Teenage Mutant Theocrats

Devin Burghart of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights recently reported that a recent regional Tea Party Patriots conference held in Idaho was a far-right stew of

“…racist “birther” attacks on President Obama, discussions of the conspiracy behind the problem facing America (complete with anti-Semitic illustration), Christian nationalism, anti-environmentalism, and serious calls for legislation promoting states’ rights and “nullification.”

While Christian nationalism is often in the mix in such far right settings as this, the presentation on the subject stood out to veteran rightwatcher Burghart.  

[One of the speakers was]…Sandpoint High School senior Brady Smith, who had attended something called “the patriot academy” in Texas.  A lanky redhead in a dark suit. Smith read from his notes about how the root cause of the country’s sickness was that we’ve forsaken our Godly heritage as a Christian nation. He listed several problems: the attack on “traditional marriage,” abortion, and our public education system not teaching Christianity, as symptoms of the larger sickness. The cure to all that ails the country, according to Smith, was a return to our Godly heritage. His remarks were warmly received. But to the outside observer, Brady Smith’s youth foretold a tragedy in the making.

You may be wondering, as I did, what is the Patriot Academy?  It turns out that it may not only be where Brady Smith got many of his ideas — it provides us with a window on the growing role of conservative Christian homeschooling in Republican electoral politics.  

Patriot Academy is a training and ideological indoctrination program for young prospective conservative political leaders. Held annually at the Texas state capitol in Austin since 2003, the Patriot Academy is a project of Torch of Freedom Foundation, headed by Rick Green a former State Representative (1999-2003) from Dripping Springs, Texas. Green is also an associate of Christian historical revisionist David Barton’s Wall Builders empire. Green travels the U.S. giving Christian nationalist lectures at churches, Christian academies and home schooling conventions. He ran as a the Republican candidate in a close-but- unsuccessful race for the Texas Supreme Court in 2010. (David Barton is the former longtime Vice-Chair of the Texas Republican Party, who has barnstormed the country on behalf of the Republican National Committee in election years.)

The group’s Facebook page describes the event as “a five-day political training program where students age sixteen to twenty-five learn about America’s system of government from a Biblical worldview.” They claimed that 85 students from 22 states participated in 2010 and that they are hoping for 100 at the next session in August 2011. Many participants have been homeschooled.

Interestingly, the Torch for Freedom Foundation web site, has among its very few links to other groups, one to an apparently forthcoming electorally focused entity called Stand USA.. Also interesting, is that the Patriot Academy’s Facebook site “Likes” only two other sites — Rick Green and American Majority. The latter turns out to be an electoral training organization headed by Ned Ryun, the co-founder of Generation Joshua, the political mobilization arm of the Christian Rightist, Home School Legal Defense Association. He is the son of former Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS) and is a former writer for president George W. Bush. American Majority, also produces historical material, which while de-emphasizing religious themes, seeks to adjust history to justify their current political views.

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