Cynthia Dunbar’s Reading List

by Ryan

Our friend Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches points us to some juicy information we overlooked when writing our recent post on former Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar: the required reading list for the law professor’s “Foundations of Law” course at Liberty Law School. Through the magic of the Internet “Way Back Machine,” you can find the assigned reading list from her course in fall of 2010. It’s revealing:

Foundations of Law I (Law 501) –Professors Lindevaldsen & Dunbar

Required Texts:
Rousas Rushdoony, This Independent Republic (Ross House Books) ISBN: 1879998246

Frederic Bastiat, The Law (Foundation for Economic Freedom) ISBN: 9781572462144

Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today (American Vision) ISBN: 0915815842

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity (Zondervan Publishing House) any edition is acceptable

Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto (Crossway Publishers) any edition is acceptable

David Barton, Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, & Religion (Paperback) (5th ed., 2008 WallBuilders) ISBN: 9781932225631

The name that immediately jumps out for readers of this blog is, of course, David Barton. We’ve dedicated plenty of keystrokes to the phony “historian” from Texas already, so I’ll just note a couple of things about this particular book. It is a rewrite of an earlier Barton effort, called The Myth of Separation, which was so error-ridden that Barton himself withdrew the book and re-titled it Original Intent. As to its subject matter, historian John Fea characterizes it this way:

In his most famous book, Original Intent, Barton argues that the removal of Christianity from the public square has resulted in a rise in birth rates for unwed girls, a spike in violent crime, more sexually transmitted diseases, lower SAT scores, and an increase in single parent households.

Since this isn’t a statistics course, one wonders if students recognize that there is a difference between correlation and causation. In any case, this isn’t exactly first-year law school reading.

The other name on this list that is even more alarming than Barton (if that is possible) is R. J. Rushdoony, widely considered the father of the Christian Reconstructionism movement. Reconstructionism, sometimes also called Dominionism, exists on the extreme fringe of Christian theology and teaches, among other things, that civil law should mirror biblical law — including widespread use of the death penalty, as prescribed in the book of Leviticus. (Rushdoony himself believed in the use of the death penalty for 15 different offenses, including adultery, homosexuality and “incorrigible delinquents,” as he explains in this 1998 interview with Bill Moyers.)

Rushdoony’s historical theories are equally extreme. This is how William Edgar, a professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, characterized Rushdoony’s overarching legal theory in his (not entirely unsympathetic) obituary for Rushdoony in the journal First Things:

Rushdoony taught us that the American Constitution, with its eloquent absence of references to Christian faith, was a secular document only in appearance… In Rushdoony’s view, the Constitution did not need to include a Christian confession because the states were already a Christian establishment or settlement. The First Amendment prohibited laws respecting the establishment of religion because religion was already established at the local level. There were sabbath rules, religious tests for citizenship, laws regarding heterosexual fidelity, blasphemy laws—all of them strongly connected to biblical law. The First Amendment was intended to protect the states from interference by the federal government.

Now that sounds like the Dunbar we know in Texas.

Not surprisingly, one can’t find a legal scholar or historian anywhere in this reading list, with the possible exception of  Frederic Bastiat, a 19th-century French economist who argued in his pamphlet The Law that government’s only duty is to “defend [individuals] person, his liberty and his property.” C.S. Lewis is, of course, a popular Christian apologist and novelist, and Francis Schaeffer is widely considered to be the intellectual progenitor of the Christian-right political movement in America. The final name on this list was unfamiliar to me, but a quick Google search reveals more of the same — Greg L. Bahnsen is another prominent Christian Reconstructionist.

If this is what law students are learning at Liberty, no wonder their students say, “If you walked into court and argued what Liberty wants you to, you’d be laughed out of the room.”

I’ll leave it to our crack team of TFN Insider readers to uncover more outrageous quotes and ideas among this laughable reading list. Have at it, gang.