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History Lesson

Glenn Beck’s favorite ‘historian’ enlists the Founding Fathers in a battle against diversity

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Glenn Beck with David Barton and Ira Stoll for Founders’ Fridays. (Courtesy of Fox News Channel.)

Glenn Beck is obsessed with American history, and he’s helped make David Barton the most influential historian in America. A wiry, boyish Texas fundamentalist and master revisionist, Barton specializes in a version of history in which America was founded to be a Christian nation but has been hijacked by a godless minority that uses the courts to impose its fraudulent doctrine of church-state separation. He’s been a fixture on the religious right for years, but thanks to Glenn Beck and the Tea Party, he’s now bigger than ever. For large swaths of the country, he defines the American past, a past the right is desperate to recreate.

“David is, I think, the most important man in America right now,” Beck said in July, introducing one of Barton’s many appearances on his show. In addition to being a frequent TV guest of Beck’s, Barton is also one of three professors at Beck’s online school, Beck University. He was a member of the expert panel that created Texas’ controversial new history standards, which played down Thomas Jefferson and played up John Calvin. In September, he spoke at a rally for Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio, where he was billed as a “constitutional scholar.” Later this month, he and Newt Gingrich will headline a meeting for Nevada pastors at a Las Vegas resort, meant to mobilize them ahead of the upcoming elections.

“Barton’s role in the Tea Party movement is much like it’s been in the Republican Party for the last decade,” says Dan Quinn, communications director of the Texas Freedom Network, a civil liberties group that has watched Barton for years. “He is acting as an intellectual resource for them. He gives them the words in their increasingly extremist vocabulary. On the right he has become this great icon of American historical scholarship, when he’s anything but.”

In fact, Barton doesn’t have any historical training all. His sole academic degree is a bachelor’s in religious education from Oral Roberts University—though given the right’s rampant populism, his fans are unlikely to care about his lack of credentials. Barton’s past association with white supremacists and Holocaust deniers might be more damaging, if anyone paid attention. Still, he’s gotten much more sophisticated about race over the last two decades. These days, he’s more likely to be hurling accusations of racism than fending them off.

Barton built his career by arguing, via a selective reading of documents from the Founding Fathers, that the Constitution is rooted in biblical values and that the founders never intended to separate church and state. He claims, falsely, that 52 of the 55 founding fathers were “orthodox, evangelical Christians,” and that they always intended for Christianity to shape American government. Public secularism, in his view, constitutes an unconstitutional tyranny that is systematically robbing the country of its religious heritage.

This is in many ways an old story. People who write about the religious right—myself included—have often marveled at the intricacy and resilience of the movement’s carefully wrought alternative history. The Anti-Defamation League was criticizing Barton as far back as 1994, writing in one report: “This ostensible scholarship functions in fact as an assault on scholarship: in the manner of other recent phony revisionisms, the history it supports is little more than a compendium of anecdotes divorced from their original context, linked harum-scarum and laced with factual errors and distorted innuendo.”

Yet Barton just keeps getting more powerful and more mainstream. His public career began in the late 1980s when, he has written, God ordered him to the library to investigate the ostensible correlation between the end of state-mandated school prayer and declines in SAT scores. “I didn’t know why,” he wrote in the introduction to his 1988 America: To Pray Or Not To Pray?, “but I somehow knew that these two pieces of information would be very important.”

The next year he published The Myth of Separation, a farrago of quotes torn from context and outright misinformation. It claimed, wrongly, that Thomas Jefferson described the wall of separation between church and state as “one directional,” keeping the state out of the church while maintaining “Christian principles in government.” It also falsely attributed a quote to James Madison, that the government’s future was “staked upon the Ten Commandments.” He later issued an extended correction for these and other mistakes, though that hasn’t stopped them from being repeated endlessly online.

Barton found an eager audience for his Christian nationalist history on the right-wing fringe. In 1991, as the ADL has reported, he spoke at a summer gathering of Scriptures for America, a group founded by Pete Peters, a pastor in the Christian Identity movement. Christian Identity holds that Anglo-Saxons are the true children of Israel, while Jews are the Satanic offspring of Eve’s liaison with the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Black people, according to Christian Identity theology, are a separate species of “mud people.” Other speakers at the meeting were Holocaust denier Malcolm Ross and white supremacist Richard Kelly Hoskins. Barton was advertised as “a new and special speaker” who would ask, “Was it the plan of our forefathers that America be the melting pot home of various religions and philosophies?” (One can assume that the answer was no.) On November 24 of that year, Barton spoke at another Christianity Identity gathering, this one in Oregon. According to the ADL, his self-published books were advertised in “The Watchman,” a Christian Identity publication.

Soon, though, Barton’s star started rising on the mainstream right, and he denounced Christian Identity, claiming that he hadn’t known he was addressing racist groups when he appeared at the movement’s meetings. That sounds implausible—it’s hard to imagine how one might speak at two white supremacist summits in five months by accident. Still, the association didn’t seem to hurt him. By the middle of the 1990s, every major religious right organization marketed Barton’s self-published books. In 1994, Newt Gingrich, then the House minority whip, praised Barton’s “wonderful” and “most useful” work, and, in 1997, Barton was elected vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party. The Bush campaign hired him to do clergy outreach in 2004.

In recent years, Barton has pioneered a new kind of historical revisionism, one that absolves conservative Republicans of any complicity in American racism, which he lays entirely at the feet of Democrats. He points out, correctly, that before 1964, many of the country’s most virulently racist politicians were Democrats. He neglects to mention that they fled to the GOP en masse after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Indeed, in one astonishing document, he attributes Strom Thurmond’s break with the Democrats to his “dramatic change of heart on civil rights issues,” as if the former Dixiecrat had turned Republican out of outrage at segregation. In an equally audacious reinterpretation of history, he paints the founding era as a golden age of racial comity, denying that racism was ever an essential part of America’s DNA.

Such rhetorical maneuvers have been particularly useful to Beck, obsessed as he is with secret histories and a prelapsarian version of the American past. Over the summer, Beck hosted a series of shows he called “Founders’ Fridays,” revisionist forays into American history guided by Barton. Under the guise of teaching black history, Founders’ Fridays argued against the idea that black people had been oppressed by the Revolutionary generation. On July 5, for example, Barton presented a newspaper from the late 18th century that featured the obituary of a black man who had fought in the Revolution. The obituaries, Barton pointed out, were “not broken out black and white. … It’s telling you who’s died, didn’t matter whether were you black or white or anything, you’re a citizen.”

Denying the racial sins of the Founding Fathers makes it easier to deify them—and, in turn, to promote faith in America’s Christian destiny. “In learning about the founders and seeing the heroes that were involved, it only strengthens my view that this was a divine document, the Declaration of Independence,” said Beck at the end of one show. “For the most part, these guys were amazing. And they struggled in their time to do the right thing. You say that they’re not Christians. They were Christians. And they fought for people who weren’t. The same thing with [saying] they were all white. Well, they fought for people who weren’t.”

Barton has given American history an immaculate conception, one that turns slaveholders into civil-rights heroes. He’s helped recreate a myth of a golden age of unimpeachable American righteousness. “[T]he national motto is e pluribus unum, out of many we became one,” said Barton during one of his appearances on Beck. “And we have tried for 20 years to make it e unum pluribus, out of one we’re going to be all these groups.” In some ways Barton hasn’t changed much at all. He’s still making the case against diversity, and coating it in divinity.

Michelle Goldberg is the author of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism and The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World.

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J Carpenter says:

Oh, where to begin with all the “outrage;” thank you for the clarity.
Talk about hi-jacking history and persons (“played down Jefferson and played up John Calvin”)—probably no other Protestant theologian has been more misquoted or misrepresented than Geneva’s John Calvin. Commemorating Calvin’s 500th birthday last year, Spertus Institute in Chicago hosted a lecture by a Jewish historian from Northwestern U (name escapes me at the moment) on Calvin and the Jews. Generally speaking, his reading of Calvin and Calvin’s legacy is one of comparative tolerance, especially toward Judaism, not found elsewhere in Christian circles in the 16th century or ever after.
For the Right to hijack Calvin for political means is Wrong twelve different ways. Barton’s lack of scholarship, Beck’s anti-intellectualism (among other faults) shows poor exegesis, poor hermeneutic of texts, modern and ancient.
Keep shining the Light on all such darkness—
Blessings,
JC

Isn’t USA a Christian country?

AnotherCarp says:

Untruthful information passed to eager groups as valid always seems to gather more shards of lies as retold again and again. Avid people like Barton and Beck create a windstorm of fabrications unrelated to the truth. And, people, who think with only one-side of the brain fervently devour it.

Mythology always beats scholarship with the masses without exception. Many of the Founding Fathers (a term I just loathe) were slaveowners. The Constitution would never have been ratified without a gargantuan compromise on the issue.

Phillip Cohen says:

To Gene:
No.
We are a constitutional nation.
God is not in the consitution. It is as secular as can be!

Larry Linn says:

My grandparents were Christians in Northern Ireland. She was Protestant, and he was Catholic. They had to flee after death threats. When I became of age, I volunteered and joined the Army, and I served as an 11B Infantryman. Most of my time in the field was in squad or platoon size operations. We would have discussions about what we were fighting for. It always came back to the “Bill of Rights”. To me the most important was “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
What did our Founding Fathers have to say about religion:
“Question with boldness even the existence of a god.” – Thomas Jefferson (letter to Peter Carr, 10 August 1787):
“All natural institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.” Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason;
“Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”, John Madison;
“Lighthouses are more helpful than Churches”, Benjamin Franklin

To Phillip Cohen: If USA is not a Christian country then why Christmas is a NATIONAL holiday?

The growing anti-intellectualism in this country is frightening. Slogans and lies have taken the place of critical thinking.

RK Rugg says:

Um, Gene… if the USA isn’t England, why do so many of us speak English? If Mexico isn’t Spain, why do so many Mexicans speak Spanish? Your logic is so faulty as to be non-logic.

Actually Barton is not a revisionist. He documents well everything he says. You say he is a Texan, and a fundamentalist like it is a curse. Barton documents everything well.

Phillip Cohen says:

To Gene:
For the very same reason some people believe in Mother Goose. They believe in fairy tales.
Christmas is a religious and not a national holiday.
And which Christmas Hoiday? Eastern Orthodox?

dina truman says:

@chani, i have never heard of Barton until today, so i have no firm opinion on him, altho I his participation in racist groups makes me want to hate him before checking him out…however, anyone can document something to prove his point, but are his citations accurate according to the whole context of his sources? That’s like saying someone proved something with survey results…numbers can be slanted, as can text.

@gene, America’s holidays have been slanted toward christian holidays, b/c Christianity is a major western influence. But that does not make us a christian country. we SHOULD be a democratic tolerant people. What we actually are is something I won’t go into on this forum.

@Larry Linn:

You use Thomas Paine but you do not say that when Thomas Paine sent a copy of “The Age of Reason” to Ben Franklin for his opinion Franklin chastised him harshly saying that the Bible was the greatest break on human criminality there was in society. Thomas Jefferson had his own New Testament (still orderable from Amazon) and while he didn’t believe all that was written there he did attend church services. He attended them in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. I think we all need to do a serious re-reading of historical documents and then make our decisions. What we are being told by others, whether Barton or anyone else, requires our own attention to research and verification. If we can’t even do that then we’ll waste time in arguing and foolishness.

Those who don’t believe that Christmas is USA national holiday (together with Labor Day, Thanksgivings, etc) I refer to the official USA federal government site:
http://www.opm.gov/operating_status_schedules/fedhol/2010.asp
Those who claim that this is a religious holiday – that is true: this is a religious (Christian) AND national holiday simultaneously. Which means that there is not complete separation between Christian church and state in USA and therefore USA is a Christian country. Some may confuse democratic Christian state with the Christian theocracy or wrongly assume that defining state as Christian precludes freedom of other religions. No. It only means that not every religion in the state has the same rights and in case of disagreement between two religions Christian religion always will take priority.

Gene

You are flatly wrong; even if we take your premise as true (Christmas is a national holiday and it is explicitly christian) your conclusion that christianity will “take priority” over other religions is simply wrong. the constitution is the primate law of the land, and it explicitly disavows the legal establishment of religion.

I think it is also worth pointing out that christmas is only sort-of a christian holiday, sure christianity is the reason that it is popular in modernity, but many, many non-christians celebrate this holiday (have you ever spent christmas in east asia, for example?)

beeste says:

Gene,

Since Christmas is actually a Pagan holiday, the celebration of the winter solstice, and was arbitrarily deemed to be an important Christian holiday to convert heathens…

does that mean the US is actually a Pagan nation?

Or could it just be that we all like having a day off to spend with family that’s long since lost it’s meaningful religious overtones to many who celebrate it.

If your point held any water, wouldn’t the substantially more important Christian holidays of Good Friday and Easter Sunday be Federal Holidays? Or is the US just a misguided Pagan Christian nation?

Richard says:

For what it’s worth: Mr. Barton’s grasp of Latin is no firmer than his command of history. Since Latin word order is exceptionally flexible, the sarcastic rewording “e unum pluribus” still means “one out of many.” As every freedom-hating member of the liberal elite can tell you, it should be “e uno plures.” Why does grammar hate America so much?

Gene,

Our Constitution was written as a secular document. Neither God nor Jesus is mentioned. Article 6 mandates that there shall be no religious test for any job in the government. The First Amendment mandates that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion; or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”…

That being said, I don’t think that you can truly understand American history without understanding the role that religion (and especially Protestant Christianity) has played throughout our history.

But the folks who wrote the Constitution didn’t acknowledge a single national faith. There was a book published on this issue in 2003 (revised 2006) titled The Faiths Of Our Fathers byAlf J.
Mapp. Jr.

“…and in case of disagreement between two religions Christian religion always will take priority.”

What does that even mean? Since when does the US government adjudicate disagreements between religions?

Not everyone who celebrates Christmas is a Christian or even incorporates Jesus into that celebration.

Putting the word Christmas in front of something (as in “Christmas Day”) doesn’t automatically make it Christian. Christmas trees, for instance, are a pagan custom.

@John: Both Franklin and Jefferson saw the Bible as a good moral code, but neither were Christians in the sense that most Christians would recognize. Franklin stated that he had doubts about Christ’s divinity. He and Jefferson both looked at Christianity practically. If it caused people to act decently, that was all to the good. But neither was a believing Christian.

http://byrnesms.blogspot.com/2010/10/ben-franklin-and-virtue-of-founders.html

John:

Jefferson created his own version of the Bible, but you would hardly recognize it as Christian: using Greek, Latin, French and English versions of the New Testament, Jefferson selected those passages which he felt best represented Jesus’ message, leaving out the virgin birth, miracles, ascension etc. and pasted them together side by side.

Beginning in 1904, the Government Printing Office published thousands of copies of the Jefferson Bible and distributed them to newly-elected members of Congress. The practice quietly ended in 1957 as the US sought to draw contrasts between the God-fearing Americans and the godless Communists in the Soviet Union (same reason “under God” and “In God We Trust” were added to the Pledge and our money, respectively).

He also owned a Koran, which MN Representative (and convert to Islam) Keith Ellison used for his 2006 swearing-in ceremony.

Our first foreign treaty says it all. Negotiated by President George Washington and signed by President John Adams, Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli clearly states: “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion …”

Adams – possibly the most devout of the Founding Fathers – had the treaty read aloud to the Senate prior to its approval, and published in all the major newspapers after ratification.

No amount of cherry picking by David Barton can erase that simple fact.

One other note, regarding Rob Tisinai’s point:

You’re absolutely right – the Supreme Court not only does not resolve religious conflicts, but the law does not even require someone to believe in a God/Creator/Supreme Being/whatever to qualify as “religious”.

Any sincere belief in a moral code is sufficient in the eyes of the Constitution and the Court.

johnny hollywood says:

The founding fathers were scholars in the age of enlightenment. Enough said. For all the right wingers reading this, that means Jesus signed the declaration of independence. ;)

Nice hatchet job on David Barton.

Are you now or have you ever been a member of Christian Identity?

There’s not a racist note to be found in any of Barton’s work, and it’s a slander to even suggest so.

For the record, The same John Adams who signed the Treaty of Tripoli issued this Thanksgiving proclamation two years later:

“I have thought proper to recommend, and I do hereby recommend accordingly, that Thursday, the 25th day of April next, be observed throughout the United States of America as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens on that day abstain as far as may be from their secular occupations, devote the time to the sacred duties of religion in public and in private; that they call to mind our numerous offenses against the Most High God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore His pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to His righteous requisitions in time to come…”

…what with a “Most High God,” a “Redeemer,” and a “Holy Spirit,” that’s “Christian” enough for rock’n’roll.

http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1789.htm

Just sayin’. There’s a lot more to this than lobbing the Tripoli grenade. “Those people” have a few facts on their side and those interested in the truth of this thing will check them out for themselves.

What “hatchet job”? If he has no credentials as a historian or jurisprudence (which he clearly doesn’t), it’s perfectly appropriate to refute the “constitutional scholar” canard.

And if he spoke at white supremacist events, with known bigots and purveyors of false history, then he should be held accountable.

Are you seriously equating a one-day proclamation with an international agreement?? The Treaty of Tripoli provided irrefutable proof of the image the Founders wanted to convey to the world: an open, pluralist society where all people – believers and nonbelievers alike – were free to follow the dictates of their own consciences.

See also the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom (written by Jefferson and brought to fruition by Madison), which was the basis for the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. Jefferson would later clarify the meaning of those principles in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists.

Jefferson quite pointedly did not issue any Thanksgiving proclamations. Madison did issue Thanksgiving proclamations as president, but later lamented doing so, and urged other presidents not to repeat his mistake. (“They seem to imply and certainly nourish the erroneous idea of a national religion.”)

I have read Barton’s work, and investigated the origins of his so-called evidence. They simply don’t stand up to any objective scrutiny.

Some parts don’t, most do. Your global dismissal of Barton is unfair.

The Treaty of Tripoli is not what you make it.

And of course this was a hatchet job on Barton, especially this Christian Identity thing from almost 20 years ago. Guilt by association. Repulsive.

The thing is, your arguments are familiar, boilerplate. You are clearly not familiar with the arguments from “the other side,” nor, apparently, are interested in them either. I write for those honest folks who are, to check them out for themselves. Cheers.

Isidoro says:

Glenn Beck be damned, but multiculturalism is dead:

“Grovelling alone” By Melanie Phillips:
Monday, 18th October 2010

“Angela Merkel has got the point. Multiculturalism has failed, she states flatly, as she surveys western Europe going down under the tide of radical Islam. Rather than liberal society creating the utopia of harmonious cultural pluralism, it is being swallowed whole by the giant predator whose voracious mouth it encourages, in the spirit of tolerance, to open ever wider in the unshakeable belief of western liberals that the jaws about to snap shut around their necks are actually stretched wide in a smile.

All over mainland Europe, a few shoes are belatedly – maybe too late — starting to drop.

France and Belgium have banned the burqa and other countries are debating doing the same.

Switzerland has banned minarets.

Denmark has imposed ferocious limits on immigration.

In the Netherlands the prosecution in the case against the Dutch politician Geert Wilders for allegedly inciting religious hatred — through his criticism of Islamic hatred — has thrown in the towel and asked the judges to acquit him of all charges. See here for an authoritative analysis of the significance of this.

And so what of dear old Blighty, the country which in 1940 stood alone against the threat to democratic life and liberty and the values of western liberalism? Is the shoe of reality starting to drop in the UK too?…”

http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/6385874/grovelling-alone.thtml

They’re not “my arguments”, they’re the facts that comprise this country’s history. They SHOULD be familiar, as they are the foundation of our republican democracy. (A tad mystified how they can be “boilerplate” unless you consider the words and ideas of Washington, Jefferson, Madison et al to be lacking in substance.)

You’re quite wrong – I have read Barton’s books (readily available at my local Goodwill used bookstore), along with the work of actual historians and scholars. What is abundantly clear to anyone without a pre-existing agenda is that the Founders did not want government to have the power to impose and enforce belief of any kind, including religion.

icapricorn says:

Thank you, commentators. What a terrifically educated and exacting discussion. The professional “conservatives” on the Republican right are very strange birds, indeed. They’re the only ones who claim they’re being smeared when they’re quoted accurate. The first to complain that the indiscretions of their younger days are not relevant but the first to hurl moral thunderbolts down upon the youthful discretions of others. How long did this crew dine out on Clinton’s facetious denial of pot-smoking in his Oxford days? How they worry now over the atheism and racial egalitarianism of President Obama’s mother.

So Barton speaks twice at a racist gathering and that makes him a racist. By that reasoning, I am sure all those appalled at Barton are even more disturbed by Obama’s 20 years under Reverend Wright at Trinity. You question his credentials, fair point, but you don’t refute his assertions directly. If you could provide examples, which should be easy considering your claims, that would bolster your case.

Daniel Crane says:

In answer to what we are – we profess to be a Constitutional Republic.
Most people believe we are a Democracy but most people only believe what they
see in the media so I guess that makes us a mediocracy!

I thought it might be interesting to point out that the Supreme Court declared in 1892, in “Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States,” that this is a “Christian nation.” I’m not sure that conservatives would want to cite to that case, though, since they also wrote that “It is a familiar rule that a thing may be within the letter of the statute and yet not within the statute because not within its spirit nor within the intention of its makers.” They were ruling that a law “to prohibit the importation and migration of foreigners and aliens under contract or agreement to perform labor in the United States” was not intended to keep a church (attended by wealthy New Yorkers) from bringing a minister over from England. And, of course, they were right, the law was really aimed at keeping Chinese labor out of the country. Don’t you just love our history?

Nice to see you here, TVD, have missed your arguments since you left SA.

Let me answer to all of you about Christmas. Christmas is a national holiday. All government (does everybody see this word: “GOVERNMENT”?)offices are closed on that day: USA government celebrates Christian holiday. It means that the government is not totally separated from the CHRISTIAN church (only Christian since the government offices remain open on holidays of other religions) and therefore USA is a Christian country. As to the claims that Christmas is a pagan holiday – that is wrong. Christmas celebrates birth of Jesus – what is pagan about it? You can deny this fact but it still remains in place either you decide to notice it or keep your eyes shut.

Unfortunately, Gene is kinda right. We are, at best, a hypocritically secular nation. Because the majority of our populace identifies as Christian, and always has, our national government has always favored Christianity. The holidays, the words on our money, etc. While there is no constitutional wording to support the idea of the US being a Christian nation, our legislative actions belie that. The personal is and always will be political, and the truth is we are neither a Christian nor a secular nation. Like most issues, it’s more complicated.
That being said, our founding documents make a point of saying that all religions will be treated equally under the law, which is to say that our government shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. Which I think is a good thing!

naturalcynic says:

If you think that Christmas Day is truly Christian, ask a Jehovah’s Witness. They used scholarship to realize that the day was used by many pagans as a holiday to celebrate the winter solstice, including the Romans who celebrated Sol Invictus and/or Mithra. A lot of other traditions for the mid-winter festivals came from Germanic pagans. And Jesus really couldn’t have been born in the winter because shepherds wouldn’t have been keeping watch over their flocks in the hills at that time of the year. And there is a whole lot of other material that contradicts the Nativity story.
I think that Gene gets things backwards when he asserts that the government recognizes Christmas as a holiday. It’s because so many workers were Christian [Bob Cratchits] and they demanded a day off for celebrations that it was in the government’s [Scrooges] best interest to go along with that for convenience. And almost all the Scrooges in government also wanted the day off anyway.
The real problem with christianists is they don’t want to understand the words of the first Amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”. The pure and simple understanding here is **no…establishment**. No exceptions for Christianity. This means that there can be no primacy of any religion in the government’s eyes. The fact that this has not been observed in all cases in the past is the fault of the government, especially including the judiciary, does not deter from the clear and simple meaning. The most egregious violations of that principle were in the treatment of Native American religions.
Another thing to consider are the views of the most important FF in terms of the Constitution – Madison. He was so opposed to religious intrusion into government that he didn’t want military chaplains. He only gave up that idea because it wasn’t popular enough to be practical.

While I react against Gene’s tone, his point is not without merit. Moreover, the argument that the USA is a democracy with an underlying, Christian armature (hence, the federal holidays that correspond to major Christian holidays) is interesting to consider alongside Israel’s situation, a “democratic and Jewish” nation-state that observes Jewish holidays through federal closings.

Gene writes: “Some may confuse democratic Christian state with the Christian theocracy or wrongly assume that defining state as Christian precludes freedom of other religions. No. It only means that not every religion in the state has the same rights and in case of disagreement between two religions Christian religion always will take priority.”

Well, no, the Christian religion doesn’t “take priority,” by any means…but, yes, we should take care not to make the mistake of calling either the US or Israel theocracies as a means of delegitimizing them.

http://jewsbychoice.org/

I am sorry if my tone annoyed anybody. But my point was taken correctly: Israel is a Jewish democratic state, USA is a Christian democratic state and Italy, Poland, Canada and UK are Christian democratic states also. As to the priority of religion – take this example. Sunday is the official day off. Why? For no other reason but because Christians on that day go to church. However Muslims go to their mosques on Fridays. So, right now the working hours of the government offices set up to accommodate needs of Christians but not of Muslims. (In other words: representatives of two religions who work for the government don’t have equal rights). I can imagine that some day federal government might declare Friday to be day off as well (to accommodate Muslims as well). However, if it decides to keep 40 hours long workweek it will never drop a coin to choose between Sunday and Friday – what it would do if both religions would have in USA equal status. USA (as well as Canada, Italy, Poland, etc) is a country were Christianity takes priority over other religions.

Somerville says:

On a site subtitled, “A New Read on Jewish Life”, Gene seems to think there are only two possible Sabbaths, Christian or Muslim. The irony of such ignorance seems beyond measure. The other “Christian Democratic states” named all have state churches and for some reason, Canada and the UK have much lower church attendance rates than the USA.

At one time in the US, owing to the dominance of Christians, NOT because this is a “Christian Nation”, there were city, county and state laws forcing businesses to remain closed on Sundays. All have either been wiped off the books or ruled un-Constitutional. Those laws meant at one time, that orthodox and conservative shop keepers and business owners were unable to open their doors on Sunday after closing for worship on Saturdays – not quite fair, one might say.

No, Gene is completely wrong. This is not a Christian nation; it is, however, a nation of Christians.

Given that the government will observe a certain number of holidays, and given the majority would like to take Xmas off, it is only to be expected that Xmas is a government holiday. It’s as if we all got together and voted on what days we should take vacation!

Most people like to go home at 5:00 PM and not 10:30 PM, and consequently the freeways are jammed at 5:01. No one reads anything religious into this. If 200 million people in 300 million person society want to party on Fridays instead of Saturdays, guess when bars will hold happy hour. Does that mean the hospitality industry is Jewish? Only if you don’t understand the difference between correlation and causation.

skinner city cyclist says:

Barton is at his most annoying concerning Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists. It is helpful to read the letter of the Danbury Baptists to Jefferson to which Jefferson’s letter is a reply (http://candst.tripod.com/tnppage/baptist.htm). Their concerns are that they consider themselves oppressed by the established, Congregationalist church of Connecticut, and they are looking for Jefferson’s moral support in their desire to see “separation of church and state” extended beyond the confines of the Federal government. That is what Jefferson means when he writes: “Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.” He looks forward, in fact, to the 14th Amendment.

Conclusion? Barton is a mendacious tool who cherry-picks his evidence. Undereducated and overconfident: that sums up Glenn Beck and his (Mad Hatter’s) Tea Party ilk.

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