The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS), as I’ve reported here many times, is a virtual Who’s Who of the religious right and the historical ignorance found both in the curriculum and in their other materials is exactly one would expect. For instance, look at this page on the Founding Fathers, where they declare that the Bible was “was the foundation and blueprint for our Constitution.” They then cite this old chestnut from the David Barton jokebook:
There was a secular study done by the American Political Science Review on the political documents of the Founding era, which was 1760-1805.
This study found that 94% of the documents that went into the Founding ERA were based on the Bible, and of that 34% of the contents were direct quotations from the Bible.
The “secular study” (as opposed to what kind of study?) referred to here, done by Donald Lutz, was called, “The Relative Influence of European Writers on Late Eighteenth-Century American Political Thought.” It was published in 1984. Chris Rodda penned a brilliant critique of this distortion of the findings of Lutz’ study at Talk2Action recently. Predictably they are distorting, if not flat out lying, about the content of that study. First, almost all of the documents contained in the study that had Biblical quotations in them were, in fact, sermons reprinted as pamphlets; those simply have nothing to do with the views of the founding fathers or the basis of the Constitution.
But on the subject of the source of the ideas in the Constitution, Lutz’ study does show something important that the Christian Nation apologists never bother to mention. Lutz narrows down his study by specific years and the section on 1787 and 1788, when the Constitution was being written and ratified, completely contradicts their claim about the source of the Constitution. Rodda writes:
Of all the findings in Lutz’s study ignored by Barton and the NCBCPS, however, none are as important as those found in the section of his article entitled “The Pattern of Citations from 1787 to 1788.” As seen in the earlier chart, Lutz broke down the number of citations by decade. In addition to this, he singled out the writings from 1787 and 1788, and then further separated these writings into those written by Federalists and those by Anti-federalists. Lutz found few biblical citations during these two years, and, very interestingly, not a single one in any of the Federalist writings. The following is from what Lutz wrote about this two year period in which the Constitution was written and debated in the press.
The Bible’s prominence disappears, which is not surprising since the debate centered upon specific institutions about which the Bible has little to say. The Anti-Federalists do drag it in with respect to basic principles of government, but the Federalists’ inclination to Enlightenment rationalism is most evident here in their failure to consider the Bible relevant.
In other words, those who wrote and advocated the passage of the Constitution (the Federalists) did not refer to the Bible at all in explaining or supporting the provisions it contained. Those who opposed the passage of the Constitution (the anti-Federalists), like Patrick Henry, were the only ones citing the Bible and they did so in opposition to its passage.
Indeed, you will not find in the Federalist papers – the series of essays written by Madison, Hamilton and Jay to explain and defend the various provisions in the Constitution – a single reference to the Bible or to Christianity. Surely if the Constitution was based on “Biblical principles” those who wrote it would have said so in their attempts to explain to a predominately Christian public why they should vote for ratification of that document. The reality is that Lutz’ study argues strongly against the argument they’re making.
This is typical of the revisionist nonsense pushed by the NCBCPS. The curriculum they created is full of such distortions and false claims. Remarkably, it also contains numerous false quotes from the founding fathers – quotes that have been admitted as false by NCBCPS board member David Barton. He’s on the board, he has publicly admitted those quotes cannot be found anywhere in the writings of the men they are attributed to and they still are found in the curriculum. That alone shows what a joke the whole thing is.