Institute on the Constitution: Notes on Session 10 – War Between the States and Women's Suffrage Dilutes the Franchise

I have been watching the Institute on the Constitution course on the National Religious Broadcasters network on Thursday nights. Last night was session 10 and covered amendments 11 through 27.  I have raised numerous issues with the course over the first nine sessions, and session 10 only added to my negative reaction.
At this point, I am just going to supply some observations about the course from memory. I may do a more detailed follow up next week.
Discussing the 13th Amendment, Peroutka disparaged the Emancipation Proclamation as a political ploy on Lincoln’s part. In his discussion of the 13th Amendment, Peroutka correctly said that the amendment freed the slaves but then added that subsequent actions made us all slaves. He compared the military draft and income tax to the enslavement of blacks. To me, this comparison crudely minimizes the awfulness of slavery.
He had little good to say about the 14th Amendment. Consistent with his status of board member of the League of the South, he make the Confederate case that the amendment was never legally ratified.
Throughout his discussion of the Reconstruction amendments (13-15), Peroutka referred to the Civil War as “The War Between the States.” When David Whitney came forward to discuss his view that the 16th Amendment did not actually authorize a federal income tax, he called the Civil War, “The War for Southern Independence.” These designations are consistent with Peroutka’s view that the wrong side won the Civil War.
Probably the oddest position taken was opposition to the 19th Amendment. Peroutka complained that a woman’s right to vote “dilutes the franchise.” He said he often gets strong reaction to his position (I wonder why) but he explained that a married female voting may cancel out the vote of her husband.  He painted a picture of the family being represented at the voting booth by the husband. If a woman has no husband then she could vote, but otherwise he believes women should be represented by their husbands at the polls.
How about that ladies?
There were other things that raised my eyebrows but I need to do a bit more research before I write about them.

Does Ted Cruz Believe The First Amendment Is Only For Monotheists?

Reading Senator Ted Cruz’s endorsement of David Barton in Monday’s edition of Politico brought to mind Barton’s narrow reading of the First Amendment. First, let’s note again Cruz remarks:

David’s historical research has helped millions rediscover the founding principles of our nation and the incredible sacrifices that men and women of faith made to bequeath to us the freest and most prosperous nation in the world.

One founding principle Barton has written about is the freedom of religion and First Amendment. What does Barton believe about the First Amendment?
In a 2010  Amicus brief filed in McCollum v. CA Dept. of Corrections, Barton argued that the word religion in the First Amendment meant monotheism.  The case involved Wiccan minister Patrick McCollum who was excluded from a job in the CA prison system since he was not one of the five faiths allowed to be a prison chaplain in CA: Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Native American.
In his brief, Barton wrote that the framers defined religion to exclude any religion which is not monotheistic. Thus, the First Amendment should not apply to religions which are not monotheistic.

Whether “religion” meant monotheism or some subset of it, such as Christianity, then whatever the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses address, they do not address paganism or witchcraft. In reality, research shows that “religion” was sometimes used as a synonym for Christianity, but that it was also used for monotheism. But that still excludes paganism and witchcraft. (p. 9)
The true historic meaning of “religion” excludes paganism and witchcraft…(p. 7)
…your Amicus will briefly survey the diversity of opinions held by the Framers to demonstrate that paganism and witchcraft were never intended to receive the protections of the Religion Clauses. (p. 9)
The Founders did not intend to extend the protection of the Religion Clauses to paganism and witchcraft as eight of the then-sitting nine Justices of the Supreme Court have recently acknowledged. (pp. 17-18)

I wonder if Sen. Cruz also believes this way. He also said in Politico that he isn’t “in a position to opine on academic disputes between historians,” but he may soon run for a position — the GOP presidential nomination — where his views on such disputes will garner intense scrutiny. Since Cruz thinks so highly of Barton’s views on the founding principles, it is a fair question to ask what he believes about the First Amendment. Are all religions covered? Just some? Which ones?
Barton’s position raises some important questions about application of the First Amendment in the present day. If we are to understand the definition of religion now in terms of the religions extant at the time of the framers, then what is the Constitutional status of religions developed since then? Take, for example, the Latter Day Saint church established in 1820s.
Furthermore, if the protection of the religion clauses only extend to monotheistic religions then what about religions which hold that there is more than one god? Take, for example, the Latter Day Saints.
While LDS apologists would deny they are polytheistic, at the same time, they do not believe monotheism describes them or most Christians well.  They don’t hold to the trinity as most Christians do and they do believe that men may someday become gods, and even if not worshiped in this dispensation, may be elsewhere. Surely, this process has been taking place throughout the universe; thus there would have to be multiple gods.
By Barton’s logic, the LDS church would be a questionable Constitutional case. However, as I have established before several times, the framers envisioned First Amendment protections for freedom of conscience, whether no god, one god or several are involved.
Back to Ted Cruz; what does he believe? If he believes Barton’s history lessons have helped millions rediscover the founding principles, then presumably he is one of those millions.  I certainly want to know if he believes all religions and people of all faiths have First Amendment protections.

Politico on David Barton: What Will Evangelicals Do, Part Two

Yesterday’s Politico article by Stephanie Simon on evangelical support for David Barton could have been subtitled: Evangelicals Choose Pragmatism Over Truth.

In the last year, over 70 scholars (over 700 if you count the 650 votes The Jefferson Lies received for Least Credible History Book in Print) have expressed concerns about David Barton’s history.  Most of those 70 scholars teach history or social science at conservative Christian colleges.* Yet, the Politico article reveals an approach to historical scholarship that is disturbing.

Stephanie Simon told the tale. Although I have some skepticism about Barton’s sunny disposition, he says he is back and better than ever. Evangelical Senator, and probable contender for the GOP presidential nomination, Ted Cruz said he was not in a position to opine on academic disputes. However, there is really no dispute about which to opine. The verdict has been in for some time. Thomas Nelson delivered it just over a year ago. As noted, multitudes of scholars have united to send the same message. Where are the scholars defending The Jefferson Lies, or the claim that Congress printed the first English Bible, or that the Constitution quotes the Bible “verbatim?” We don’t need Mr. Cruz to opine on a dispute, we need him to open his mind to reality. About Barton’s lessons, Cruz said:

David’s historical research has helped millions rediscover the founding principles of our nation and the incredible sacrifices that men and women of faith made to bequeath to us the freest and most prosperous nation in the world.

Doesn’t it matter that much of Mr. Barton’s “historical research” has been deemed to be off the mark? Mr. Cruz, aren’t you concerned in the least that these millions are now seriously misinformed? The same questions can be posed to Christian right organizations which use Barton’s work even though they know it is off the mark.

There is not even a question about the accuracy issue any longer. To their credit, the Family Research Council acknowledged that they removed the Capitol Hill video due to errors. And Focus on the Family felt the need to stealthily edit error-filled portions of Barton’s speeches. There are other aspects of the Focus broadcast (of which they are aware) that are incorrect; those remain a part of the broadcast.

Instead of integrity, accuracy, correction and stewardship, evangelical groups are openly discussing the value of content and consultants in utilitarian terms. If Mr. Barton can deliver a certain segment of evangelicals then the standards will be different for him. Mr. Barton gets a pass because he has a big audience and is perceived to be helpful politically.

In February of this year, I reflected on World magazine’s coverage of the Barton controversy and asked how evangelicals might respond. Now, I rephrase slightly.

World Magazine Politico has now put these matters on the front burner. My question is what will evangelicals do about it?

*Many more than 70 scholars have expressed concerns but some did not want to sign a letter or write an essay. Some were told not to do so by their college or university administration; others said they did not believe Christian political groups would listen. Perhaps they were right.

What Focus on the Family Took Out of David Barton's Talk

In today’s Politico article on David Barton, reporter Stephanie Simon revealed that Focus on the Family edited their radio broadcasts of a Barton speech entitled, the Founding of America. Surprising to me, not only did they edit the material without issuing a correction but, according to Simon, said they didn’t do it when asked about it. Here is the relevant portion of Simon’s article:

Focus on the Family, meanwhile, edited two videos on its website featuring a lengthy interview Barton gave to Focus radio. The editing deleted a segment in which Barton declares that Congress printed the first English-language Bible in America — and intended it to be used in schools. That’s one of Barton’s signature stories — it’s a highlight in his Capitol tour — but historians who have reviewed the documentation say it’s simply not true. Focus also cut an inaccurate anecdote about a contemporary legal case, which Barton cited to make the point that society today punishes people of faith.
Asked why the videos were edited, Carrie Gordon Earll, a senior director of public policy at Focus on the Family, at first said they had not been, though before-and-after footage can be publicly viewed on websites archiving Focus broadcasts. Earll then said she could not comment beyond a statement noting that Focus “has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with David Barton” and respects his “broad base of knowledge” about early American history.

Focus did indeed edit two broadcasts after two dozen evangelical historians approached them about the problems in the programs. Even with the edits there are still problems, but FOTF focused on two particular false stories. The first one was a fractured account of the Commonwealth of PA v. Chambers, and the second was Barton’s embellished version of the Aitken Bible story.
The current broadcast on the FOTF website for June 30, 2011 (begin listening at 13:46) omits the Commonwealth v. Chambers story but the archived version at has the original version (begin listening at 13:46).  The Aiken Bible story is omitted now from the Focus website on the July 1, 2011 broadcast (begin listening at 9:00) but is in the original version at One Place (begin listening at 8:59).
The transcript of the original broadcasts is available online and contains the sections removed. I wrote about the Commonwealth v. Chambers story here (Barton says the Supreme Court tossed out a murder conviction because a prosecutor used the Bible briefly in court – not true). Barton’s rendition is below:


The material about this case has been deleted from the Focus broadcast now on their website.
The second story removed from the program was about the Aitken Bible being printed by Congress for the use of schools. I have addressed this several times, again not true.


These stories are so far off the facts that apparently someone at Focus believed they should be edited. However, there are other problems with the speech that were not touched.

David Barton Embellishes George Washington Story in New LDS Movie Project

Funds permitting, David Barton will provide some stories for a new project called Miracles: The Movie (not to be confused with Miracle: The Movie). The movie is a project of LDS film producer Ken Cromar. Via Indiegogo, the Cromar is seeking funds for a December release.
Cromar posted four clips yesterday, one of which has Barton telling a story about George Washington and British sharp shooter Patrick Ferguson. According to Barton, Washington escaped death in a miraculous manner in 1777. Roll the tape:

Barton says:

Major Ferguson, he and three of his sharp shooters were at one location, they’re up high in the trees, and they’re just picking off American officers at will, they’re just popping and dropping these guys, and they’d been doing it all morning. And suddenly a guy comes riding in the picture and they’re actually two American officers. And for whatever reason, Major Ferguson, he said, he just had this impulse came over him and he said, ‘I’ve shot enough guys this morning, I don’t think I need to shoot any more,’ and so he had his rifle lined up on this officer and he’s lined up and he’s about to pull the trigger, and he said this impulse suddenly came over him not to shoot, and so he didn’t shoot and he said the officer looked up full in his eyes and they stared at each other, the officer looked him right down the barrel, he looked at him in the tree where he’s sitting there with the barrel, sitting with his rifle. He didn’t pull the trigger and the officer looked at him and then slowly turned his back to him and walked off on his horse, the two officers going off. The officer turned out to be George Washington. Later, his men that were with him said, ‘don’t you know who that was? You could have ended the American revolution right there. So those are the kind of miracles you see that are inexplicable unless you understand that there is divine hand directing the counterplan, and that’s the way American history is written.

Well, not exactly.
There was a British officer named Patrick Ferguson who did consider shooting at an unidentified pair of Americans, one an officer and the other an aide, but the facts are at odds with Barton’s account and the outcome can be explained without appeal to direct divine intervention.
Ferguson was a Scottish soldier who was the leader of a rifle corp with the British army. Ferguson was wounded during a battle at Brandywine, PA and while in recuperation, he wrote a letter which is apparently the only account of the story Barton embellished. From Ferguson’s memoir:

He [Ferguson] lay with a part of his riflemen on the skirts of a wood, in the front of General Knyphausen’s division of the army, the following circumstances happened, which he relates in a
letter to a friend :
We had not lain long,’ he says, “when a rebel officer, remarkable by a hussar dress, passed towards our army, within a hundred yards of my right flank, not perceiving us. He was followed by another dressed in dark green, or blue, mounted on a bay horse, with a remarkably large cocked hat. I ordered three good shots to steal near to them, and fire at them ; but the idea disgusted me. I recalled the order. The hussar, in returning, made a circuit, but the other passed again within a hundred yards of us, upon which I advanced from the wood towards him. On my calling, he stopped ; but, after looking at me, proceeded. I again drew his attention, and made signs to him to stop, leveling my piece at him, but he slowly continued his way. As I was within that distance at which, in the quickest firing, I could have lodged half a dozen of balls in or about him before he was out of my reach, I had only to determine; but it was not pleasant to fire at the back of an inoffending individual, who was acquitting himself very coolly of his duty; so I let him alone. The day after I had been telling this story to some wounded officers who lay in the same room with me, when one of our surgeons, who had been dressing the wounded rebel officers, came in and told us they had been informing him, that General Washington was all the morning with the light troops, and only attended by a French officer in a hussar dress, he himself dressed and mounted in every point as above described. I am not sorry that I did not know at the time who it was.

While the evidence indicates it is possible the officer was Washington and apparently Ferguson believed it was Washington who he did not shoot, the attribution of a miracle does not fit the facts. First of all, the identity of the American officer cannot be confirmed; it may not have been Washington. Also, Ferguson does not say that the sharpshooters had been “popping and dropping” American troops all morning long. Furthermore, Barton’s claim that Ferguson said he was tired of killing American is at odds with Ferguson’s description of his actions. Ferguson’s behavior, while seemingly odd by today’s standards, was more common then and reflected the belief that shooting a man in the back was not honorable.
When it comes to arranging history to suit a preferred narrative, few are as convincing as Barton. This project looks like a Latter Day Saint version of Kirk Cameron’s Monumental. The facts didn’t matter in that one either.