Not since we all learned that Rand Paul forced a blindfolded classmate to kneel in a stream and pray to the Aqua Buddha — and possibly not since the revelation that Louisiana Governer Bobby Jindal had participated in an exorcism — have political junkies been as overjoyed as they were when they saw footage of Christine O’Donnell admitting that she’d “dabbled into witchcraft” in her younger and more vulnerable years.
The admission made headlines precisely because, like exorcism and marijuana-worship, it’s pretty far out there. But unlike marijuana-worship, it actually offered a glimpse into a real phenomenon in right wing politics and religion: fear of witchcraft and Satanic ritual.Religious Christians across the country, including some of the most high-profile members of the Republican party, are avowed witch foes. Below is footage of an October 2005 religious service in Wasilla, Alaska, captured just as Sarah Palin was launching her bid for governor. Presiding over the even was Kenyan evangelist Thomas Muthee who prayed for Palin to be protected from “every spirit of witchcraft.”
Both Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and Florida Congressional hopeful Daniel Webster have ties to a cult-like evangelical organization called Institute for Basic Life Principles.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Webster and his wife have “home-schooled their six children, guided by the Scripture-based teachings of the Institute in Basic Life Principles.”
Those principles include a warning that “Those who participate in witchcraft directly interact with destructive, satanic influences.”
Many of the right’s most influential religious leaders contend publicly that witches and Satan worshippers abduct thousands of people a year, many of them children, for ritual murders. Some claim to have witnessed, or, like O’Donnell, participated in, the occult practices they abhor.
“Having seen/experienced Satan worshippers is a widely used ploy for gaining credibility in the right wing charismatic evangelical world,” says Rachel Tabachnick, an expert on Christian evangelicalism.
Pastor John Hagee, whose 2008 endorsement of John McCain sparked a major uproar, is one such leader. In his book 1997 Day of Deception he recounts witnessing demonic possession, and alleges that the state is complicit in “Rosemary’s Baby”-like coverups of Satanic killings. “Female Satanists breed themselves to give birth to children for ritual offerings. Doctors in the satanic groups deliver the baby, filing no birth certificate. As far as the state is concerned, the person never existed.”
In the opening pages of the same book — a chapter called “Witchcraft and the White House — Hagee claims “Hillary Clinton has brought witchcraft into the White House.” The witch in question, according to Hagee, was Clinton’s one-time New Age spiritual adviser Jean Houston.
In 1999 when O’Donnell said she’d participated in witchcraft — and had picnic date on a satanic altar — she may have been confessing to acts of youthful indiscretion. But she was also speaking to fears with plenty of currency on the religious right.