Don’t Know Much About History

Texas isn’t the only state witnessing a campaign to baptize (and rewrite) early American history. A group in Florida calling themselves No Separation has begun purchasing billboard space to spread their message that:

Our Founding Fathers knew that America’s government was made only for people who are moral and religious. It’s not suited for governing anyone else.

The billboards feature quotes from early American leaders that, taken out of context, would seem to denounce the separation of church and state. Only it turns out that this propaganda isn’t just misleading; it’s outright false! One of the quotes attributed to George Washington is completely fabricated. According to the billboard, Washington proclaimed,

“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

But Washington, of course, never said that. So the billboard sponsors acted quickly to correct their error. Well…not exactly. When confronted with this lie, a spokesperson for the group articulated a rather flexible view of historical accuracy:

“I don’t believe there’s a document in Washington’s handwriting that has those words in that specific form. However, if you look at Washington’s quotes, including his farewell address, about the place of religion in the political sphere, there’s no question he could have said those exact words.”

Ah, yes. The old “he-COULD-have-said-it defense” — a tactic that never got me very far with my history teachers. But then again, this guy is making a compelling case for a spot on the Texas social studies expert review panel. After all, the No Separation Web site points to none other than SBOE “expert” David Barton’s Wallbuilders as a “fantastic resource for information on America’s Christian heritage.” But Barton has acknowledged on his own Web site having attributed that quote to Washington even though he can’t back up the claim that the nation’s first president actually said it. It is one of nearly a dozen quotes Barton has inaccurately attributed to the nation’s Founders in his misguided campaign to persuade Americans that separation of church and state is a “myth.”

As usual, Brent Walker and our good friends at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty set the record straight. Read Brent’s excellent op-ed in the Tampa Tribune.

12 thoughts on “Don’t Know Much About History

  1. Amen to Mr. Walker’s op-ed!

    As for the allegation: “Our Founding Fathers knew that America’s government was made only for people who are moral and religious. It’s not suited for governing anyone else”:

    On what historical basis does one make such a statement?

    ‘Moral’ and ‘religious’ have many different meanings depending on who one asks. Do they mean ‘moral’ and ‘religious’ in the Taliban or Al Qaida sense? Or ‘moral’ and ‘religious’ in the sense of Pope Urban II who, in 1095, called for the First Crusade? Or ‘moral’ and ‘religious’ in the sense of the Spanish Conquistadors who would massacre an entire Indian village because the Indians did not understand the Spanish or Latin in which the clergymen preached?

    It would be nice if these folks would be a little more specific in their terminology.

  2. “Our Founding Fathers knew that America’s government was made only for people who are moral and religious. It’s not suited for governing anyone else.”

    Well folks. There you have it. The Christian Neo-Fundamentalist whackos are always complaining about how everyone in the country (except them of course) is a depraved sinner of the lowest order—a whole country full to the brim with reprobates. Therefore, since our government was not designed to govern people like these, I suppose they must think it is time to get rid of that inadequate government established by our founding fathers and impose a new one more suited to the task of governing the unruly—like say a religious dictatorship modeled after the one in Iran but run by Christian reconstructionist idiots.

    It makes perfect sense to me—in some perverse sort of way.

  3. It’s true that many of the colonists were Christians, but also true that they were aware of the religious struggles in Europe during the 17 century, especially in England, and did not wish to repeat them.

  4. George Washington could have said these exact words, too: “Terry Kemple is a lying mutant iguana.”

    How much do billboards cost, again?

  5. Is any surprised the web site has in the list of pages “Tea Party Next Step,” although the link is to a non-existent page. Much like the non-existent Washington quote.

  6. Coragyps. Yeah, he didn’t really say those words, but we know that he would have—if given the chance.

  7. George said:

    “It’s true that many of the colonists were Christians, but also true that they were aware of the religious struggles in Europe during the 17 century, especially in England, and did not wish to repeat them.”

    Right you are George. If we had lived in those times and were religious people in those times, our worldview would be different because we would be painfully aware of the many awful things that had been done to people who were adjudged to be “not of the correct religious persuasion.”

    The problem today is that we are well into 224 years of basic religious rights complacency in our nation. The thing the Religious Right fails to grasp, I suppose, is that all of this relative religious calm and peace we have had for all those years is a direct result of the very things they wish to reverse. If they succeed in reversing them according to their current direction and lights (or darkness), bad things are gonna happen—and I do mean bad things. There is also a very good chance they they could end up on the receiving end of those bad things. When social turmoil hits, and history is my witness, what looks like the prospect of comfortable control “by your group” can very quickly degenerate into control by another group who disagrees with you—and heaven help you if you have wounded other people and taken away their rights when your group was in control. Religious vengeance will be the order of the day just like in Baghdad. I just don’t understand why these people believe that this cannot possibly ever happen to them.

  8. “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” –John Adams, Treaty of Tripoli, 1797.

    “The clergy had a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity throughout the United States….The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, and any portion of power confided to me will be exerted in oppostion to their schemes.”–Thomas Jefferson, 1800.

    “Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.”–Thomas Jefferson, 1814.

    “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.”
    –James Madison, 1803.

    There are many more such quotations available to those wishing, and industrious enough, to research them. Seriously underinformed people do a disservice to the intellectual history of our country and our constitution.

    Philip Krumm
    San Antonio

  9. I still say the way to solve this whole problem without bloodshed is to create a Christian Neo-Fundamentalist homeland within the continental United States. Like maybe take contiguous parts of South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama to create what amounts to a “cultural 51st American state” (so no one would feel UnAmerican or culturally deprived) but establish it governmentally as a complete foreigh country with is own constitution, laws, etc. Then everyone who wants a combined church and state can go there and live out their lives in theocratic bliss.

    However, I still predict that the final product would look like Iran. You would have dress police running around with tape measures to apply to women’s skirts. Men would not be allowed to have beards. The range of crimes requiring execution would be increased greatly. People doing missionary work for other churches would be imprisoned. A broad-ranging, covert surveillance system would be set up to identify apostates and enemies of God. And if Johnny ever blurted out the F-word on the playground, he would simply disappear like in Argentina.

    What about Hell and the radical conservatives on the SBOE? Well, if that were to be their ultimate destination, it occurs to me that God might simply grant their wishes by allowing them to exist in the living Hell that they so deeply desire for themselves and everyone else here on Earth.

    Bottomline: I trust Jesus. I do not trust them.

  10. According to their doctrine, these folks are doing God’s will. Their god’s “Great Commission” says to go out into the world and make disciples of everyone. According to the Spanish Inquisitors, they were doing God’s Work. According to the popes of the Crusades, they were doing God’s Work. The Pope even blessed these wars by absolving the crusaders of their sins as they departed to make war. (Of course, absolution was extended only to the nobility, not the peasantry). But that’s beside the point. The point is that the Christian god didn’t specify exactly how to make disciples out of everyone. He didn’t say No war, No coercion, No forced conversions, No infiltration of the TX SBOE, No bias, No bull… He said to just DO IT.

    As for setting aside a portion of the U.S.A. for them: Good idea, but I’m not sure that would work. There will be some refugees who will want to abandon that area and seek a new life in “mainland” U.S.A. Asylum must be pre-arranged for these unfortunates.

  11. To all my Christian friends who claim America was intended by the Founders to be a Christian Nation.

    Look at the facts. Tax-exempt churches are everywhere you look. Every town in America has Christian media – radio, TV, magazines, newspapers, Christian bookstores and Christian Yellow Pages. “Rally ‘Round the Pole” ceremonies are held regularly at many public schools – including Columbine before that tragic event. Students are allowed to carry and read their Bibles and pray at public schools on their own time as long as they don’t disrupt class. Businesses advertise themselves as Christian knowing that will draw customers. Major retailers have large displays of Christian literature. Christian symbols, monuments, quotations appear on public buildings and property. “In God We Trust” as our national motto (since 1956 – replaced the founders’ choice of “E Pluribus Unum.” “In God We Trust” on all our money (since 1956 – What would Jesus say about that? “Render unto Caesar… ) “One Nation Under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. (added in 1954 – pledge written in 1892 by a minister, Francis Bellamy, who didn’t put God in his original pledge) Politicians of both major parties compete with each other to appear more Christian than their opponent (One poll demonstrated the impossibility of an atheist being elected to public office.) Every political speech contains religious references and closes with “God bless America.” It is traditional and assumed that every oath must include the phrase “So help me, God.” (Not true, but that’s another story) It is traditional and assumed that every oath must be taken with one hand on a Bible. (Also not true) It is traditional – but not in the Constitution – for a president to add “So help me, God” to his oath of office. Public meetings open with prayer. Our taxes support “Faith-based Initiatives” that give money to religious groups. Our taxes support Chaplains in the military, police, fire departments, hospitals, congress… Statistics demonstrate that America is the most religious nation in the world

    What more do you want? What is it you want, short of a theocracy?

    Yes, some prominent atheists have written best-selling books with negative commentary on religion and Christianity. The authors have a right to do this. This is not “persecution.” It’s the free exchange of ideas. If we see this as a threat to Christianity, we are in bad shape. We Christians do the same thing. I have heard many sermons by Christian ministers trashing Liberal Christians, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, Moslems, Buddhists, New Age religions, atheists, agnostics, secularists, non-believers and anyone else they disagree with.

    Perhaps your concern is based on a misunderstanding of our Constitution and Bill of Rights:
    Remember, this is America. This means: It is legal in this country to not believe in God or hold different religious beliefs. Our Constitution mandates government neutrality in matters of religion. Government is not in the business of promoting religion. Public schools are not Sunday Schools or Parochial Schools or churches. Teacher-led prayer and Bible reading are not allowed. (I have never understood why any Christian parent would turn over their children’s spiritual training to a public school teacher – and my wife and I are Christians and retired public school teachers) Public schools cannot teach religious dogma as science.

    It’s time to put aside the ridiculous notion that one can only be trusted if one invokes the name of God. If someone is going to lie they will lie no matter how many oaths they take and how many Bibles they swear on. When people think religion has gotten too intrusive they have a right to ” …petition their government for redress of grievances.”

    Americans have a Constitutional right to attend public meetings and not have to sit through a worship service while trying to transact public business. Americans’ civil rights are not subject to popular vote or public opinion. They are guaranteed by the Constitution even if they are in the minority and even if we don’t like what they say.

    Television personalities and televangelists use scare tactics to motivate their audiences to donate to their “ministries.” These tactics show a negative mindset that creates a false picture of contemporary America. This is not a time to divide Americans by sowing fear and distrust of each other through misleading statements. This is a time to unite Americans as we face unprecedented challenges that can only be met by all of us working together.
    Ken Whiton

  12. Hi Ken. Sure. All of what you said is true. America is awash in things Christian. The problem is that you have an open mind and are viewing Christianity as a broad spectrum of related thought and belief—one big, happy, and agreeable tent of shared belief and brotherhood.

    The problem today—and I cannot emphasize this enough—is that there is a fractional segment of that broad Christian spectrum that rejects the rest of that Christian spectrum as being enemies of God. Anyone outside of that Broad Christian spectrum is an even greater enemy of God. God’s enemies must be overcome and destroyed. However, to destroy anything, you must first have control over it. The only way to take control is to capture the authority of government and then reshape it into a machine to use against God’s enemies.

    When the government has been taken over by the “right kind of men” and it has been used to destroy all of God’s enemies, the only human beings that will be left are the good and righteous Christian people (synonymous with mass murderers). After about 1000 years, Jesus will look down to the Earth from on high, see all the good that has happened, and decide that it is time to descend with a shout. The religious leaders on the Earth will then walk out to greet Jesus and present to him a society, culture, and people that have been cleansed and perfected by the action of man—and present it to Jesus on a silver platter.

    You no doubt think that these are the ravings of a mad man, and that mad man must be me. No. His name was Rousas Rushdoony. Fortunately for mankind, he is dead. Unfortunately for mankind, he has many followers today in evangelical and fundamentalist churches throughout our nation. Many of his followers are pastors. Many of his followers are members and leaders of parachurch organizations. Many more are regular church members that are not even aware of the fact that they are following this mad man (i.e., his ideas have been instilled into the people without them knowing their source). This man-made philosophy (which claims to be rooted in the Bible but is evil, distorted, and not of the Bible) is strongest today in religious institutions that have their roots in Calvinism, ultra-conservative Presbyterian churches, Reformed Theology churches, and the Christian homeschool movement. From there, it has bled a river into other churches outside of these initial church and theological realms—and into American politics—which is the chosen mechanism to take the control of government that was mentioned earlier.

    So, you may be asking, is this conspiracy theory? I wish it were. We could all breath easy and go home. Sadly, just like the facism of the 1930s, this nonChristian lunacy masquerading as Christianity—is real. Rushdoony and his followers have left extensive writings about their beliefs and intentions—collectively it is a veritable Mein Kampf for our day and time. Their belief system is referred to under several different terms: Christian reconstructionism, dominion theology, and theonomy. So, here Ken.

    Read about it yourself at this URL below and feel free to research it elsewhere. Coming soon by stealth to a church or homeschool near you—or maybe even your own church. Lord Jesus help us all. Here it is: