On today’s WallBuilders Live, David Barton responded to a Houston Chroniclereport that from 2000 to 2009, Rick Perry gave just $14,243 of his of $2.68 million fortune to churches and religious organizations. Barton, who claimed throughout the show that people who support social justice efforts are less likely to support charities, tried to defend Perry by pointing to the fact that the Texas governor has given away all the proceeds from his books:
Governor Perry’s getting his brains beat in because look how little he gave to charity. Time out! There’s another story there. Number one he does not itemize his deductions so you don’t know how much he gave to charity. Number two is he writes entire books and gives 100% of the proceeds to charity which doesn’t show up on his income sheet. He gives millions to charity but because he does not itemize and because he does entire books and signs the rights over there’s a lot going out that doesn’t show.
Which charities have the proceeds of Perry’s books gone to? He donated the proceeds of his first book, about the Boy Scouts, to the Boy Scouts of America. And he declares in his most recent book, the policy blueprint Fed Up!, that “all of the author’s net proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Foundation to support the work of the Center for Tenth Amendment Studies.” The Center for Tenth Amendment Studies is a division of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a right-wing think tank allied with Perry that was founded by James Leininger, who is now the group’s Chairman Emeritus.
Most recently, Leininger hosted a summit to introduce Religious Right leaders to Perry shortly after he announced his candidacy for president. Notable guests at Leininger’s ranch included James Dobson, Richard Land, Harry Jackson, Jim Garlow, Rick Scarborough… and, of course, David Barton.
Yesterday David Barton dedicated his "Wallbuilders Live" rado program yesterday to addressing various criticisms he has been received, among them allegations that he has spoken at events hosted by racist and anti-Semitic groups.
David Barton of Aledo-based WallBuilders has filed a libel and defamation law suit against an Internet writer and two former Texas State Board of Education candidates.
Barton is alleging public policy opponents have falsely painted him as a white supremacist sympathizer and liar.
The suit unspecified damages from the three defendants for allegedly exposing Barton and WallBuilders to “public hatred, contempt, ridicule, financial injury and impeaching [Barton’s] honesty, integrity and virtue.”
The suit alleges Barton has been subjected to a loss of business because of the false statements.
The article reports that Barton has filed suit against two Democratic Texas State Board of Education candidates over YouTube video that asserted that Barton was "known for speaking at white supremacist rallies" and an Examiner.com writer who asserted that Barton is "an admitted liar."
The Family Research Council has released a series of radio ads in North Carolina, calling for the state legislature to place a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality for gays and lesbians on the ballot this November. North Carolina already prohibits same-sex marriage by statute, but the FRC says it’s not enough, warning, “Our laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman could be overturned.”
Marriage is at risk in our state. Our laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman could be overturned. Marriage between one man and one woman benefits families in society so we must preserve the marriage laws in our state Constitution.
On September 12, the North Carolina legislature will vote on putting a marriage amendment to a vote of the people. Powerful voices in our state capitol are threatening your right to vote on marriage. Take a stand for marriage. Call Rep. Chuck McGrady and ask him to vote yes to the marriage amendment. It's not about party, it's about marriage.
And on September 12, join us for a rally supporting marriage at 11 a.m. in front of the legislative building in Raleigh. Bring a sign and take a stand for marriage.
Lynn said Perry’s links to such extreme figures don’t represent “guilt by association” but “guilt by construction.” Perkins, on the other hand, tried to distance the import of Bryan Fischer, saying, “Look, he has a talk show on the American Family Association.”
While Perkins may be trying to downplay Fischer’s role at the AFA, he knows full well that Fischer isn’t just some radio talk show host but is in fact the public face of the American Family Association. In fact, his official bio lists him as the “spokesman for AFA.” He represented the AFA at Perkins’ Values Voters Summit and had a prime speaking slot, although as Kyle notes Fischer is not a listed speaker this year. Fischer is the group’s Director of Issues Analysis for Government and Public Policy, hosts AFA’s flagship radio program Focal Point and is the go-to voice of the AFA for inquiring journalists. Perkins himself co-hosted Today’s Issues with Fischer on AFA radio.
Perkins acknowledged that he knew the background of Fischer and other organizers, commenting, “Look, I don’t, as I said before, not everybody that’s on that platform agrees with what others have said or what they hold to believe.”
But no one has suggested that Rick Perry agrees with Bryan Fischer’s argument that gays and lesbians should be banned from holding public office, Mike Bickle’s claim that Oprah is the harbinger of the Antichrist or John Benefiel’s belief that the Statue of Liberty is a demonic idol. The problem is that a sitting governor and likely presidential candidate is effectively endorsing and promoting individuals and organizations with such far-right and extreme views in an exclusively fundamentalist Christian prayer rally.
While Perkins attempted to give Perry cover about the extreme views of the prayer rally organizers, The Response represented the extent Republican leaders and Religious Right groups will go to jockey for the support of even the most fringe figures and elevate their voices.
On August 6, Texas Gov. Rick Perry will host The Response, a “prayer rally” in Houston, along with the extremist American Family Association and a cohort of Religious Right leaders with far-right political ties. While the rally’s leaders label it a "a non-denominational, apolitical Christian prayer meeting," the history of the groups behind it suggests otherwise. The Response is powered by politically active Religious Right individuals and groups who are dedicated to bringing far-right religious view, including degrading views of gays and lesbians and non-Christians, into American politics.
In fact, a spokesman for The Response has said that while non-Christians will be welcomed at the rally, they will be urged to “seek out the living Christ.” Allan Parker, a right-wing activist who participated in an organizing conference call for the event, declared in an email bearing the official Response logo that including non-Christians in the event "would be idolatry of the worst sort."
The following is an introduction to the groups and individuals who Gov. Perry has allied himself with in planning this event.
The American Family Association
The American Family Association is the driving force behind The Response. Founded by the Rev. Don Wildmon in 1977, the organization is based is best known for its various boycott campaigns, promotion of art censorship, and political advocacy against women’s rights and LGBT equality. The organization also controls the vast American Family Radio and an online news service, in addition to sponsoring various conferences frequented by Republican leaders, including the Values Voter Summit and Rediscovering God in America. The AFA today is led by Tim Wildmon, Don’s son, and its chief spokesperson is Bryan Fischer, the Director of Issues Analysis for Government and Public Policy and host of its flagship radio show Focal Point.
Fischer routinely expresses support for some of the most bigoted and shocking ideas found in the Religious Right today. He has:
said that the anti-Muslim manifesto of the right-wing Christian terrorist who killed dozens in Norway was “accurate.”
Other AFA leaders and activists are just as radical:
AFA President Tim Wildmon claims that by repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell President Obama shows he “doesn’t give a rip about the Marines or the Army” and “just wants to force homosexuality into every place that he can.”
AFA Vice President Buddy Smith, who is on the leadership council of The Response, said that gays and lesbians are “in the clasp of Satan.”
The Response’s leadership team includes five senior staff members of the International House of Prayer (IHOP), a large, highly political Pentecostal organization built on preparing participants for the return of Jesus Christ. In a recent video, IHOP encouraged supporters to pray for Jews to convert to Christianity in order to bring about the Second Coming. IHOP is closely associated with Lou Engle, a Religious Right leader whose anti-gay, anti-choice extremism hasn’t stopped him from hobnobbing with Republican leaders including Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee. Engle is the founder of The Call, day-long rallies against abortion rights and gay marriage, which Engle says are meant to break Satan’s control over the U.S. government. One recent Call event featured “prophet” Cindy Jacobs calling for repentance for the “girl-on-girl kissing” of Britney Spears and Madonna. Perry's The Response event is clearly built upon Engle's The Call model.
Engle has a long history of pushing extreme right-wing views and advocating for a conservative theocracy in America. Engle:
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, is a co-chairman of The Response. At the FRC, Perkins has been a vocal opponent of LGBT equality, often relying on false claims about gay people to push his agenda. He:
denied that there was a correlation between anti-gay bullying and depression and suicide, saying instead that gay and lesbian teens know they are “abnormal” and “have a higher propensity to depression or suicide because of that internal conflict";
One of the most prominent members of The Response’s leadership team is pastor Jim Garlow. The pastor for a San Diego megachurch, Garlow has been intimately involved in political battles, especially the campaign to pass Proposition 8. Garlow invited and housed Lou Engle to lead The Call rallies around California for six months to sway voters to support Proposition 8, which would repeal the right of gay and lesbian couples to get married. He claims Satan is behind the “attack on marriage” and credits the prayer rallies for the passage of Prop 8. He said that during a massive The Call rally in San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium “something had snapped in the Heavenlies” and “God had moved” to deliver Prop 8 to victory.
Most importantly, Garlow is a close spiritual adviser to presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and leads Gingrich’s Renewing American Leadership (ReAL). Garlow is a principal advocate of Seven Mountains Dominionism, and wants to “bring armies of people” to bring Religious Right leaders into public office and defeat their political opponents.
likened homosexuality to bestiality, saying that if marriage equality is upheld “the next court case could conceivably say that if three people wanted to marry or four people or five people or if someone wanted to marry their dog or their horse”;
While Senator John McCain rejected John Hagee’s endorsement during the 2008 presidential campaign for his “deeply offensive and indefensible” remarks, Perry invited Hagee to join The Response. Hagee leads a megachurch in San Antonio, Texas, and is a purveyor of End Times prophesies. Like members of the International House of Prayer, Hagee utilizes language of spiritual warfare and says he is part of “the army of the living God.” He runs the prominent group Christians United For Israel, which believes that eventually a cataclysmic war in the Middle East will bring about the Rapture.
John McCain was forced to disavow Hagee for a reason as the Texas pastor:
said that God won’t allow the United States to win wars anymore because “we have allowed the worship of Satanism in the U.S. military.”
James Dobson, an official endorser of The Response, is one of the most prominent figures in the Religious Right. Founder of both Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council , Dobson has been instrumental in bringing the priorities of the Religious Right to Republican politics, including campaigning hard for President George W. Bush. But many of the views that Dobson pushes are hardly mainstream. Dobson:
insists that the Religious Right’s fight against Planned Parenthood is “very similar” to that of abolitionists who fought against the slave trade.
Asked if God had withdrawn his hand from America after 9/11, Dobson responded: “Christians have made arguments on both sides of this question. I certainly believe that God is displeased with America for its pride and arrogance, for killing 40 million unborn babies, for the universality of profanity and for other forms of immorality. However, rather than trying to forge a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the terrorist attacks and America's abandonment of biblical principles, which I think is wrong, we need to accept the truth that this nation will suffer in many ways for departing from the principles of righteousness. "The wages of sin is death," as it says in Romans 6, both for individuals and for entire cultures.”
David Barton, an official endorser of The Response, is a self-proclaimed historian known for his twisting of American History and the Bible to justify right-wing political positions. Barton’s strategy is twofold: he first works to find Biblical bases for right-wing policy initiatives, and then argues that the Founding Fathers wanted the United States to be a Christian nation, so obviously wanted whatever policy he has just found a flimsy Biblical basis for. Barton, “documenting” the divine origins of his interpretations of the Constitution gives him and his political allies a potent weapon. Opponents who disagree about tax policy or the powers of Congress are not only wrong, they are un-American and anti-religious, enemies of America and of God.
Barton uses his shoddy historical and biblical scholarship to push a right-wing political agenda, including:
Biblical Capitalism: Barton’s “scholarship” helps to form the basis for far-right economic policies. He claims that “Jesus was against the minimum wage,” that the Bible “absolutely condemned” the estate tax,” and opposed the progressive income tax.
Revising Racial History: Barton has traveled the country peddling a documentary he made blaming the Democratic Party for slavery, lynching and Jim Crow…while ignoring more recent history.
Opposing Gay Rights: Barton believes the government should regulate gay sex and maintains that countries which “rejected sexual regulation” inevitably collapse.
Among the other far-right figures who have signed on to work with Gov. Perry on The Response are:
Rob Schenk, an anti-choice extremist who was once arrested for throwing a fetus in the face of President Clinton, and who allegedly had ties with the murderer of abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian.
Loren Cunningham, who is working to mobilize support for the rally is a co-founder of the radical “Seven Mountains Dominionist” ideology. Cunningham says that he received the “seven mountains” idea, which holds that evangelical Christians must take hold of all aspects of society in order to pave the way for the Second Coming, in a message directly from God.
Doug Stringer, The Response's National Church and Ministry Mobilization Coordinator, who blamed American secularism and the increased acceptance of homosexuality for the 9/11 attacks, saying “It was our choice to ask God not to be in our every day lives and not to be present in our land.”
Cindy Jacobs, self-proclaimed “prophet” and endorser of The Response, who famously insisted that birds were dying in Arkansas earlier this year because of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
C. Peter Wagner, an official endorser of The Response, is one of the most prominent leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation, a controversial movement whose followers believe they are prophets and apostles on par with Christ himself (other adherents include Engle, Jacobs and Anh). Wagner has advocated burning Catholic, Mormon and non-Christian religious objects. He blamed the Japanese stock market crash and later the devastating earthquake and tsunami in the country on a traditional ritual in which the emperor supposedly has “sexual intercourse” with the pagan Sun Goddess.
Che Ahn, a mentor of John Hagee and official endorser of The Response, who endorses “Seven Mountains” dominionism and compares the fight against gay rights to the fight against slavery.
John Benefiel, a self-proclaimed "apostle" and official endorser of The Response, who claims the Statue of Liberty is a "demonic idol" and that homosexuality is a plot cooked up by the Illuminati to control the world's population, and that he renamed the District of Columbia the “District of Christ” because he has “more authority than the U.S. Congress does.”
James “Jay” Swallow, official endorser of the rally, who calls himself a “spiritual warrior” and hosts “Strategic Warriors At Training (SWAT): A Christian Military Training Camp for the purpose of dealing with the occult and territorial enemy strong holds in America.”
Pastor Stephen Broden – Broden, an endorser of The Response, has repeatedly insisted that a violent overthrow of the U.S. government must remain “on the table.”
Timothy F. Johnson – Johnson, a former vice-chairman of the North Carolina GOP, was elected to that post despite two domestic violence convictions and still unresolved questions about his military service and educational record.
Alice Patterson – Patterson, a member of The Response's leadership team, insists that the Democratic Party is controlled by a "demonic structure."
It has been a few months since Bryan Fischer demanded that an animal be put to death for having killed a human being, but with news that hiker has been killed by a bear in Yellowstone National Park, Fischer is renewing his demand that we take action against "these Jeffrey Dahmers of the animal kingdom" and start shooting each and every bear on sight:
The Old Testament has been preserved for us, in part, so that we may see how God deals with nations. It’s not that its prescriptions are to applied woodenly or literally today, but there are principles of public policy embedded there which can be extracted and applied to contemporary challenges.
As I have written before, God’s word to ancient Israel was that a growing danger from wild animals is a sign of a nation in rebellion against God. “If you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments...I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock” (Leviticus 26:14, 22).
In the case of the United States, there is no need for God to “let loose the wild beasts” against us, because we are doing a fine job of it all by ourselves. And we are doing it to ourselves because we have rejected the teaching of Scripture that God has given to man authority over the animal kingdom. Man has been given authority by God over the earth, to “subdue it and have dominion over...every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). This authority certainly extends to putting predators out of our misery.
But placing a higher value on human life than on animal life is now rejected by secular fundamentalists as “specie-ism” and a form of hateful bigotry ... It’s time to shoot these man-eaters on sight. Human life is of infinitely more value than the life of a grizzly. If it’s a choice between a man and a grizzly bear, the grizzly bear is going down. Let’s get back to Scripture, and spend less time saving grizzlies and more time protecting creatures made in the image of God.
Liberty Counsel has stringently opposed anti-bullying programs, with LC’s Director of Cultural Affairs Matt Barber even claiming that the reason gay and lesbian youth have a higher rate of suicide is because they “often look inward and know that what they are doing is unnatural, is wrong, is immoral.” So it came as no surprise when Shawn Akers, LC’s Public Policy Analyst, said today on Faith & Freedom that California’s LGBT-inclusive history law represented bullying of the worst kind. Akers said it was “ironic” that gay rights groups supported anti-bullying initiatives, and referencing a case in New Mexico where LC is representing students who said they were disciplined for handing out bible verses, Akers said regarding the California law, “if you want to talk about bullying, this is the state bullying the weakest members of society.”
Fischer: So these principles on which this nation was founded: the sanctity of the family, the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of private property, all of these things are established in the Judeo-Christian tradition and our nation was founded on these principles and are as valid today as they were when they were first given. So we believe that these values should be honored in our public life, not just in the private life, not just in our churches. God did not give his word just for people of faith, this was a word for his creation, the word for men and women created in his image.
We’re not talking about imposing these values, we’re not talking about insisting that other people acknowledge and obey these values, we are simply talking about public policy that honors certain behavior and discourages other behavior.
And we think that’s important, and we think our culture is in some pretty deep trouble right now because we have left our moorings, we’ve lost our way, we are wondering now in sort of this immoral wilderness, this kind of this blindly wondering aimlessly around in this moral abyss and we believe that’s left our nation in a very tenuous and vulnerable and dangerous place.
In today’s column, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer says that after reading Norway terrorist Anders Behring Breivik’s manifesto, he concluded that Breivik’s “analysis of cultural trends in Europe and the danger created by Islamic immigration and inflitration [sic] is accurate,” adding that he strongly disagrees with Breivik’s violent means even though he agrees with Breivik’s diatribe against progressive politics and cultural diversity. Fischer contends that Breivik is not a Christian but instead should be considered a “jihadist,” writing that his close resemblance to Islamic terrorists shows that he is not a Christian (since apparently, for Fischer, terrorists cannot be Christian):
Much of his analysis of cultural trends in Europe and the danger created by Islamic immigration and inflitration [sic] is accurate. But clear thinking Westerners and every Christian I know believes these problems can be solved through public policy rather than mass murder. Breivik’s angst was caused by the presence of so many Muslims in Norway and Europe, which he correctly observes is leading to “cultural annihilation.’ But he blames their presence not on the Muslims themselves but on the “cultural Marxists” and their obsession with diversity and unrestricted Islamic immigration. So he went after the Marxists rather than the Muslims.
He assures his would-be jihadist colleagues, “The cultural factors are more important than your personal relationship with God, Jesus or the holy spirit (sic). Even Odinists can fight with us or by our side as brothers in this fight as long as they accept the founding principles of (the) Knights Templar...So no, you don’t need to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus to fight for our Christian cultural heritage. It is enough that you are a Christian-agnostic or a Christian atheist” (pp. 1360, 1361).
Breivik is counting on the indulgences offered all crusaders by Pope Urban II and Pope Innocent III, which guarantees entrance into heaven, and which is virtually no different than a Muslim’s conviction that killing people in the name of Allah is the only way to guarantee eternal life.
In sum, he sounds like a Nordic jihadist, much more like the 21st hijacker than anything else. Remember that the 9/11 hijackers partied down the night before they took the lives of 3000 Americans, since martyrdom in the cause was a guarantee of Paradise no matter what scummy things you were involved in even moments before. Take enough infidel dogs with you, entrance guaranteed. Breivik believed the same thing about taking down enough cultural Marxists and their young offspring.
And now for a post from our we-couldn't-make-it-up-if-we-tried department.
In our last post, we noted how Bryan Fischer had taken his "gays = Nazis" allegations to their logical conclusion by declaring that Adolf Hitler himself was gay.
But in the segment directly preceding that, Fischer kicked off the program by stating that somewhere on the internet, someone had referred to him as a "Nazi gas bag" ... and claimed that when people start calling you a Nazi, it is proof that they do not have any legitimate arguments to make:
And by the way, ladies and gentlemen, this is a clear indication that the Left has lost the argument and the debate in public policy. Because name-calling is the first refuge of a man who does not have an argument. As soon as someone starts calling you names, then realize they're out of ammunition, they're out of arguments. They can't reason with you any longer, they don't have facts on their side, they don't have reason on their side, they don't have logic on their side, they don't have history on their side, they don't have research on their side, they don't have science on their side so they start calling you things like a "Nazi gas bag."
Here, ladies and gentlemen, is Bryan Fischer saying just two months ago that gays are Nazis:
The homosexual agenda is just like Islam: there is no room for dissent, there is no room to leave, once you're in, you can't leave. Muslims won't let you leave, homosexuals won't let you leave - if you leave, they claim you're faking it, so there's no way out. There's no freedom of choice, there's no freedom of religion - if you have religious views about homosexual behavior, you are squashed.
I mean, ladies and gentlemen, they are Nazis. Homosexual activists, when it comes to freedom of speech, are Nazis. When it comes to freedom of religion, they are Nazis. There is no room in their world dissent, there is no room in their world for disagreement, there is no room in their world for criticism. You criticize homosexual behavior, they tag you as a bigot and a homophobe and then they got to work to silence you just like the Roman Catholic Church did in the days of Galileo - it's no different; it's the Spanish Inquisition all over again.
Ladies and gentlemen, they are Nazis. Do not be under any illusions about what homosexual activists will do with your freedoms and your religion if they have the opportunity. They'll do the same thing to you that the Nazis did to their opponents in Nazi Germany.
Bryan Fischer is a lot of things ... but self-aware is not one of them.
Senate Republicans have called Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, David Nimocks of the Alliance Defense Fund and Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center as witnesses in today’s hearing on the “Defense of Marriage Act.” The groups these witnesses represent have a long record of extreme rhetoric opposing gay rights:
CitizenLink, Focus on the Family’s political arm, is a stalwart opponent of gay rights in every arena:
• The group claims anti-bullying programs that protect LGBT and LGBT-perceived youth in schools amount to “homosexual indoctrination” and “promote homosexuality in kids.”
• The group insists that House Republicans investigate the Justice Department over its refusal to defend the unconstitutional Section 3 of DOMA.
The Ethics and Public Policy Center is backed by the far-right Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Koch- backed Castle Rock Foundation, all well-known right-wing funders.
• George Weigel of EPPC wrote in June that “legally enforced segregation involved the same kind of coercive state power that the proponents of gay marriage now wish to deploy on behalf of their cause.”
• Ed Whelan spearheaded the unsuccessful and widely panned effort to throw out Judge Vaughn Walker’s 2010 decision finding California’s Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional on the grounds that Walker was in a committed same-sex relationship at the time of the decision.
The Alliance Defense Fund, which bills itself as a right-wing counter to the American Civil Liberties Union, is dedicated to pushing a far-right legal agenda:
• The ADF has been active on issues including pushing "marriage protection," exposing the "homosexual agenda" and fighting the supposed "war on Christmas."
• The ADF claims 38 “victories” before the Supreme Court, including: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows corporations to spend unlimited money on elections in the name of “free speech” and Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000), which allowed the Boy Scouts to fire a Scout Leader because he was gay.
As we have noted before, actual historians tend to agree that David Barton is not a historian but rather a Religious Right activist who intentionally misrepresents history in order to promote his political agenda.
And with every presentation he delivers, Barton just reinforces that fact.
You see, even in previous generations, we fully expected our military and our political leaders to be highly religious. You've probably seen lots of pictures of George Washington kneeling in prayer. And the reason you've seen so many of them is there's so much evidence to that. You have so many eyewitness testimonies of ... of people like General Henry Knox and people like General John Marshall and people like General Marquis de Lafayette. You've got the eyewitness testimony of all sorts of congressional leaders, Charles Thompson, etc. You've got the testimony of his own children, his own family, his own ministers.
There's so much out there and isn't it interest ... interesting that today George Washington has become one of our leading deist Founding Fathers? "Why, he didn't even believe in God. He wasn't religious." Now why that? Well, you find that, that has a great impact on public policy. You see you wouldn't really want it to appear that someone with the credibility of George Washington might actually endorse public religious expressions. So, what we do is make him into a nonreligious individual.
People probably have seen pictures of Washington praying, especially since Barton himself used it as the cover for his book "America's Godly Heritage":
But, as Professor John Fea explained, the incident featured in the painting probably never happened:
There is one major problem with Potts's story of Washington praying at Valley Forge - it probably did not happen. While it is likely that Washington prayed while he was with the army at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778, it is unlikely that the story reported by Potts, memorialized in paintings and read to millions of schoolchildren, is anything more than legend. It was first told in the seventeenth edition (1816) of Mason Lock Weem's Life of Washington. Weems claimed to have heard it directly from Potts, his "good old FRIEND." Potts may have owned the house where Washington stayed at Valley Forge, but his aunt Deborah Potts Hewes was living there alone at the time. Indeed, Potts was probably not even residing in Valley Forge during the encampment. And he was definitely not married. It would be another twenty-five years before he wed Sarah, making a conversation with her in the wake of the supposed Washington prayer impossible. Another version of the story, which appeared in the diary of Reverend Nathaniel Randolph Snowden, claims that it was John Potts, Issac's brother, who heard Washington praying. These discrepancies, coupled with the fact that Weems was known for writing stories about Washington based upon scanty evidence, have led historians to discredit it.
Lest one thing that this debate is a new one, it is worth noting that many of Washington's contemporaries also wondered whether he was a true believer. Reverend Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale College and one of the leaders of the evangelical revival known as the Second Great Awakening, felt confident that Washington was a Christian, but he was also aware that "doubts may and will exist" about the substance of his faith. Reverend Stanley Griswold, the pastor of the Congregational Church in New Milford, Connecticut knew that there were many who objected to the belief that Washington was a Christian. Thomas Jefferson was also fascinated by the question of Washington's religion. In 1800 he recorded in his private diary a bit of gossip surrounding this questions:
Dr. Rush tells me that he had it from Asa Green that when the clergy addressed Genl. Washington on his departure from the Government, it was observed in their consultation that he had never on any occasion said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Christian religion and they thought they should so pen their address as to force him at length to declare publicly whether he was a Christian or not. They did so.
However he observed the old fox was too cunning for them. He answered every article of their address particularly except that, which he passed over without notice. Rush observes he never did say a word on the subject in any of his public papers except in his valedictory letter to the Governors of the states when he resigned his commission in the army, wherein he speaks of "the benign influence of the Christian religion".
I know that Gouverneur Morris, who pretended to be in his secrets & believed himself to be so, has often told me that General Washington believed no more of that system than he himself did.
Many of Washington's contemporaries and people who knew him well had a lot to say about his religious faith. Bishop William White, the Episcopal bishop of Pennsylvania and Washington's pastor while he lived in Philadelphia during his years as president, said that he didn't know anything that would prove Washington believed in Christian revelation.
As Fea notes, some who knew Washington believed him to be a "truly devout man," while others said they knew nothing about his personal faith at all, leading Fea to conclude that Washington's "religious life was just too ambiguous."
But acknowledging any ambiguity would only undermine David Barton's entire professional enterprise, so he instead asserts that there is overwhelming eyewitness testimony to Washington's deep and public Christian faith ... which only goes to demonstrate, once again, that Barton has no interest in teaching, or even recognizing, history that does not promote his political agenda.
Writing for the National Review, columnist George Weigel of the far-right Ethics and Public Policy Center lashes out at marriage equality supporters for comparing their struggle for equal rights to the civil rights movement. According to Weigel, legalizing marriage between same-sex couples is more like imposing racial segregation than ending it: “Legally enforced segregation involved the same kind of coercive state power that the proponents of gay marriage now wish to deploy on behalf of their cause.” He explains that LGBT rights require a “totalitarian impulse” to “remanufacture reality,” claiming that the gay rights movement “is the heir of Bull Connor,” referring to the Birmingham sheriff who violently crushed civil rights demonstrations. Weigel writes:
That usurpation is at the heart of the gay lobby’s emotional, cultural, and political success — the moral mantle of those Freedom Riders whose golden anniversary we mark this year has, so to speak, been successfully claimed by the Stonewall Democratic Club and its epigones. And because the classic civil-rights movement and its righteous demand for equality before the law remains one of the few agreed-upon moral touchstones in 21st-century American culture (another being the Holocaust as an icon of evil), to seize that mantle and wear it is to have won a large part of the battle — as one sees when trying to discuss these questions with otherwise sensible young people.
But the analogy simply doesn’t work. Legally enforced segregation involved the same kind of coercive state power that the proponents of gay marriage now wish to deploy on behalf of their cause. Something natural and obvious — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” — was being denied by the state in its efforts to maintain segregated public facilities and to deny full citizenship rights to African Americans. Once the American people came to see that these arrangements, however hallowed by custom (and prejudice), were, in fact, unnatural and not obvious, the law was changed.
What the gay lobby proposes in the matter of marriage is precisely the opposite of this. Marriage, as both religious and secular thinkers have acknowledged for millennia, is a social institution that is older than the state and that precedes the state. The task of a just state is to recognize and support this older, prior social institution; it is not to attempt its redefinition. To do the latter involves indulging the totalitarian temptation that lurks within all modern states: the temptation to remanufacture reality. The American civil-rights movement was a call to recognize moral reality; the call for gay marriage is a call to reinvent reality to fit an agenda of personal willfulness. The gay-marriage movement is thus not the heir of the civil-rights movement; it is the heir of Bull Connor and others who tried to impose their false idea of moral reality on others by coercive state power.
When NBC cut the phrase "under God" for the Pledge of Allegiance during its coverage of the US Open golf tournament last weekend, it was obvious that the Religious Right would seize on it ... and that isexactlywhattheydid.
And it was equally obvious that, in reacting to this incident, they would also wildly overreact ... which exactly what they are doing now, with the Family Research Council now demanding "the network play a public service announcement featuring the Pledge of Allegiance, in its entirety, daily" and produce an entire program to explaining why "under God" was added to the Pledge:
"NBC must remedy this abuse by airing a series of public service announcement(s) with the entire Pledge of Allegiance," read an e-mail blast sent Tuesday from council President Tony Perkins.
"Please join me in contacting NBC and demanding that the network air a daily public service announcement with the entire Pledge of Allegiance."
The Washington-based Family Research Council says its mission is to advance "faith, family and freedom in public policy and public opinion." The group is best known for its strong objections to same-sex marriage and abortion. It's a powerful political force among conservative evangelicals.
"This is something that people, they get and they're upset about it," Perkins told CNN. "We know that 15,000 people have already sent e-mails to NBC. Based on the calls I got this morning, this is something people are incensed over."
Perkins said he did not watch the event live. He said he is not a big golf fan but was alerted to the omission quickly. He said he found the use of military images with the pledge omission particularly galling. "As a veteran I stood for the pledge and I stood for all of the pledge," the retired Marine said.
"These types of things need to be met with significant resistance," he said when asked if his group was leveraging this controversy for its own gain. "It's not up to NBC to change the pledge of the United States of America."
Perkins said in addition to the public service announcement of a daily Pledge of Allegiance he said he would also like to see NBC produce a program explaining the history of the pledge and why "under God" was inserted in the first place.
Hartzler: Some people say, why does it matter to you as a government official? I care about someone else, I’m committed, I should be able to marry. Well, think about it. That starts you down the road to opening up licensure to basically meaning that the license would mean nothing if you let everybody with that standard. For instance, if you just care about somebody and you have a committed relationship, why not allow one man and two women, or three women to marry? There are a lot of people in this country that support polygamy. Why not? If they’re committed to each other, why should you care?
Why not allow group marriage? There are people out there who want that. I think it’s called polyamory, it’s got some big name. But anyway, group marriage, I understand. Well, is that the best policy? Why not allow an uncle to marry his niece? Why not allow a 50-year-old man to marry a 12-year-old girl if they love each other and they’re committed? So, pretty soon, if you don’t set parameters, you don’t have any parameters at all, the license means nothing — the marriage means nothing.
It’s their right to marry whoever they want, but we’re saying marriage is between a man and a woman. So, there’s a difference there. But it’s not a right in the Constitution as far as that goes either. It’s not a right of anybody — of a 3-year-old to be able to drive a car. You know, the government has set some parameters that they think is correct.
After the video was posted, Hartzler reiterated her argument while also suggesting that her comments were “misconstrued.” The Congresswoman told PoliticsMO.com that she stands by her ‘slippery slope’ analogy, adding that she only meant to say that gay people getting married is like thirteen year olds driving cars:
Speaking to PoliticMo Monday, Hartzler clarified, saying she said – or meant to say – 13 year old, not three year old.
“I was saying that if you change the standard in the country to having marriage be, which is what they want, that just anybody that has a loving and committed relationship, then you set yourself on a slippery slope legally in courts to having other people come forward with similar arguments that would be objectionable to almost everyone,” she said. “So, that’s another reason why it makes sense to just keep the traditional definition of a man and a woman and that it’s my main point there is that it’s wide public policy.
“So, obviously those comments are just being misconstrued by those,” she said.
Only a writer for the ultraconservative WorldNetDaily would believe that the Religious Right is too soft on the issue of gay rights.
WND’s Josh Craddock of the Institute for Cultural Communicators claims that the reason more Americans support marriage equality is because social conservatives haven’t fought gay rights or attacked the LGBT community enough. Responding to Focus on the Family president Jim Daly’s recent claim that the Right Wing “probably lost” the debate over equal marriage rights, Craddock alleges that organizations like Focus on the Family simply didn’t fight gay rights hard enough.
He points to the case of the campaign for Colorado’s Amendment 2, the unconstitutional law that barred anti-discrimination ordinances from covering gays and lesbians, protections that anti-gay activists said granted “special rights” and ceded too much ground to the gay-rights movement. Craddock argues that Religious Right activists should have more vigorously and forcefully opposed the decriminalization of homosexuality and letting anyone who was gay or sympathizes with gay rights from serving in public office:
Rewind to 1992's Colorado campaign on Amendment 2, designed to ban homosexuals from receiving special rights based on their sexual orientation. It was then that Dr. James Dobson and the vice president of public policy for Focus on the Family, Tom Minnery, adopted the unwise but politically opportunistic pro-Amendment 2 campaign slogan "Equal rights, not special rights." If homosexuals are entitled to "equal rights," then why should homosexual couples be prohibited from marrying? Focus on the Family lost the gay-marriage debate in 1992 when they broke with 3,500 years of Judeo-Christian history and sided with Hillary, Hollywood and the humanists by legitimizing homosexual behavior.
Incidentally, that victory was short-lived. It was overturned in Romer v. Evans (1996) with the help of a prominent Washington, D.C., lawyer who specialized in oral arguments before the Supreme Court. Less than a decade later, Dr. Dobson actually supported that attorney's bid to become the nation's next chief justice. In 2005, John Roberts was confirmed to the Supreme Court.
Most recently, Focus on the Family announced that they wouldn't oppose a homosexual nominated to the Supreme Court over sexual orientation. A spokesperson for the organization commented in 2009 that the nominee's sexual orientation "should never come up" because "it's not even pertinent to the equation." Not even relevant to know if an individual appointed for life to the highest court in the nation has a traditional view of the family, or is a self-avowed homosexual? Where did that come from? Certainly America's Founding Fathers would be shocked, since they followed lock-step with Christian Western tradition that criminalized homosexuality.
Today's conservative Christian leaders believe what was scandalous just 30 years ago: that homosexuality should be legal. Back in the Dark Ages, way back in 1986 when the Supreme Court upheld Georgia's anti-sodomy law, Christian leaders actually believed that homosexual behavior should be criminal. Their beliefs have changed rather quickly with the culture, preferring to garner social acceptance through a moral fluidity that reminds me of Groucho Marx's quip: "If you don't like my principles, I have others."
Despite victories for traditional marriage in states across the Union, social conservatives are losing because they've missed the heart of the issue. Same-sex marriage is a diversion. The real battle is over the morality of homosexuality itself.
Richard Land was one of the dozens of speakers Ralph Reed lined up for his Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference, so it makes sense that he would have some nice things to say about him ... but his ill-informed gushing over Reed's supposed brilliance is downright embarrassing:
"Ralph invented the game and how to play the game. He's got a PhD in political science," said Dr Richard Land the head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Church, the nation's largest denomination with 16 million members.
"He's one of them. He's and evangelical. He understands the evangelical and the conservative Catholic positions. He understand what rings their chimes and what doesn't."
"Any time Ralph Reed is involved in something it's going to make a difference. If I were running for office the very first thing i would do is hire Ralph as a consultant," Land said. "Ralph knows how to do this."
"Most evangelicals who know about it, view Ralph as a victim and that he was victimized by Abramoff like so many others," Land said adding, "Conservatives don't have any problem with people making money."
First of all, Reed received his Ph.D in history, not political science. And secondly, only in the intentionally myopic view of the Religious Right was Reed in any way a "victim" of Jack Abramoff.
Reed was a knowing participant in Abramoff's scheme to use the Religious Right to protect his client's gambling interest and Reed, as such, went out of his way to conceal the source of that money from his Religious Right allies.
Abramoff and his colleague Jeff Scanlon called Reed a "bad version of us" and yet, to this day, Reed maintains that he "proud" of the work he did for Abramoff and insists that "it advanced sound public policy."
Hardly the words one would expect from someone who was "victimized by Abramoff."
Private school voucher advocates and their allies in the so-called “education reform” movement readily talk about the need for rigorous, constant testing along with the application of free market principles to education: reward high-performing schools and teachers and punish bad ones.
Over the last decade, Milwaukee has been a laboratory for private school vouchers, and the results have been poor: numerous studies have shown that vouchers failed to make any difference in student performance. Just like in Washington, DC and Cleveland, private school vouchers in Milwaukee failed to produce the gains their supporters promised as students, with students in the Milwaukee voucher program actually performing worse than comparable public school students.
But now Republican Gov. Scott Walker wants to expand the ineffective voucher program while cutting funds to public schools. And so much for the emphasis on testing -- voucher students will now be exempted from the tests that revealed the program’s failure.
Milwaukee’s voucher school program would be expanded under a Republican-backed bill expected to pass the state Assembly on Tuesday.
State Superintendent Tony Evers has questioned expanding the voucher program at the same time Walker is proposing cutting public school aid by more than $800 million over the next two years.
Walker is also proposing eliminating in his budget that voucher students take the same statewide achievement tests that public school students must take.
This year, results were released for the first time comparing public school and voucher students. They showed voucher students lagging behind their peers in public schools.
That’s right, even though voucher students are “lagging behind their peers in public schools,” voucher programs are being rewarded with expansion while public schools are punished with cuts. With little care for accountability and testing, this move by Walker and the Wisconsin GOP demonstrates how the push for private school vouchers is really about the Right’s ideological war against public education.
With Scott Walker admitting that the private school voucher movement’s emphasis on testing, results and accountability is hogwash, it is abundantly clear what the real goal is: privatizing public education.
The upside of Barton's recent high profile is that bona fide historians who, unlike Barton, actually have training and credentials, are starting to stand up to Barton's flagrant and intentional misuse of history.
Barton’s intent is not to produce “scholarship,” but to influence public policy. He simply is playing a different game than worrying about scholarly credibility, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. His game is to inundate public policy makers (including local and state education boards as well as Congress) with ideas packaged as products that will move policy.
Historical scholarship moves slowly and carefully, usually shunning the public arena; Barton’s proof-texting, by contrast, supplies ready-made (if sometimes made-up) quotations ready for use in the latest public policy debate, whether they involve school prayer, abortion, the wonders of supply-side economics, the Defense of Marriage Act, or the capital gains tax. ...
In short, perhaps the best way to understand Barton is as a historical product of Christian providentialist thinking, one with significant historical roots and usually with a publicly convincing spokesman. He is the latest in a long line of ideologically persuasive spokesmen for preserving American’s Protestant character ... The Christian Nation “debate” is not really an intellectual contest between legitimate contending viewpoints. Instead, it is a manufactured “controversy” akin to the global warming “debate.” On the one side are purveyors of a rich and complex view of the past, including most historians who have written and debated fiercely about the founding era. On the “other side” is a group of ideological entrepreneurs who have created an alternate intellectual universe based on a historical fundamentalism. In their drive to create a usable past, they show little respect for the past as a foreign country.
Barton does not recognized the idea that the past is like a foreign country. Instead Barton tends to flatten out time and space and make it almost seem as if the Founders are our contemporaries, motivated by the same concerns that motivate us now. Yet people in the past--whether we're talking about leaders of Bronze Age tribes or bewigged 18th century nabobs who tinkered on their mansions, read Montaigne in their spare time, or enjoyed arm-chair speculation about nature and providence--are not the same as us. This seems like a kindergarten point, but it's apparently lost on David Barton.
Nearly any trained historian worth his or her salt who takes a close look at Barton and his hyper-politicized work will see glaring gaps in what he writes and talks about. He dresses his founders in 21st-century garb. He's not interested in knowing much about the history of colonial America or the US in the early republic. Why? Because he's using history to craft a very specific, anti-statist, Christian nationalist, evangelical-victimization argument in the present. (Remember the many unconfirmed quotations Barton used in the 1990s? He did so because, first and foremost, he was trying to make a political point.)
In history circles this is what we call "bad history."
Wallbuilders is a political organization that selectively uses history to promote a religious and ideological agenda. Barton believes that America's last, best hope is a return to its so-called Christian roots. 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. And he has convinced thousands and thousands of Christians that he is right.
Barton claims to be a historian. He is not. He has just enough historical knowledge, and just enough charisma, to be very dangerous. During his appearance on The Daily Show, Barton impressed the faithful with his grasp of American history and his belief that Christians are being subtly persecuted in this country. But if you watch the show carefully, you will notice that Barton is a master at dodging controversial questions. He refuses to admit that sometimes history does not conform to our present-day political agendas.
Here is the bottom line: Christians should think twice before they rely on David Barton for their understanding of the American founding. Let's not confuse history with propaganda.
As Fea says, "the more popular Barton becomes, the more his views will be debunked by what I am imagining will be an ever-growing chorus of critics" ... but that task sure would be made easier if Republican leaders like Newt Gingrich,Michele Bachmann, and Mike Huckabee would stop actively embracing and promoting Barton's pseudohistorical propaganda.
Barton’s growing visibility and influence with members of Congress and other Republican Party officials is troubling for many reasons: he distorts history and the Constitution for political purposes; he encourages religious divisiveness and unequal treatment for religious minorities; and he feeds a toxic political climate in which one’s political opponents are not just wrong, but evil and anti-God.
Scholars have criticized Barton for presenting facts out of context or in misleading ways, but that hasn’t stopped him from promoting his theories through books, television, and, yes, the textbooks that will teach the next generation of Americans. He promotes conspiracy theories about elites hiding the truth from average Americans in order to undermine the nation from within. Last summer, he declared that liberal and media attacks on the Tea Party were just like attacks on Jesus. In February, Barton spoke at the Connect 2011 Pastors Conference, where he said that Christians needed to control the culture and media so that “guys that have a secular viewpoint cannot survive.” Said Barton, “If the press lacks moral discrimination, it’s because we haven’t been pushing our people to chop that kind of news off.”
Barton’s work is not just an academic exercise. It is meant to have a political impact. For Barton, “documenting” the divine origins of his interpretations of the Constitution gives him and his political allies a potent weapon. Barton promotes a false reality in which anyone who opposes any element of his political agenda stands in opposition to both the Founding Fathers and to God. He believes that everything in our society – government, the judiciary, the economy, the family – should be governed according to the Bible, and he promotes a view of the Bible and Jesus that many Christians would not recognize. Opponents, even Christians, who disagree with Barton about tax policy or the powers of Congress are not only wrong, they are un-American and anti-religious, enemies of America and of God.
President Obama is a particularly frequent target of Barton’s. In January, one of his WallBuilders Live radio shows was titled “Why is Obama Trying to Remove God from the United States?” In March, right-wing “news” service WND quoted Barton accusing Obama (falsely of course) of being “engaged in a pattern of ‘willfully, deliberately’ repudiating America's Christian heritage.”
Those are the kind of accusations long favored by the Religious Right, and they are destructive. Claims that political opponents are evil and are actively trying to destroy Americans’ freedoms poison the public arena, make constructive civic discourse nearly impossible, and have the potential to incite acts of violence.
Elected officials who endorse Barton give his claims credibility they do not deserve. He in turn gives cover and a veneer of legitimacy to right-wing politicians interested in putting their notions of a nation created by and for Christians into public policy. Both Barton and his backers are undermining understanding of, and respect for, vital American values and constitutional principles like separation of church and state and equal treatment under the law.
And last night, Peter appeared on "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell to discuss Barton and his influence: