Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Fake Patrick Henry Quote Found

This is actually about a year old but I missed it when it was posted. SBH, a frequent commenter here, managed to track down that famous fake quote from Patrick Henry and show where it came from. Here’s the quote as usually offered by the Christian Nation apologists:

It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!

And here is the original source of the quote, with a picture of the page of The American Mercury where the quote is reprinted from The Virginian in 1956. It begins with a quote from Patrick Henry’s will, then the rest was written by the author of the Virginian article:

“I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is the Christian Religion. If they had that and I had not given them one shilling they would have been rich; and if they had not that and I had given them all the world, they would be poor.”

Patrick Henry, Virginia,
His Will

There is an insidious campaign of false propaganda being waged today, to the effect that our country is not a Christian country but a religious one–that it was not founded on Christianity but on freedom of religion.

It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by ‘religionists’ but by Christians-not on religion but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity and freedom of worship here.

In the spoken and written words of our noble founders and forefathers, we find symbolic expressions of their Christian faith. The above quotation from the will of Patrick Henry is a notable example.

The first modern source for the quote is likely David Barton, who apparently saw this article and mistakenly thought that the third paragraph was a quote from Patrick Henry rather than a statement by a fellow Christian nation advocate writing about Patrick Henry.