An Interview with Howard Phillips
By Eric Holmberg
Published February 2009
Transcribed and edited by Jay Rogers
Howard Phillips was chosen by an overwhelming majority of delegates at the National Convention of the Constitution Party to serve as its Presidential candidate in 1992, 1996 and 2000. A 1962 graduate of Harvard College (where he was twice elected president of the Student Council), Phillips served the Republican Party for two decades as precinct worker, election warden, campaign manager, Congressional aide, Boston Republican Chairman, and assistant to the chairman of the Republican National Committee. During the Nixon Administration, Phillips headed two Federal agencies, ending his Executive Branch career as director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, a position from which he resigned when President Nixon reneged on his commitment to veto further funding for “Great Society” programs. Since 1974, Phillips has been chairman of The Conservative Caucus, a non-partisan, nationwide grass-roots public policy group which has advocated termination of federal subsidies to leftist ideological activist groups, opposition to NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, and efforts to oppose socialized medicine, abortion, and special rights for homosexuals. Howard and his wife Peggy reside in Fairfax County, Virginia. They have six children and six grandchildren.
The Conservative Caucus
450 Maple Avenue East
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God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.
Speakers include: R.J. Rushdoony, George Grant, Howard Phillips, R.C. Sproul Jr., Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Jay Grimstead, Steven Schlissel, Andrew Sandlin, Eric Holmberg, and more!
Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:
1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?
Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.
Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!
Running Time: 240 minutes
Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.
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Question:— How did Christian philosophy influence our form of civil government?
Howard Phillips: Throughout history, there have been three political parties. One is the party that believes in the sovereignty of God, and today I work with such a party, the U.S. Taxpayers Party. The other is a party that believes in the sovereignty of man and man’s reason; Libertarians are of that view. The third is every other party that believes in the sovereignty of the state, that the state if God walking on earth. That philosophy came into full flower in the 1960s during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. During that presidency, every perverse cause from which America now suffers, received federal funding. We saw the federal government become the provisioner of the forces of cultural disintegration and social chaos in our country.
The federal government has no role as an instrument of salvation. Salvation is by the blood of Christ and faith in Him by God’s grace. But government should stop being an instrument of moral degradation. I had the opportunity to be a “fly on the wall” during a period of extraordinary change in America. During the Johnson administration when they were launching the Great Society, I was chairman of the Republican Party in Boston. I spent a lot of time in the black community in Boston. I saw how federal funds were being used to destabilize the black family, to promote the notion of welfare rights, to promote abortion, homosexuality, the idea of quotas, forced busing. I saw how the black churches were destabilized with federal funds. I saw federal funds going to radicals of very left wing beliefs.
As director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, I came to see exactly how that was being done. I worked very hard to persuade President Nixon to veto the continuation of that funding. Tragically, President Nixon, like all of his successors, not only signed into law additional appropriations, he in fact created new entities that did more harm. So did his successors. As we see the federal government’s budget grow year after year, more and more of this money is being used to fund people who are evangelists for ideas which are antithetical to the founding Christian premises of the United States of America.
Congress has the right and duty to set policy in areas which are assigned to Congress in the Constitution (especially in Art.1, Sect. 8). But the federal government does not have any power to act beyond its delegated enumerated powers. What I particularly object to is Congress giving money to private organizations which use tax dollars for cultural, ideological, economic political advocacy, whether it’s for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Legal Services Corporation; whether it’s to groups such as Gay Men’s Health Crisis, in the name of AIDS education; whether it’s to “Murder Incorporated,” otherwise known as Planned Parenthood, which uses tax dollars to the tune of billions over the years to advance its agenda of promiscuity and liberal abortion. That is not only morally wrong but it is completely unconstitutional.
Question:— Were the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution drafted to uphold the moral laws of God — or were they Deistic humanist documents? If they were Christian documents, where have we gone so far off track?
Howard Phillips: The Declaration of Independence is, in effect, the articles of incorporation or the preamble for our federal union and the Constitution of the United States is the bylaws. The Declaration says that “we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.” It acknowledges that our rights are a gift from God, that we are His creatures. It is a simple statement of fact that if God is “Sovereign,” as the framers acknowledged Him to be, that law is inevitably the will of the Sovereign. The laws of God cannot be overturned by a two-thirds vote of Congress or even a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court. Abortion is always illegal in the sight of God. If a civil government chooses to permit it, that doesn’t make it legal in His sight. It simply criminalizes the civil government which advances it.
The Declaration goes on to make the point that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. There is a theological principle there in that the governed are God’s creatures who owe a duty to their Creator to the degree that they delegate policy setting functions and control of resources to civil government. They have an obligation to God to hold civil government accountable to them so that they may be accountable to Him. The link between the Declaration and the Constitution can be seen in the very first sentence of the Constitution after the preamble which says that “all legislative powers shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.” “All” … “vested,” mean they “can’t be surrendered.”
One of the problems is that Congress simply is not doing its constitutional duty. Look at the question of impeachment. That’s not an independent counsel’s responsibility. Under the U.S. Constitution, impeachment is the responsibility of the U.S. House of Representatives. If the House determines to bring charges against the president, then it’s the responsibility of the Senate to determine whether he should be convicted and removed from office. The Republican congress pushed for giving the President line item veto authority. It was unconstitutional for them to do so. I am glad the Supreme Court recognized that. The Constitution permits the President, indeed mandate that he shall be, our chief executive. But it does not authorize him to be our chief legislator. Congress cannot delegate legislative functions to the President. Congress has given policy setting functions to regulatory agencies. That violates the letter of the first sentence of the body of the Constitutional law.
Question:— What about the “establishment of religion” clause in the U.S. Constitution? Doesn’t the U.S. Constitution forbid the display of religion in the civil sphere?
Howard Phillips: The Constitution of the United States guarantees liberty of conscience when it says: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof” in the First Amendment to the Constitution which begins the Bill of Rights. The core principle underlying the First Amendment was found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson and in the Virginia Declaration of Religious Liberty. Jefferson asserted correctly that to compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical. The states which came together to form our federal union each had religious establishments at the time of the Constitution’s ratification: a Catholic establishment in Maryland; an Anglican establishment in Virginia; a Congregational establishment in Massachusetts. In all cases, it was understood that the British Common Law was the core of the legal system in all of the states which came together to found the Union. British Common Law had its roots in Holy Scripture which began to take root under King Alfred in Britain.
Everyone has a right to his opinion, but America got underway with a Christian legal system. States were permitted to apply the death penalty for premeditated murder. The individual could worship as he saw fit and the federal government would not interfere with him, nor would it require him to support with his taxes anyone else’s form of worship.
What we neglect to appreciate is that religion is not just Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism. Religion is any organized body of ideas about the nature of God and man. Humanism is a religion. Advocacy of homosexual conduct is in many ways a religion. Earth worship, radical environmentalism, one-worldism, all of these are forms of religious faith. They are belief systems which are coherent and comprehensive. People have a right to those opinions, but they don’t have a right to require us to subsidize them with our taxes. That is why it is unconstitutional for Congress to turn over our tax dollars or control over our policy to other law systems, such as those at the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, NAFTA, the World Trade Organization. Under the principle of accountability, which is core to any system of representative republicanism, it’s essential that Congress not turn over policy setting functions to private non-profit corporations, to bureaucrats, to any kind of entity which does not have to stand for election in a manner in which the voters can say: “yea or nay.”
Question:— What about the idea that the government should be neutral and should recognize that we live in a democratic, pluralistic society?
Howard Phillips: Some people mistakenly believe that there is such a thing as neutrality. There is no such thing. Positing that the world was created impersonally by random chance is a religious view. Positing that the state has a right to steal by majority vote is a religious view, one which contradicts God’s commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.” The very notion that it is okay for the President of the United States to commit adultery represents a religious view, which is antithetical to the Christian view. There is no such thing as neutrality. All views are inevitably and inescapably religious. The idea that people have a right to welfare is religious. The idea that worship of the earth transcends rights of property is a religious view. It’s religious to say that any form of sexual conduct is permissible. That’s an anti-Christian religious perspective.
The question is: Will the government fund those anti-Christian perspectives? I don’t know of any Christians who are asking the government to fund Christian activism, Christian evangelists, Christian ministries, and Christian churches. But the liberals are saying, “We want you to fund our churches. We want you to fund the church of sodomy by giving more money to homosexual organizations which tell people that homosexual conduct is okay. We want you to fund the church of child killing by giving more money to organizations which kill babies. We want you to fund the church of the New World Order by giving more money to organizations which promote the loss of the national independence and security of the United States of America and its law system in favor of other law systems such as those of the UN.”
The beliefs of the people who wrote our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, while they may have been theologically diverse, were implicitly Christian and were fundamentally at odds with the Marxist-Leninist beliefs, for example, of Alger Hiss who wrote the charter of the United Nations. He had a religious view which was reflected in the UN charter. Our Founders had a religious view which is reflected in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence. The difference is that under the Constitution there is liberty of conscience. You can believe whatever you want to believe. You are not required to subsidize somebody else’s faith. That’s the way it should be. It isn’t always followed. Under the United Nations, you are consistently required to subsidize the faith of those who run the UN — a faith which requires fewer people; restricts populations; changes cultural and religious policies affecting male headship of families. The UN has an explicit dogma and insists that the money sent to it be used to advance that dogma. The problem is that our congresses and presidents have forgotten that the government of the United States is not supposed to require us to subsidize any private dogma.
Question:— In a Christian republic based on biblical law, would non-Christian religions be banned or would they have as much freedom as they have now?
Howard Phillips: Some people think that Christians who have a Constitutional view are moral imperialists. Quite the contrary. We are seeking to defend ourselves against the immoral imperialism of those who are using the power of civil government to advance their religious agenda, which involves environmental extremism, abortion, homosexuality, the destruction of the traditional family. We want the federal government to be limited to its delegated enumerated powers. We do not want to subsidize our perspective by giving money to organizations or individuals who are using the courts, or who are lobbyists, or who are editorial writers, or securing government grants to advance our agenda. We simply want to stop others from requiring us to send our tax money to Washington to advance their agenda.
If you do it our way, instead of supporting a Leviathan government which costs you two trillion dollars a year, you’ll be able to keep your own money. You won’t have to pay a penny in income tax, sales tax, inheritance tax, capital gains tax, business tax. Social security will be privatized. The federal government will get out of the land business. Federal expenditures will be less than 500 billion dollars a year and the government will support itself the way it did for most of our history, through excises, imposts, duties and apportionment among the states. We think that if people see that they can be free again, that they don’t have to have one spouse working to support the government while the other spouse works to support the family, that they will rally behind this kind of approach. This is not moral imperialism; this is liberty.
I would encourage those who believe in ghettoizing their faith to listen carefully as they recite the Lord’s prayer which talks about building His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Our job is to occupy until He comes. There is nothing in Scripture that can be cited as an excuse for not doing our duty to seek His justice and His glory.
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Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!
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