Lies the religious right tells itself
Below on this page: The myth that the U.S. was founded as "a Christian nation" | Congressional resolutions aimed at bolstering myth of a Christian nation | PBS distributes religious right revisionist history film Wall of Separation
In apparent bid to Christian right, Sen. McCain calls US a "Christian nation."
Background by JewsOnFirst.org, October 10, 2007
During a video interview with BeliefNet.com, candidate John McCain made a number of Christian nationalist statements, including the claim that this country was established as a Christian nation. Jewish organizations reproached McCain, whom JewsOnFirst.org recorded a few months ago making religiously coded remarks to a right-wing Christian audience. Click here.
Another revisionist "Christian Nation" resolution introduced in Congress
Background by JewsOnFirst.org, January 9, 2007
House Republicans have introduced a resolution asserting a religious foundation for the United States and designating the first week in May as "American Religious History Week."
House Resolution 888's "whereases" read like a rant on a Christian right website -- a recitation of officeholders' every chance use of the word "God" from colonial times onward. These quotoids supposedly add up to justification for the resolved part of the measure: "affirming" the United States' "religious history, including up to the current day," recognizing the "religious foundations" of "America's representative processes, legal systems, and societal structures," and supporting the designation of "American Religious History Week’’ for a yearly "appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith." You can read the text of the measure here (in PDF format).
It could not be an accident that this proposed week falls at the same time as the "National Day of Prayer," declared by President Truman and recently hijacked by Focus on the Family and other Christian right groups (more here).
The resolution has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. However, if the majority Democrats do not schedule it for a hearing, its Republican sponsors might introduce it on the House floor. If Republicans bring up Res. 888 on the floor, it is unclear how many Democrats will withstand pressure to vote for it.
Very few Democrats had the courage to oppose last month's House Resolution 847, which "acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States." (See our report.) As with that resolution, H. Res. 888 will allow the religious right to brag that Congress endorses the mischievous revisionist notion that the United States was established as a Christian nation.
Christian Nationalists Win Ideological Victory in Congress with Christmas resolution
Huge majority, Jews included, pass resolution suggesting Christian founding of nation
by JewsOnFirst.org, December 20, 2007
Congressional Democrats -- including most Jewish Democrats -- voted for a resolution last week that "acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States." We expect the Christian right to cite that language in their frequent claims that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.
372 members of Congress voted for the resolution, House Res. 847, "Recognizing the Importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith." Only nine members voted "no." Ten members voted "present," effectively abstaining from the December 11th vote.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) told JewsOnFirst that many members would have voted against the measure if the vote had been by secret ballot. Click here
Stop Unnecessary and Misleading House Resolution
“American Religious History Week” Resolution Gives the Wrong Impression about Religion in the U.S.
Action alert, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, January 9, 2007
In the days before the Congressional Holiday Recess, Rep. Forbes of Virginia introduced H. Res. 888, a resolution creating an "American Religious History Week." This resolution is non-binding and intended simply to express the view of the House of Representatives. Nonetheless, the content of the measure is disconcerting. If passed, this resolution would send the wrong message about religious liberty in this country. Congress should stop meddling in religious issues and instead focus upon the important matters that will come before it during this upcoming legislative session. Click here to send your representative a letter from the Americans United website.
Stop revisionist "Christian nation" House Resolution 888
Take Action Now
Action Alert, Secular Coalition for America, January 11, 2007
Flush with last year's success in passing H.Res. 847, "Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith," Christian nationalists -- those who would have the United States be governed as a Christian theocracy -- are pushing H.Res. 888, another resolution which promotes a false and distorted "Christian nation" reinterpretation of our history. Generally, we do not take action regarding resolutions because they are ceremonial in nature and express the non-binding opinion of one chamber. They do not have the force of law.
However, this resolution is so outrageous that YES votes -- even with its ceremonial form -- would send a dangerous message to history and civics educators throughout the United States. Teaching an unbiased account of our nation's founding and its governance will be curtailed; in its place supporters of this resolution clearly call for a revised history of the United States as a Christian nation.
Additionally, the resolution rejects constitutional requirements that government not establish religion. It calls on "our Nation's public buildings and educational resources" to be permitted to spread its specific revisionist history. Click here to send your representative a message from the Secular Coalition's website.
Critics slam 'history week’ resolution by Rep. Forbes
By Steven G. Vegh, The Virginian-Pilot, January 11, 2008
A congressional resolution by U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes to designate an American Religious History Week has critics saying the measure ignores the nation’s spiritual pluralism and distorts history.
Forbes, a Republican whose 4th District includes part of South Hampton Roads, filed a nonbinding resolution last month “affirming the rich spiritual and religious history” of the United States.
If approved by the House, Resolution 888 would support a designated week each May “for the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.” The measure has 31 sponsors and is before a House committee. Continue.
Background: Either wittingly or unwittingly -- which is unclear -- PBS agreed to distribute a propagandistic film that pushes a Christian right revisionist version of this nation's founding. The film, Wall of Separation purports to explore a controversey that the US was founded as a religious rather than secular government. Its publicity photo above shows the filmmakers' disingenuousness.
PBS has defended (albeit weakly) its decision to make the film available to its stations. But it has not explained the basis of its decision. When Americans United for Separation of Church and State pressed PBS for an advance look at the film, PBS refused. Earlier this year, Americans United urged PBS to shun the film because its writer has also written for Chalcedon, a dominionist Christian organization that advocates an extreme theocracy with the death penalty for homosexuals and rebellious teens.
Church-State Group Labels PBS Documentary Propaganda for Christian Right
By Bob Allen, EthicsDaily.com, June 19, 2007
PBS officials defended the decision to air a documentary on Thomas Jefferson's metaphor of a "wall" of separation between church and state against accusations the film is a propaganda tool for the Christian Right. Click here to continue reading the most complete account of PBS's venture into religious right propaganda..
PBS Revelation: Network’s ‘Wall Of Separation’ Has Religious Right Genesis
by Barry Lynn, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Wall of Separation Blog, June 8, 2007
Lynn breaks the news that PBS has quietly begun distributing a film The Wall of Separation, that presents a religious right revisionist history, challenging the secular foundation of the United States government. The president of the production company, Jack Hafer, has, writes Lynn told an interviewer "that Christians have an obligation to 'shape the culture' and 'spread the faith.'
The writer and director, Brian Godawa, writes Lynn, "did movie reviews for a time for the Chalcedon Foundation’s Web site. Those of you who follow religion and politics will recognize Chalcedon as the nerve center of Christian Reconstructionism, the most militant wing of the Religious Right. Godawa also was a featured speaker at the American Vision’s '2006 Worldview Super Conference,' a Reconstructionist event.
"Reconstructionists detest democracy and hope to usher in a fundamentalist Christian theocracy in America based on their reading of biblical law. They are best known for seeking to impose the harshest penalties of the Old Testament penal code: the death penalty, for example, for gays, adulterers, fornicators, witches, incorrigible teenagers and those who spread false religions." Click here.
PBS Punts: Ombudsman Admits Church-State Program Is Biased, But Downplays Problem
by Barry Lynn, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Wall of Separation Blog, June 19, 2007
Recently I wrote about PBS’s decision to carry a Religious Right pseudo-documentary attacking the concept of church-state separation.
PBS’s ombudsman, Michael Getler, devoted a column to the controversy on June 15.
There is good news and bad news. Getler admits that the show, “The Wall of Separation,” is clearly slanted toward opponents of the church-state wall.
The bad news is he defends its airing anyway. Continue.
The Ombudsman Column
Is That Church-State Wall Just a Metaphor?
By Michael Getler, PBS, June 15, 2007
When I was in elementary school back in the 1940s during World War II, we used to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day. We faced the classroom flag and said: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Later, when I was in college, it changed. An act of Congress in 1954 mandated that the words "under God" be inserted after "one nation." Whenever the occasion arises to recite the pledge, I still, instinctively, start to say the old pledge, the way I learned it as a youngster, and it is usually the surrounding voices that remind me it is different now.
The Pledge of Allegiance, of course, is not the only part of our public record to have evolved with respect to the place of God and religion in American life and law, and arguments over such issues are truly as old as the republic.
I mention my recollection of this change, however, because it always crosses my mind, involuntarily, whenever I hear arguments over the separation of church and state. So it came to mind as I looked over e-mail from viewers this week who were critical of a one-hour documentary film titled "Wall of Separation" that began airing last week on some PBS stations and that, according to a PBS Pressroom news release, "probes the origins and history of separation of church and state in America." Continue.
Wall Of Separation
New PBS Documentary Probes the Origins and History of Separation of Church and State in America
News release by Jack Hafer, Boulevard Pictures, on the PBS website, June 2007
America is a nation forged in the furnace of controversy over religion in politics. The events of 9/11 brought that conflict into sharper relief, and the 2004 presidential election provoked a closer examination of the role of religion in American government. The historical documentary WALL OF SEPARATION, airing in June 2007 (check local listings) on PBS, examines the origins and history of this controversy.
The "wall of separation" is a metaphor deeply embedded in the American consciousness. Most Americans assume that the First Amendment prevents the mixing of politics and religion. The freedom of religion clauses protect individuals from the entanglement of religion with government and secure the right to freely exercise religious faith. America is a religiously pluralistic culture guided by a secular government.
But what would surprise most Americans is the discovery that this is not what the Founding Fathers intended when they established the nation and wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights. In fact, they had a radically different interpretation of the role of religion in state and federal governments. Just what was their view? Why was it different? Where did the "wall of separation" metaphor come from? And how did its meaning evolve into what we consider it today? Continue.
Wall of Separation trailer
Click here to see a trailer and promotional material on the Boulevard Pictures Website.
Are We a Christian Nation?
Congregationalist Minister Inaugurates Lecture Series at Synagogue's Center for Religious Inquiry
Rev. Jerald Stinson of First Congregational Church of Long Beach, September 26, 2006
Rev. Jerald Stinson, minister of the First Congregational Church of Long Beach, California, was the main speaker at the launch of the Center for Religious Inquiry at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles. His talk, entitled Are We A Christian Nation? is part of the Center's series: Symposium On America: The Moral Nation. The religious right, said Stinson,
claim we were once a Christian nation and lost our way. Is that true? Well, yes and no.
Stinson emphasized the importance of maintaining the "wall of separation" that the authors of our Constitution established between church and state. He spoke about the experience of his childhood in theocratic Utah and his experience in northern San Diego County during the period when a Christocrat school board implemented religious right policies in the Vista school system. Please click here to read Stinson's speech (a PDF document).
Is America a Christian Nation? What Both Left and Right Get Wrong
John Fea, History News Network, October 1, 2007
Americans love their history, but seldom think historically. The problem is not that they don't pay enough attention to history. Americans spend millions each year on heritage vacations and history books. Politicians and pundits use history to justify their views.
The problem is a common propensity to mangle the past to suit current needs, a sort of indoctrination by historical example. Too many believe that the study of distant societies and events is worthless unless it is somehow useful to prove a current point.
So what do they do when the past disappoints? Or when historians tell them something in the past that doesn't conform to the way they view the world? Ideally, when this happens they should follow the evidence and do their best to tell stories that reflect the past in all its complexity. But this is hard to do Continue.
Most think founders wanted Christian USA
Andrea Stone, USA Today, September 12, 2007
Most Americans believe the nation's founders wrote Christianity into the Constitution, and people are less likely to say freedom to worship covers religious groups they consider extreme, a poll out today finds.
The survey measuring attitudes toward freedom of religion, speech and the press found that 55% believe erroneously that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation. In the survey, which is conducted annually by the First Amendment Center, a non-partisan educational group, three out of four people who identify themselves as evangelical or Republican believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation. About half of Democrats and independents do.
Most respondents, 58%, say teachers in public schools should be allowed to lead prayers. That is an increase from 2005, when 52% supported teacher-led prayer in public schools. Continue.
'07 survey shows Americans' views mixed on basic freedoms
Nearly two-thirds say nation’s founders intended ‘Christian nation’; support rises for limits on campaign contributions
First Amendment Center, September 12, 2007
WASHINGTON — Sixty-five percent of Americans believe that the nation's founders intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to the “State of the First Amendment 2007” national survey released today by the First Amendment Center.
The survey also found that 71% of Americans would limit the amount a corporation or union could contribute to a political campaign, with 64% favoring such a limit on individual contributions. Sixty-two percent would limit the amount a person could contribute to his or her own campaign. Support for such limits increased from the 2000 survey in all three areas: by nine percentage points in favor of limits on self-funding, by seven points concerning limits on individual contributions to someone else; and by three points on limits on corporations and unions. Continue.
At the Beach with Pat Robertson: Reclaiming America For Christ
By mamboX, Talk2Action, May 1, 2007
Last Friday I hit Virginia Beach, to spend the weekend at "Assembly 2007", with a gaggle of apocalyptic "Word Faith" Christian preachers, and their devotees, as they celebrated bad history, their continued quest to impose Biblical law on America and the World, and the magical power of money to mainline deep pocketed believers straight to God... One of the big name draws, Pastor John Hagee, has been reported as encouraging his church members to hold dollar bills aloft and wave them to the heavens, as if money were some magical lure to the almighty...
Maybe Word-Faith adherents think it is. The tendency is like a tacky, quintessentially American New-Age Calvinism grafted onto a Christian will to dominate the world and a nihilistic expectation, sometimes in the foreground and sometimes in the background, that the end is coming... soon. The tendency fits well with corporate capitalism too, and it wouldn't be surprising to hear Gordon Gecko-like phrases coming from Word Faith pulpits of characters like Hagee or Creflo Dollar : "Money is good. GREED is good !". Those themes are latent anyway. Continue.
Pat Robertson's Christian Nationalist Extravaganza
By Frederick Clarkson, Talk2Action, April 27, 2007
There is a Christian nationalist extravaganza going on this weekend in Virginia Beach, Virginia. It's a radical effort to capture American history in a way in which Christian rightists cast themselves as the protagonists of America's story. And people like you and me are but interlopers in God's grand scheme.
The occasion is the 400th anniversary of Capt. John Smith's landing at Jamestown. While the state of Virginia is hosting its own party, televangelist Pat Robertson will lead an alternative for those who, like its stage manager John Blanchard, say: "We want to reaffirm our Christian roots - we are a Christian country." Continue.
Chuck Norris Helps the NCBCPS Spread David Barton's Lies
By Chris Rodda, Talk to Action, April 15, 2007
In an April 9, 2007 article on WorldNetDaily entitled Bringing the Bible Back Into Public Schools, National Council On Bible Curriculum In Public Schools (NCBCPS) board member and spokesman Chuck Norris regurgitates the following erroneous claim, almost verbatim from the NCBCPS website's "Founding Fathers" page.
A study by the American Political Science Review on the political documents of the founding era, which was from 1760-1805, discovered that 94 percent of the period's documents were based on the Bible, with 34 percent of the contents being direct citations from the Bible. The Scripture was the bedrock and blueprint of our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, academic arenas and heritage until the last quarter of a century.
The study referred to by Norris was conducted by Donald S. Lutz of the University of Houston, whose findings were published in a 1984 article in The American Political Science Review. Misrepresentations of Lutz's study have been around for years, the first appearing in John Eidsmoe's 1987 book Christianity and the Constitution, followed a few years later by the version most often seen today, taken from NCBCPS advisory board member David Barton's book Original Intent. Continue.
Note: Scroll down to the end of this posting for links to Rodda's previous essays on the subject.
The Judeo-Christian Influence on Our Nation
by Jerry Falwell, The Conservative Voice, March 19, 2007
Thomas Jefferson, author of the “wall of separation” that is revered as gospel by secularists and civil libertarians who want to purge Christianity from the public square, was firmly in favor of prohibiting public religious expression.
Hardly. But that’s the message many in the so-called mainstream are preaching today. Continue.
At Regent, scholars discuss religion in democracy
By Steven G. Vegh, The Virginian-Pilot, February 3, 2007
VIRGINIA BEACH - Scholars at a Regent University symposium on Friday cited the Founding Fathers in asserting that American democracy and religion are indivisible, regardless of the public debate around mixing religion and politics.
"God-talk, at least as much as rights-talk, is the way America speaks," said Jean Bethke Elshtain, a political philosopher at the University of Chicago. "American politics is unintelligible if severed from Americans' religions, most importantly Christianity."
The second annual Ronald Reagan Symposium hosted eight academics and writers who spoke on the future of religion in American politics. Continue.
Ark. House Votes Down Thomas Paine Day
By Andrew DeMillo, Associated Press, BookRags.com, February 11, 2007
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Thomas Paine may have helped inspire the American Revolution, but inspiring Arkansas lawmakers to commemorate a day in his honor is another matter.
The proposal by Rep. Lindsley Smith, D-Fayetteville, to commemorate Jan. 29 as ``Thomas Paine Day'' failed in the state House of Representatives after a legislator questioned Paine's writings criticizing the Bible and Christianity. Continue.
Wonders of America
Jenna Weissman Joselit, The Forward, February 2, 2007
Now that Christmas has come and gone, we’re apt to think that pitched discussions about religion in the public square (all those crčches and Christmas trees and menorahs and overwrought television commentators like you-know-who) are a seasonal affair. But if history teaches anything, it’s that these discussions are always with us. I’d even go a step further and say they are endemic to modern American culture. Take, for instance, the so-called Cincinnati Bible War of 1869-70 in which the local public school board’s decision to prohibit “whatever savored of religion” — the daily reading of the Bible, say, or the singing of Protestant hymns or the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer — resulted in a brouhaha of immense proportions, so immense, in fact, that it made its way from one end of the judicial system to another, ending up in the Ohio Supreme Court. Continue
Author Examines Founding Fathers' Views on Religion
Morning Edition, November 23, 2006
In American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation Jon Meacham asks what America's founding fathers thought about religion in public life. Meacham says those on the left and the right often quote the founding fathers to serve their purposes. Click here for a link to the audio of the Morning Edition segment.
Dr. Dobson Helps Larry King Understand 'Separation of Church and State'
Focus founder correctly points out it's not anywhere in a foundational document.
Wendy Cloyd, Focus on the Family, November 27, 2006
In an interview turned history lesson, Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, helped talk-show host Larry King understand -- over his protests -- that "separation of church and state" is not found in the U.S. Constitution.
During last week's hour-long conversation on Larry King Live, King quizzed Dr. Dobson on myriad topics including O.J. Simpson's rejected book, the fall of evangelical leader Ted Haggard and Michael J. Fox's TV ad for embryonic stem-cell research. But when the discussion turned to attempts to redefine marriage -- the TV host made it an issue of separation of church and state.
KING: Why is it a state institution rather than a religious institution? Why is the state involved?
DOBSON: Well, it's both. It is both.
KING: But we have a separation of church and state.
DOBSON: Beg your pardon?
KING: We have a separation of church and state.
DOBSON: Who says? Continue
Debating religion's sway in nation's public square
By Marilyn H. Karfeld, Cleveland Jewish News, October 6, 2006
America was founded as a Christian country.”
So said Gary Lankford, president of FamilyVision, a Westerville, Ohio, nonprofit Christian group that helps local churches develop stronger family-based ministries.
Speaking at a recent panel discussion in Cleveland on “Church and State: The way religious voices are influencing public policy,” Lankford said that at the country's founding, Americans were relatively intolerant of faiths other than mainstream Christianity.
Other panelists at the forum were Rabbi Richard Block of The Temple-Tifereth Israel; Gary Daniels, litigation coordinator of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio; and Bettysue Feuer, recently retired regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. Continue.
Ten Commandments stunner: Feds lying at Supreme Court
Government tells modern visitors it's Bill of Rights being honored
By Bob Unruh, WorldNetDaily.com, November 14, 2006
Every argument before the U.S. Supreme Court and every opinion the justices deliver comes in the presence of the Ten Commandments, God's law given to Moses on a fire-scorched mountain, and now represented for the United States in the very artwork carved into the high court structure.
In today's world of revisionist history, the proof comes through the work of a California pastor who visited the Supreme Court building recently when he was in Washington and was surprised that what the tour guides were telling him wasn't the same thing as what he was seeing. Continue.
Texas GOP: U.S. Is a Christian Nation
By Jennifer Siegel, Forward, June 30, 2006
The Texas Republican Party issued its platform earlier this month, declaring America a "Christian nation" and describing the concept of separation of church and state as a "myth."
The 31-page platform, adopted by the party's state convention, carries over language used in the Texas GOP platforms in 2002 and 2004. As in past years, state and national Jewish organizations have condemned the platform, but local Jewish communal officials told the Forward that lobbying to strip the language from the document was not a top community priority. Continue
The "separation of church and state" fraud
by Gerald Plessner, GeraldPlessner.com, June 28, 2006
June 28, 2006 - Neo-conservatives who say that because the words "separation of church and state" do not appear in the Constitution, and therefore our laws do not require observance of the concept, are wrong. They do a great disservice to America and its noble history.
Religious and political leaders who advocate for the placement of religious symbols on government property or the insertion of religious ideas like intelligent design into public school curricula, just don't understand our country's Founders or their beliefs about the American democracy they created. Continue
The Framers and the Faithful
How modern evangelicals are ignoring their own history.
By Steven Waldman, Washington Monthly, April 2006
Steven Waldman, editor in chief of Beliefnet, and a Washington Monthly contributing editor, writes that 18th Century evangelical Christians were the strongest voice for writing church-state separation into the Constitution.
Both secular liberals who sneer at the idea that evangelicals could ever be a positive influence in politics and Christian conservatives who want to knock down the “wall” should take note: It was the 18th-century evangelicals who provided the political shock troops for Jefferson and Madison in their efforts to keep government from strong involvement with religion. Modern evangelicals are certainly free to take a different course, but they should realize that in doing so they have dramatically departed from the tradition of their spiritual forefathers.
Revisionist rhetoric notwithstanding, the founders left God out of the Constitution-and it wasn't an oversight
By Susan Jacoby, Mother Jones Magazine, December /January 2006
The Constitution, writes Jacoby, "has nothing to say about God, gods, or any form of belief or nonbelief-apart from its absolute prohibition, in Article 6, against any religious test for public office and the First Amendment's familiar declaration that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." She continues: "For the 21st-century apostles of religious correctness, the godless Constitution-how could those framers have forgotten the most important three-letter word in the dictionary?-poses a formidable problem requiring the creation of tortuous historical fictions that include both subtle prevarication and bald-faced lies." Jacoby goes on to explain how the religious right builds its argument that the US was established as a "Christian nation." Clck here to read this article on the Mother Jones website.