Evangelical Broadcasters to Drop Controversial Course, at Very Last Minute

A controversial course on the United States Constitution developed by a board member of the neo-Confederate, pro-secessionist League of the South (LOS) and aired by the influential National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is “to be removed” from the network, a spokesman for NRB told Hatewatch today.

"It is actually going to be going down,” the spokesman, Kenneth Chan, said of the 12-week course presented by the Institute on the Constitution (IOTC), which was co-founded by Maryland-based lawyer Michael Peroutka, the LOS board member who developed the course and teaches it on NRB.

But it’s unclear when the course will be removed from the NRB lineup. Only one session remains to be broadcast and is scheduled to air Thursday. Chan referred further inquirers on timing and on the impact of a pastor’s petition drive seeking to have the program removed to the president of the network, Troy Miller.

Miller, however, did not respond to an interview request.

For the last several days, a multiethnic group of evangelical pastors and other clergy in Cincinnati have been organizing a petition drive on Change.org, asking NRB to drop the course from its programming because of its “divisive ideology.”

“It has come to our attention that NRB airs, and endorses, a program by Michael Peroutka: Institute on the Constitution,” the petition states. “Mr. Peroutka is an unashamed board member of the League of the South, and has pledged his business and family resources to that effort.”

The petition says the LOS endorses secession from “the current government,” a return “to the Confederate Constitution of 1861,” and seeks to see “the South become a separate nation led only by whites.”

“Our commitment to unity makes it impossible for us to overlook this promotion by the NRB,” the petition continues. “As leaders, we must hold NRB responsible for the divisive ideology it has espoused through connection to Mr. Peroutka.”

This past summer, a school board in suburban Dayton, Ohio, was forced to cancel the IOTC course it planned to offer over the summer after parents and alumni vigorously objected, saying the classes pushed a religious interpretation of the subject and a religious agenda.

The fears of the protesting parents and the petitioning pastors are well founded.

Peroutka, the founder of IOTC, was the 2004 presidential candidate for the Constitution Party, a far-right theocratic third party. The League of the South, on whose board Peroutka now sits, wants to form a “godly” nation, run by an “Anglo-Celtic” (read: white) elite that would establish a Christian theocratic state. It is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which publishes this blog, as a neo-Confederate hate group.

Warren Throckmorton, a conservative evangelical who teaches at a Christian liberal arts college, has been sounding the alarm about Peroutka and his course since the summer school board battles in Ohio. Throckmorton – who recently wrote an important book debunking theocratic claims about Thomas Jefferson and the foundation of the United States – has blogged extensively on a list of factual problems with the IOTC course. Some examples:

“After I became aware that the IOTC founder and teacher was also involved in the League of the South, I was troubled by aims of the League,” Throckmorton said in an E-mail interview with Hatewatch today. “I think the emergence of a neo-Confederacy element in mainstream evangelical circles is distressing and should be opposed.”