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Former sheriff Richard Mack is on a mission to resurrect the Posse Comitatus and recruit local law enforcement to his cause. Part of fulfilling that mission involves his organization, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), co-sponsoring a national bus tour with an antisemitic conspiracy monger.

At the same time, CSPOA is scheduled to hold two events in Texas for “sheriffs, peace officers and elected officials” this week. The events are co-sponsored by county sheriff’s departments and feature Mack and a former white nationalist secessionist group leader.

Titled “The County Sheriff: America’s Last Hope” and boasting that “This training is absolutely guaranteed to provide irrefutable evidence that sheriffs and local officials of each county or parish, possess the power and duty to protect their constituents from ALL enemies, foreign and domestic,” the events highlight the influence of the Posse Comitatus on the CSPOA and their reach into law enforcement. [1]

Promotional Flyers for CSPOA & Texas Sheriffs events

Promotional Flyers for CSPOA & Texas Sheriffs events

The events are slated for July 8 in Burnet and July 9 in Crockett, Texas. Promotional material claims that the meetings are co-hosted by CSPOA and the Houston and Burnet County sheriff’s departments.[2] The Grapeland, Texas Chamber of Commerce is also promoting the Crocket event.[3]

Promotional materials also indicate that peace officers who attend can receive as many as twelve hours of credit towards their Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) proficiency certificates. The combination of sheriff’s department co-sponsorships with the implicit imprimatur of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement lends unwarranted credibility to the troubling far-right gathering.

Richard Mack’s Posse

One of the featured speakers at the “County Sheriffs: America’s Last Hope” conference is former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack, a longtime figure of the militia movement going back to the 1990s. These days, Mack runs the far-right Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA).

While the other major far-right paramilitary group aimed at law enforcement recruitment, the Oath Keepers, is reeling from member participation in the January 6 insurrection, Mack’s group keeps attracting new law enforcement officials.

Since his militia days, Mack has been a spreader of conspiracy theories and a paramilitary proponent. For example, back in 2009, while talking with Alex Jones on the “InfoWars” program, Mack laid out a conspiracy rife with antisemitic dog-whistles, “There is one person who I believe can stop this new world order. His name is your county sheriff. There is no question your sheriff has the responsibility to protect you from tyranny and international bankers.”[4]

Given previous statements like that, it should not be surprising that Mack would align his group with an antisemitic conspiracist.  At the same time that CSPOA is co-sponsoring these events with Texas sheriff’s departments, Mack’s group is also co-sponsoring the nationwide “Arise USA” bus tour with Robert David Steele, a former CIA employee and a prolific purveyor of antisemitism.


Richard Mack and Robert David Steele

Richard Mack and Robert David Steele

Steele has spewed conspiracy theories about “satanic Zionists” engaged in a global plot against white people; deemed Jews “a secret society that believes itself to be exempt from all laws and customs of others;” promoted Holocaust denial; called for jailing all Jews not sufficiently “loyal to the Republic;” and declared that we must “eradicate every Zionist who refuses to be loyal to their country of citizenship and the rule of law.”

Mack’s CSPOA has morphed Posse Comitatus-style ideas about the political power of county sheriffs into a national effort to recruit law enforcement officers into the far-right cause.

The Posse Comitatus, the name being Latin for “Power of the County,” was a violent far-right movement that emerged across the 1970s and 1980s and whose ideas undergirded the militia and common law courts movements of the 1990s. The Posse sought to overturn federal authority by pressing the idea that the county sheriff was the “highest law of the land.”  This core Posse idea is expressed in CSPOA’s statement that the “The vertical separation of powers in the Constitution makes it clear that the power of the sheriff even supersedes the powers of the President.”

The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, a basis for enforcing federal civil rights laws, upholding the treaty and trust obligations to Indian Nations, and passing national legislation to address poverty and workers’ rights, among other things, clarifies that this is view is false.

The radical Posse-style attack on core Constitutional civil rights laws has not stopped the effort from attracting county sheriffs and other public officials to its stage. Nor has it deterred sheriff’s departments from working with the far-right group.

Michael Peroutka and Warping the Constitution

Sharing the stage with Richard Mack at the Texas events is Michael Peroutka, a former Maryland leader of the League of the South, a white nationalist organization seeking a whites-only ethnostate in the U.S. south, peddles antisemitism, and has forged alliances with national socialists.

League of the South "Southern Nationalist" self-portrait

League of the South “Southern Nationalist” self-portrait

While Peroutka later backed away from the group when his ties were exposed in 2014, he clarified that “I don’t have any problem with the organization.”[5]

Michael Peroutka now leads the Institute on the Constitution (IOTC), an organization that promotes Christian nationalism and straddles the line between white nationalists, radical theocrats, and far-right “constitutionalists.”

The IOTC also promotes anti-Muslim bigotry and state nullification and has circulated material stating that “We see no reason why men should not discriminate on grounds of religion, race, or nationality if they wish.”[6]’

Presentations by Peroutka and other Institute on the Constitution staff members at the 2020 CSPOA Conference in Virginia hint at what might be expected at this week’s Texas events.

At the 2020 CSPOA conference, Michael Peroutka demonstrated that his involvement with the group is rooted in the mix of ideas found in the Posse Comitatus – notions of theocratic government, sheriff’s power, and the importance of the “posse,” or “militia,” in opposing federal and state laws.

Michael Peroutka Demonstrating the Posse at CSPOA 2020

Michael Peroutka Demonstrating the Posse stance at CSPOA 2020

In a segment of his presentation centering on how sheriffs can discern “acts of pretended legislation,” a phrase taken from the Declaration of Independence and meaning legislation deemed illegitimate, he argued that in addition to “the Constitution,”

“The other standard used to judge whether…enactments of civil government are lawful is God’s word, the Ten Commandments. The purpose and the methods of government must not violate the moral law. This is the eternal standard. So there’s a temporal standard, the Constitution; there’s an eternal standard, which is God’s word.”[7]

Peroutka gave as an example of such “acts of pretended legislation,” measures he unilaterally declared unconstitutional–COVID-19-related restrictions promulgated by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

Peroutka next had audience members act out a visual demonstration of the notion of sheriff’s power drawn from the Posse Comitatus. His presentation echoed CSPOA’s spurious statement that “The vertical separation of powers in the Constitution makes it clear that the power of the sheriff even supersedes the powers of the President.”[8]

Peroutka stated his demonstration was derived from a presentation given by a sheriff who had also attended the CSPOA event. Peroutka called on audience members, including some armed law enforcement officers, to take on roles in a confrontation between the sheriff and federal and state officials alleged to have betrayed their respective Constitutions.

Starting with an individual to represent the “citizens,” others would represent the branches of state government, a governor at their head. These local government actors then faced off against federal officials who, in Peroutka’s specific example, tells them that “he represents the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], and he’s going to say you’re going to abide by those regulations of the EPA.”

At this point, according to Peroutka, because “local government gets bribed,” the audience members representing state officials turn toward the citizen, siding with the federal government.

All save one, that is – the sheriff.

Peroutka continued, describing what the sheriff does next:

“What he does is, at this point, show that the sheriff goes out in the audience and does what, what does he gather up? [Several audience members say “posse”]. Right, because surrounding the city, now, is the sheriff and his, whatever, his militia, posse, whatever.”[9]

However, it is important to clarify that this is not a typical sheriff’s posse called to enforce a specific law – something hinted at in Peroutka’s the use of “militia” to describe the armed body that would help stop federal enforcement. Instead, the sentiment echoes Richard Mack’s statement that “People get all upset when they hear about militias, but what’s wrong with it? I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to call out my posse against the federal government if it gets out of hand.”[10]

Instead, it is a case of interposition, the sheriff intervening to block the enforcement of a law duly legislated in accordance with the procedures outlined in the U.S. Constitution – a law, in Peroutka’s theocratic bent, deemed unconstitutional.

Given Peroutka’s example, a case in point might be the Clean Water Act, passed into law through a Constitutionally-based override of President Richard Nixon’s veto in 1972 and established to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s water.” Among other things, the CWA authorizes the EPA to require that states establish, monitor, and enforce water quality standards; fund construction for sewage treatment plans and other actions intended to protect water quality.[11]

In this context, Peroutka posits the posse-style “right” to simply overrule laws it doesn’t like, stressing again that, “In order for the sheriff to be successful in this, first of all, he has to know the truth. He has to know the Constitution, and he has to know scripture – because that’s the basis for the law…The eternal standard and the temporal standard.”[12]

Michael Peroutka, however, was not the only former League of the South member at the 2020 CSPOA event. David Whitney, who was a featured CSPOA speaker, continued to be listed as a Chaplain for the Maryland chapter of the League of the South in 2015, even while serving as a “Senior Instructor” for IOTC.[13]

IOTC's David Whitney at CSPOA 2020

IOTC’s David Whitney at CSPOA 2020

At the 2020 CSPOA event, Whitney was on hand to bolster the type of Christian nationalist ideas espoused by IOTC. Declaring that Article VI of the U.S. Constitutions requires that both federal and state elected officials “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution,” Whitney offered a decidedly out-of-whole-cloth, theocratic spin:

“We require each and every office holder at the federal, state and county levels to swear an oath, a sacred oath that they make before almighty God…Can an atheist take an oath? Because who are they promising too, they’re promising to a God they don’t believe in. An atheist cannot take an oath.  If they’re being honest, they would never take an oath at all. We really don’t have a godless Constitution, otherwise an oath would not be required and our founders were saying that oath is made to Almighty God… And that oath requirement points to the fact that our Constitution is Christian Constitution, requiring belief in almighty god.”[14]

Whitney continued in this theocratic vein, adding a dose of religious bigotry, based on language in the Constitution that it was signed in the “Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty-seven”:

“And that Lord is no reference to Buddha, no reference to Mohammed, no reference to any other of those pagan idolatries. It’s a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ…so, in taking an oath, a person is actually swearing to the Lord Jesus Christ, whether they understand what they’re doing or not.”

In his rush to make the U.S. Constitution a theocratic document, however, Whitney appears to have skipped over the part of Article VI stating clearly that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Ironically, it also Article VI that rejects the Posse-style claim of sheriff’s power, stating, again clearly, that,

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

The 2020 CSPOA event, however, is not the first time that Whitney has skewed historical facts or espoused theocratic ideas. In a 2009 speech at the 2nd Annual Southern National Congress, Whitney declared that,

 “In essence, the Southern states, the 13 states that did secede, had a Constitutional right, a legal right, and indeed a Biblical right to do what they did seceding from the Union. And the 16th tyrannical president, he had no right to do what he did, attacking and invading, and killing oh, it wound up being over six hundred thousand American boys, all unnecessarily in Mr. Lincoln’s war.”[15]

Elsewhere, Whitney claimed a Constitutional mandate for militias, arguing that opponents of militias are the enemies of God. He demanded that militias be used to remove Obama if he did not voluntarily remove himself. Whitney spoke at a “Sheriff and Citizen Summit” where the Posse Comitatus was promoted. In February 2014, he preached a sermon calling for citizenship — including the right to vote, run for office, serve in a jury, or serve in a militia —restricted to Christians.[16]

The third member of the Institute on the Constitution staff member on stage at the 2020 CSPOA conference was IOTC CEO, Jake MacAulay. He was on hand to push IOTC videos, including one focused on sheriffs featuring CSPOA’s Richard Mack.

IOTC's Jake MacAulay at CSPOA 2020

IOTC’s Jake MacAulay at CSPOA 2020

MacAulay described that he began to change his ideas about religion and politics after meeting Peroutka during his 2004 presidential bid on the Christian nationalist Constitution Party ticket.[17] At the time, Peroutka explained on Fox News that,

“I would bring to my office a Christian understanding and a Christian worldview, which is the worldview that America was based on…We live in an age where because of the myth of separation of church and state and the myth that character doesn’t count.”[18]

Elsewhere, Jake MacCaulay echoed Peroutka, arguing, “American Government should absolutely rule by the moral standards of the Judeo-Christian God.” In 2011, while with the IOTC, MacCaulay would espouse the false idea that a belief in God is required to hold office in the United States:

“So this constitutional requirement that an officeholder must believe in God is a logical and consistent protection against those who might drive our constitutional republic in a bad direction. This isn’t about discrimination or bigotry.  It’s about ensuring that those holding office in America are committed to the true, lawful, American philosophy of government.”[19]

Before joining the IOTC staff, MacAulay was active in a hard rock homophobic ministry whose leader, Bradley Dean Smith, argued that it was moral to execute LGBT people, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.[20] For his part, MacCaulay outrageously claimed that “half of the murders in large cities were committed by homosexuals” and argue, in a bigoted fashion, that homosexuality “literally kills” gays.[21]

On a Sons of Liberty radio program with Smith, MacAulay praised the idea of incarcerating LGBTQI people. Smith and MacAulay provided a platform for Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller, racist and antisemitic conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Christian nationalist pseudo-historian David Barton, militia advocate Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America, nativist Kris Kobach – and Sheriff Richard Mack.

In uniting with the likes of Michael Peroutka and Robert David Steele, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Associations pull together the defining elements of the original Posse Comitatus – spurious and unconstitutional ideas of the powers of the county sheriff, racism, and antisemitism.

Law enforcement officers belong nowhere near a movement committed to such bigotry and radical attacks on democracy.



[1] Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. Events. Accessed July 5, 2021; for detailed background on the Posse Comitatus, see Levitas, Daniel. 2002. The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right. New York: Thomas Dunne Books.

[2] Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. Events. Accessed July 5, 2021.

[3] Grapeland Chamber of Commerce. Facebook. June 28, 20201.

[4] Sokol, Chad. “Anti-Government Icon Raises Concern During Kalispell Visit. Daily Inter Lake. June 26, 2021.

[5] Zeskind, Leonard. “League of the South Cadre Wins Maryland County Election.” Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. November 6, 2014.; Wood, Pamela and the Baltimore Sun. Peroutka says he has left League of the South. Baltimore Sun. October 17, 2014. Peroutka indicated that he “stands by the groups stances on self-government and conserving southern heritage,” in the words of the Baltimore Sun. The League of the South’s views on self-government and southern heritage are rooted in white nationalism. In 2012, Peroutka had declared himself a “proud member of the League of the South” and stated that the label white supremacist applied to the group was “absurd” and “not at all true.” Linskey, Annie. HRC says anti-gay marriage group should return $10k check. Baltimore Sun. December 6, 2012.

[6] Burghart, Devin. Another Troubling Figure Scheduled to Speak at South Carolina Tea Party Convention. Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. January 15, 2015.; Throckmorton, Warren. Institute on the Constitution: There Is No Reason Why Men Should Not Discriminate On The Grounds of Religion, Race or Nationality. September 4, 2013.

[7] Peroutka, Michael. Presentation at September 30, 2020 event hosted by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Associate. Streamed live at Institute on the Constitution. Facebook. September 30, 2020.

[8] Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. About CSPOA. Accessed June 25, 2021.

[9] Peroutka, Michael. Presentation at September 30, 2020 event hosted by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Associate. Streamed live at Institute on the Constitution. Facebook. September 30, 2020.

[10] Ibid; Anderson, Jack. 1996. Inside the NRA: Armed and Dangerous. Vancouver, BC: Newstar Press.

[11] See Estrin, Daniel. Clean Water Act 101 – A bit of legislative history. GreenLaw. April 1, 2011.; Environmental Protection Agency. History of the Clean Water Act.

[12] Peroutka, Michael. Presentation at September 30, 2020 event hosted by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Associate. Streamed live at Institute on the Constitution. Facebook. September 30, 2020.

[13] “Maryland League of the South Leadership,” Maryland Chapter of the League of the South website, last accessed January 14, 2015

[14] Whitney, David. Speech at September 30, 2021 Conference of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association.   Institute on the Constitution. September 30, 2020. Facebook.

[15] Audio recording, “Interview: Pastor David Whitney re: His Attending the 2nd Annual Southern National Congress” IOTC’s The American View Website, circa 2009, last accessed January 14, 2015,

[16] Warren Throckmorton, “Anne Arundel County Council Candidate David Whitney’s Questionable Defense of State Militias,” Warren Throckmorton Patheos Blog, June 19, 2014,; David Whitney, “Positive Reporting on our Sheriff’s and Citizen’s Summit,” IOTC’s The American View website, April 10, 2013,; David Whitney, “Rethinking Citizenship,” Freedom Outpost website, February 21, 2014,

[17] Peroutka, Michael. Presentation at September 30, 2020 event hosted by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Associate. Streamed live at Institute on the Constitution. Facebook. September 30, 2020.

[18] Peroutka, Michael. Transcript: Michael Peroutka, Constitution Party. FoxNews. October 11, 2004.

[19] Jake McMillian MacAulay, “Theocracy,” Jake McMillian Blog, June 22, 2011, Accessed at,; Jake MacAulay, “Is Belief in God Required to Hold Office,” IOTC’s The American View Website, December 9, 2014,

[20] Leah Nelson, “A Boy Named Sue,” Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report, Issue Number 153, Spring 2014,

[21] Aaron Rupar, “Bradlee Dean Troupe to Iowa Public School: Homosexual Lifestyle ‘Literally Kills’ Gays [Video],” Minneapolis City Pages, March 12, 2002,

Chuck Tanner and Devin Burghart

Author Chuck Tanner and Devin Burghart

Chuck Tanner is IREHR's research director. Devin Burghart is the executive director of IREHR.

More posts by Chuck Tanner and Devin Burghart