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Howard Ahmanson

Howard Ahmanson

We present two essays here on Howard Ahmanson. Nobody should underestimate this person's enormous influence which extends well beyond creationism and Intelligent Design. Anybody researching into or enquiring about creationism needs to remember to follow the money to understand the movement and its power.

Ahmanson's infuence extends into what many see as the destruction of the Anglican movement to meet his right wing conservative agenda. The latter is beyond the basic remit of this group. However, we present an essay on it which explains the astonishing scale of his influence and how it is influencing the religious agenda in the UK.

Much of what we would like to know about Ahmanson is not in the public domain. In particular, the evidence on who and what he is funding is exceedingly patchy. He doesn't declare it and the only information we have is from organisations on the receiving end giving details. As far as the author can make out, in most cases they do not need to declare that they have received money from him.

The section of our wiki on Rousas Rushdoony overlaps with the two essays we present here.


Primer on Howard Ahmanson

Howard F. Ahmanson Jr is not a well-known name in the United Kingdom. Indeed, neither is it in his home country, the United States. However, this secretive and extremely wealthy man is, arguably, the most influential Christian religious fundamentalist in the English-speaking world today.

His influence spreads deep into the Anglican movement and his name must send shudders through Lambeth Palace.

Ahmanson, born in 1950, came by his wealth the honourable way – he inherited it from his father at the tender age of 18. Ahmanson Snr built his fortune in what Americans call the savings and loan industry. This is better understood in the UK as the building society movement - secured mortgages for purchase of residential properties. However, Ahmanson Snr’s operation was purely commercial.

Ahmanson Jr appears to have turned to Christianity at a relatively early stage, as an under-graduate. On the face of it, there is nothing remarkable in his religious beliefs. He is, along with his son, David, a practising Episcopalian – the American term for members of the Anglican movement there. Given that money is the only measure of social status in the USA, it is not surprising that a member of the country’s aristocracy should join the bedrock of the WASP fraternity.

(Note that the two worship in the St. James, Newport Beach parish, one of three parishes in the Diocese of Los Angeles that declared itself part of the Anglican Church of Uganda because of differences with its bishop, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno. Bruno voted to confirm Gene Robinson, who lives with his male partner, as Bishop of New Hampshire, and supports the blessing of same sex relationships.)

However, it appears that sometime in the mid-1970s Ahmanson fell in with the Rev Rousas Rushdoony, a man apparently consumed by the fate of Armenia in the middle of the 1914-1918 War. Rushdoony was a member of a long line of Armenian priests, somewhat of an aristocracy in that country, but he had already emigrated to the United States before the tragedy.

Rushdoony appears to have acted as something of a father figure to Ahmanson who had already lost both his parents. His mother had left his father when he was ten and both were already dead. There seems to have been a streak of paranoia in Ahmanson about people trying to take advantage of him over his wealth. Justifiably so, many may conclude, given human nature.

Yet others may conclude that Ahmanson had fallen in with a very dangerous man indeed when he full under the spell of Rushdoony. The latter is generally considered to have had a major impact on the thinking of huge swaths of the American evangelical movement.

Unfortunately, to most people, Rushdoony’s views on religion and politics were staggeringly far to the right of the political spectrum. He was a man whose extremism was at least on a par with Pol Pot and Adolf Hitler. Rushdoony openly believed and promoted stoning to death of anyone that didn’t agree with his views on religion.

He was also the man who developed the political philosophy for a take-over of the United States by a dictatorship (yes, we do use the word dictatorship; it is precisely what Rushdoony meant but he called it theonomy) of like-minded fellow religionists. Normally known as Dominionism, this overlaps with a closely related movement called Reconstructionalism. Both remain widely accepted by elements of the religious right in the USA.

To give some flavour of exactly who Rushdoony was calling on to be killed, it included the majority of Christians (all but those who didn’t agree with his religion), anyone who criticised his religion in public, anyone who wasn’t Christian, any women who had sex before or outside of marriage (but not men, it appears), children that didn’t respect their parents (yes, children), repeat criminals and gay people.

And if you don’t make the grade to be killed, Rushdoony proposed the re-introduction of slavery. Not that this would be much different from his proposal that all women should be the private property of their fathers until married when they would become the private property of their husbands.

Just who would be left after the slaughter or enslavement is your guess, reader, but it is highly unlikely that it would include you, your family, friends or work colleagues. At a rough guess, the slaughter would include somewhere in the region of 98% of the population Thus this Christian minister (yes, he was a reverend) made Stalin and Chairman Mao look like angels.

(Some quick calculations based on what I know about the UK would leave 99.8% of the population dead or enslaved. Out of a population of 60 million, 59,880,000 would be dead. It makes one wonder what kind jerks Ahmanson, Rushdoony and pals are in working out who is going to do all this killing. Each survivor would have to kill 500 people each. See the footnote marked * for this calculation)

Perhaps Rushdoony never really escaped the mindset of the Ottoman Empire; worse still, the hate behind the events in and after 1916 had become part of his personality. Others may conclude that he was indifferent towards the sheer brutality of his ambitions. It doesn’t seem to me that there is any difference. He was a callous monster.

He became what, otherwise, he had reason to hate. Nor does it appear that Rushdoony’s hate was wholly directed towards his fellow Americans. It appears that he wanted to impose his views on the rest of the world.

Moreover, Ahmanson was no casual bystander. For years Ahmanson funded Rushdoony and his Chalcedon Foundation and, indeed, was on its board from the mid-1970s until 2001. Ahmanson has never repudiated that he believed in what Rushdoony was promoting. Indeed Ahmanson and his wife were at Rushdoony’s bedside when he died in 2001.

Admittedly, Ahmanson is on record as saying in 2004 that he had rejected Rushdoony’s view that gays should be stoned to death. However, that was 30 years after his association with Rushdoony started. How long does it take for a grown-up, college educated, church-going person to understand the difference between right and wrong?

Moreover, it seems that Ahmanson still believes that there is nothing basically wrong with stoning people to death because he disagrees with them.

He is on record in 2004 as confirming his support for stonings: "I think what upsets people is that Rushdoony seemed to think--and I'm not sure about this--that a godly society would stone people for the same thing that people in ancient Israel were stoned…. I no longer consider that essential."

"It would still be a little hard to say that if one stumbled on a country that was doing that, that it is inherently immoral, to stone people for these things," he added. "But I don't think it's at all a necessity."

His wife, Roberta, with whom he works closely in his philanthropy (misanthropy, as far as I can see) and who usually acts as his public spokesperson has, almost unbelievably, dismissed Rushdoony’s intended mass killings, saying that “to impose the death penalty you need two witnesses. So the number of executions goes down pretty quickly."

Nice people, the Ahmansons. Note the evasive terms “not sure” about stoning and that it is “hard to say” that it is inherently immoral. Note also that he makes it clear that he has in the past considered stoning people to death to be “essential”. Nowhere does he say that it is wrong. I cannot see any other conclusion than that Ahmanson has been an advocate of mass criminality and has spectacularly failed to distance himself from it.

And who would know all about advocacy than born-gain Christian Phillip Johnson, the “brains” behind the Discovery Institute and author of one of the most fraudulent books ever written, Darwin on Trial? The man behind the Wedge scam and friend of Howie Ahmanson and his wife.

Surprise, surprise, guess who is funding the discredited lot at the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture? Why, of course, it’s Howard Ahmanson, the arts graduate who thinks science is a scam because it contradicts the literal (i.e. his) interpretation of the bible.

If the Chalcedon Foundation, complete with Rushdoony’s bellicose rantings, is a bit too extreme why not go the back door route and produce a secret plan (the Wedge Document) to re-engineer American society and take control of government? It’s clearly all Charles Darwin’s fault that the world doesn’t agree with murderous views.

Let’s con the people with bogus science and secret agendas instead. Let’s pretend that Intelligent Design isn’t creationism.

But wait, Howie and his pals can’t make up their minds on science because they are in bed with the young earth creationists at the Institute for Creation Research. Rushdooney was a prime moving force behind Henry Morris's first book, "The Genesis Flood". Morris founded the ICR. However, Intelligent Design "theorist" and mover-and-shaker Phillip Johnson dedicated his book "Defeating Darwinism" to "Howard and Roberta" -- Ahmanson and his wife.

Ahmanson is a member of the secretive Council for National Policy, an elite group of politically conservative national leaders who meet several times a year to coordinate their efforts on a common agenda. According to a New York Times report, the dates and locations of the group's meetings are kept secret, as is its membership. Participants in the group's discussions promise not to reveal their content. Members in recent years have included Gary Bauer, Tom DeLay, James Dobson (of Focus on the Family - see Truth in Science), Bob Jones III, of the Bob Jones University, Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind series, Grover Norquist, Oliver North, Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson and Phyllis Schlafly.

Ahmanson and his wife, Roberta, work as a husband and wife team (Howard Ahmanson suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome). Since 2001 the Ahmason’s have distanced themselves a bit from the extremes of Rushdoony.

In 2004 he and his wife co-operated with The Register (a US publication available online) in a five part interview.

"I think what upsets people is that Rushdoony seemed to think--and I'm not sure about this--that a godly society would stone people for the same thing that people in ancient Israel were stoned," Ahmanson was quoted as saying to the publication (published in August 2004). "I no longer consider that essential."

"It would still be a little hard to say that if one stumbled on a country that was doing that, that it is inherently immoral, to stone people for these things," he added. "But I don't think it's at all a necessity."

This still remains a very frightening position – a man who cannot make up his mind that there is something wrong with stoning people to death if they disagree with him on do not behave according to his religious opinions.

Additional Notes on Ahmanson

Ahmanson also contributes heavily to the Discovery Institute, the 'intellectual' flagship of the Intelligent Design movement, and the George C. Marshall Institute, which disputes research indicating that human activity contributes to global warming.

Ahmanson's views are considered controversial enough that two Republican candidates, Linda Lingle, governor of Hawaii and Virginia Congressman Frank R. Wolf returned his contributions to their campaigns.

The following is taken from Lenny Flank's web site (with kind permission): Ahmanson has given several million dollars over the past few years to anti-evolution groups (including Discovery Institute), as well as anti-gay groups, "Christian" political candidates, and funding efforts to split the Episcopalian Church over its willingness to ordain gay ministers and to other groups which oppose the minimum wage. He was also a major funder of the recent "recall" effort in California which led to the election of Terminator Arnie. Ahmanson is also a major funder of the effort for computerized voting, and he and several other prominent Reconstructionists have close ties with Diebold, the company that would manufacture the computerized voting machines if they were used. There has been some criticism of Diebold because it refuses to make the source code of its voting machine software available for scrutiny, and its software does not allow anyone to track voting after it is done (no way to confirm accuracy of the machine). This ease of possible "vote-fixing" may or may not be connected to the belief of Diebold's Reconstructionist backers that only "Christians" should be allowed to vote.

Some of Ahmanson's donations are channelled through the Fieldstead Foundation, which is a subspecies of the Ahmanson foundation ("Fieldstead" is Ahmanson's middle name). The Fieldstead Foundation funds many of the travelling and speaking expenses of the DI's shining stars.

* How many in the UK would be killed or enslaved by Rushdoony

Enslaved (at least):

  • 50% of the population because they are women. 40% of the male population because they have committed a crime, including drink driving. Total 70%.

Stoned to death:

  • 50% of the population who have committed adultery.
  • 95% of all women because they have had sex outside of marriage.
  • 95% of the population because they do not believe in Rushdoony’s religious views.
  • 5% of the population that is gay or bi-sexual.
  • 10% of children that are lippy to their parents.
  • 20% of the population because they have committed two or more crimes.

That leaves just 0.2% of the population alive and “free”.

Howard Ahmanson, the Breakup of the Anglican Movement and NeoCons

The relationship between the American neoconservative movement and religious fundamentalism looks to be largely indirect. However, there is no doubt that some see them as part of the same movement and back them accordingly.

Amongst these are Richard Scaife and Howard Ahmanson.

Moreover, the evidence suggests that Scaife, Ahmanson and a handful of other powerful private individuals in the USA are out to destroy liberal interpretations of religion.

The UK’s Anglican newspaper, the Church Times reported on 12th May 2006 that "millions of dollars contributed by a handful of donors have allowed a small network of theologically conservative individuals and organisations to mount a global campaign that has destabilised the Episcopal Church in the United States and may break up the Anglican Communion…."

Ahmanson is well known for his apparent opposition to the ordination of gay clergymen in the Episcopalian church in the USA. Ahmanson has, accordingly, been funding the American Anglican Council (AAC) which has, as its remit, the promotion of biblical orthodoxy. It appears that Ahmanson has been putting US$200k a year into this operation which is headed by David C Anderson, formerly the pastor of the Anglican church in California that Howard Ahmanson attends. The AAC was founded in 1995.

(Note, the Church is the St. James Episcopal Church, Newport Beach, which is described as a biblically orthodox, evangelical church with charismatic roots. Roberta Ahmanson now uses the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Costa Mesa. The Ahmansons consider themselves to be Calvinists.)

The general consensus is that AAC’s strategy is to subvert the generally liberal Anglican movement in the USA. However, in particular, it has developed a strategy to attempt to prevent the ordination of gay ministers, same sex marriage and other issues with which it disagrees. In essence it has been trying to get parts of the Episcopalian movement split off from the mainstream movement, presumably as part of a divide and conquer tactic. It basically wants to break the back of Episcopalian movement.

The driving force behind raising the funding for the anti-gay issue has been Bruce Chapman, head of the Discovery Institute. Ahmanson has been a long-term funder of the Discovery Institute and, it appears, Ahmanson agreed to fund the anti-gay campaign after Chapman approached him directly. As a result, in 2000 and 2001 the Ahmansons donated more that US$1m to the AAC. Scaife is also reported to have funded the AAC.

Ahmanson’s wife also sits on the board of the Institute for Religious Democracy whose aims are to counter leftwing tendencies in mainstream churchs/denominations. It has heavily targeted the United Methodist Church in the USA despite the Methodist movement having been left wing since the 18th century. It is also targeting the Episcopalian and Presbyterian movements. It is not known how much the Ahmansons have given to the IRD; one report suggests about US$50-US$100k a year, another US$1.2m in 2004. Scaife is understood to have provided US$1.9m in 2004.

Both share the same premises in Washington DC and are said to work closely together. The IRD is seen as a fundamentalist organisation. Scaife is understood to fund the IRD as well.

Both Scaife and Ahmanson have funded the bastions of neoconservatism, the American Enterprise Institute and the Project for a New American Century.

IRD’s officers include Ellen Bork (treasurer), the daughter of Robert Bork and (as at March 2007) acting executive director of the Project for the New American Century. Board members include Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute. It is also understood to share other board members with the Project for a New American Century.

Three leading neoconservatives founded IRD in 1981: Michael Novak, Richard Neuhaus, who was then an associate of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC); and Penn Kemble, one of the leaders of the Social Democrats/USA.

For more than two decades IRD has advocated U.S. military interventionism. During the 1980s IRD attempted to rally U.S. Christians around a program of higher military budgets and military campaigns against the Soviet Union and allied countries such as Nicaragua, Angola, and Cuba. The IRD has long echoed the policies of the Likud Party militarists and right-wing Zionists. In addition to the Protestant denominations, IRD considers the National Council of Churches (NCC) and its counterpart World Council of Churches to be instruments of liberalism and secularism. (3)

According to Alfred Ross, President of the Institute for Democratic Studies, IRD’s agenda is "part of a longstanding and comprehensive agenda of ultraconservative forces to transform key elements of our mainstream consensus." That suggests IRD’s agenda is at least reconstructionalist. Given Ahmanson’s involvement one may conclude that it is actually Dominionist.

The Ahmansons are also major contributors to the Biola University which has adopted Intelligent Design as a cause. Biola, an obscure evangelical college in California, is notable as one of the original drivers behind fundamentalism. It also appears to have strong connections with Phillip Johnson of the Discovery Institute.

Money from Ahmanson’s foundation has been channelled to at least one English evangelical organisation, the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (Oxford Connections}, whose leadership has been active in stirring dissent in the Anglican Communion over ordination of gay ministers. It does appear that a major objective of the AAC in splitting the Episcopalian/Anglican movement is to gain control of the missionary activities.

Ahmanson, who is elected by no-one and accountable to no-one, is on record as saying "My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives." (Orange Country Register, 1985)

Via Media Dallas is a group of moderate lay and clergy Episcopalians in the Diocese of Dallas. It has concluded that the neoconservatives are behind the IRD and the attempts to split the mainstream denominations.

According to the group’s Rev. Nigel J. Taber-Hamilton "These neo-cons don't really have a religious agenda. They're much more interested in the silencing of all mainline denominational commitment TEC, UMC, PCUSA (The Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church United States of America) to, and therefore involvement in, issues social justice in the economic market place and therefore in the political arena. This is such a valuable objective that - to achieve their economic and political goals of shifting our country toward the far right - they are willing to spend big bucks, funnelled, of course, through organisations such as the Institute for Religion and Democracy."

Taber-Hamilton also suggests that the splits in the three denominations are looking increasingly inevitable: "reconciliation is simply not possible when outside forces are pouring so much money into the dissident groups seeking to engender a split within the denomination for non-religious purposes."

Notes

In essence, part of the split in US denominations between religious liberals and conservatives is their approach to the bible. It is a modernist/fundamentalist split in theology where one has emerged from (as prominent Methodist theologian John B. Cobb, Jr has said) "from reading the Bible as critical historians," and the other "from reading it only through the eyes of a tradition that has treated it as a sacred text."

Neither Scaife nor Ahmanson have, it appears, ever held down responsible jobs. Both derive their power and influence entirely from inherited wealth. Scaife appears to have had a self-destructive streak in him and was wedded to the bottle until the early 1990s.

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