Salon.com has an article today on Howard Ahmanson, the reclusive savings and loan heir who has spent millions to promote religious right causes in America. In addition to his enormous support of seemingly any anti-gay organizations he can find, Ahmanson is well known to those of us who are active in the evolution/creationism battle because he is the primary money man behind the Discovery Institute (DI), the Seattle-based think tank at the forefront of advocating Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC). The DI’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture is where you will find such IDC stalwarts as William Dembski, Michael Behe, and Jonathan Wells. Their output of anti-evolutionary texts has been prodigious, to say the least, but they’ve been rather ineffective at convincing scientists that there is anything more to their work than a regurgitation of Bishop Paley’s argument from design in the language of modern science.
The most frightening thing about Ahmanson is his connection to the Christian Reconstructionism movement. For 20 years he was on the board of RJ Rushdoony’s Chalcedon Foundation. Christian Reconstructionists make folks like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson sound like flaming liberals. Reconstructionists want to impose the old testament Levitical law as the civil and criminal law in the US, including the death penalty for a wide variety of offenses including homosexuality, “witchcraft” and blasphemy. Gary North, one of the leading lights of this movement, has written,
So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.
If that doesn’t send a chill down your spine, I can’t imagine what would. When people ask me why I spend so much time on the evolution/creationism issue, I point to things like this. When the same man (Ahmanson) who funded Christian Reconstructionist groups for so long is now funding a think tank whose primary strategist (Phil Johnson) speaks in military metaphors about “restoring God to his rightful place in American culture”, I think there is something very serious going on here. For a more thorough examination of this particular issue, I recommend a new book by my friend Barbara Forrest, Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. For a shorter introduction to the subject of her book, see this article on the Wedge Strategy.