Calvinism, Gun Laws And An End To Public Education : No Compromise In Episode 4: The Dorr brothers have become known for their network of ultra pro-gun Facebook groups. But their family name has also been connected to an extreme religious movement that has sought to eliminate public education, outlaw homosexuality and replace all laws with rules from the Old Testament. Lisa and Chris dig into the roots of the Dorr family to learn more.

Building The Kingdom Of God

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CHRIS HAXEL, HOST:

Hey, everybody. This is Chris Haxel. First, thanks for listening to NO COMPROMISE. We hope you'll spread the word and encourage other folks to subscribe. But right now we'd like to ask you to help us out by telling us what you like about the show and how we could improve by completing a short, anonymous survey at npr.org/nocompromisesurvey - all one word. It takes about five minutes, and you'll do us all at NO COMPROMISE a huge favor by filling it out. That's npr.org/nocompromisesurvey. Thanks, and here's the episode.

Previously on NO COMPROMISE...

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

SUZIE POLLOCK: You know, as a female in this and everything I've done, you have to require people to respect you, to communicate with you.

AARON DORR: And I was like, oh, really? Oh, we're so sorry we offended you.

MATT WINDSCHITL: The veil came off, and it was just - oh, you don't actually want to get this done. You're going to call yourself a no-compromise gun rights group, but all you're doing is you're starting the fire and saying you're the only one with the pail of water that can put the fire out. That's political anarchy.

A DORR: Jump on board now. Thirty dollars a year, less than 10 cents a day - $30 a year.

CAL HENDERSON: I am a real person. I have real meetings.

HAXEL: Why do you think the Dorrs would be interested?

BARB HEKI: Well, once they have all those names, they can contact them about other issues and possibly raise funds.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHARLES LOWERY: I believe you're looking for me...

LISA HAGEN, HOST:

Yes, indeed.

LOWERY: ...For the gun rights...

HAGEN: That's right. Yes, yes.

I have to admit; at first, I have no idea who he is. That's the sound of me stalling as I scramble to pull up a spreadsheet of all the people we've been calling.

You are - are you a reverend? Is that correct?

LOWERY: I am technically, yes. I'm not actively pastoring a church right now, but I'm still ordained.

HAGEN: Reverend Charles D. Lowery - he's on my list, but I haven't even called him yet. Turns out one of the guys I did call called him. Guy was kind of freaked out.

LOWERY: He really didn't want me to deceive me, but he wanted to call me before he (laughter) - to let me know about it before he put my name in there 'cause he didn't know.

HAGEN: I get it, I tell him - makes sense.

HAXEL: Lisa and I have been trying to get in touch with board members of no-compromise gun groups run by the Dorrs and their friends. We've heard from so many people that these guys are deceptive, scammers even. But the documents we have don't tell a full story, which is why we've been trying to find board members. We know the brothers own a for-profit company that provides printing services and management consulting, and a lot of the money donated to their nonprofits winds up there.

HAGEN: This reverend, Charles Lowery, says he was involved with the Georgia gun group right from the beginning. It's run by Patrick Parsons, one of the Dorr brothers' partners.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PATRICK PARSONS: Violence, death, bloodshed, hatred, riots - all being pushed by radical left-wing...

HAGEN: Charles tells me they met almost a decade ago, when Patrick walked into his church one Sunday.

LOWERY: Patrick came, I guess, in 2009. And he said that he was going to start an organization called Gun Owners of Georgia or - no, Georgia Gun Owners. Georgia Gun Owners.

HAGEN: Lowery tells me he's willing to meet in person, says he'll tell me whatever I want to know.

I'm Lisa Hagen.

HAXEL: And I'm Chris Haxel. This is NO COMPROMISE, an NPR investigative series about one family on a mission to reconstruct America using two powerful tools - guns and Facebook. In the last episode, we heard from people on the receiving end of the Dorr brothers' scorched-earth tactics, people who don't trust their motivations or their accounting practices.

HAGEN: In this episode, we find out what the Dorr brothers' idea of reconstructing America might actually look like and how freedom can mean all kinds of things depending on who you ask.

Hi. Could we sit outside?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Outside? Yeah.

HAGEN: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Just two?

HAGEN: Just two and...

Reverend Charles Lowery has me meet him at a Mexican restaurant in Cartersville, Ga.

LOWERY: I...

HAGEN: What? Do you know what...

LOWERY: Yeah, I don't - what I get's not on the menu, so (laughter).

HAGEN: ...Where he declines a menu from the hostess.

LOWERY: They have really good homemade flautas here.

HAGEN: Ooh.

LOWERY: They make the...

HAGEN: We are now officially in coronavirus times. So the restaurant's outdoor seating seemed like a good idea, except folks keep ordering margaritas - mixer is loud.

(SOUNDBITE OF MACHINE WHIRRING)

LOWERY: Well, I couldn't have picked a worse place. And the only reason I picked it was 'cause it was outside, and I figured we wouldn't...

HAGEN: No, it's OK.

LOWERY: I figured we wouldn't bother anybody, you know?

HAGEN: It looked like a good idea, and I figured...

After our flautas, we pack up and try a spot outside a supermarket Starbucks next to a nice, big parking lot, where Charles tells me back around 2010...

LOWERY: I was pastor of Antioch Presbyterian Church in Cartersville, Ga. And, of course, I was living here in Bartow County, so...

HAGEN: One Sunday, a friend brings Patrick Parsons to church. This friend is someone Charles trusts.

LOWERY: Anyone that he would vouch for, I would tend to think that they were an honest person.

HAGEN: Charles is big into the Second Amendment. This was before it was legal in Georgia to carry guns in churches.

LOWERY: Our church, we actually allowed - believed we had the constitutional right, and we allowed and we encouraged all members in good standing, if they had a carry permit and could be in, you know, with all the rest of the laws, to carry at the church for the protection of the church.

HAGEN: Patrick tells Charles he's some kind of lobbyist, coming back home to Georgia from out of state, says he's back to change the gun laws. And he's got a favorite ask.

LOWERY: He asked me if I would be willing - that's the best way to put it - if I would be willing to be the president. I think it was the president. Again, it's been over 10 years so I - but I believe the title was the president. And I was like, well, why do you need me to be a president? And his claim, Patrick's claim, was that since he was going to be a lobbyist and would be paid by the organization that he should not be the president of it. I needed to be the figurehead or whatever of the organization because he said it would be a conflict of interest for him to be the only paid employee of the group and be in charge of it or whatever.

HAXEL: Now, Charles is talking about being the president, but that's not what the actual paperwork says.

HAGEN: Just so you know, you weren't the president. You were the CFO.

LOWERY: OK. CFO, OK.

HAGEN: (Laughter).

About a minute later, he has a question for me.

LOWERY: What is a CFO, if you don't mind me - I'm not a businessperson.

HAGEN: Chief financial officer.

LOWERY: I - financial?

HAGEN: As you might be able to guess from that reaction and the fact that he can only kind of remember the name of Patrick's group,

HAGEN: Charles was in no way controlling or directing Georgia Gun Owners. I hand him a copy of the group's bylaws. It lists all the responsibilities that Georgia Gun Owners' board members were required to fulfill, like having an annual meeting.

Did you ever have board meetings of any kind?

LOWERY: No, I never - never had a board meeting. I never had any meeting unless it was me at church, maybe five minutes after with me just sitting, talking, informally - no minutes, nothing, nothing. Now, I say that emphatically.

HAGEN: Charles says he was just a name on the paperwork, along with another young man who attended his church - Robert Baxter, a guy I'd already called.

He runs, like, Georgia Gun Owners. And I understand that you are an agent for the Georgia Gun Owners Alliance, so I wanted to connect with you.

ROBERT BAXTER: No, I don't think so - Georgia Gun Owners, an agent for the Georgia Gun Owners Alliance?

LOWERY: Robbie was a kid. I mean, he was 19 or 20 years old - something like that. I mean, I'd have to check to see his exact age, but I don't think he was old enough to drink.

HAGEN: Patrick had found Robbie through Antioch Presbyterian, too. Charles offers to call Robbie up and puts him on speakerphone.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)

BAXTER: Hey, Chuck.

LOWERY: Hey, Robbie. I'm here with Lisa Hagen, the reporter lady that called you yesterday.

BAXTER: Yeah.

LOWERY: And we've got a question for you, OK?

BAXTER: Yeah.

HAGEN: Do you know that you're on this gun owner paperwork until 2015?

BAXTER: I did not know that.

LOWERY: (Laughter).

HAGEN: In fact, Robbie tells us, he was in France for two years while he was supposedly the group's registered agent. Charles fills him in on what we've been talking about.

LOWERY: I was the chief financial officer, the guy who handles the books.

BAXTER: Yeah.

LOWERY: Well, I would've loved to have handled them, but I never saw them (laughter).

BAXTER: Yeah. Well, that's all kind of sketchy. That's...

LOWERY: Yeah, yeah.

HAGEN: Yeah.

LOWERY: Well, I'm sorry he dragged you into it, Robbie. I - you were young, impressionable, and I should've known better. But I would have stopped that if I'd have known about it. But...

BAXTER: Yeah.

HAXEL: Something you ought to know. See; when all this was going down, Charles wasn't just any kind of pastor. He used to be part of a religious movement that has some really specific goals. It's called Christian Reconstructionism.

LOWERY: These people genuinely believe that the Christian church will take over the world, OK? They genuinely believe there will be a golden age of righteousness, where the law of God will be the law of all the land and that there will be unbelievers but no - they'll be so suppressed, they - you know, it'd be kind of like being in Soviet Russia when you were, you know, a spy for the U.S. or something. You know, you just did...

HAGEN: It's a group that believes certain conditions have to be met before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ can happen. Laws and governments have to be changed. Lowery says it used to be a lot of Christians didn't see the point of getting involved in politics because Jesus is going to come make things right anyway.

LOWERY: So here comes the reconstructionists saying, nope. That's not going to happen. That never - that doesn't happen. So what we've got to do is start changing the laws because if we don't, we're going to get fed to the lions, basically.

HAGEN: The laws they want are the ones in the Old Testament.

LOWERY: The Old Testament law would be the law of the land, basically. So for example, like, homosexuality would be a capital offensive if seen by two or three witnesses according to them. So would bestiality. Even adultery could be considered a capital offense. Obviously, you'd have to have two or three eyewitnesses for it to be a death penalty offense, but yeah. That - yeah. Absolutely.

(SOUNDBITE OF FIRE CRACKLING)

HAGEN: The crackle of a fire can be such a soothing sound, but there are exceptions. This fire, for instance, is not meant so much to calm as to incite anyone who might see it.

HAXEL: We're hearing a Facebook video from 2018. It's a tight shot of a rusty, burning barrel. The fire's going pretty good, swirling up in the air. The camera zooms in on the flames, where you can just make out the pages of a book turning black as they curl at the base of the fire.

HAGEN: They're library books checked out of the Orange City Public Library in northwest Iowa.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PAUL DORR: Here's a book called "Two Boys Kissing," and it's targeted for youth in the 12- to 13-year range. They're teaching these kids the - they're not telling them the destiny that it's heading into is the destiny of the pit of hell forever.

HAGEN: This man is burning children's books about LGBTQ people and their families. There's a little pond behind it. It's a beautiful, breezy day. The man has a salt and pepper beard, white collared shirt and a suit jacket, no tie. His name is Paul Dorr, proud patriarch of 11 home-schooled children, including Aaron, Ben and Chris Dorr.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

P DORR: This is my first livestream video that I'm doing for the Rescue the Perishing supporters and Christians throughout northwest Iowa, throughout the country, hopefully. My name is Paul Dorr. I'm director of Rescue the Perishing.

HAXEL: By the way, he was convicted of criminal mischief for this book burning stunt. We've been trying to understand these brothers through their videos, their followers and their finances. Last episode, we had a half-dozen people telling us the Dorrs and their partners are in it for the money.

HAGEN: But it doesn't look like these guys are getting rich exactly, so maybe there's more to it than that.

HAXEL: Between all their nonprofit gun groups in 2018, they pulled in about $1.2 million. Divide that by three brothers plus their friends Patrick and Greg. You'd average 240,000 bucks per person. But then you have to subtract all their actual expenses - rent, utilities, travel, postage and paper for the mailers.

HAGEN: Which - you know, it's not Wayne LaPierre money.

HAXEL: And by the way, they all have a bunch of kids - 4, 5, 7. Big families get expensive fast even when you home school them.

HAGEN: So we got to thinking, maybe this guy - the man who home-schooled the Dorr brothers - can offer some clues.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

P DORR: We haven't acted for a generation or more, and we're reaping the whirlwind. Our generation and the grandparents before - we must repent. My voice back then was vilified and silenced, sometimes even from the pulpits in this area. May God have mercy on those men, those pulpits and those elders. Elders and pastors did not stand up against the feminist lies that have ruined young women and...

HAGEN: When he's not destroying library books in a park, Paul writes a blog about a lot of things on his mind - the evils of abortion, the inherent sinfulness of public schools, violence against white Christians in South Africa.

HAXEL: Local judges he's tangling with, drag queens. He really hates drag queens. And sometimes he posts links to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jews ruining 1920s Germany.

HAGEN: All of these topics fall under the same umbrella for Paul. In his own words, he is advancing Christ's kingdom via the law of God. He declined to answer our questions, but he speaks freely about this stuff when he has a like-minded audience.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE WAR ROOM")

JASON SANCHEZ: Reconstructionist Radio presents "The War Room," where we discuss tactics for strategic Christian living.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIGHTY LORD, EXTEND YOUR KINGDOM")

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL GROUP: (Singing) Mighty Lord, extend your kingdom. Be the truth with triumph crowned.

HAGEN: We're going to get more into the theology stuff later, but for now, let's learn a little more about Paul.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE WAR ROOM")

BILL EVANS: Paul is a former banker. He's a reconstructionist. He is a home-schooling patriarch with a impressive family.

HAGEN: Remember; 11 kids - the host calls them an entire battalion of Dorrs. Paul says he raised them to be fighters.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE WAR ROOM")

P DORR: They haven't had near even what the typical home school child had growing up, materially. We've taken our children streetside for 25 years to preach the gospel, to confront evil, particularly institutions - churches, phony Christian colleges, political authorities, judicial authorities, whatever it was that was militating against God and his word. Over 20, 25 years, we took the children out with us and taught them how to stand for Christ in the public square.

HAXEL: Paul says his kids grew up protesting outside of churches, courthouses, any institution that doesn't live up to Paul's religious standards, which most definitely includes abortion clinics.

HAGEN: We're talking about the 1980s and '90s, the heyday of anti-abortion violence in this country. Around then, the Dorr family would often protest with a controversial group called Operation Rescue. Here's the group's founder Randall Terry reacting to the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RANDALL TERRY: He was one of the most evil people on the planet, every bit as evil as Nazi war criminals. Now, I know that that offends some people that are watching this, but it is the truth. It is...

HAGEN: Terry would lead Operation Rescue members to block entrances to abortion clinics in what he called rescues, and the Dorr family participated in a bunch of them.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE WAR ROOM")

P DORR: Many of our children along the way, our two older boys, got to go to prison themselves for a weekend, to jail, for involvement with the Rescue.

HAXEL: Raising kids to carry on the reconstructionist cause has been a central mission of Paul Dorr's life. He tells the host it's been that way since he left his career in banking.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE WAR ROOM")

P DORR: We could see the trajectory of where the culture was going. Rescue opened our eyes a lot. But we planted ourselves and said, let's start with the kids. Let's start here 'cause we know this is not going to be fixed politically. The church is in such disrepair. Let's do what we can to prepare the next generation.

HAGEN: One way Paul prepared the next generation was by home-schooling his 11 children. Then there's his day job. He's a political consultant. While his sons mostly focus on guns, Paul works on dismantling public education. He's a hired gun who gets paid to attack public school funding.

HAXEL: School districts usually need the approval of local voters to borrow money for new buildings.

HAGEN: Residents opposed to the new spending could be landowners who don't want their taxes going up, people who don't have school-aged kids. They'll pay Paul Dorr thousands of dollars to build a campaign against the proposal. How does it work?

JOHN LANDGAARD: Well, a lot of it has to do with creating doubt and mistrust of your school board or your school leaders, particularly the superintendent. There's...

HAXEL: This is John Landgaard, superintendent of the Worthington School District in southern Minnesota. When the district wanted to build a new school, he says Paul worked with a local group to set up a Facebook page. He made videos, had people sign petitions - you know the drill.

LANDGAARD: You know, if you believe everything on Facebook, shame on you, in my book. And they start, generally, a Facebook campaign and...

HAXEL: Unlike his sons, who build big audiences over time, Paul's strategy is to create the Facebook equivalent of a pop-up store. Shortly before the vote, Paul's group goes on a media blitz. John Landgaard says it was tough to counter in real time.

LANDGAARD: We found that a bunch of the information being shared was not truly accurate. It's twisting that information to fit the story. And they tell a pretty good story. He's very good at what he does, in my view, of misleading the voters.

HAXEL: In Worthington, voters rejected proposals to pay for a new school five times in recent years. That's despite a huge influx of students. In 2007, the district had about 2,100.

LANDGAARD: Right now we're running right in the neighborhood of 3,300 students in our district. We had converted storage space to small classroom spaces or doubled up offices. So there was very little space in any of our buildings that was not being totally utilized for education.

HAGEN: Most of the new students are immigrants from Central America, here with their families who work for the town's biggest employer, a pork processing plant.

HAXEL: Last year, the district asked again to get money for a new school. And after six tries in seven years, it finally passed - barely.

HAGEN: It was a rare loss for Paul Dorr. He's worked as a consultant across the Midwest. Reporters with American Public Media found 63 school votes he worked on. Paul's side won about 70% of the time.

HAXEL: So Christian Reconstructionism - it's not a specific branch or denomination. It's more like a movement.

HAGEN: Christian Reconstructionism was kind of a big deal in the '80s, which is when Paul Dorr says he had his religious awakening. In 1987, PBS aired an hourlong documentary on the movement hosted by Bill Moyers.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "CHRISTIAN RECONSTRUCTIONISM AND GOD'S LAW")

BILL MOYERS: The mainstream press says the political influence of the religious right is fading. Ronald Reagan will soon retire to California, and Jerry Falwell is giving up politics to save souls. We're seeing a changing of the guard. The people in this broadcast are Christian Reconstructionist. They believe it's the moral obligation of Christians to recapture every institution of society for Jesus Christ, and they're committed to a long grassroots campaign.

HAXEL: So the name itself references the fact that adherents want to reconstruct society. Like we explained earlier, reconstructionists think the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will only happen after they have reconstructed society to conform with their view of theology. They call it advancing God's Kingdom.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "CHRISTIAN RECONSTRUCTIONISM AND GOD'S LAW")

MOYERS: Every area of American life - law, medicine, media, the arts, business education and, finally, the civil government - must one day be brought under the rule of the righteous.

HAGEN: The closest thing reconstructionism has to a leader is this guy Rousas John Rushdoony. He went by R.J., and he's more like the father of the movement. His writing and philosophy really kicked this whole thing off.

HAXEL: R.J. Rushdoony also started the Chalcedon Foundation, which is like the Christian Reconstruction version of a think tank. It publishes books and keeps audio archives of reconstructionist thinkers and of Rushdoony himself.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RJ RUSHDOONY: Thus the goal of modern politics is to make a man guilty in order to enslave him and to have people themselves demand an end to liberty, to have the people demand of Washington and of the U.N. here are our hands. Put the chains on. We are afraid of liberty.

HAXEL: He believes most people choose to live under what he calls spiritual slavery, which according to Rushdoony, Christians cannot allow.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RUSHDOONY: This, then, is our destiny as Christians - freedom. And Christians are the only true freedom fighters the world has ever had. The rest offer slavery as freedom.

HAGEN: But Rushdoony's idea of Christian freedom isn't about saying Merry Christmas or even the ability to practice whatever form of Christianity. For him, freedom only comes through living under what Rushdoony says is God's law. Theonomy, as he sees it, requires - among other things - that people be put to death for things like adultery or homosexuality. In that PBS documentary, Bill Moyers asked Rushdoony himself about this.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "CHRISTIAN RECONSTRUCTIONISM AND GOD'S LAW")

MOYERS: But you would reinstate the death penalty for some of these or all of these biblical crimes?

RUSHDOONY: I wouldn't.

MOYERS: But, I mean, the reconstructed society...

RUSHDOONY: I'm saying that this is what God requires. I'm not saying that everything in the Bible I like. Some of it rubs me the wrong way. But I'm simply saying this is what God requires. This is what God says is justice. Therefore, I don't feel I have a choice.

MOYERS: And the agents of God would carry out the laws?

RUSHDOONY: The civil government would on these things.

HAXEL: The civil government? As I learned more about Christian Reconstructionism, I kept seeing these same phrases - civil government, humanist, like code words almost. So I called up an expert.

JULIE INGERSOLL: My favorite example is calling public schools government schools.

HAXEL: Julie Ingersoll is a philosophy and religious studies professor at the University of North Florida. She wrote a book called "Building God's Kingdom: Inside The World Of Christian Reconstructionism." In the preface, she mentions she used to be married to a reconstructionist. Julie says in this worldview, there are different types of government. The family is a government. So is the church. And the state, what most people just think of as the government, becomes civil government. So schools that aren't at home or run by the church are called government schools.

HAGEN: Humanism is another one of these code words. Rushdoony advocates for operating the government under theonomy - again, God's law. Rejecting God's law, or at least Rushdoony's interpretation of it, means you're choosing human law, which is sinful.

HAXEL: Just last year Chris Dorr, the guy who runs Ohio Gun Owners, posted about theonomy on his personal Facebook page. He thanks a couple of reconstructionist thinkers for putting him on his career path.

HAGEN: Then he hashtags the post #TheonomicReconstructionistBallBusterExtraordinaire.

HAXEL: I ask Julie if Rushdoony's ideas work in a multicultural society like the United States.

INGERSOLL: Not in a multicultural society. There is God's authority, and then there's all other religions, all other political systems. Everything else other than their form of biblical Christianity is all lumped into the same category, and it's called humanism. And there's no in-between. There's God's truth, God's authority. And then there is humanism, which is the claim to the authority of human rationality.

HAXEL: So there's - in other words, there's no room for compromise.

INGERSOLL: No room for compromise, no room for pluralism. For them, pluralism is idolatry. So you can't have a multicultural society where there are Jews and Muslims and Catholics and Hindus. Those are all idolatrous systems. And their understanding of a political society is a society that is rooted in patriarchal families.

HAXEL: Women serve their husbands, stay at home, raise lots of Christian kids. That's the dream Paul's working towards.

HAGEN: Unlike the nightmare he sees around him now.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

P DORR: The county governments, city governments, school governments that are working in nine states are being turned over to a brutal, cruel, oppressive class of women. If you look at the biblical orientation of husband and wife, headship, servant, all the things that God has prescribed and - we've thrown it all up in the air. We have some very cruel women running these offices who oppress the people who come in over the counter and so forth. Many of them have lost their role and understanding of what's going on, and they've become these very brutal people. Next slide, please.

HAGEN: In his consulting work, Paul says he'll often give his clients copies of books on theonomy and reconstructionism. This is after they've gotten to know him a bit.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

P DORR: Let me back up a second, explain why I spend so much of my time on defunding government education. I'll give you my reason. It's almost always not my client's reason, but it's my personal reason. I work at this because I have a deep, passionate abhorrence of government schools. I'm dedicating my life to see them and to pass along the vision onto my children and children's children to see that institution one day be gone and restore education back into the hands of the families, the parents and the Christians primarily.

(APPLAUSE)

HAXEL: Julie says reconstructionists laid out a plan decades ago to wipe out public education. Reconstructionists should run for school board, attack school funding.

INGERSOLL: Their goal is to eliminate public education and to replace it with Christian schooling and Christian home schooling, and they are seeing lots and lots of success at this.

HAXEL: In their gun videos every now and then, Aaron, Ben and Chris give a little taste of their views on education. Here's Chris talking about all the reasons he thinks mass shootings happen - all the reasons besides guns.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRIS DORR: Do our schools contribute to this problem? And I'm not talking about specific teachers. I'm talking about the system as a whole. Do our schools teaching kids that there is no right and wrong, do whatever feels right - does this contribute to the problem? To be really controversial, does taking God out of the schools - does that contribute to the problem?

HAGEN: R.J. Rushdoony, the father of reconstructionism, died in 2001. And ever since, the Christian Reconstruction movement has splintered. But honestly, some of its ideas are kind of thriving.

HAXEL: Take Ron Paul, father of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, longtime congressman and former Libertarian presidential candidate. We told you earlier about the Ron Paul endorsement scandal Aaron and Chris Dorr were involved in. Their dad worked for the Ron Paul campaign.

INGERSOLL: Ron Paul doesn't call himself a Reconstructionist so far as I know. But the Constitution Party was founded by Howard Phillips, who was a - who identified clearly as a Reconstructionist. And if you go to the Constitution Party website and you read the positions that the Constitution Party takes, it's exactly Christian Reconstructionist, and Ron Paul ran as their presidential campaign a couple - candidate a couple of times. So this is what I'm talking about - this influence, right? So does that make him a Christian Reconstructionist? Not necessarily. Does he believe all the same things that Christian Reconstructionists believe? Yes.

HAGEN: Reconstructing society doesn't stop at public education. Rushdoony, Paul Dorr - they want to eliminate government spending on everything they see as nonbiblical - things like Social Security, highways, you name it.

HAXEL: As I'm talking to Julie, I tell her a bit about Paul's sons, the Dorr brothers - how they're gun rights activists who sometimes slip theology into their videos. Remember when Lisa went to that big rally and asked Aaron Dorr about gun control?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

HAGEN: You don't like these ideas because you think they don't work or because they're...

A DORR: Oh, no. We have an absolute - a divine right from God and enshrined in our Constitution to keep and bear firearms.

HAXEL: Julie says the strict patriarchal view of family, similar to what we heard from Paul Dorr, helps explain how a reconstructionist might think about guns.

INGERSOLL: One of the primary responsibilities of a family is defense of the family. So when you hear them talk about their God-given right to own guns, that's what they're talking about. They're talking about the way that God delegated authority to fathers to protect their families. And so whatever method of protection is the most relevant in a particular context falls under this principle. So they believe that the Bible clearly says that it's not just a right for families to own guns, but it's kind of a moral obligation.

HAXEL: We'll be right back.

(SOUNDBITE OF HUMPMUSCLE SONG, "FEAR ME (FOR I AM HUGE AND MADE OF METAL)")

HAGEN: In case you're thinking all this reconstructionism stuff is a relic of the '60s or even the '80s, here's a reconstructionist sermon from August 2020.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: ...Cannot do it. The first thing you'll find when you spend any time on the Black Lives Matter organization website is an intensely racist organization that if there were white counterparts to it, we would immediately be marched against because they are all about and exclusively for Blackness in everything. And in many respects, it is a political front for sodomy and transgenderism, a commitment to the abolition of the family, a commitment...

HAGEN: That's from a church in Georgia. Now, reconstructionist hashtags aside, we don't know how much of R.J. Rushdoony's teachings the Dorr brothers or their friends believe in or not. We'd love to know more about the Dorr brothers' current beliefs and whether those beliefs influence their views on guns and everything else, but they've stopped talking to us.

HAXEL: We do know a lot of people who would call themselves reconstructionists attend very conservative Presbyterian churches just like the ones Aaron, Ben and Chris Dorr say they go to.

HAGEN: Anyway, once we start looking at the Dorrs through this lens of reconstructionism, we see connections everywhere. The Constitution Party Julie mentioned - one of its former vice presidential candidates is on the board of the Missouri Firearms Coalition.

HAXEL: At least a couple members of the Dorr family attended a tiny and short-lived reconstructionist school in Lynchburg, Va., called Christ College. The college president - Chris Dorr's father-in-law. And its former chaplain is on the board of Ohio Gun Owners.

HAGEN: But these days, not everyone who might share reconstructionist beliefs is as public about them as Paul Dorr. Let's go back to where we started this episode - my conversation in Cartersville, Ga., with Reverend Charles Lowery. We talked a long time, and he explained a lot to me about reconstructionism, about why he largely left it behind.

LOWERY: It's the idea of you have a bunch of kids and eventually will outnumber everybody, OK? Problem with it is they have so many kids and they can't keep up with them, and their kids are like, I don't want to be a part of this. I never even got to see Dad 'cause - you know? So they don't do it. It doesn't work.

HAGEN: Charles says it's a tough way to live.

LOWERY: In the Christian church today, if you hear theonomy, people start picking up the bricks throw at you - OK? - because they know how much trouble it's caused, particularly in the Presbyterian movement.

HAGEN: And even if someone's never heard about the trouble...

LOWERY: What do they do nowadays? They go home, they get on Google, and they go look it up. And they get this guy named R.J. Rushdoony who denied that the Holocaust basically happened. They see that, and they're like, what?

HAGEN: Holocaust denial is just one of many quite extreme side notes that are going to pop up in any cursory Rushdoony Google. Remember when he was talking about the spiritual slavery of not living under Old Testament law?

HAXEL: That was from a 1996 speech called "A Return To Slavery." Here's what he said about American slavery.

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RUSHDOONY: The treatment of the slaves on the whole was good and indulgent. They were valued private property. Most of the slaves were unwilling to see slavery end.

HAGEN: Rushdoony goes on for the better part of an hour, dismissing the enslavement of Black people by Southern whites as really not that bad. He's riffed on this idea and variations of this speech over and over.

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RUSHDOONY: There have been occasionally bad masters. It is true also there are occasionally sadistic and vicious parents. But shall we condemn parenthood because of such persons?

HAGEN: He really liked to minimize the violence inflicted on Black people over 400 years of their enslavement, generations of people who were raped, tortured and murdered to fuel a global economy that defined them as less than human. Denying that history is textbook racism.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HAGEN: In churches today, Charles says pastors can teach Rushdoony's ideas without repeating the worst things he said.

LOWERY: It's like anything else. You want to try to fly low under the radar, and kind of - you don't want to use terms that might run people off. What you want to do is teach the same thing but do it in a way that doesn't cause buzzwords for people to start looking up because let's say...

HAXEL: Remember; he used to be a reconstructionist pastor. And he says while the movement itself has always been pretty small, its early thought leaders were prolific writers and speakers.

LOWERY: They are the only - Christian Reconstructionism is the only group that write on politics for Christians. That's their - I mean, almost all their books have to do with the government, political matters - OK? - government, economics, et cetera.

HAGEN: Charles says if you're a Christian today whose politics swing to the right, chances are you've encountered the work of reconstructionists whether through a sermon or a book or a blog. And most scholars of Rushdoony agree his biggest impact has been the success of Christian home schooling.

LOWERY: He basically made that possible because when all the lawsuits would happen and they would try to prevent parents from doing it, he was the one they would call to testify in the court trials. And he was so convincing with his argumentation that he - I mean, he really - he is, in a sense, the father of the modern home schooling movement.

HAXEL: But now we're beginning to think there is another big area of reconstructionist influence, one that's been largely overlooked - gun rights.

HAGEN: You see; while Rushdoony was busy fathering modern home schooling, he had some good friends who really loved guns.

HAXEL: Next time, the original no compromisers.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: As one of the bumper stickers says, the Second Amendment ain't about duck hunting.

HAGEN: And the company they kept.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: That's what these people are all about - creating an all-white territory. That's a whites-only territory. That's the definition of white nationalism - to create a white nation.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: If we're going to beat these people, we have to come up with something new. So we can't play their game any longer. We're playing a power game. Law is a power game.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: All right, so the third system is called leaderless resistance. But, of course, we know better. We call it following the mandates given to us by our God.

HAXEL: NO COMPROMISE is us, Chris Haxel and Lisa Hagen. The show is produced by Graham Smith and edited by Robert Little of NPR's Investigations Unit. Josh Rogosin and Stephen Key are our sound engineers - sound design by Josh and Graham. Our music comes from Peter Duchesne, Brad Honeyman (ph) and the Humpmuscle Rolling Circus.

HAGEN: Big ups Rob Braswell, Dean Clegg and Kieth Richards. Special thanks to Sarah McCammon, Chris Turpin and our friends at Story Lab - Michael May, Alex Goldmark, Bruce Auster and Cheryl W. Thompson. And thanks as well to our colleagues at the Guns and America reporting collaborative. Also, thank you, Maura Friedman and Kaitlin Kolarik.

HAXEL: NO COMPROMISE is a production of NPR working in partnership with KCUR in Kansas City, WABE in Atlanta and WAMU in Washington, D.C.

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