From the Christian Nation crowd. This time it's the usual suspects. Here is a blogger's eyewitness account of a phony David Barton quotation making its way on a billboard, and sponsored by the above mentioned Oklahoma group.
"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!"
This quote can be found on a billboard here in OKC at NE 50th & Santa Fe. Next to the quote is a representation of the Statue of Liberty with a superimposed cross. The billboard also advertises a website address: www.reclaimoklahoma.org.
A look at the site reveals that Reclaim Oklahoma's goal is to "work towards the successful reestablishment of [fundamental, Biblical Christian] values in our society today." And, they even have a conference scheduled in October to educate and energize the flock.
I've looked at their site briefly and haven't seen any of the phony David Barton quotations; but the accurate quotations that I have seen on this page are, as usual, taken out of context in so gross a manner as to be fraudulent.
There is one factual error I've identified on Ben Franklin. They repeat Franklin's call to prayer at the Constitutional Convention. And at the end of the passage they write, "From that day until this every session of Congress is opened in prayer." Nope. The convention ignored Franklin's call to pray.
They also repeat this quotation in an 1813 letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson:
The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite....And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty, in which all those young Men United, and which had United all Parties in America, in Majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence.
Now I will avow, that I then believe, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System.
But of course they leave out the part where Adams states (I'm going to reproduce some of the quotation from above for the sake of continuity):
Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System. I could therefore safely say, consistently with all my then and present Information, that I believed they would never make Discoveries in contradiction to these general Principles. In favour of these general Principles in Phylosophy, Religion and Government, I could fill Sheets of quotations from Frederick of Prussia, from Hume, Gibbon, Bolingbroke, Reausseau and Voltaire, as well as Neuton and Locke: not to mention thousands of Divines and Philosophers of inferiour Fame.
Finding "general principles of Christianity" in the teachings of Enlightenment philosophers, like Locke, Newton? Perhaps. But also in the works of French philosophes, Rousseau, and Voltaire, and the atheist Hume?
Finally, their treatment of Jefferson shows how they are either utterly without a clue or worse, purposefully out to deceive people. Here are their excerpts, in their context:
In Thomas Jefferson's Republican Notes on Religion and an Act Establishing Religious Freedom, Passed in the Assembly of Virginia, in the Year 1786, reference is made to a law passed in 1705:
By our own act of assembly of 1705, c. 30, if a person brought up in the Christian religion denies the being of a God, or the Trinity, or asserts there are more gods than one, or denies the Christian religion to be true, or the Scriptures to be of divine authority, he is punishable on the first offense by incapacity to hold any office of employment, ecclesiastical, civil or military; on the second by disability to sue, to take any gift or legacy, to be guardian, executor, or administrator, and by three years' imprisonment without bail .
In 1781, Thomas Jefferson made this statement in Query XVIII of his Notes on the State of Virginia. Excerpts of these statements are engraved on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.:
God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event.
They make no attempt to explain, in the first excerpt, that Jefferson was vehemently opposed to such acts of the assembly of 1705, that indeed he thought one of his greatest life's achievement was overturning these laws in Virginia, which is exactly what he and Madison did in their 1786 Act Establishing Religious Freedom.
It's true, as their second excerpt shows, that Jefferson believed rights come from God. But Jefferson had flipped the earlier understanding of what God commands government to do, as illustrated by the 1705 law, on its head. The old understanding was that government may limit your freedom to permit you to do only what the Biblical God permits. Indeed, government may command you to do exactly what God commands in the Bible. Since God, in his First Command and elsewhere, mandates the worship of no other God but He, and since God is Triune in nature, then it follows that "if a person brought up in the Christian religion denies the being of a God, or the Trinity, or asserts there are more gods than one, or denies the Christian religion to be true, or the Scriptures to be of divine authority...." that he may be punished by the civil authorities.
Jefferson thought this to be grave error, that, on the contrary, Nature's God grants men an unalienable right to declaim there is no God or there are twenty Gods. This is why Jefferson thought that the unalienable rights of conscience belonged to not just Christians, but to all, to "the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination."