Could this Guy Split the Christian-Right?

Candidate in ‘Spiritual Battle’

Presidential Drive Attracts Fringe Support, Much Scrutiny

By Matthew Mosk

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, August 16, 2004; Page B01

LURAY, Va. — In the banquet room of an antebellum mansion here, Michael Peroutka seems to sense what’s nagging at his audience.

“I know what you’re thinking,” the Constitution Party candidate for president tells about 100 men gathered for a conservative Christian legal seminar. “Why does this nut cake do this? Why is he running for president of the United States when he doesn’t stand a chance?”

As he answers his own question, the genial middle-age lawyer, virtually unknown outside of his suburban Maryland home, sounds a bit like Sen. John F. Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat with whom he expects to share the November ballot in Maryland and 40 other states. Namely, that the USA Patriot Act is unconstitutional; that President Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction to lead the nation into war; and that a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is a bad idea (though for entirely different reasons).

But the rest of Peroutka’s answer helps explain why his platform is far closer to the fringes of U.S. politics. And why it has even attracted the scrutiny of a national civil rights organization that tracks hate groups. Peroutka tells audiences that his campaign is divinely inspired and that his party seeks to remake the United States into a Christian state, one that no longer adheres to the separation of church and state.

“This is a spiritual battle,” he said. “It’s fought out in culture, it’s fought out in politics, it’s fought out in the economy. But it’s a spiritual battle. It’s a question of who is lord.”

This is the answer that brings the loudest cheers from Peroutka’s backers, many of whom say they felt abandoned this year as better-known candidates, including Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan, who share their views on abortion, gay rights and other issues, opted not to run. They give Peroutka the chance to gather more than the 98,000 votes registered nationally for the party’s 2000 presidential candidate, Howard Phillips.

Peroutka is one of four minor-party presidential candidates on the ballot in a significant number of states this year, each with a message narrowcast to a relatively small group of followers who believe that neither Republicans nor Democrats address their concerns.

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UPDATE: Check out this link for more information on the Constitution Party.

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