As the largest national organization leading the fight against same-sex marriage, the Alliance Defense Fund doesn't hesitate to put its Christian beliefs front and center. Visitors to the group's website can even learn how to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior with the click of a mouse.
But what type of Christianity does the ADF espouse?
Clearly it's Protestant, clearly it's conservative – but there may be a lot more to it than that.
At least one ADF project, the Blackstone Fellowship for law students, has ties to the Christian Reconstructionist movement. Reconstructionists are the most extreme manifestation of the Religious Right in America. They advocate a society anchored in "biblical law" and would literally base U.S. law on the legal code of the Old Testament. In their ideal society, offenses like blasphemy, fornication, "witchcraft," homosexuality, worshipping "false gods" and incorrigible juvenile delinquency would merit the death penalty. In other words, Reconstructionists long to replace America's secular democracy with a harsh fundamentalist Christian theocracy. (See "Operation Potomac," October 2001 Church & State.)
Christian Reconstructionists are a small, but many would say influential, part of the Religious Right. The dean of the movement, the late Rousas John Rushdoony, is credited by many in the Religious Right with establishing the theological foundation for ultra-conservative Christian political action. While Religious Right leaders say they don't go as far as Rushdoony, they readily identify him as an inspiration for their thinking.
Reconstructionists have appeared at the ADF's Blackstone events and continue to do so. Past Blackstone speakers include George Grant, a leading Reconstructionist theorist known for his extreme views. In his 1993 book Legislating Immorality, the Tennessee-based Grant laments the fact that legal codes calling for the death penalty for gay people have been abolished.
Gary DeMar, a Georgia-based Reconstructionist who endorsed the idea of the death penalty for gays in his 1987 book The Ruler of Nations: Biblical Principles for Government, spoke at a previous ADF seminar and is scheduled to appear at this year's Blackstone event, which takes place this month.
Jeffery J. Ventrella, the ADF's senior vice president of strategic training and coordinator of the Blackstone program, has published several articles in The Chalcedon Report, the leading Reconstructionist journal, which was founded by Rushdoony. Ventrella, who describes himself as an "ordained Ruling Elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church" in his ADF bio, also teaches classes at Bahnsen Theological Seminary, a correspondence school in Placentia, Calif., named after the late Greg Bahnsen, one of the key architects of the Reconstructionist movement.
In one Chalcedon Report article, Ventrella blasted the increasing acceptance of gays in corporate America.
"No right thinking Christian can support 'gay rights' (as distinct from uniformly applicable civil rights)," he wrote. "But, the tactical question centers on how to respond – in action – to corporate America's rapidly advancing adoption of sexual orientation-based, non-discrimination policies, domestic partnership benefits, and 'safe zones.'"
Ventrella called for moving beyond boycotting gay-friendly companies.
"In reality, a better strategic approach may well be to infiltrate publicly held companies (by stock purchases) and then tactically exercise voting rights and other ownership privileges, et al, in an effort to bring pressure to bear upon corporate policy and practice," he wrote.
In another piece, Ventrella discussed the possibility of advocating vouchers as a means of tearing down the public school system.
Ventrella has also written for the Southern California Center for Christian Studies, an outfit affiliated with the Bahnsen seminary. One of his articles discusses "theonomic postmillennialism." ("Theonomy" – which is defined as God's law – is another term for Reconstructionism.) It highlighted the need to "engage the culture strategically" and use an incremental approach to bring about change.
"Gracious strategic thinking advances the Kingdom," he writes.
In an e-mail to Church & State, Ventrella said he is not a Reconstructionist and does not favor executing gays. He downplayed Blackstone appearances by Grant and DeMar.
"Neither gentleman addressed issues relating to homosexuality; each gentleman addressed issues pertaining to constitutional history and governmental structure," Ventrella wrote.
ADF president, Alan E. Sears, did not respond to requests for an interview.
For many years, Christian Reconstructionism was seen as an obscure theology, debated and discussed by a radical but small corps of true believers. Through ties to groups like the Alliance Defense Fund, the extremist adherents of Christian Reconstructionism could gain a boost where it matters most – in the nation's courtrooms.