Battlefield_Cover_300In Battlefield America: The War on the American People, (the follow-up to his award-winning book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State), constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead paints a terrifying portrait of a nation at war with itself and which is on the verge of undermining the basic freedoms guaranteed to the citizenry in the Constitution. Making the case that the government’s policies are dictated more by paranoia, power and control than need, Whitehead warns that it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm, because the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now seems to embody the same philosophy that has become the driving force behind the American police state.

“The outlook for civil liberties grows bleaker by the day, from the government’s embrace of indefinite detention for US citizens and armed surveillance drones flying overhead to warrantless surveillance of phone, email and Internet communications, and prosecutions of government whistle-blowers,” writes Whitehead. “The homeland is ruled by a police-industrial complex, an extension of the American military empire. Everything that our founding fathers warned against is now the new norm. The government has trained its sights on the American people. We have become the enemy.”

The shocking abuses of power revealed in Battlefield America have rendered Americans:

  • Helpless in the face of militarized police (SWAT team raids, police shootings, roadside strip searches, asset forfeiture, 1033 programs) and routine invasions of privacy
  • Vulnerable to government surveillance (Stingray devices, fusion centers, USA Patriot Act)
  • Defenseless against absurd laws that have them arrested for letting their kids play at a park unsupervised, collecting rainwater and snow runoff on their own property, and growing vegetables in their yard (overcriminalization, National Defense Authorization Act, private prisons)

No matter how dire the outlook appears, Whitehead insists that all is not lost. The freedoms which Americans often take for granted were hard won through the sheer determination, suffering and sacrifice of thousands of patriotic Americans who not only believed in the cause of liberty but also acted on that belief. American colonists suffered under Great Britain’s version of an early police state, with armed soldiers crashing through doors to arrest and imprison citizens merely for criticizing government officials. They too were watched all the time, and were stopped and frisked if they appeared even a little bit suspicious. It was only when the colonists finally got fed up with being silenced, censored, searched, frisked, threatened, and arrested that they finally revolted against the tyrant’s fetters.

Battlefield America is drawing praise on all fronts from presidential contender Ron Paul (who also wrote the introduction), Judge Andrew Napolitano, former ACLU president Nadine Strossen and syndicated columnists Paul Craig Roberts, Lew Rockwell and Nat Hentoff.

  • Just like acknowledging the nature of the problem is the first step in an individual’s recovery from alcoholism, acknowledging the fascist nature of modern America is a necessary step toward restoring American liberty. Battlefield America does not turn away from naming the true nature of the American regime. Mr. Whitehead draws comparisons not just from history but from dystopian fiction to illustrate how America has lost its way. The very fact that books like this can still be written and published shows that we have not lost all our freedoms. John Whitehead’s work should motivate us all to redouble our efforts to reclaim our freedoms.—Dr. Ron Paul, 12-term U.S. Congressman and former presidential candidate
  • The loss of personal liberty, the growth of big government, and the death of government respect for persons rarely occur overnight. It takes a fine eye and a fearless manner to discover and reveal these dangers before it is too late. No one in American today does this better than John Whitehead. In his latest magnum opus, “Battlefield America: The War on the American People”, he paints the case that Fascism is already here, liberty is already lost, we are in more danger from the government than from bomb throwers, and it is nearly too late for hope. I challenge anyone to read this book and then try to go to sleep. I found that impossible.”—Hon. Andrew P. Napolitano, Senior Judicial Analyst, Fox News Channel, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School
  • Government surveillance, militarized police, sneak-and-peek searches, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture schemes, overcriminalization, private prisons: these are all pressing concerns that transcend partisan politics and render the citizenry not merely suspects but criminals. Unfortunately, too many Americans have embraced the government’s call to give up some freedom in return for greater safety, only to find that in doing so, they have lost freedom without gaining safety. Constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead makes a compelling and urgent case in Battlefield America for Americans to unite under one common goal: in defense of our freedoms. The danger is clear: if the government has the power to violate one right for one person, then no right is safe for anyone. —Nadine Strossen, former president of the ACLU and constitutional law professor at New York Law School
  • Once again, John W. Whitehead shows himself to be a thorough reporter, an insightful scholar and a tireless defender of the Constitution. Battlefield Americais the most penetrating, eye-opening proof to date of the imperialist government’s desecration of our constitutional personal liberties. Battlefield America is not only a warning of the danger ahead but also a detailed, systematic illustration of how a once freedom-loving nation can descend into tyranny. A must-read for anyone concerned about how to get us back on the road to becoming a self-governing republic. Citizens, journalists, activists, government officials—any and all Americans who have so little inkling about what it really means to be an American and actively safeguard our freedoms against all dangers, foreign and domestic—should take the time to become acquainted with this book. Students and teachers, especially, should make it a priority to debate and discuss this book in their classrooms.—Nat Hentoff, syndicated columnists and historian
  • In his compelling book, Battlefield America, John W. Whitehead describes the danger posed to liberty and humanity itself by the control impulse of government and technology.  American “Democratic Capitalism” is not liberating us; it is enslaving humanity.—Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary, US Treasury, and former Wall Street Journal columnist and editor
  • “John Whitehead is freedom’s defense lawyer. He’ll never give up, and neither must we. To join John in this fight, first read his manifesto: Battlefield America. You are much needed.”—Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., author and chairman of Mises Institute

Constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead is the president of The Rutherford Institute.

“What the government is good at is collecting taxes, taking away your freedoms and killing people. It’s not good at much else.”—Author Tom Clancy

The American people remain eager to be persuaded that a new president in the White House can solve the problems that plague us. Yet no matter who wins this next presidential election, you can rest assured that the new boss will be the same as the old boss, and we—the permanent underclass in America—will continue to be forced to march in lockstep with the police state in all matters, public and private.

Indeed, as I point out in my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it really doesn’t matter what you call them—the 1%, the elite, the controllers, the masterminds, the shadow government, the police state, the surveillance state, the military industrial complex—so long as you understand that no matter which party occupies the White House in 2017, the unelected bureaucracy that actually calls the shots will continue to do so.

Consider the following a much-needed reality check, an antidote if you will, against an overdose of overhyped campaign announcements, lofty electoral promises and meaningless patriotic sentiments that land us right back in the same prison cell.

FACT: For the first time in history, Congress is dominated by a majority of millionaires who are, on average, fourteen times wealthier than the average American. According to a scientific study by Princeton researchers, the United States of America is not the democracy that it purports to be, but rather an oligarchy, in which “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy.”

FACT: “Today, 17,000 local police forces are equipped with such military equipment as Blackhawk helicopters, machine guns, grenade launchers, battering rams, explosives, chemical sprays, body armor, night vision, rappelling gear and armored vehicles,” reports Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. “Some have tanks.”Battlefield_Cover_300

FACT: Thanks to an overabundance of 4,500-plus federal crimes and 400,000-plus rules and regulations, it is estimated that the average American actually commits three felonies a day without knowing it. In fact, according to law professor John Baker, “There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime. That is not an exaggeration.”

FACT: The number of violent crimes in the country is down substantially, the lowest rate in forty years, while the number of Americans being jailed for nonviolent crimes such as driving with a suspended license is skyrocketing.

FACT: Despite the fact that women only make up 8 percent of the prison population, they are more likely to be strip searched, though not more likely to carry contraband.

FACT: Despite the fact that we have 46 million Americans living at or below the poverty line, 16 million children living in households without adequate access to food, and at least 900,000 veterans relying on food stamps, enormous sums continue to be doled out for presidential vacations ($16 million for trips to Africa and Hawaii), overtime fraud at the Department of Homeland Security (nearly $9 million in improper overtime claims, and that’s just in six of the DHS’ many offices), and Hollywood movie productions ($10 million was spent by the Army National Guard on Superman movie tie-ins aimed at increasing awareness about the National Guard).

FACT: Since 2001 Americans have spent $10.5 million every hour for numerous foreign military occupations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s also the $2.2 million spent every hour on maintaining the United States’ nuclear stockpile, and the $35,000 spent every hour to produce and maintain our collection of Tomahawk missiles. And then there’s the money the government exports to other countries to support their arsenals, at the cost of $1.61 million every hour for the American taxpayers.

FACT: It is estimated that 2.7 million children in the United States have at least one parent in prison, whether it be a local jail or a state or federal penitentiary, due to a wide range of factors ranging from overcriminalization and surprise raids at family homes to roadside traffic stops.

FACT: At least 400 to 500 innocent people are killed by police officers every year. Indeed, Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist. Americans are 110 times more likely to die of foodborne illness than in a terrorist attack.

FACT: Police officers are more likely to be struck by lightning than be made financially liable for their wrongdoing.

FACT: On an average day in America, over 100 Americans have their homes raided by SWAT teams.There has been a notable buildup in recent years of SWAT teams within non-security-related federal agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, the Railroad Retirement Board, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Office of Personnel Management, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Education Department.

FACT: The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) facial recognition system, which is set to hold data on millions of Americans, will include a variety of biometric data, including palm prints, iris scans, and face recognition data. The FBI hopes to have 52 million images by 2015. NGI will be capable of uploading 55,000 images a day, and conducting tens of thousands of photo searches a day.

FACT: Comprising an $82 billion industry, at least 30,000 drones are expected to occupy U.S. airspace by 2020.

FACT: Devices are now being developed that would allow police to stop a car remotely, ostensibly to end police chases.

FACT: Everything we do will eventually be connected to the Internet. By 2030 it is estimated there will be 100 trillion sensor devices connecting human electronic devices (cell phones, laptops, etc.) to the Internet. Much, if not all, of our electronic devices will be connected to Google, which openly works with government intelligence agencies.

FACT: In 2015 mega-food corporations will begin rolling out high-tech shelving outfitted with cameras in order to track the shopping behavior of customers, as well as information like the age and sex of shoppers.

FACT: If knowledge is power, it’s no wonder Americans are in hot water. According to a study by the National Constitution Center, 41 percent of Americans “are not aware that there are three branches of government, and 62 percent couldn’t name them; 33 percent couldn’t even name one.”

FACT: The United States is one of the highest TV viewing nations. According to a Nielsen report, the average American over the age of two “spends more than thirty-four hours a week watching live television . . . plus another three to six hours watching taped programs.”

FACT: Only six out of every one hundred Americans know that they actually have a constitutional right to hold the government accountable for wrongdoing, as guaranteed by the right to petition clause of the First Amendment.

FACT: According to a Gallup poll, Americans place greater faith in the military and the police than in any of the three branches of government. However, when asked to name the greatest problem facing the nation, Americans of all political stripes ranked the government as the number one concern. In fact, almost eight out of ten Americans believe that government corruption is widespread.

Perhaps the most troubling fact of all is this: we have handed over control of our government and our lives to faceless bureaucrats who view us as little more than cattle to be bred, branded, butchered and sold for profit.

If there is to be any hope of restoring our freedoms and reclaiming control over our government, it will rest not with the politicians but with the people themselves. When all is said and done, each American will have to decide for themselves whether they prefer dangerous freedom to peaceful slavery.

DALLAS, Texas—Constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead will appear on a special broadcast of “Glenn Beck Live” on April 9, 2015, to debut his forthcoming book Battlefield America: The War on the American People (due out on April 14) and discuss the constitutional crisis plaguing the nation. Whitehead, who serves as the president of The Rutherford Institute, will also be discussing some of the cases the Institute has handled in recent years which reflect the growing tension over the government’s refusal to respect the rights of the citizenry and abide by the rule of law.

In Battlefield America: The War on the American People, (the follow-up to his award-winning book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State) , Whitehead paints a terrifying portrait of a nation at war with itself and which is on the verge of undermining the basic freedoms guaranteed to the citizenry in the Constitution. Making the case that the government’s policies are dictated more by paranoia, power and control than need, Whitehead warns that it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm, because the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now seems to embody the same philosophy that has become the driving force behind the American police state.

“The outlook for civil liberties grows bleaker by the day, from the government’s embrace of indefinite detention for US citizens and armed surveillance drones flying overhead to warrantless surveillance of phone, email and Internet communications, and prosecutions of government whistle-blowers,” writes Whitehead. “The homeland is ruled by a police-industrial complex, an extension of the American military empire. Everything that our founding fathers warned against is now the new norm. The government has trained its sights on the American people. We have become the enemy.”

The shocking abuses of power revealed in Battlefield America have rendered Americans:

●Helpless in the face of militarized police (SWAT team raids, police shootings, roadside strip searches, asset forfeiture, 1033 programs) and routine invasions of privacy
●Vulnerable to government surveillance (Stingray devices, fusion centers, USA Patriot Act)
●Defenseless against absurd laws that have them arrested for letting their kids play at a park unsupervised, collecting rainwater and snow runoff on their own property, and growing vegetables in their yard (overcriminalization, National Defense Authorization Act, private prisons)

No matter how dire the outlook appears, Whitehead insists that all is not lost. The freedoms which Americans often take for granted were hard won through the sheer determination, suffering and sacrifice of thousands of patriotic Americans who not only believed in the cause of liberty but also acted on that belief. American colonists suffered under Great Britain’s version of an early police state, with armed soldiers crashing through doors to arrest and imprison citizens merely for criticizing government officials. They too were watched all the time, and were stopped and frisked if they appeared even a little bit suspicious. It was only when the colonists finally got fed up with being silenced, censored, searched, frisked, threatened, and arrested that they finally revolted against the tyrant’s fetters.

Battlefield America is drawing praise on all fronts from presidential contender Ron Paul (who also wrote the introduction), Judge Andrew Napolitano, former ACLU president Nadine Strossen and syndicated columnists Paul Craig Roberts, Lew Rockwell and Nat Hentoff.

This press release is also available at http://www.rutherford.org.

“The greatness of America lies in the right to protest for right.”—Martin Luther King Jr.

Everything this nation once stood for is being turned on its head.

Free speech, religious expression, privacy, due process, bodily integrity, the sanctity of human life, the sovereignty of the family, individuality, the right to self-defense, protection against police abuses, representative government, private property, human rights—the very ideals that once made this nation great—have become casualties of a politically correct, misguided, materialistic, amoral, militaristic culture.

Indeed, I’m having a hard time reconciling the America I know and love with the America being depicted in the daily news headlines, where corruption, cronyism and abuse have taken precedence over the rights of the citizenry and the rule of law.

What kind of country do we live in where it’s acceptable for police to shoot unarmed citizens, for homeowners to be jailed for having overgrown lawns (a Texas homeowner was actually sentenced to 17 days in jail and fined $1700 for having an overgrown lawn), for kids to be tasered and pepper sprayed for acting like kids at school (many are left with health problems ranging from comas and asthma to cardiac arrest), and for local governments to rake in hefty profits under the guise of traffic safety (NPR reports that police departments across the country continue to require quotas for arrests and tickets, a practice that is illegal but in effect)?

Why should we Americans have to put up with the government listening in on our phone calls, spying on our emails, subjecting us to roadside strip searches, and generally holding our freedoms hostage in exchange for some phantom promises of security?

Battlefield_Cover_300As I document in my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it doesn’t matter where you live—big city or small town—it’s the same scenario being played out over and over again in which government agents ride roughshod over the rights of the citizenry.

In such an environment, it’s not just our Fourth Amendment rights—which protect us against police abuses—that are being trampled. It’s also our First Amendment rights to even voice concern over these practices that are being muzzled. Just consider some of the First Amendment battles that have taken place in recent years, and you too will find yourself wondering what country you’re living in:

  • Harold Hodge was arrested for standing silently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building, holding a sign in protest of police tactics.
  • Marine Brandon Raub was arrested for criticizing the government on Facebook.
  • Pastor Michael Salman was arrested for holding Bible studies in his home.
  • Steven Howards was arrested for being too close to a government official when he voiced his disapproval of the war in Iraq.
  • Kenneth Webber was fired from his job as a schoolbus driver for displaying a Confederate flag on the truck he uses to drive from home to school and back.
  • Fred Marlow was arrested for filming a SWAT team raid that took place across from his apartment.

And then there were the three California high school public school students who were ordered to turn their American flag t-shirts inside out on May 5 (Cinco de Mayo) because school officials were afraid it might cause a disruption and/or offend Hispanic students. Incredibly, the U.S. Supreme Court actually sided with the school and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, affirming that it might be disruptive for American students to wear the American flag to an American public school.

While there are all kinds of labels being put on so-called “unacceptable” speech today, from calling it politically incorrect and hate speech to offensive and dangerous speech, the real message being conveyed is that Americans don’t have a right to express themselves if what they are saying is unpopular, controversial or at odds with what the government determines to be acceptable.

Whether it’s through the use of so-called “free speech zones,” the requirement of speech permits, the policing of online forums, or a litany of laws and policies that criminalize expressive activities, what we’re seeing is the caging of free speech and the asphyxiation of the First Amendment.

Long before the menace of the police state, with its roadside strip searches, surveillance drones, and SWAT team raids, it was our First Amendment rights that were being battered by political correctness, hate crime legislation, the war on terror and every other thinly veiled rationale used to justify censoring our free speech rights.

By suppressing free speech, the government is contributing to a growing underclass of Americans who are being told that they can’t take part in American public life unless they “fit in.” Mind you, it won’t be long before anyone who believes in holding the government accountable to respecting our rights and abiding by the rule of law is labeled an “extremist” and is relegated to an underclass that doesn’t fit in and must be watched all the time.

It doesn’t matter how much money you make, what politics you subscribe to, or what God you worship: we are all potential suspects, terrorists and lawbreakers in the eyes of the government.

In other words, if and when this nation falls to tyranny, we will all suffer the same fate: we will fall together. However, if it is possible to avert such an outcome, it will rest in us remembering that we are also all descendants of those early American revolutionaries who pushed back against the abuses of the British government. These people were neither career politicians nor government bureaucrats. Instead, they were mechanics, merchants, artisans and the like—ordinary people groaning under the weight of Britain’s oppressive rule—who, having reached a breaking point, had decided that enough was enough.

The colonists’ treatment at the hands of the British was not much different from the abuses meted out to the American people today: they too were taxed on everything from food to labor without any real say in the matter, in addition to which they had their homes invaded by armed government agents, their property seized and searched, their families terrorized, their communications, associations and activities monitored, and their attempts to defend themselves and challenge the government’s abuses dismissed as belligerence, treachery, and sedition.

Unlike most Americans today, who remain ignorant of the government’s abuses, cheerfully distracted by the entertainment spectacles trotted out before them by a complicit media, readily persuaded that the government has their best interests at heart, and easily cowed by the slightest show of force, the colonists responded to the government’s abuses with outrage, activism and rebellion. They staged boycotts of British goods and organized public protests, mass meetings, parades, bonfires and other demonstrations, culminating with their most famous act of resistance, the Boston Tea Party.

 

On the night of December 16, 1773, a group of men dressed as Indians boarded three ships that were carrying tea. Cheered on by a crowd along the shore, they threw 342 chests of tea overboard in protest of a tax on the tea. Many American merchants were aghast at the wanton destruction of property. A town meeting in Bristol, Massachusetts, condemned the action. Ben Franklin even called on his native city to pay for the tea and apologize. But as historian Pauline Maier notes, the Boston Tea Party was a last resort for a group of people who had stated their peaceful demands but were rebuffed by the British: “The tea resistance constituted a model of justified forceful resistance upon traditional criteria.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Yet it’s a history we cannot afford to forget or allow to be rewritten.

The colonists suffered under the weight of countless tyrannies before they finally were emboldened to stand their ground. They attempted to reason with the British crown, to plea their cause, even to negotiate. It was only when these means proved futile that they resorted to outright resistance, civil disobedience and eventually rebellion.

More than 200 years later, we are once again suffering under a long train of abuses and usurpations. What Americans today must decide is how committed they are to the cause of freedom and how far they’re willing to go to restore what has been lost.

Nat Hentoff, one of my dearest friends and a formidable champion of the Constitution, has long advocated for the resurgence of grassroots activism. As Nat noted:

This resistance to arrant tyranny first became part of our heritage when Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty formed the original Committees of Correspondence, a unifying source of news of British tyranny throughout the colonies that became a precipitating cause of the American Revolution. Where are the Sons of Liberty, the Committees of Correspondence and the insistently courageous city councils now, when they are crucially needed to bring back the Bill of Rights that protect every American against government tyranny worse than King George III’s? Where are the citizens demanding that these doorways to liberty be opened … What are we waiting for?

What are we waiting for, indeed?

NOW PLAYING: All throughout America the same scenario is being played out over and over again. Government agents, hyped up on their own authority and the power of their uniform, are trampling over the rights of the citizenry. In turn, argues John W. Whitehead in this week’s vodcast, Americans are being brainwashed into believing that anyone who wears a government uniform—soldier, police officer, prison guard—must be obeyed without question.

WATCH IT NOW:

 

If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.”―Lenny Bruce

If you buy into the version of Christianity Lite peddled by evangelical leaders such as Franklin Graham, who recently advised Americans to do as the Bible says and “submit to your leaders and those in authority,” then staying alive in the American police state depends largely on your ability to comply, submit, obey orders, respect authority and generally do whatever a cop tells you to do.

If, however, you’re one of those who prefers to model yourself after Jesus Christ himself—a radical nonconformist who challenged authority at every turn—rather than subscribe to the watered-down, corporatized, simplified, gentrified, sissified vision of a meek creature holding a lamb that most modern churches peddle, then you will understand better than most how relevant Jesus’ life and death are to those attempting to navigate the American police state.

Indeed, it is fitting, at a time when the nation is grappling with moral questions about how best to execute death row prisoners (by electric chair, lethal injection or shooting squad), whether police should be held responsible for shooting unarmed citizens (who posed no threat and complied with every order), and to what extent we allow the government to dictate, monitor and control every aspect of our lives (using Stingray devices, license plate readers, and all manner of surveillance technology), that we remember that Jesus Christ—the religious figure worshipped by Christians for his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection—died at the hands of a police state.

Those living through this present age of militarized police, SWAT team raids, police shootings of unarmed citizens, roadside strip searches, and invasive surveillance might feel as if these events are unprecedented. Yet while we in the United States may be experiencing a steady slide into a police state, we are neither the first nor the last nation to do so.

Although technology, politics and superpowers have changed over time, the characteristics of a police state and its reasons for being have remained the same: control, power and money. Indeed, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, a police state extends far beyond the actions of law enforcement. In fact, a police state “is characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, militarization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions.”

Just as police states have arisen throughout history, there have also been individuals or groups of individuals who have risen up to challenge the injustices of their age. Nazi Germany had its Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The gulags of the Soviet Union were challenged by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. America had its color-coded system of racial segregation and warmongering called out for what it was, blatant discrimination and profiteering, by Martin Luther King Jr.

And then there was Jesus Christ, an itinerant preacher and revolutionary activist, who not only died challenging the police state of his day—namely, the Roman Empire—but provided a blueprint for civil disobedience that would be followed by those, religious and otherwise, who came after him. Yet for all the accolades poured out upon Jesus, little is said about the harsh realities of the police state in which he lived and its similarities to modern-day America, and yet they are striking.

Secrecy, surveillance and rule by the elite. As the chasm between the wealthy and poor grew wider in the Roman Empire, the ruling class and the wealthy class became synonymous, while the lower classes, increasingly deprived of their political freedoms, grew disinterested in the government and easily distracted by “bread and circuses.” Much like America today, with its lack of government transparency, overt domestic surveillance, and rule by the rich, the inner workings of the Roman Empire were shrouded in secrecy, while its leaders were constantly on the watch for any potential threats to its power. The resulting state-wide surveillance was primarily carried out by the military, which acted as investigators, enforcers, torturers, policemen, executioners and jailers. Today that role is fulfilled by increasingly militarized police forces across the country.

Widespread police presence. The Roman Empire used its military forces to maintain the “peace,” thereby establishing a police state that reached into all aspects of a citizen’s life. In this way, these military officers, used to address a broad range of routine problems and conflicts, enforced the will of the state. Today SWAT teams, comprised of local police and federal agents, are employed to carry out routine search warrants for minor crimes such as marijuana possession and credit card fraud.

Citizenry with little recourse against the police state. As the Roman Empire expanded, personal freedom and independence nearly vanished, as did any real sense of local governance and national consciousness. Similarly, in America today, citizens largely feel powerless, voiceless and unrepresented in the face of a power-hungry federal government. As states and localities are brought under direct control by federal agencies and regulations, a sense of learned helplessness grips the nation.

Perpetual wars and a military empire. Much like America today with its practice of policing the world, war and an over-arching militarist ethos provided the framework for the Roman Empire, which extended from the Italian peninsula to all over Southern, Western, and Eastern Europe, extending into North Africa and Western Asia as well. In addition to significant foreign threats, wars were waged against inchoate, unstructured and socially inferior foes.

Martial law. Eventually, Rome established a permanent military dictatorship that left the citizens at the mercy of an unreachable and oppressive totalitarian regime. In the absence of resources to establish civic police forces, the Romans relied increasingly on the military to intervene in all matters of conflict or upheaval in provinces, from small-scale scuffles to large-scale revolts. Not unlike police forces today, with their martial law training drills on American soil, militarized weapons and “shoot first, ask questions later” mindset, the Roman soldier had “the exercise of lethal force at his fingertips” with the potential of wreaking havoc on normal citizens’ lives.

A nation of suspects. Just as the American Empire looks upon its citizens as suspects to be tracked, surveilled and controlled, the Roman Empire looked upon all potential insubordinates, from the common thief to a full-fledged insurrectionist, as threats to its power. The insurrectionist was seen as directly challenging the Emperor. A “bandit,” or revolutionist, was seen as capable of overturning the empire, was always considered guilty and deserving of the most savage penalties, including capital punishment. Bandits were usually punished publicly and cruelly as a means of deterring others from challenging the power of the state. Jesus’ execution was one such public punishment.

Acts of civil disobedience by insurrectionists. Starting with his act of civil disobedience at the Jewish temple, the site of the administrative headquarters of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish council, Jesus branded himself a political revolutionary. When Jesus “with the help of his disciples, blocks the entrance to the courtyard” and forbids “anyone carrying goods for sale or trade from entering the Temple,” he committed a blatantly criminal and seditious act, an act “that undoubtedly precipitated his arrest and execution.” Because the commercial events were sponsored by the religious hierarchy, which in turn was operated by consent of the Roman government, Jesus’ attack on the money chargers and traders can be seen as an attack on Rome itself, an unmistakable declaration of political and social independence from the Roman oppression.

Military-style arrests in the dead of night. Jesus’ arrest account testifies to the fact that the Romans perceived Him as a revolutionary. Eerily similar to today’s SWAT team raids, Jesus was arrested in the middle of the night, in secret, by a large, heavily armed fleet of soldiers. Rather than merely asking for Jesus when they came to arrest him, his pursuers collaborated beforehand with Judas. Acting as a government informant, Judas concocted a kiss as a secret identification marker, hinting that a level of deception and trickery must be used to obtain this seemingly “dangerous revolutionist’s” cooperation.

 

Torture and capital punishment. In Jesus’ day, religious preachers, self-proclaimed prophets and nonviolent protesters were not summarily arrested and executed. Indeed, the high priests and Roman governors normally allowed a protest, particularly a small-scale one, to run its course. However, government authorities were quick to dispose of leaders and movements that appeared to threaten the Roman Empire. The charges leveled against Jesus—that he was a threat to the stability of the nation, opposed paying Roman taxes and claimed to be the rightful King—were purely political, not religious. To the Romans, any one of these charges was enough to merit death by crucifixion, which was usually reserved for slaves, non-Romans, radicals, revolutionaries and the worst criminals.

Jesus was presented to Pontius Pilate “as a disturber of the political peace,” a leader of a rebellion, a political threat, and most gravely—a claimant to kingship, a “king of the revolutionary type.” After Jesus is formally condemned by Pilate, he is sentenced to death by crucifixion, “the Roman means of executing criminals convicted of high treason.” The purpose of crucifixion was not so much to kill the criminal, as it was an immensely public statement intended to visually warn all those who would challenge the power of the Roman Empire. Hence, it was reserved solely for the most extreme political crimes: treason, rebellion, sedition, and banditry. After being ruthlessly whipped and mocked, Jesus was nailed to a cross.

 

As Professor Mark Lewis Taylor observed:

 

The cross within Roman politics and culture was a marker of shame, of being a criminal. If you were put to the cross, you were marked as shameful, as criminal, but especially as subversive. And there were thousands of people put to the cross. The cross was actually positioned at many crossroads, and, as New Testament scholar Paula Fredricksen has reminded us, it served as kind of a public service announcement that said, “Act like this person did, and this is how you will end up.”

 

Jesus—the revolutionary, the political dissident, and the nonviolent activist—lived and died in a police state. Any reflection on Jesus’ life and death within a police state must take into account several factors: Jesus spoke out strongly against such things as empires, controlling people, state violence and power politics. Jesus challenged the political and religious belief systems of his day. And worldly powers feared Jesus, not because he challenged them for control of thrones or government but because he undercut their claims of supremacy, and he dared to speak truth to power in a time when doing so could—and often did—cost a person his life.

Unfortunately, the radical Jesus, the political dissident who took aim at injustice and oppression, has been largely forgotten today, replaced by a congenial, smiling Jesus trotted out for religious holidays but otherwise rendered mute when it comes to matters of war, power and politics. Yet for those who truly study the life and teachings of Jesus, the resounding theme is one of outright resistance to war, materialism and empire.

 

As Professor Taylor notes, “The power of Jesus is one that enables us to critique the nation and the empire. Unfortunately, that gospel is being sacrificed and squandered by Christians who have cozied up to power and wealth.” Ultimately, this is the contradiction that must be resolved if the radical Jesus—the one who stood up to the Roman Empire and was crucified as a warning to others not to challenge the powers-that-be—is to be an example for our modern age.

 

March 30, 2015

 

WASHINGTON, D.C —The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a case in which California public school students were prohibited from wearing American flag t-shirts to school, allegedly out of a fear that it might be disruptive. In refusing to hear the appeal without giving any reason for the decision, the Supreme Court lets stand a lower court ruling that upheld the ban out a concern for school safety. The Rutherford Institute had asked the Supreme Court to hear the case of Dariano v. Morgan Hill, in which several students were ordered by school officials to cover up their American flag t-shirts on May 5, 2010, allegedly because officials feared that it might offend other students who were celebrating the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo.

“When public school students can’t wear an American flag on a t-shirt because it might be disruptive, then free speech as we’ve known it is dead,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “If the Supreme Court continues down the road to political correctness, then eventually anything we say will be treated as threatening as a loaded gun and deemed just as dangerous.”

On May 5, 2010, three Live Oak High School students wore patriotic t-shirts, shorts and shoes to school bearing various images of the U.S. flag. During a mid-morning “brunch break,” the students were approached by Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez, who told the students they could not wear their pro-U.S.A. shirts and gave them the option of either removing their shirts or turning them inside out. The students refused, believing the options to be disrespectful to the flag. Rodriguez allegedly lectured the group about Cinco de Mayo, indicating that he had received complaints from some Hispanic students about the stars and stripes apparel, and again ordered that the clothing be covered up to prevent offending the Hispanic students on “their” day. Principal Nick Boden also met with the parents and students and affirmed Rodriguez’s order, allegedly because he did not want to offend students who were celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

Arguing that the decision by school officials constituted viewpoint discrimination against pro-U.S.A. expression, Rutherford Institute attorneys filed a First Amendment lawsuit on behalf of the students and their parents in district court. In November 2011, the district court ruled in favor of school officials, citing a concern for school safety. That ruling was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Although the appeals court acknowledged that other students were permitted to wear Mexican flag colors and symbols, it ruled that school officials could forbid the American flag apparel out of concerns that it would cause disruption, even though no disruption had occurred. Three of the nine judges on the Ninth Circuit agreed with The Rutherford Institute that school officials violated long-standing Supreme Court precedent forbidding suppression of protected expression on the basis of a “heckler’s veto,” which occurs when the government restricts an individual’s right to free speech in order to maintain order.