A video posted Saturday to YouTube claims the federal government is preparing to institute martial law in the United States. Worse yet, the video says pastors are helping the federal government by teaching their congregations to blindly obey the government, citing Romans 13. The video, long on accusations but somewhat short on specifics, claims two pastors have come forward to blow the whistle on the operation.
But is the federal government really enlisting pastors in an effort to subjugate the population? In 2007, one year before Obama's election, Louisiana television station KSLA reported that the Department of Homeland Security had enlisted clergy to help keep the public subservient to the government in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
"If martial law were enacted here at home, like depicted in the movie 'The Siege', easing public fears and quelling dissent would be critical. And that's exactly what the 'Clergy Response Team' helped accomplish in the wake of Katrina," KSLA reported.
According to Dr. Durell Tuberville, a chaplain who served with the Shreveport Fire Department and the Caddo Sheriff's Office at the time, said "the primary thing that we say to anybody is, 'let's cooperate and get this thing over with and then we'll settle the differences once the crisis is over.'"
"In a lot of cases, these clergy would already be known in the neighborhoods in which they're helping to diffuse that situation," added Sandy Davis, director of the Caddo-Bossier Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
One of the biggest tools the team has is the Bible itself, KSLA added -- specifically Romans 13, the passage mentioned in the video. Dr. Tuberville said that's "because the government's established by the Lord, you know. And, that's what we believe in the Christian faith. That's what's stated in the scripture."
"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God," Romans 13:1 says. "Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."
Stephen Rowland, a resident of Columbia, Tenn., with a master of arts degree in Biblical Studies, attacked what he called the "misuse of Romans 13 as that 'billy club' for believers" in an op-ed at the Columbia Daily Herald. One of his arguments against using Romans 13 was history itself, noting that Hitler used the passage to ensure a compliant population.
"Back in 1775 King George tried confiscating the colonist’s weapons stored in Concord, Mass. Most of the pastors in Colonial America preached from their pulpits against this 'act of tyranny' and informed their congregants of their Biblical rights to lawful self-defense," he wrote. "Are you aware that right before World War II it was Adolf Hitler who instructed the clergy to preach Romans 13 so that Christians would be submissive to the Nazis and to the dictator himself? Do Christians, and citizens in general, have no right to resist evil dictators? No right to form our own American government?"
But the situation may be worse than KSLA first reported. On Friday, a post at Tea Party Crusaders claimed that in return for helping government officials, pastors would be the first vaccinated in event of an outbreak and would be fully compensated in the event of any problems.
"We get the picture that we’re going to be standing at the end of some farmer’s lane while he’s standing there with his double barrel, saying we have to confiscate your cows, your chickens, your firearms,” said one person identified only as "Pastor Revere." The pastor allegedly went on to describe an Orwellian alteration of words that would be used to describe a potential martial law situation.
"They’re not using the term ‘quarantine’ – this is the term they’re going to be using – it’s called ‘social distancing’ don’t you like that one,” he reportedly said. So-called "relocation centers" would be referred to as "community centers" that would be established at public schools.
Another pastor, identified as "Butch Paugh," claimed he was invited to become a part of a group implementing federal FEMA/Homeland Security directives. According to this pastor, a lot of "interesting and bothersome" information was disseminated at the meetings he attended.
"FEMA and other Disaster Agencies (NVOAD in particular: www.nvoad.org) are training volunteers in a 'Peer to Peer' program. That program trains people to assist FEMA in a neighborhood setting– teams reach out to neighbors in a declared emergency and 'get their neighbors to obey authorities,'" he reportedly said. "According to our spokesman, Ministers will be especially helpful because 'you guys and gals can use Romans 13.'"
A search reveals the two pastors' stories have been widely disseminated on a number of various sites. As a result, attempts to independently verify the stories and the claims have become next to impossible. There is, as Paugh reportedly said, a group called the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster that was formed in 1970 and describes itself as a "nonprofit, nonpartisan, membership-based organization that builds resiliency in communities nationwide."
The organization lists a wide variety of religious groups along with the American Red Cross and the United Way on its "members" page. We were unable to find any reference to a "Clergy Response Team" at NVOAD's site, although a Google search revealed clergy response teams at various local sites. No mention was made of Romans 13, or any attempt to ensure a quiet, subservient population.