Men-Only, Christian-Only Secret Society Gets More Secret

Boise, Idaho, in winter 2022. (Getty Images)
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A secret society that plans on staffing a future, right-wing government with Christian men is disbanding two of its Idaho chapters, records obtained by TPM show.

TPM found that two Idaho chapters of the Society for American Civic Renewal dissolved themselves in May, corporate records show, several weeks after a report by TPM revealed the group’s mission and the identities of some of its high-profile members.

One of the group’s members, Boise State University Professor Scott Yenor, confirmed to TPM Thursday that the chapter he heads in Idaho’s capital would be dissolved. The Boise chapter would continue to exist as a dues-paying organization, he said, but ending the legal entity would free it from having to do “annual reporting.”

The move to dissolve the chapters adds another layer of secrecy to the group. SACR already shields its membership rolls from the public, even as it seeks to reshape American government and society. Per an internal mission statement first made public by TPM, the mens-only, Christian-only group aims to “act decisively to secure permanently” the “dominance” of “Christendom” and to enshrine their view of America’s founding, bringing together a group of right-wing Christian men to try to ensure that the country is defined and governed as a Christian nation.

TPM was able to reveal the inner workings of the Society for American Civic Renewal in March using emails and documents largely obtained via public records requests that included Yenor’s Boise State email account. These records revealed that the group is not just exclusively Christian and male, it is only open to heterosexual men, “trinitarian” Christians, and “un-hyphenated Americans.” Yenor pitched one potential member by writing in an email that the group offered a means to “secure a future for Christian families.”

TPM’s reporting showed that SACR is composed of influential and wealthy men, including the president of right-wing think tank the Claremont Institute, a multimillionaire Indiana shampoo tycoon, and a Texas venture capitalist, among others.

SACR is unique in that regard: though it proclaims extreme goals in internal records like staffing the government of an “aligned future regime” and allows only men and certain types of Christians to become members, it’s largely composed of men who have means and have been successful in life. Yenor has influence as an ultra-conservative scholar; he has courted controversy by demanding that professions like law, engineering and medicine stop recruiting women into their ranks, and is senior director of state coalitions at the Claremont Institute. Charles Haywood, who incorporated the national SACR nonprofit as a 501(c)10, attended University of Chicago law school before developing and selling his cosmetics business.

The 501(c)10 form — described in typically sinister terms on SACR’s website as being “a national superstructure” — is the same used by other lodge-based groups like the Freemasons or the Shriners.

That allows the groups to shield the identities of their members from public scrutiny but, as Yenor told TPM, being a chapter within a larger nonprofit still requires financial reporting.

“We have to do annual reporting with the 10, and without it we don’t have to,” Yenor told TPM Thursday, referring to the 501(c)10 registration requirements. He added that the “burden” of doing the paperwork motivated the change.

“We initially got advice that in order to have a dues paying entity, we had to be a 501(c)10, and that ended up not being true,” he said.

Corporate filings show that the Coeur D’Alene lodge dissolved itself on May 20; the Boise lodge dissolved itself the next day.

Skyler Kressin, a Coeur D’Alene accountant who dissolved that city’s chapter, did not return a request for comment from TPM. Other publicly listed chapters in Dallas, Texas and Moscow, Idaho were still active.

The full scope of SACR’s membership, operations and activities aren’t clear. The records from Yenor’s email account showed attempts to organize an anti-marriage equality sticker campaign, and SACR’s involvement in an Idaho advocacy website. Claremont President and SACR board member Ryan P. Williams told TPM in March that the total number of chapters was around a dozen or fewer.

Yenor wouldn’t say whether SACR’s other chapters planned to make the change, or whether the national nonprofit would also dissolve itself. He declined to answer questions about the size of the Boise chapter and how often the group meets.

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Notable Replies

  1. FIRST, instead of a picture try this from Paul Krugman.

    Freedom’s just another word for not paying taxes.

    After Donald Trump was convicted on 34 felony counts, the Heritage Foundation — a right-wing think tank that has, among other things, produced the Project 2025 agenda, a blueprint for policy if Trump wins — flew an upside-down American flag, which has become an emblem for support of MAGA in general and election denial in particular.

    This action may have shocked some old-line conservatives who still thought of Heritage as a serious institution, but Heritage is, after all, just a think tank. It’s not as if upside-down flags were being flown by people we expect to defend our constitutional order, like Supreme Court justices.

    Oh, wait.

    But Heritage’s embrace of what amounts to an attack on democracy is a useful symbol of one of the really troubling developments of this election as it heads into the final stretch. Heritage presents itself as a defender of freedom, but its real mission has always been to produce arguments — frequently based on shoddy research — for low taxes on rich people. And its tacit endorsement of lawlessness illustrates the way many of America’s plutocrats — both in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street — have, after flirting with the crank candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., been rallying around Trump.

    Why would billionaires support Trump? It’s not as if they’ve done badly under President Biden. Stock prices — which Trump predicted would crash if he lost in 2020 — have soared. High interest rates, which are a burden on many Americans, are if anything a net positive for wealthy people with money to invest. And I doubt that the superrich are suffering much from higher prices for fast food.

    Wealthy Americans, though, are surely betting they’ll pay lower taxes if Trump wins.

    Biden and his team have offered fairly explicit guidance about their tax agenda, which would directly raise taxes on high-income Americans and also raise corporate taxes, which would indirectly be mainly a tax on the wealthy. These measures wouldn’t produce taxes at the top remotely comparable to what they were during the Eisenhower years, when the top marginal income tax rate was 91 percent and large estates could face inheritance taxes as high as 77 percent. Still, Biden’s plans, if carried out, would make the rich a bit less rich.

    Trump has been far less explicit, but he clearly wants to retain his 2017 tax cut in full, and his allies in Congress are committed not just to tax cuts but to starving the Internal Revenue Service of resources, which would allow more wealthy Americans to evade the taxes they legally owe.

    So billionaires aren’t wrong in thinking they’ll pay less in taxes if Trump wins. But why aren’t they more concerned about the bigger picture?

    After all, even if all you care about is money, Trump’s agenda should make you very worried. His advisers’ plans to deport millions of immigrants (supposedly only the undocumented, but do you really believe many legal residents wouldn’t get caught up in the dragnets?) would shrink the U.S. labor force and be hugely disruptive. His protectionist proposals (which would be very different from Biden’s targeted measures) could mean an all-out global trade war. If he’s able to make good on them, his attacks on the independence of the Federal Reserve risk much more serious inflation than anything we’ve experienced in recent years.

    Beyond all that, Trump will almost certainly try to weaponize the justice system to go after his perceived enemies. Only someone completely ignorant of history would imagine himself safe from that kind of weaponization — even if Trump considers you an ally now, that can change in an instant.

    And if you’ve been following Trump’s rantings, you know that his rhetoric is getting less rational and more vindictive by the week. Yet his support among billionaires seems if anything to be consolidating.

    So what’s going on? Here’s what I think, although it’s admittedly speculative.

    First, America’s oligarchs probably believe that their wealth and influence would protect them from the arbitrary exercise of power. Trump and company might turn corrupt law enforcement and a cowed judiciary against other people, but surely not them! By the time they realized how wrong they were, it would be too late.

    As I’ve written before, the superrich can be remarkably obtuse and ignorant of history.

    Second, at some level I don’t really think it’s about the money. How much difference does it make to a billionaire’s quality of life if he has to settle for a slightly smaller superyacht? At the top of the pyramid, wealth is largely about status and self-importance; as Tom Wolfe wrote long ago, it’s about “seeing ’em jump.”

    And when politicians don’t jump, when they don’t treat the very wealthy with the deference and admiration they consider their due, some of them become enraged. We saw this when many Wall Streeters turned on President Barack Obama — after he helped bail them out in the financial crisis — because they felt insulted by his occasional criticisms.

    Biden is hardly a class warrior, but he clearly doesn’t worship the superrich. And all too many of them are turning to Trump out of sheer pettiness.

  2. Avatar for theod theod says:

    It’s a modern day Klan without the silly costumes and a few more college degrees, but all of the traditional hatred and intolerance of The Other + Uppity Women that give these fascists permission to be awful & dangerous elitists. Plus hiding in the shadows like scared sissies.

  3. Avatar for 1gg 1gg says:

    “un-hyphenated Americans.”
    So only Native Americans!!! Somehow I don’t see them joining.

  4. Turn on the light and watch the “Nationalist-Christianists” (Nat-Cs) scram.

  5. These sound like a pseudo-sophisticated version of the dudes who live a Spartan life conducting war training maneuvers in the woods (the correct term eludes me right now), preparing for the end of civilization.

    A club and you can bet your bottom dollar they drink some serious whiskey during and after meetups.

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