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Michael Peroutka, the Republican candidate running for the District 5 seat on the Anne Arundel County Council, refused to disavow any association he has with the League of the South, a pro-secessionist group, founded in 1994 in Alabama, that, according to its website, seeks “to advance the cultural, social, economic and political well-being and independence of the Southern people by all honourable means” at a press conference held in Glen Burnie on Wednesday.
At the press conference, Peroutka, a debt-collection lawyer and co-founder of the Institute on the Constitution who was also the former Constitution Party candidate for president in 2004, sought to defend himself from criticism that emerged after a video surfaced of him speaking at the 2012 national conference of the League of the South, after which he asked those assembled to join him in singing the national anthem before leading the crowd in singing “Dixie,” the anthem of Confederate forces during the Civil War. In that video clip, posted by the online investigative outlet Raw Story, Peroutka emphasizes the need for government to conform to Biblical world views.
“You’re going to need to take a Biblical world view, and apply it to civil law and government,” Peroutka tells the League of the South in the clip. “We’re going to have to have this foundational information in the hearts and minds of people, or liberty won’t survive the secession, either. …We believe it is essential to take a Biblical view of law and government, and then make those applications.”
Since defeating incumbent Republican Council member Dick Ladd in the June 24 GOP primary, much of the criticism of Peroutka has focused on the League of the South’s pro-secession rhetoric. Republican gubernatorial nominee Larry Hogan disavowed Peroutka because of his affiliation with the group after Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nominee who is seeking to become the first African-American governor of the Free State, and a group comprised of Democrats and African-American leaders called on Republicans to cut ties with Peroutka.
At the press conference on Wednesday, Peroutka railed against the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has classified the League of the South as a hate group, blaming SPLC for driving gay Virginia resident Floyd Lee Corkins to attempt to shoot up the D.C. headquarters of the Family Research Council (FRC) and alleging that SPLC, by naming more than 1,000 groups across the country as hate groups, “smear[s] together obvious hate groups such as neo-Nazis and the Klan with groups where the SPLC simply doesn’t like their politics.” Peroutka also vehemently denied he was racist or held racist views, criticizing Hogan and other GOP officials trying to distance themselves from him, as well as various local press outlets such as The Baltimore Sun for attempting to smear him. But he refused to renounce his ties to the League of the South.
In its statement of core beliefs, the League of the South says it stands for a Southern society that “is structured upon the Biblical notion of hierarchy,” that “recognizes and promotes the sanctity of Christian marriage as an image of the relationship between Christ and his Church,” and “stigmatizes perversity and all that seeks to undermine marriage and the family.” Peroutka’s Pasadena, Md.-based Institute on the Constitution also espouses a similar theocratic view of government, also known as Christian Reconstructionism. Many of those who hold Christian Reconstructionist beliefs believe that elected leaders should be able to use the arm of the government to enforce Biblical standards of conduct and punish errant behavior, such as homosexuality, adultery and premarital sex, through capital punishment.
Peroutka previously came under fire for a video posted around the time of the GOP primary in which he questioned whether the Maryland General Assembly had “forfeited its validity” because it has passed four pieces of legislation that have “violated God’s law”: marriage equality, a transgender-rights bill, an assault weapons ban, and a stormwater fee that is used to manage the chemical, bacterial, nutrient and pollution runoff resulting from rain and attempts to filter that runoff to avoid contaminating nearby bodies of water, which Republicans have dubbed the “rain tax.”
Despite his anti-LGBT views, Peroutka stands a good chance of being elected in November if Republicans remain loyal to their party’s candidate. Registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats by about 4,000 voters in Anne Arundel County’s District 5, which covers a part of Pasadena and the towns of Severna Park, Arnold and Cape St. Clair. On average, the percentage of support for a generic Republican candidate ranges in the mid-50s, making it the second-most conservative district in the county behind District 3. However, when Maryland’s marriage equality law was on the ballot in 2012, a majority of Anne Arundel County voters chose to uphold the law, with the 52-48 spread mirroring the margin by which the measure passed statewide. In addition, precinct data shows that District 5 supported the marriage equality law by a greater margin than the overall spread for the county.
Democrats hope that their candidate, 31-year-old political neophyte Patrick Armstrong, can peel off some Republican and independent voters who might be turned off by Peroutka’s rhetoric, and are throwing financial support behind his candidacy. Armstrong, who won 64 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, defeated David Whitney, the pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Pasadena, who, like Peroutka also has ties to several socially conservative organizations, and who was one of the religious leaders who testified against Maryland’s marriage equality equality law. Republicans currently hold a 4-3 edge on the county council, which would give Democrats control in the event of an Armstrong victory.