What Would Dominionists Do With Gays?

Recently, C. Peter Wagner, the Presiding Apostle for the International Council of Apostles, a subsidiary of Global Harvest Ministries, described dominionism as follows:

When Jesus came, he brought the kingdom of God and He expects His kingdom-minded people to take whatever action is needed to push back the long-standing kingdom of Satan and bring the peace and prosperity of His kingdom here on earth. This is what we mean by dominionism.

But what if you live in a country that protects the rights of those who you think are in the kingdom of Satan? What actions should you take? What laws should you support?
The answer seems to differ based on the kind of dominionist you are. For this post, I note two approaches – not always friendly to each other – those who follow the Seven Mountains teaching (New Apostolic Reformation) and those who call themselves theonomists or Christian Reconstructionists.
What these groups have in common in their belief that civil government should reflect Christian moral teachings. Those who deviate from Christian moral teaching should be subject to the laws of the land in addition to laws of the church. While this post is not exhaustive, there seems to be a difference between those in the New Apostolic Reformation and the Christian Reconstructionist movements when it comes to what kind of civil punishments should be delivered to those who violate Christian teachings regarding sexuality.
First, the New Apostolic Reformation.
In late 2009, I noted that the Seven Mountains teachings had adherents among those in Uganda who were strongly pushing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill there. If passed as is, the AHB will make homosexuality a capital offense.  Because of his association with AHB promoter in Uganda, Apostle Julius Oyet, and his teaching on reclaiming the Seven Mountains of culture, I asked Atlanta pastor, Johnny Enlow, what he thought about laws criminalizing homosexuality.  Enlow’s reply leaves room for criminalization but stops short of calling for the death penalty:

As to the question of whether governments should criminalize homosexuality as part of taking the mountain of government- this would only be a second best method of bringing awareness that the behavior of homosexuality is wrong. This becomes a necessity only when the moral fiber of society has become so degraded that society itself is in need of knowing right and wrong. For me, the point of criminalizing homosexuality is not to bring punishment to homosexuals but rather to inform society of right and wrong. I would be against harsh punishments against homosexual activity between consenting adults and would not endorse capital punishment for this scenario. Society does need to know that homosexual behavior is wrong but it would not be defensible to execute homosexuals anymore than it would be to execute rebellious children- which is espoused to some measure in Leviticus. There is a greater grace assigned to the new covenant understanding of the New Testament. Rebellious children are still wrong in their rebellion and homosexuals are still wrong in their behavior but we do not need the extreme punishments of the Old Testament. I personally believe that most who suffer from homosexual feelings are worthy of great compassion because as a rule it tells us they have suffered some significant traumas in their lives. It would not express the heart of God towards them for there to be government-sponsored “witch hunts” against them. Our fractured homes and fractured society greatly contribute to the presence of homosexual realities and individuals who manifest the marks of societal decay cannot be made to pay the full price for a greater societal ill. They are responsible for personal choices but there must be margin for compassion when fully understanding the causal effects. The in-your-face activist homosexual agenda is of course generating it’s own strong repercussions and backlashes and to the degree that they insist on forcing upon society their aberrations to that degree they will see increasing measures to limit their activism of a sin behavior.

As a reaction to my articles on Uganda’s anti-gay bill and the Seven Mountains teaching, Charisma magazine asked C. Peter Wagner and Lance Walnau whether or not the dominionism of the New Apostolic Reformation required death for gays. First Wallnau:

In a statement to Charisma, Wallnau, author of The 7 Mountain Mandate: Impacting Culture, Discipling Nations, said the seven mountains message is not about imposing laws but liberating spheres of influence. Although “the government in its sphere must enforce sanctions,” he said the proposed anti-homosexuality bill “seems like a severe sanction.”
He said Christians who crusade for social reform should consider the outcome of the Prohibition Act, which outlawed alcohol but also fueled organized crime.
“Christians had made a massive impact in the ‘temperance movement’ to stop drunkenness. Then they overreached with draconian legislation called the Volstead Act, and the backlash legalized alcohol,” Wallnau said. “To my brothers in Uganda I would say, ‘Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.’”

And then Wagner:

Although he commended Ugandan lawmakers for attempting to stand for biblical principles, he said legislating morality is not feasible. If Uganda wanted to legislate biblical principles, it would have to criminalize adultery and premarital sex and not single out homosexuality, he said.
“My position is that this is not a good way to do it,” Wagner said. “To legislate against sexual orientation is probably crossing the line. It’s like making a law whether parents can spank their children or not. It’s much too much of a personal ethical issue. … I would support raising up a national conscience against homosexuality and allowing the Holy Spirit to work that way.”

Based on these statements, dominionists in the NAR tradition want to discourage homosexuality from a national platform but are squeamish about “severe sanctions” like death.
Moving to the theonomic Christian Reconstructionists, squeamishness goes right out the window.
American Vision is a Christian Reconstructionist group who has partnered with Liberty University’s Law School among other mainstream social conservative organizations.
Two American Vision writers Gary DeMar and Joel McDurmon both advocate the death penalty for gays. In his book Ruler of Nations, DeMar says about laws regarding gays:

Obviously, certain sins often may escape detection. Homosexuals who practice behind closed doors are out-of-bounds for the courts, of course, unless others witness their criminal behavior. Such behavior may not be dealt with by courts in history, but will be dealt with by God, either in history (e.g., AIDS) or eternity. The law that requires the death penalty for homosexual acts effectually drives the perversion of homosexuality underground, back to the closet, to the dark realm of shameful activity. (p. 212).

DeMar has some thoughts about others who are outside the evangelical rule:

Fourth, we must elect public officials who say they will vote for Biblical laws. First and foremost, this means voting to prohibit abortion. While few Christians are willing to go this far, the longterm goal should be the execution of abortionists and parents who hire them. If we argue that abortion is murder, then we must call for the death penalty. If abortionists are not supposed to be executed, then they are not murderers, and if they are not murderers, why do we want to abolish abortion? In short, Christians must learn to think consistently. (p.218)

I imagine I have just scratched the surface of Mr. DeMar’s work.
Back to Uganda’s anti-gay bill, American Vision’s Joel McDurmon commended Uganda politicians in 2009 and had this to say about civil penalties for gays.

Now, it just so happens that God revealed that the homosexual act is a civil crime, and it just so happens that He revealed that the homosexual act as a civil crime deserves the death penalty. [Rick] Warren disagrees. He argues, “Since God created all, and Jesus suffered and died for all, then we are to treat all with respect.” Of course, Jesus never claimed to suffer and die for all; He claimed to give his life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28; 26:28; Heb. 2:10; 9:28). Likewise, God did not create all for unqualified “respect,” but some to be vessels of dishonor and destruction (Rom. 9:21–23).

For Christian Reconstructionists, civil penalties must follow what the Old Testament prescribes. In this way, the reconstructionists outdo the NAR dominionists.
One of the first tier reconstructionists is Gary North. North delivered a scathing attack on friend and GCC colleague T. David Gordon (no friend to the reconstructionists) in an 2003 email. North says he has the solution to the problem of divorce:

OK, let’s get down to specifics. Let’s go to the Bible. Here are my two verses. Dr. Gordon can call me in the morning.
And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death (Lev. 20:10).
But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery (Matt. 5:32).
A theonomist says, “Let’s put one and one together.” An anti-theonomist says, “Let’s not.” Dr. Gordon is worried about high divorce rates. I have a solution to this problem. Re-write the civil laws governing adultery so that the victimized spouse can have a civil court order the execution of a convicted adulterous spouse and his/her consort. The divorce rate would drop — dare I say it? — like a stone.

Something else that would drop like a stone is the poll number of a politician directly linked with either one of these theories of civil law. No wonder many social conservatives are out in force trying to deny that these movements have any consequence or have any influence on Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann.
In 2008, Barack Obama’s associations religious and otherwise were considered fair game for his opponents. If the same is true this time around, then 2012 should be a bonanza for the opponents of Perry and/or Bachmann should they make it on the GOP ticket.
See also Part 2 and Part 3 in the series about what dominionists would do with gays. Part 3 also examines what one thread of dominionist (theonomic Christian Reconstructionists would do with anyone who failed to keep Mosaic law – e.g., adulterers, blasphemers, idolators, disobedient children, etc.)

Sometimes You Need a Herescope to See the Dominionism

While those who want to bring Moses back are lamenting the media attention they are getting, Sarah Leslie author of the Herescope blog, stays steady. Herescope reports frequently on figures in various movements, sometimes known as the New Apostolic Reformation, Christian Reconstructionism, dominionism and theonomy. There are real differences among those in these movements but they all seem to hold a common desire for civil law in the Unites States to reflect the law of Moses.
Some of her most recent posts (e.g, Denying Dominionism) address the consternation of some Reconstructionists, New Apostolic Reformers and dominionists about the attention they are getting. Apparently, even C. Peter Wagner took pen in hand to deny that the Seven Mountains teaching is anything to worry about.
Wagner says this about dominionism:

When Jesus came, he brought the kingdom of God and He expects His kingdom-minded people to take whatever action is needed to push back the long-standing kingdom of Satan and bring the peace and prosperity of His kingdom here on earth. This is what we mean by dominionism.

When Kingdom minded politicians “take whatever action is needed” to oppose those who disagree with them, those who are not in the evangelical club have a right to resist. By this and other points, Wagner proved that dominionism is not a construct of the left. Wagner can say he doesn’t want theocracy but to those who are not evangelical, what he proposes may seem too close for comfort. not evangelicals.
I don’t agree with every point Leslie makes but I think her blog is a great place to spend time if you want to see the Dominionism.

It is dominion we are after…

Right Wing Watch has noted a backlash among some evangelicals about the term Dominionism. Seems some evangelicals don’t like the term applied to them. I want to address this more in a future post, but for now, I want to note a key statement about dominion made by Peter Waldron’s co-author, George Grant. Recall that Waldron was key to Michele Bachmann’s straw poll win in Iowa on August 13 and is now in South Carolina attempting to line up evangelicals for Bachmann.
Grant and Waldron wrote a book called Rebuilding the Walls: A Biblical Strategy for Restoring America’s Greatness in 1987. I am looking for a copy of this book. For now, consider this passage from George Grant’s book Changing the Guard, published by Dominion Press (!) in the same year, 1987.

Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ-to have dominion in the civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion that we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power ofthe Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less.
If Jesus Christ is indeed Lord, as the Bible says, and if our commission is to bring the land into subjection to His Lordship, as the Bible says, then all our activities, all our witnessing, all our preaching, all our craftsmanship, all our stewardship, and all our political action will aim at nothing short of that sacred purpose.
Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land – of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ. It is to reinstitute the authority of God’s Word as supreme over all judgments, over all legislation, over all declarations, constitutions, and confederations.
True Christian political action seeks to rein the passions of men and curb the pattern of digression under God’s rule. Fortunately, because of the theocratic orientation of our founding fathers, our nation has virtually all the apparatus extant to implement such a reclamation. Unfortunately, the enemies of the Gospel have hand-in-hand eroded the strength of those godly foundations.

Mr. Grant and Mr. Waldron would like to restore America’s greatness. Waldron’s remaining website is dedicated to this end. If you donate $25, you can get a copy of the book with Mr. Grant. Note the purpose of the book:

Rebuilding the Walls: A Biblical Strategy for Restoring America’s Greatness. I wrote this book 25-years ago. My editor, Dr. George Grant, and I pulled the precepts and principles necessary to develop a deployable strategy for Christians to restore America’s greatness.

Currently, Mr. Waldron is in South Carolina on behalf of candidate Bachmann. I wonder if he is deploying any strategies.

Bachmann staffer: Perry is Saul and Bachmann is David

The visibility of veteran GOP political organizer Peter Waldron has risen a good bit since The Atlantic broke a story today about Waldron’s 2006 detention in Uganda on allegations of illegal gun possession. Waldron has a lengthy resume but now includes work for GOP Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. Specifically, the campaign acknowledged that Waldron helped deliver the Iowa straw poll win last weekend.
According to The Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta, Alice Stewart, Bachmann’s press secretary, said about Waldron: “Michele’s faith is an important part of her life and Peter did a tremendous job with our faith outreach in Iowa. We are fortunate to have him on our team and look forward to having him expanding his efforts in several states.”
Apparently the next state is South Carolina. In a comment on his Facebook page, Waldron said he would soon be in Columbia and cover the state. We get a hint in one comment about what he might tell evangelicals he hopes to win over to Bachmann. In one comment, Waldron compared Rick Perry to King Saul and Bachmann to King David. If you have been to Sunday School, you know that Saul was a tall, good looking guy who eventually had a bad end because he fell out of God’s favor. God placed His blessing on King David instead.  Here is the comment:

In another comment on his page, he says Bachmann “fights with the anointing of God upon her.” Waldron has some ties to the Christian Reconstruction movement, having co-authored a bookwith Reconstructionist George Grant. In the above comment, he seems to see America as a covenant nation with God much in the same way the Old Testament depicts the Jewish people as having a special covenant with God.
I posted first on this here and then have a three part video interview from YouTube here.

More on The Response: Did Hitler mimic the Indian reservations?

Here is a tale of two supporters of The Response.
John Benefiel is founder of the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network and endorser of the upcoming prayer meeting, The Response, initiated by Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) and funded by the American Family Association. Benefiel has focused on repairing relationships with Native Americans. His reasons are spiritual. For instance, he teaches that Oklahoma’s high divorce rate is due to the fact that Oklahoma was once home to the Indian Territory, a place where the government broke covenants with Native Americans. Over the years, people have been inspired by dark forces to break their marriage vows because the government broke vows with the native nations of the land. Thus, the support for making amends with native people is not simply to do the right thing, rather the big picture is to clear the land of demonic influence so that Benefiel’s version of Christianity can take hold.
Bryan Fischer is an Issues Analyst for the AFA, the group funding the event endorsed by Mr. Benefiel. Mr. Fischer has said that Native Americas were morally disqualified from ownership of their lands because of their savagry and immorality. The AFA website provides Mr. Fischer a forum to say the Indians got what they deserved because they refused to convert to Christianity. Fischer and Mr. Benefiel surely seem to disagree about this matter.
Mr. Fischer also preaches that the Nazi party was full of gays, Hitler was gay and needed gays to enforce his evil intentions. According to Fischer, gays in the Nazi military gave the world 6 million dead Jews.  
Mr. Benefiel has something to say about Hitler and the Nazi era as well. Roll the tape:

The only reference to this possibility that I can find is John Toland’s biography of Adolf Hitler, where he wrote:

If we believe Bryan Fischer (which I don’t), then Hitler was some kind of gay and his brutality was because of it. Now we hear, from Apostle Benefiel and author John Toland, that the Nazis were inspired by the cruelty of the Christian nation America toward our indigenous people. Wow.
Benefiel and President Obama have something in common according to Fischer. According to Fischer when we consider America’s treatment of Native Americans, there are two conceptual options:

The template that the left has generated is that the displacement of indigenous tribes by European colonists and settlers was irredeemably evil. All the land which now comprises the United States was stolen from its rightful owners. Our very presence on this soil is a guilty, tainted presence. 
So the question is whether that template is right, or whether the displacement of indigenous nations was consistent with the laws of nature, nature’s God, and the law of nations and history. 
A lot is at stake here. If Americans believe that the entire history of our nation rests on a horribly evil foundation, then there is nothing to be proud of in American history, and our president is correct to identify America as the source of all evil in the world and to make a career out of apologizing for her very existence. 
If, however, there is a moral and ethical basis for our displacement of native American tribes, and if our westward expansion and settlement are in fact consistent with the laws of nature, nature’s God, and the law of nations, then Americans have much to be proud of.

On the matter of native people and the evil perpetrated, Benefiel and President Obama are on the same page.   
Obviously making amends with Native Americans is a big deal to Benefiel. And to his credit, he has investigated and documented the evil treatment of indigenous people by the American government. However, given his belief in curses and apologies, it is hard for me to understand how he can endorse an event like The Response, funded by the AFA, which condones Bryan Fischer’s derogatory views of Native Americans as a race of people.   
One observation that I can make here is that Christian conservatives are not as monolithic a group as those outside the group think we are. Since I would be somewhere in there, the boundaries expand to even greater reaches.
It does raise for me a question about the intent of events like The Response. To which god are these folks praying? Are they praying to the one who demands an apology for evil done to Native Americans, or the one who empowered the Europeans to displace the indigenous people?
Well, at least The Response is bringing people of competing ideologies together.
(Thanks to Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch for the tip.)
Video is derived from this sermon.

Iowa Family Leader calls for theonomy

A group tied to GOP Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is calling for Iowa legislators to base law on Christian teaching.  On their website, the group urges Iowa ministers to sign a letter which says

Because God is God of all, there is no structural difference between religious and civil marriage. The essence of marriage remains the same in both the religious and civil realms. (Col. 1:15-19) The acknowledgement (sic) of, and reference to, marriage in the laws of our state and nation does not create a second realm of marriage that is somehow divorced from the only definition determined by God.

By saying that there is no difference between the civil and religious realms, the Iowa Family Policy Council advocates for what Christian reconstructionists call a theonomy. Most opponents of same-sex marriage propose that negative consequences will occur if such marriages are legally recognized. However, here the Family Leader advances what is primarily a theological argument. In essence, they hope pastors will write their legislators and tell them that the laws of Iowa must be the same as the teachings of the Bible since God is over both.
In the second clause of the letter, the Family Leader casts aside the 14th Amendment.

Keeping in mind that the concept of fairness is subjective, it should never be used as a mechanism to overturn the plain truth of the Scriptures. The laws of Iowa can never be “fair” to everyone, but instead ought to be designed to promote justice.

In other words, the Family Leader wants Iowa legislators to place the Bible over the 14th Amendment and equal treatment under the law. According the Family Leader, the law cannot be fair to all Iowans, just those who believe the right things. In a theonomy, the Bible is the law of the land. Apparently, the Family Leader wants Iowa to be a theonomy, never allowing fairness to citizens “to used as a mechanism to overturn the plain truth of the Scriptures.”
In the fourth clause, the rights of some Iowa citizens to advocate for their viewpoint is considered more important than other citizens.

Freedom of conscience is not the issue. We acknowledge that everyone has a right to their own beliefs. The issue is whether or not certain citizens have the right to use their beliefs to redefine that which God has already defined, and then force the rest of society to accept that redefinition. We submit that they do not.

Apparently, some citizens cannot “use their beliefs” in ways that others can. The Family Leader can use their beliefs to write letters to legislators, urge Iowans to toss out unpopular judges and advocate for candidates that promote their theonomic views. Other Iowans, who don’t believe in the same God or interpret His will in the same manner must not be allowed the same right.
What if the Family Leader used such thinking to other matters such as church or family? Since the New Testament is interpreted by some as requiring women to “keep silent” in church, shouldn’t the Family Leader petition the Iowa legislature for gag laws on mouthy women in their churches, and probably by extension any other situation where a woman might exercise authority over a man? Give a suffragette an inch and she’ll take a mile.
By their reasoning, since God is the God of all, shouldn’t all areas of life be considered a part of the civil realm?  Theonomists would answer in the affirmative. Rousas J. Rushdoony, the dean of modern reconstructionism, said in his Institutes of Biblical Law

Neither positive law nor natural law can reflect more than the sin and apostasy of man: revealed law is the need and privilege of Christian society. It is the only means whereby man can fulfill his creation mandate of exercising dominion under God. Apart from revealed law, man cannot claim to be under God but only in rebellion against God

A review of the Family Leader’s letter to Iowa legislators indicates harmony with Rushdoony’s statement that “revealed law is the need and privilege of a Christian society.” According the Family Leader, there is “no structural difference” between the religious and civil realms.
The ready endorsement of Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum to
the materials and pledges of this group exposes them to questions about the role of religion in civil society. Do they want a theonomy?

One more reason to just say no to The Response

Of late, left leaning groups have raised concerns about a prayer meeting convened by Texas Governor Rick Perry and hosted by the American Family Association. Called “The Response,” the event bills itself as a religiously motivated solemn assembly. To me, it seems like a political statement. About his work, National Finance Chair for the event and uber-organizer, David Lane says, “What I do is spiritual. The by-product is political.”
One of the major problems with the event as raised by critics is the involvement of the American Family Association. Even though I am an evangelical, I agree. In my view, the AFA has earned their designation as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Critics point to outrageous statements from the AFA’s Bryan Fischer regarding gays, Muslims and African-Americans as reason to question why a prominent elected official would partner with the AFA.
While all of the insults and stereotypes identified by critics are serious and disqualifying, I don’t want us to forget Bryan Fischer’s views of Native Americans. Early in 2011, Fischer wrote that “Native Americans morally disqualified themselves from the land,” saying that Native Americans were so savage and immoral that they were displaced for their evil. In other words, they got what was coming to them. Even though that article was removed from the AFA website, the AFA was silent on the issue, allowing Fischer to remove it without an apology saying he removed it because his critics were not “mature enough” for the subject. Then Fischer followed up that article with one that stated Native American assimilation into the new America would have been “seamless and bloodless” if only they had converted to Christianity. One Native American writer called Fischer’s articles “ugly” and said he advocated “thinly veiled race-purity arguments.”
A few evangelicals spoke out. Two Southern Baptist leaders criticized Ficher’s views as being “a barrier” to efforts to bridge gaps between evangelicals and Native communities. Native American Southern Baptist pastor, Emerson Falls, said about Fischer and the AFA, “This kind of stereotyping has traditionally been used to de-humanize people so they can be treated differently. I believe Native Americans are no different than any other people created in the image of God.”
That Rev. Falls would need to repeat the obvious is an indicator of the offense caused by the AFA. Despite calls for a redemptive response, the AFA refused repeated requests for comment on the matter. A couple of AFA staffers said they disagreed with Fischer but even they stressed that they were not speaking for the organization. In short, the AFA has done nothing to distance the group from Fischer’s racial stereotyping.
In my view, the AFA should not be leading a prayer event claiming to call America to their view of righteousness. I am surprised and sad that Governor Perry would partner with them.
I was even more surprised that Governor Sam Brownback (R-KS) would agree to take part. Brownback was a prime mover of the Native American Apology Resolution which I called the AFA in March to endorse. I do agree that at times it can be productive to join together with various groups to accomplish an objective. However, it is beyond me how these two Governors can partner with a organization that regularly slanders and maligns entire groups of people, not individuals mind you, entire groups. In the case of Brownback, he once stood for confession of wrongs in apology to Native Americans, but now he stands with a group which openly rejects the need for that apology.
My response to The Response is no.

David Barton on America's Founders (Video)

I posted a transcript of a speech by David Barton and broadcast last week by Focus on the Family. I did not know it at the time but the speech is not a new one. Perhaps he is still delivering the same one he did 4 years ago. I found video of that speech on Google and here it is:

This is a little over an hour long. The transcript referred to by Focus fits right along with this speech.
Barton confuses me at times. He said in a radio message that Jefferson said he was a Christian and looked like a “Bible thumping evangelical.” Here in this speech, he admits that Jefferson was not a Christian.

Now I will quickly acknowledge that neither Jefferson, nor Franklin, neither one of these two guys right here is a Christian. Now Jefferson’s gonna fight me on this, because in his own writings on several occasions he says, “I am a Christian; I am a true Christian; I am a true follower of Jesus.” I’ve got to disagree with him, because, you see, by any orthodox definition, he doesn’t fit.
Now he thought that Jesus was a great prophet sent by God, just like Moses or David or Samuel. And you better pay attention to the teachings of Jesus, just like any other prophet. But was Jesus divine? Oh no, He wasn’t divine. He wasn’t the Son of God or the Savior of the world. So, by an orthodox definition, despite what Jefferson calls himself, I’ve got to say that today we would not qualify his definition as Christian. So, let’s say that Jefferson and Franklin are not Christians. Beyond those two, you prove to me that anyone else up on that screen is not a Christian, much less that he’s an atheist or an agnostic or a deist and you [sic] got your work cut out for you.

Barton is quite defensive of the idea that John Adams was an evangelical. Given Adams’ rejection of the Trinity and his horror at the thought of Jesus dying for the sins of the world, I would not be able to call him an evangelical.

David Barton misleads Focus on the Family on death penalty case

Last week, Focus on the Family produced a series of broadcasts titled the Founding of America, featuring David Barton. In one of them, Barton told the audience that the Supreme Court overturned a murder conviction because the prosecutor used a Bible verse in his closing arguments. Here is Barton’s version of the case:

I mean, you do something religious in the courtroom and you’re in a lot of trouble, as evidenced by the case that we had at the Supreme Court not long ago, called Commonwealth v. Chambers. And that case came out of Pennsylvania. A man named Carl Chambers was convicted by a jury for taking an axe handle and brutally clubbing to death a 71-year-old woman to steal her Social Security check.
Not only was he convicted by the jury, he was sentenced to death by that jury. And yet, the Court overturned his conviction, because they pointed out that despite all the evidence and all the witnesses and all the testimony, something terrible had happened in the courtroom. They said that in a statement of less than five seconds, the prosecuting attorney had mentioned seven words out loud from the Bible. And the Court said, “We can’t have that. So, despite the evidence, despite the brutal nature of this crime, you mentioned a Bible verse, now we’ve got to reverse the murder sentence of this brutal murderer, because you mentioned a Bible verse in the courtroom.”
You see, today law and religion are enemies. They don’t get along, but back then, they were like two yoke of oxen, pulling in the same direction, never to be separated.

This description is quite misleading. Barton makes it seem as though a brutal murder went unpunished because the Supreme Court (Pennsylvania’s) penalized the prosecutor for citing the Bible. The facts of the case paint a completely different picture.
First, here are the facts Barton got right. In 1987, Karl Stephenson Chambers was convicted of robbing and killing Anna Mae Morris in 1986. The evidence was circumstantial but convincing to the jury and they found Chambers guilty of robbery and murder. During the sentencing phase, the prosecutor referred briefly to the Bible. The jury then rendered a sentence of death. Chambers appealed and based on the Bible reference, the PA Supreme Court vacated the death sentence.
At this point, the facts diverge from Barton’s rendition. Barton says the “Court overturned his conviction,” leaving the clear impression that the court let a guilty man go free. However, the conviction, or as Barton also framed it — “murder sentence” — was not overturned. The initial sentence of the death penalty was set aside so that a new sentencing hearing could be held. That hearing was held and that jury came back with the same sentence of death. So Barton’s contention that “the Court overturned his conviction, because they pointed out that despite all the evidence and all the witnesses and all the testimony, something terrible had happened in the courtroom” is simply not true.
Eventually, Chambers death sentence was set aside in favor of life in prison, but this change had nothing to do with the use of the biblical reference. In 2005, attorney William Hangley argued before a York (PA) County judge that Chambers could not be executed because Chambers is mentally retarded. In 2002, the US Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that executing a mentally impaired person was “cruel and usual punishment.” Chambers scored a 60 as a middle school student and 74 as an adult inmate leading the Court to convert his death row fate to life in prison. The federal court agreed which took Chambers off death row. Attorney Bill Hangley confirmed to me in an email that Chambers is still serving his life sentence.
Having established that Barton embellished the situation to make it seem as though the PA Supreme Court was prejudiced in the extreme against religion, let me come back to what the prosecutor said and the rationale of the Court for their ruling. In making a case for the death penalty, York County prosecutor Stan Rebert told the jury, “Karl Chambers has taken a life. As the Bible says, `and the murderer shall be put to death.'”
Why did the PA Supreme Court have a problem with that? Essentially, they argued that the prosecutor improperly appealed to a law other than civil law. Note that the Supreme Court allows some references to the Bible in court but they objected to this one for specific reasons. Here is the section on point from Commonwealth v. Chambers:

Finally, Appellant [Chambers] argues that the prosecutor overstepped the permissible bounds of oratorical flair in his closing argument by referring to the Bible. The record shows that the prosecutor stated, “Karl Chambers has taken a life.” (R., p. 1201). “As the Bible says, `and the murderer shall be put to death.'” (R., p. 1201). Defense counsel objected. The trial court immediately noted this objection and gave a curative instruction to the jury…
Here, the prosecutor argued, “As the Bible says, `and the murderer shall be put to death.'” This reference is substantially different than the references tolerated in Henry and Whitney where the prosecutor allegorically likened the Defendant to the Prince of Darkness mentioned in the Bible to establish that he was an evil person. More than allegorical reference, this argument by the prosecutor advocates to the jury that an independent source of law exists for the conclusion that the death penalty is the appropriate punishment for Appellant. By arguing that the Bible dogmatically commands that “the murderer shall be put to death,” the prosecutor interjected religious law as an additional factor for the jury’s consideration which neither flows from the evidence or any legitimate inference to be drawn therefrom. We believe that such an argument is a deliberate attempt to destroy the objectivity and impartiality of the jury which cannot be cured and which we will not countenance. Our courts are not ecclesiastical courts and, therefore, there is no reason to refer to religious rules or commandments to support the imposition of a death penalty.
Our Legislature has enacted a Death Penalty Statute which carefully categorizes all the factors that a jury should consider in determining whether the death penalty is an appropriate punishment and, if a penalty of death is meted out by a jury, it must be because the jury was satisfied that the substantive law of the Commonwealth requires its imposition, not because of some other source of law.
Because the prosecutor’s argument in favor of the death penalty reached outside of the evidence of the case and the law of this Commonwealth, we are not convinced that the penalty was not the product of passion, prejudice or an arbitrary factor and, therefore, pursuant to our Death Penalty Statute, we must vacate the sentence of death and remand this matter for a new sentencing hearing. 42 Pa.C.S. § 9711(h)(4).
Accordingly, the conviction of murder of the first degree and the conviction and sentence imposed for robbery are affirmed, the sentence of death is vacated and the matter is remanded to the Court of Common Pleas of York County for a new sentencing hearing.

I think the reasoning of the PA court does not indicate hostility toward religion per se. On point, the money quote from the Commonwealth v. Chambers is this:

Our courts are not ecclesiastical courts and, therefore, there is no reason to refer to religious rules or commandments to support the imposition of a death penalty.

This was not a situation where the Court discriminated against religious speech. The prosecutor invoked Mosaic law instead of the governing statute – the laws of PA. In conservatively religious York County, PA, I can understand why such directions may generate biased responding by a jury. Furthermore, there are many outcomes envisioned by various religions about what would be proper in cases of murder. The courts cannot include persuasion which appeals to authority other than the statutes which cover all citizens.
David Barton offers this case as evidence that “if you do something religious in the court room,” “you’re in a lot of trouble.” That may or may not be true in certain situations, but, in this case, it seems to me that his concern could be stated more accurately, “if you attempt to implement a pro-death penalty interpretation of Christianity in court as a means of deciding a case, then you are in trouble.”
There are religious traditions that oppose the death penalty on religious grounds. Some of those people might argue the fact that Karl Chambers is alive but in prison today is the best religious outcome. It is certainly possible that those opposed to the death penalty on religious grounds are glad that the PA Supreme Court restricts religious speech calling for the death penalty based on the Old Testament. By inaccurately citing the Chambers case, it seems to me that Barton is not complaining that the PA Court disrespected religion in some general way, he is troubled that the court failed to privilege his religion.
Note: The entire legal history of the Chambers case is available in this District Court decision.