Praise Darwin, STACLU has returned from the void in what has to be the nick of time; I was starting to go through serious nonsense withdrawal. Thankfully, they’ve started out with a bang, promoting the undisputed king of historical revisionism, David Barton, in this post. “If you haven’t heard of David Barton’s Wallbuilders,” Jay says breathlessly, “you need to.” Indeed you do, but not for the reasons he thinks. Barton is a fraud, plain and simple, a first class peddler of nonsense who is responsible for more fake quotations purporting to be from the founding fathers than any other person in the world. For more information on Barton’s pseudo-scholarship, see this article from the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, or this article about Barton’s horrible contributions to the NCBCPS curriculum by religion scholar Mark Chancey.
I should also point out the absurdity of the headline Jay attaches to the post:
Church and State — Founding Fathers: Deists or Christians?
It’s a ridiculous question on two different levels. First of all, it’s a false dichotomy; Christian and deist are not the only two choices, and the common claim that most of the founders were deists simply is not true (and I say that as a deist myself). Most of the founders were, in fact, Christians to one degree or another, but among the group of 6 leaders, all are much more accurately defined as “theistic rationalists”, as Dr. Gregg Frazer calls them. None were orthodox Christians, but none were deists either. Those simply aren’t the only two possibilities.
Second, it’s absurd because whether one was a Christian, deist or theistic rationalist didn’t tell you anything about one’s position on separation of church and state. Many of the staunchest defenders of strict separation were Christians, particularly the Baptist clergy of the day. And among that leading group that I mention above, though they shared a similar perspective on religion they disagreed on separation. Jefferson and Madison were strict separationists, while Adams and Washington were accomodationists.
Jay simply doesn’t have the depth of knowledge necessary to ask a legitimate question on the subject, or to recognize the false claims of David Barton. This is what happens when you wed ignorance to ideology.