Thursday, February 01, 2007

David Barton still can't get his Facts Straight:

Even when they seem to go against his "Christian Nation" thesis. A few weeks ago David Barton tried to "correct" the assertion that Keith Ellison was the first Muslim elected to Congress, that in fact John Randolph from the Founding era, was a Muslim. And unfortunately, a reputable journalist has picked up on Barton's assertion. John McCaslin writes:

Contrary to pronouncements by pundits and publications alike, freshman Rep. Keith Ellison, Minnesota Democrat, is not the first Muslim elected to Congress.

Writing for the Christian Worldview Network, historian David Barton says that "as is often the case with the mainstream media, they were wrong" about the 43-year-old Democrat, who created a storm of controversy by taking his oath of office on the Koran rather than the Bible.

Rather, the first Muslim to serve in Congress was John Randolph of Virginia, elected off and on from 1799 to 1834. During the time there "were numerous Muslims living in America," says Mr. Barton, so many that the first Koran was published and sold here by 1806.

"Significantly, Francis Scott Key, author of the 'Star Spangled Banner,' befriended Randolph and faithfully shared Christ with him. Randolph eventually converted from Islam to Christianity," Mr. Barton writes.

"Interestingly, during the founding era, like today, there was great concern over the possibility of a Muslim being elected to Congress. That concern was heightened by the fact that at that time, like now, America was involved in a war on terror against Islamic terrorists," the historian notes.

"That war, called the Barbary Powers War, lasted 32 years, involved six years of active overseas warfare against Muslim terrorists, and spanned four U.S. presidencies: those of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison."

Before I heard this claim about Randolph, I had no idea of its truth and still haven't meticulously researched the issue. If Randolph were a Muslim, arguably this cuts against Barton's "Christian Nation" thesis, showing more religious diversity in the Founding era. But still, with any assertion Barton makes, check the primary sources first before you cite him as he is not a credible authority on the matter. In fact, he is often touted as an "historian." He is no more a historian than I am. He has a BA in "Christian Education" from Oral Roberts University.

I realize that Wiki is not the most credible authority either (arguably it's more credible than Barton), but here is what it has to say on Randoph's Muslim faith:

Historians reject assertions that Randolph at any time was a Muslim (the only evidence is one letter in 1818 where said that as a youth he rooted for the Muslim side when reading about the Crusades.)

While as a child Randolph (upset at what he saw as hypocrisy among those calling themselves Christians around him) read stories about the Crusades and rooted for the Muslims, there is no evidence that he ever owned or read a Qur'an, pronounced the shahadah, said daily prayers facing Mecca, or fasted in Ramadan (which are the basic requirements of a convert).[2] Randolph was raised and remained within the Episcopalian Church,[3] his "conversion" was not from one faith to another, but one of a depth of belief.

1 comment:

John said...

David Barton can't get his facts right? I read Mr. Barton's paper and he does not assert that Randolph was a Muslim in the strictest sense of the word: here is his quote from his paper "Is Keith Ellison actually the first Muslim to serve in the U. S. Congress? According to the national media, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” 5 That may well be true; however, John Randolph of Virginia, who served in Congress from 1799-1834, expressed that in his early years in Congress, he held a position “in favor of Mahomedanism” and “rejoiced in all its triumphs over the cross [Christianity].” 6 Randolph was not a Muslim in the same sense as Ellison, but he certainly cultivated what he described as a position of “natural repugnance to Christianity.” 7 Francis Scott Key, author of the “Star Spangled Banner,” befriended Randolph and faithfully shared Christ with him. Randolph eventually converted to Christianity 8 and became a strong personal advocate for his newfound faith. 9 (Interestingly, Key reached out to Muslims, sharing Christianity with them and even purchasing for them copies of the Christian Bible printed in Arabic. 10)
There are at least 5 footnotes from Barton's paper concerning Randolph. He has 100 footnotes in the entire paper on this issue. go to to read all the footnotes.