Robert Schulz of Fort Ann, advocate for the Constitution and leader of the We the People Foundation, says a recent Time magazine cover story mischaracterizes him and his organization and mistakenly links him to militias.
The story, "Locked and Loaded, The Secret World of Extreme Militias," ran as the cover story for the magazine's Oct. 11 edition.
The story, written by Barton Gellman, names Schulz as one of the philosophers of the antigovernment movement who "are edging their followers closer to violence."
The story calls Schulz "an influential voice among militia groups" and says he "has reached the brink of calling for war."
Schulz, who advocates nonviolent protest, calls the story "clearly false."
"I don't know any militia organizations. I don't communicate with any that I know of," he said.
Last year, Schulz said, he spoke to groups in 88 cities in all 50 states and not one was a militia.
"They've never called me, never asked me to speak," he said.
The We the People Foundation's e-mail list includes more than 80,000 addresses, he said, and he doesn't know every person on the list. But the characterization of him as a grassroots leader on the verge of advocating violent rebellion is wrong, he said.
The article mentions vigils that Schulz staged in Washington, D.C., in which he and some of his followers dressed in the costume of the character "V" from the movie "V for Vendetta," mentioning that, in the final scene, the British Parliament building erupts in flames.
Then the article quotes Schulz: " ‘If the First Amendment doesn't work,' Schulz says, ‘the Second Amendment would.' He asks, ‘What does a free man do' when all other avenues are closed? ‘I am struggling with my conscience.' "
Gellman picked quotes from six hours' worth of interviews and strung them together, out of context, to create the false impression that Schulz was "struggling with" whether to turn to violence, Schulz said.
What he was struggling with, Schulz said, was whether he should engage in another nonviolent protest, such as the hunger strike he staged for three weeks in 2001. That hunger strike protested the way the Internal Revenue Service collects income taxes.
At another point with Gellman, Schulz said, he was discussing "the historical context and purpose of the Bill of Rights, what was in the minds of the framers" and that is when he said, "If the First Amendment doesn't work, the Second Amendment would."
He was specifically talking about the experience of the Constitution's framers with the English government, and how that influenced them when coming up with the Bill of Rights.
"The First Amendment to me is the most important sentence in the Constitution," he said. "It guarantees our right to think freely and to nonviolently hold the government accountable to the rest of the Constitution. ... They understood sovereignty rests with the people and they intended for us to be able to hold the government accountable nonviolently. And, of course, if the First Amendment doesn't work, then you have the right to keep and bear arms."
Schulz also brought up a recent article on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, headlined "Midwifing the Militias," that links him and his group's complaints about what they see as unconstitutional behavior by the federal government to violent propaganda from militia organizations.
What he and the foundation are doing, Schulz said, is petitioning the government for redress of grievances, as they are empowered to do by the Constitution.
Gellman told him, Schulz said, that he was trying to get beyond the rhetoric of the patriot movement and get to the substance of the positions, on both sides.
Gellman refused to comment for this article.
Daniel Kile, a public relations spokesman for Time magazine, took questions about the article and responded with the following statement: "Time fully stands behind its story and Barton Gellman's reporting.