Pastor Paul Blair
Pastor Paul Blair
Pastor Paul Blair

Oklahoma Pastor Paul Blair, who recently generated headlines by comparing marriage equality to Nazism and slavery, will offer next Saturday’s session-opening prayer at the Clouds Over America Conference in Oklahoma City. He will then speak to attendees about the “Biblical Principles of Self Defense,” which may refer to a new right wing social media meme that is just as awful as you think it is.

Held at the Character Inn, a conference center run by the Institute in Basic Life Principles, Clouds Over America is sponsored by the Oklahoma chapters of the John Birch Society and Reclaiming America for Christ. Mr. Blair founded Reclaiming America for Christ and has relentlessly promoted it across the state. Past speakers at the organization’s summits have included Rick Scarborough, the anti-gay crank who wants to start a class action lawsuit against gay people; Glenn Beck’s favorite pseudo-historian David Barton, who wants the government to regulate gay sex; and Ken Ham, the creationist who recently debated evolution with Bill Nye.

The venue is not an actual hotel: most rooms lack televisions, and management reserves the right to refuse service to anyone who does not meet their standards of religious devotion. We cannot just dismiss all of this as fringe stuff, however, because the Institute in Basic Life Principles appears to be a mainstream Christian nonprofit organization. And as we reported last week, the John Birch Society appears to have won mainstream acceptance as a conservative organization in Oklahoma. (If you find those words frightening, then you know how we feel about writing them.) The name of the conference is a clue to the pessimism in its program, which includes sessions on “states rights” and “nullification.” These formerly-fringe ideas are emerging themes among mainline conservative activists, who see them as the last line of defense against the dire threats to freedom posed by gay weddings, Obamacare, and the United Nations.

It is in that context that “Biblical Self Defense Principles” sounds very much like an actual call to arms, as if Oklahoma’s conservatives are on the verge of secession over Adam and Steve’s marriage. David Barton has described the topic to Glenn Beck through his customary prism of John Bircher-style “secret history.”

“In the case of the American Revolution, if the Founding Fathers had not been able to take on that illegal British government coming … so for them, it is not a matter of you have too many bullets in your magazine, it’s not whatever the government has, that’s we have got to have the same thing,” he said. “If they have an AK-47 and we only have a bb gun, then that is not a deterrent. The whole purpose of the Second Amendment is to make sure that you have equal power with whatever comes against you illegally. At that point, this is what has to control the gun debate.”

We take this to mean that Barton believes the Second Amendment protects private ownership of surface-to-air missiles, antitank weapons, and heavy artillery guns. If you are planning to go to war against the United States government anytime soon, that is the kind of equipment you will probably need, because even a high capacity magazine in a semiautomatic assault rifle is not going to be enough.

In 2011, Right Wing Watch described Paul Blair as “not just some local pastor mobilized to run for office because of supposed threats from gay activists; he’s a full-blown anti-gay Religious Right activist who is now seeking to turn his radical agenda into state law.” An NFL star before turning to God for a second career, Pastor Blair teaches his flock that 9/11 was God’s judgment and that the marriage equality movement is a satanic communist conspiracy. His speaking style is fire and brimstone, rife with classic paranoid John Bircher themes like Common Core, Agenda 21, creeping Sharia law, and the invisible Marxist cabal scheming against his “freedom” to shut down any speech that is too gay.

We will continue to monitor this story.

Video: Pastor Blair speaks to the Oklahoma Liberty Rally in March, 2013