On the masthead of the New Song Church’s Facebook page is a picture of the word IDENTITY along with a fingerprint.
A quick search of the word’s meaning leads to the proper definition, also to extremist right wing groups such as one from Portland called Identity, and also to a religious movement to redefine what Christianity means. Religious links pertaining to identity also lead to St. Charles, Missouri and the Staley family, specifically to Jim Staley, who was sentenced to seven years in prison and was ordered to repay $3.3 million for defrauding elderly investors in 2015.
The New Song Church is highlighted because the North Dakota Constitutional Grassroots Group, or CGM, holds meetings inside. Ten months ago, North Dakota’s only Congressman Kelly Armstrong joined the group, which strives to vet, endorse, and support people who agree with fundamental principles including: strict adherence and original interpretation to the Constitution, a belief in limited government, “citizenry maintaining a militia,” a return to a pre-1913 state taxation system and repealing the 16th Amendment of 1909, and limited immigration with the immediate deportation of law violators, among other beliefs.
The church was contacted for comment, but did not reply to requests for information.
In February of 2018, Jake MacAulay, chief operating officer of the Institute of the Constitution, spoke at the New Song Church, according to the church’s Facebook posts. MacAulay was also involved in delivering a controversial speech at North Dakota State University in October 2017.
Approximately a month ago while touring the state, MacAulay returned to North Dakota to introduce a controversial figure and founder of the Institute on the Constitution, Michael Anthony Peroutka, to churches in Mandan, Grand Forks, and Tolna.
The Institute on the Constitution is more than another patriotic-sounding name. At a time when the “Alt-right” is twisting semantics to soften their collective messages, the organization is also Peroutka’s legal arm. It is listed as a theocratic, Christian nationalist outfit run by white supremacists, according to the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights.
The North Dakota Constitutional Grassroots Group advertised and posted a link to Peroutka’s speech on March 3.
Peroutka is not a naturally gifted speaker; he provoked few questions, but his audiences listened to his message on why there should be no separation between church and state.
As a former member of the League of the South, a reportedly neo-Confederate hate group that wants the South to secede from the union and return to “Anglo-Celtic” roots, Peroutka once held a position in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and as the Constitution Party candidate for President in 2004.
“The separation of church and state is not what you think it is,” Peroutka said in his speech in Tolna.
He referred to 1828 Webster Dictionary for the definition of government, pointing out example four as the proper definition where government includes civil, church or family.
“Well, there you have it,” Peroutka said. He pointed to slide titles. “You have the four spheres of government that God has ordained. Government is not just this… civil government, it’s also this… self-government, it’s also this… family government, and it’s also this, it’s also church government.”
Webster’s online dictionary from 1828 does not include the word “church” in its definition.
“Where does jurisdiction come from?” Peroutka said during his speech. “All jurisdiction comes from the Almighty God, the supremacy of God. The foundational promise of American government is that God is the source and the author of government. This is what we call the American view.”
Quoting from Joe Morefraft, a preacher kicked from the Covenant Presbytery in 2015 who reportedly believes in the morality of enslaving those who do not “trust in Christ” because slavery is the only method in which to “keep a fool under wraps,” Peroutka said civil government should protect borders – “number one” – and punish the wicked so that the “good guys” can live in peace.
“There are two jurisdictions, a separation of functions,” Peroutka said. “There is no separation between God and his government. The idea that we can’t talk about God in civil government is a giant word trick.”
Christianity is based on common law, Peroutka said, and separation of church and state comes not from the Constitution, but from a 1947 Supreme Court ruling saying that the wall between government and religion must be kept high and impregnable.
Peroutka believes the public school movement was a revolution to “get rid of Christianity.” The term separation is part of larger plan - “something much bigger” – Peroutka said. He further sees himself as a “restorer” of a system that has been denigrated. Those that oppose his views are “brainwashed” enemies, proponents of “The Great Lie,” and “agents of the devil,” he said. Homeschooling is the answer for retaking dominion over government, in all its capacities.
To become “un-brainwashed” he suggested to his audience to watch a video of him singing a Buddy Holly-styled tune where he is the featured singer called “Courts Cannot Make Law.”
Anything less than including religion into government will lead to random chaos and “57 different genders who don’t even know what gender they are,” Peroutka said.
After Peroutka’s speech, MacAulay spoke on the same issue. He was described by Peroutka as the “Johnny Appleseed” for the Institute on the Constitution, and MacAulay made local headlines in October 2017 after being invited by state legislators and a Lutheran minister to speak at North Dakota State University. During his speech, MacAulay reportedly said homosexuality should be illegal and he defended slavery by advocating George Washington’s slavery practices weren’t “so bad,” according to some who attended.
“There has to be somebody who supersedes government,” MacAulay said. He had a Ten Commandments pin stuck to his suit jacket. “Hey, if you want your rights protected then you need strong law and that law is only consistent when it’s God’s law.”
He talked about the NDSU speech he gave in 2017, a group of all friendlies “except for three.”
Homosexuality is “just branch off the main issue,” and he said he never mentioned LGBTQ issues during the NDSU speech. The article spurred an investigation by the High Plains Reader – which MacAulay mentioned – into some of his political friends in North Dakota.
“They try to attack every single day at every angle,” MacAulay said. “They try to get your relationships, they’ll attack your marriage, your finances, if you make too much money if you don’t make enough money, they’ll attack your kids. There will always be persecution. Embrace it. It will never go away. The more effective you get, the more problems you will have.”
MacAuley was formerly involved with the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition, and also with the Minnesota-based “hard rock homophobic ministry, You Can Run But You Can’t Hide International,” according to the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights.
The rock group’s leader, Bradley Dean Smith, has been quoted saying it is moral to execute LGBT people.
MacAuley also claims that “half of the murders in large cities were committed by homosexuals,” according to the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights. He was also involved in what appeared to be a tax evasion scheme with the militia-wing of the “Alt-right” Christian Patriot group, Embassy of Heaven, according to the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.
For more than two weeks Congressman Kelly Armstrong was asked repeatedly about his online membership of the North Dakota Constitutional Grassroots Movement, and if he supports the ideology, but he never replied.
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