It was interesting that Bob McDonnell’s view on women, particularly women working outside of the home, seemed to draw the most visceral reaction from the news media. As offensive as those statements are, however, the part of McDonnell Thesis that should be of the most concern to Virginia’s voters is McDonnell’s view on government and the ultimate source of governmental power.
McDonnell seems to interpret the Declaration of Independence as ordaining the creation of a Christian theocracy. It is truly frightening that someone that thinks like this can get so close to a significant position of executive power in the United States.
McDonnell’s Thesis states: “The civil government was ordained to secure the inalienable rights of individuals created in the image and likeness of [G-d.]” This is drawn, one assumes, from Jefferson’s assertion in the Declaration that “all men … are created equal and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”
One can see right off the bat that the Declaration does not specifically refer to G-d, i.e., the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob from the Old Testament, for the document speaks solely of a “Creator.” McDonnell, however, clearly interprets it as a reference to the Bible’s deity by asserting that only individuals created in G-d’s image (See Genesis 1:26) are endowed with the magical unalienable rights.
McDonnell next asserts that the reason government protects these inalienable rights is to “facilitate a society in which other institutions are free to perform their convenantal duties to [G-d] and others.” In other words, government provides services to us in order to free us up to … well, live our lives according to the rules set forth in the Bible (presumably as interpreted by McDonnell).
With respect to the purpose of forming governments, the Declaration advises us to do it in a way that “shall seem must likely to protect [our] safety and happiness.’ Nothing in there, however, about “covenantal duties to [G-d].”
Finally, McDonnell concludes as follows: “The state alone, with the exception of parental discipline of children, bears the authority to punish wrongdoers, for the civil ruler is a minister of God to execute judgment and encourage good.”
The Declaration of Independence, however, directly contradicts this statement. Government, i.e., the “civil ruler,” does not derive power from G-d or any external force. Nor is its purpose to “execute judgment” or “encourage good.” TJ was quite clear on this point. The Declaration states: “That to secure these rights [i.e., the unalienable rights which include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness], governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
(NOTE: McDonnell does allow that governmental “authority” is limited by the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, laws, etc., but this somewhat meaningless jurisdictional statement does not change the core assertion that the legitimacy and powers of government derive from G-d, and should be executed to serve His purpose.)
What McDonnell appears to be envisioning here is nothing less than a Christian theocracy.
In case there is any doubt about McDonnell’s vision of American government, consider the following statement from his Thesis (pp. 13-14), drawn from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 13: 1-4:
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which [G-d] has established. The authorities that exist have been established by [G-d]. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what [G-d] has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
Similarly, on page 62, McDonnell asserts that Republicans must "correct the conventional folklore about the separation of church and state. Historically, the religious liberty guarantees of the First Amendment were intended to prevent government encroachment upon the free church, not eliminate the impact of religion on society."
As for specific policies a Governor McDonnell might impose, in his eyes, “Every level of government should statutorily and procedurally prefer married couples over cohabitators, homosexuals, or fornicators. The cost of sin should fall on the sinner, not the taxpayer.”
Nor is this merely an academic exercise that has not had real-life consequences. After becoming Attorney General, McDonnell has a chance to pursue his vision, and he did so. Demonstrating how government could show preference to “married couples” over homosexuals, for instance, McDonnell did the following:
Immediately after becoming AG, Mr. McDonnell issued an opinion to countermand the executive order by both Governors Warner and Kaine to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, basically ruling that discrimination based on sexual orientation was lawful in state hiring.
In early 2007, after The Christopher Newport University board banned discrimination in matters of admissions and employment based on sexual orientation, Bob McDonnell took the time to write the school to tell them, as the publication Inside Higher Ed put it, “it would not be legal for the university (or other public institutions in the state, which have done the same thing) to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
Bob McDonnell intervened in a private lawsuit among members of the Episcopal Church in a dispute that had gay rights at its core. In a protest over gay priests, dissident members left the church, but filed suit seeking to retain church property. Mr. McDonnell, needless to say, sought to intervene in the case on the side of the anti-gay dissidents, ostensibly in defense of a state statute. But the dispute was a religious and social one, above all else, not a Constitutional one. A real estate attorney told the Washington Post that McDonnell’s intervention in the case “was a little out of the ordinary.”
So, while McDonnell’s ridiculous and offensive comments about women are interesting, and make for a good soundbyte, McDonnell’s views on the origins and legitimacy of government power, the purpose of government, the belief that government is an agent of the G-d of Abraham in implementing policy and the role such a government ought to play in the private lives of its citizens are much more dangerous, and are more critical questions for the voters of Virginia.
As we can see from McDonnell’s time as AG, these are not merely abstract questions; rather, McDonnell has clearly demonstrated that once in power, he is not afraid to implement his vision.
Hopefully, as this news story makes its way through the news cycle, the MSM media will find a way, consistent with the objectives of its news coverage, to place this critical consideration before the public.
Given the many questions still hanging about from the revelation of this Thesis, it is simply not acceptable for Bob McDonnell to travel around the state talking about his plan to appoint Bill Bolling Chief Jobs Creation Officer for the Commonwealth, while refusing to answer questions about his vision for what he wants Virginia to be in the future.
Note: My thanks to Cvillelaw at Blue Comonwealth for the research he did on the McDonnell thesis, which I drew on heavily for this.