This in so many ways sums up everything that is wrong with the marriage of religion and politics in the US. Andrew L. Seidel, the
Staff Attorney of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, explains what happened within his latest blog posting. Now normally when quoting, I pull out a bit and provide you a link to go read the rest, but what happened is so astonishing that I’m re-publishing the lot …
Last week, the Freedom From Religion Foundation put up our Bill of Rights display in the Texas State Capitol in Austin. We jumped through all the hoops and were granted permission to put up the display. That did not sit well with Texas Governor Greg Abbot who ordered today that the display be removed.
Abbott wrote a letter to explain the removal. In it, he calls our Bill of Rights display “tasteless,” a “spiteful message … intentionally designed to belittle and offend” and charges that it’s “far from promoting morals and the general welfare.” He even likened the Bill of Rights display to “a photograph of a crucifix immersed in a jar of urine.” All that vitriol, from looking at three founding fathers, the Statue of Liberty, and the Bill of Rights. One wonders how such disrespect for the Bill of Rights comports with Abbott’s oaths of office to uphold that sacred document.
There is an unpleasant irony to the government removing a display that promotes free speech and features the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment issues will likely be resolved in court, not here, so we’ll leave them for now.
In perhaps the greatest stroke of poetic justice I’ve ever seen, Abbott claims that our “exhibit promotes ignorance and falsehood” and cites 17 lines of a George Washington quote—a quote that is fraudulent.
Yes, you read that correctly. Abbott accused our exhibit of “promoting ignorance and falsehood” then quoted, at length, erroneous history to support his position. The quote comes from a fabricated prayer journal, misattributed to Washington.
Frank Grizzard, an editor of the George Washington Papers at the University of Virginia, wrote of the book from which Abbott pulled the quote:
“Tens of thousands of genuine Washington manuscripts have survived to the present, including many from the youthful Washington, and even a cursory comparison of the prayer book with a genuine Washington manuscript reveals that they are not the same handwriting.” Grizzard, The Ways of Providence: Religion & George Washington, page 51 (Mariner, 2005).
Gizzard’s book on the subject even provides examples of the fraudulent handwriting and Washington’s own—they look nothing alike. Id. at 53-55.
Not only are the prayers not in Washington’s handwriting, they were not composed by Washington himself as Abbott claims. To borrow from Gizzard, “Both claims are patently false.” Id. at 51. That prayer book had been “rejected by the Smithsonian Institute as having no value” and even at the time it first surfaced, “others continued to challenge its authenticity.” Id. at 52.
Other historians, such as John Fea, chair of the History Department at Messiah College and author of Was American Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction, agree that this prayer book is not Washington’s:
“It is also far too pious for Washington. In fact, … George Washington only referenced Jesus Christ twice in all his extant writings and neither of them were in a prayer. This commissioner was not praying the words of George Washington.”
But that is the difference between historians and Abbott. Historians are driven by truth, Abbott is driven by an agenda: to promote his personal religion.
See you in court, Governor Abbott.
If you are wondering who Gov Abbott is, then you can read all about him on his Wikipedia page here. It should come as no surprise to learn that he has no problem with the promotion of his own specific beliefs and in 2005 defended the deployment of a Ten Commandments monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds. Rather ironically, that display was inspired by the 1956 movie (hint the stuff done for entertainment) and is fiction. Let us also not forget that it all supposedly came from Moses, a chap who is regarded by most knowledgeable scholars as a fictitious character who never actually existed.
In other words: Promoting religious fiction as fact is apparently just fine as long as it is his specific belief, but promoting core US values such as freedom of speech and the bill of rights is something he censors and then justifies that censorship using fake fictitious quotes.
(Yes, I just broke my brand new industrial strength Irony meter).
I can only conclude that once again the Republican party in the US has not only completely and utterly lost the plot, but are also quite determined to sacrifice any remaining credibility upon an alter dedicated to beliefs that are blatantly not true at all.
Today there are two dominant political parties in the US, the Republicans and the Democrats, and both trace their lineage back to Thomas Jefferson’s and James Madison’s Democratic-Republicans. The modern Republican party itself has some truly nobel roots, and was founded in 1854 by anti-slavery activists with Lincoln was the first Republican president.
While of course both parties have people who embrace religious beliefs, Republicanism has tended to pander specifically to the evangelical believers since about the 1970s because it perceived them to be a very loyal voting block. Unfortunately the tail is now wagging the dog and we have seen the emergence of individuals who are loyal to a rather extreme variation of their specific belief and see it as something that trumps (yes, pun intended, you can see what I did there) basic core values enshrined within both the constitution and the bill of rights.
NeedI really illustrate that last point? Should I ask who will be the next GOP candidate, will it be another Lincoln, Grant or Roosevelt?
Er no, leading the polls so far is Trump and Cruz, both complete buffoons (Tump appears to be almost incapable of staying anything that is actually true or factual, and Cruz is no better)
Should we be worried?
Perhaps, but if the GOP wishes to continue down this road then it is they that should truly be worried, because while they may indeed pander to their political base, the vast majority of the voters are starting to see through this charade and are beginning to appreciate that this latest batch of Republican emperors-in-waiting have no clothes.
If they continue to pander to extreme religious beliefs, then they are pandering to a voting block that is fast shrinking …