Extremist ‘Watchmen’ Seek To Make Inroads With U.S. Religious Right

A new Religious Right movement that mixes fundamentalist religious views, extreme anti-gay rhetoric and confrontational tactics may be gaining a foothold in America.

Watchdog organizations that monitor hate groups are sounding the alarm about the spread of the “Watchmen on the Walls.” The movement, based in Latvia, Ukraine, Russia and other countries in that region, blends fundamentalist Christianity with virulent hatred of gays. The group has already surfaced on the West Coast in the Sacramento area, and is being exported to other cities. Communities known for having gay-friendly policies are apparently being targeted.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported that in October the Watchmen held a conference in Lynwood, Wash., not far from Seattle.

According to the SPLC’s report, the Watchmen revel in deliberately provocative actions.

Asserted the SPLC, “In Latvia, the Watchmen are popular among Christian fundamentalists and ethnic Russians, and are known for presiding over anti-gay rallies where gays and lesbians are pelted with bags of excrement. In the Western U.S., the Watchmen have a following among Russian-speaking evangelicals from the former Soviet Union. Members are increasingly active in several cities long known as gay-friendly enclaves, including Sacramento, Seattle and Portland, Ore.”

(The movement should not be confused with several other Christian groups that use the same name but do not share its extreme views. The name comes from a passage in the Book of Nehemiah that refers to “watchmen” standing on the walls of Jerusalem to guard against danger.)

The Watchmen even have a guidebook of sorts – The Pink Swastika by an anti-gay activist named Scott Lively. The Pink Swastika argues that Adolf Hitler and his top Nazis were gay and makes other outlandish claims.

Even more disturbingly, SPLC reports that Lively “occasionally writes” for Chalcedon Report. This journal is published by the Chalcedon Foundation, the leading Christian Reconstructionist organization in the country.

Reconstructionists are the most militant faction of the Religious Right, forthrightly espousing theocracy. They call for imposing the legal codes of the Old Testament on modern-day America. Under their model government, gays would be executed but so would many others. The Old Testament, after all, calls for imposing the death penalty on blasphemers, adulterers, incorrigible teenagers, practitioners of witchcraft and anyone deemed guilty of “unchastity.”

The Reconstructionists are often dismissed as a lunatic fringe. But many Religious Right leaders look to their ideas to provide a philosophical justification for mixing religion and government.

Last month, the progressive blog www.talk2action.com, which monitors the Religious Right, reported that Lively plans to move to Springfield, Mass. The city is home to New Generation Church, the U.S. outpost of a large anti-gay congregation in Latvia.

In the United States, Lively often works with Alexey Ledyaev, a New Generation Church leader, and Ken Hutcherson, an African-American minister in Kirkland, Wash. Hutcherson is a former professional football player known for his strident opposition to gay rights.

Lively recently announced that the Watchmen on the Walls would join a Religious Right-led boycott of Ford Motors. Several groups, spurred by the American Family Association, are boycotting Ford because of its gay-friendly policies. The Watchmen say they will take the boycott to Russian-speaking countries.

In a recent public statement, the Watchmen wrote, “We reject the suggestion that our view is hateful. While we know that some people hate homosexuals, we don’t. We view homosexuals like we view alcoholics: unfortunate people trapped in a bad lifestyle. Like alcoholics, they should have the right, if they reject therapy, to enjoy privacy in their own homes. But they should not be allowed to publicly recruit others to their lifestyle. Public advocacy of homosexuality should be, like public drunkenness, culturally discouraged to minimize its impact on society.”

In the statement, the group also said, “We do not promote or condone violence.”