Fat-Cat Theocrat Funds Creationism Crusade
Sb, Church & State
Anti-evolution crusader Phillip Johnson, dedicated his 1997 book, Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, to "Roberta and Howard, who understood `the wedge' because they love the Truth."
The mysterious reference is apparently a note of thanks to Howard F. Ahmanson Jr. and his wife Roberta, a wealthy and secretive Orange County, Calif., couple who have generously funded the anti-evolution movement and other right-wing causes that advance their fundamentalist Christian outlook.
Howard Ahmanson, however, is no ordinary fat-cat. The savings and loan heir has maintained a long-time relationship with Christian Reconstructionism, an extreme faction of the Religious Right that seeks to replace American democracy with a harsh fundamentalist theocracy.
Reconstructionists believe conservative Christians should take "dominion" over American society. Under their version of "biblical law," the death penalty would be required for over a dozen categories of offenders, including adulterers, homosexuals, witches, incorrigible children and those who spread "false" religions. They regard the teaching of evolution as part of a "war against Genesis."
Ahmanson served for over two decades on the board of directors of the Chalcedon Foundation, Rousas J. Rushdoony's Reconstructionist think tank that serves as the intellectual center of the movement. Ahmanson has also generously supported the Foundation's work.
As for Ahmanson's interests in opposing evolution, his relationship with leaders such as Johnson raises a series of questions about how the movement to "defeat" evolution is paid for and what the larger agenda might be.
There is little doubt that the Ahmansons have the resources to help finance anti-evolution efforts. The family's wealth grew exponentially during the 1950s and '60s when Howard Ahmanson Sr, made billions in the savings and loan industry. After his death, his estate was divided between his son Howard E Ahmanson and the Ahmanson Foundation, which had $663 million in assets at the end of 1996. (H.F. Ahmanson & Co., the parent company of Home Savings of America, had over $47 billion in assets in 1997. …