nice to see our Stammtisch doing business again, by the way. More coffee, please…more coffee…more coffee…

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GargamelGold?feature=mhee CriticalDragon1177

    @Erika

    I agree with you. Unfortunately this will serve as cover for extremists who could never make it in a real academic setting, who will than be able to show off their fake degrees to the gullible.

  • Erika

    I feel sorry for the “home schooled” students who are going to be forced to take “classes” from this con of a “university.” Especially when they learn that like the Liberty University home classes no reputable actual university is going to accept these credits and nobody in their right mind would accept a degree from this con.

  • Erika

    If you find Bob Jones University too sane for your tastes, this is your school.

  • Shadow Wolf

    CDragon,

    I concur with that notion. This school is definitely recommended for anyone who wants to learn a re-written and fallacious given history.

  • red-diaper baby 1942

    I’ve taken a look at their course offerings. I suspect one popular course will be remedial English:
    “WritingTutorial (EN-91.3) can be taken rather quickly, and cover things we may have forgotten from our Junior High
    years.”
    I especially like that coy first person plural pronoun!

  • red-diaper baby 1942

    If today were April 1st instead of June 9th, I’d know what to think about this.
    Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Columbia must be trembling in fear at the competition!

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GargamelGold?feature=mhee CriticalDragon1177

    Leah Nelson,

    Thanks for telling us about this abomination. This would be a wonderful place to go for anyone who wants an “education” free of facts. Do they teach creationism as well?

  • Supersonic250

    *Sighs.* ……Who… Who would be a student at this nuthouse? …WHY would anyone PAY to learn from these nutjobs? I-I’m sorry, I know I’m normally more coherent and all, but I REALLY can’t wrap my head around this one. I’m paying 6000 dollars every six months for a REAL degree that will actually get me jobs, and someone has the money to shill out that much to pay for an insane asylum that’ll get them nothing at ALL? WHYYYYY?!

  • HSkol

    Dang, this puts my education (state university of all things; major in Philosophy and Anthropology) to shame. How could I have been so taken in by The Man. –H+Sko’l% (Sarcasm, of course).

  • adamhill

    I wonder what percentage of instructors at this new institute of higher learning actually hold degrees from legitimate institutes of higher learning.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    I’d love to learn about their accreditation status. Something tells me their Ph.Ds don’t hold that much water…