STOP HOUSE RESOLUTION 888 !
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 09:23:44 PM EST
WHAT IS H. RES 888 ?    WHAT WILL IT DO ?

Introduced by Congressman Randy Forbes December 18 in the US House Of Representatives, H.  Res 888 claims to be about ""Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as `American Religious History Week' for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith."

Actually, the resolution is packed with lies - American history lies to be specific. The preceding link is to a story by Talk To Action contributor Chris Rodda, author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version Of American History, and Rodda painstakingly debunks a number of the myriad American history lies to be found in Randy Forbes's House Resolution 888. Rodda - without whose diligence we wouldn't know about this story - tells me she suspects that the following four part "resolution" that follows the dozens of history lies packed into H. Res. 888 has been designed to pave the way for some sort of legislation that would advance fake history in some devious or crafty way and I wouldn't be surprised. Here's part 2 of the "resolved" section of H. Res. 888 :

" Resolved, That the United States House of Representatives...

...(2) rejects, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our Nation's public buildings and educational resources"

Help help ! They're oppressing fake history ! - It sounds like a Monty Python skit but, alas - it's real.

Actually, the partisans of the Christian right are quite impressive ; they're out of power, in Congress anyway, but they're always trying. They never miss a chance to advance Christian nationalist ideology even when they're in the legislative minority.

House Resolution Promotes Fake "Christian Nation" Version Of American History

Is House Resolution 888 a big deal, meaning - does it have a chance ? Well, consider that, on December 11, 2007, the soft Christian nationalist "Christmas Resolution", House Resolution 847 passed on a vote of 372-9.

So, this new resolution - which I'd characterize as "hard Christian nationalist" might just have a shot because Democratic Party politicians are terrified of being tarred as "anti-Christian" and they lack the political advisers who can tell them how to effectively deflect such attacks. So, they tend to vote as, at least, "soft" Christian nationalists regardless of their personal religious views.

UPDATE - see ACTION ITEM at end of post. I've selected 4 of Chris Rodda's debunkings of some of the lies in H. Res 888 so you can send them to your political representatives. I am working on a cover letter, so if anyone can whip one off quick please post as a comment and I'll add that.

Your letter to your representative, will serve to put your Congresssional representative on public notice - that you have alerted your representative to the falsified history in H. Res 888 and expect that she/he will therefore vote against the resolution. Also, H. Res 888 is currently in Henry Waxman's Subcommittee, so if you have a rep. on the committee please email them [ list of reps on the committee ]

If you send a letter to your rep. I have one request - could you please either email a copy of your letter to me, at my Talk To Action address, or simply post it here ? And, if you're interested in working on this issue please let me know.

Best, Bruce Wilson

Step 1 : Change Beliefs About Origins Of US. Step 2: Theocracy !

The easiest way to make the US into a Christian theocracy is to just re-write American history so that Americans grow up believing that the founders intended the US to be a Christian theocracy.

What's in H. Res 888 ? Let me give you a sense :

"Whereas in 1777, Congress, facing a National shortage of `Bibles for our schools, and families, and for the public worship of God in our churches,' announced that they `desired to have a Bible printed under their care & by their encouragement' and therefore ordered 20,000 copies of the Bible to be imported `into the different ports of the States of the Union';"

That's a lie.

"Whereas in 1789, Congress, in the midst of framing the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment, passed the first Federal law touching education, declaring that `Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged';"

Another lie.

"Whereas political scientists have documented that the most frequently-cited source in the political period known as The Founding Era was the Bible;"

Yet another lie.

Are you getting the picture ?

Those who control the past control the future.

If H. Res. 888 passes then the lies get enshrined, and "validated" in the Congressional Record and if that happens the people pushing the fake history will be better able to pass it off as real - hey, it's in the Congressional Record ! It must be true !

H. Res 888 is designed to make the history lies, cooked up by historical revisionists of the Christian right, more respectable. And, to the extent Congress members vote for it they become caught up in a web of complicity - the overwriting of American history.

TALKING POINTS

Basically, House members - Democrats or Republicans - who vote for House Resolution 888 will demonstrate they are one of two things : complicit, in promoting fake, Christian nationalist history or 2) incompetent, because they don't know enough about real American history to be able to recognize falsified American history.  

The Stalin-era Soviet Union overwrote history, and the Nazis did too. Lies are lies, and those who promote them are inevitably up to no good.

Here's the closing text of H/ Res 888 :

   Resolved, That the United States House of Representatives----

               (1) affirms the rich spiritual and diverse religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history, including up to the current day;

               (2) recognizes that the religious foundations of faith on which America was built are critical underpinnings of our Nation's most valuable institutions and form the inseparable foundation for America's representative processes, legal systems, and societal structures;

               (3) rejects, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our Nation's public buildings and educational resources; and

               (4) expresses support for designation of a `American Religious History Week' every year for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith.

Note that #2 claims, more or less, that the US legal and governmental systems were based on Christian ideas or even on the Bible.

And, #3 says, in effect - "We've gotten our history lies into the public record and you can't get them out, ever !"

Busting the Lies, and The Lying Liars Who Lie Them  

The content of House Resolution 888 is a seemingly endless procession of American history lies, all of which have been created to bolster the claim that the United States was founded as a "Christian nation". This is far from the first time that American history lies have been trotted out in the US Congress and Senate, and as I've recently written one of the most egregrous lies, "Washington's Prayer" has been showcased multiple times without, apparently, any challenge of dissent, in Congress and the Senate.

At Talk To Action, Chris Rodda - author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version Of American History has written a detailed rebuttal of ten or so of the lies in H. Res 888, and it takes a lot of work to do that. Basically, it's much quicker to generate a crafty lie than to rebut one, and the American Christian right has cooked up so many American history lies it's a major project beating them back.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: 'AMERICAN DOLCHSTOSS'

So why should you care or bother ? Well, those lies can have deadly effect , especially when they get taught, in the Army's JROTC curriculum, to an entire generation of America's future military leaders and when those lies assert, as did one in the curriculum I discovered last Spring, that the current understanding of church-state separation is exactly 180 degrees off what the founders of US government intended. That lie was paraphrased from text written by David Barton, one of the more egregious of the "Liars For Jesus" who has made a career of spinning lies about American history.

America's military are sworn to defend the US Constitution, but what happens if they develop a dramatically different understanding, of what the US Constitution means, than is held by US Courts and legal experts ?

What if an entire generation of America's military members grow up to hold the view that America's true and rightful "Godly" heritage has been subverted and stolen by malevolent "secularists" and that, as a result, the country has fallen into a decades long spiral of decline and growing immorality ?

Well, that's increasingly the case. The war in Iraq has steadily driven US military members who come to view that war as wrong, unjust, pointless or ill managed out of military careers. Military recruiters are rushing to pick up the slack and, reportedly, anyone who even breathes can get bumped up eventually to the rank of Lt. Colonel. New recruits, and US military members who opt to stay in their military service careers, tend to hold views that favor the US military involvement in Iraq and a good deal of that support is based in Christian religious views that the war in Iraq is a necessary precursor to the End-Times or that Christians must Christianize the world, by the sword if necessary. And, people who hold such views also tend to have been steeped in, and raised with, the sort of falsification of American history that David Barton and others pseudo-historians specialize in.

The "narrative of cultural complaint" that's becoming increasingly common in the US military is the core narrative of cultural complaint of the American Christian right and, compressed down, it amounts to this:

1) America is going to hell, caught in a disastrous  moral and national decline.
2) That decline happened because we kicked God out of America's schools and American public life.

That narrative-- promoted endlessly over the past several decades by leaders and activists of the American Christian right --is very similar to the narrative promoted within German society prior to World War Two and the Holocaust, and that is not merely my own opinion - a similar view was aired, prominently, in a series of talks given by the conservative Baptist scholar David P. Gushee in 2006. [link to PDF file of an Address Gushee gave at the Andover-Newton Theological Seminary]:

It was this cultural despair--a toxic brew of reaction against secularism, anger related to the loss of World War I, distress over cultural disorientation and confusion, fears about the future of Germany, hatred of the victorious powers and of those who supposedly stabbed Germany in the back, and of course the search for scapegoats (mainly the Jews)--that motivated many Germans to adopt a reactionary, authoritarian, and nationalistic ethic that fueled their support for Hitler's rise to power. A broadly appealing narrative of national decline (or conspiratorial betrayal) was met by Hitler's narrative of national revenge leading to utopian unity in the Fuhrer-State.

Conservative American evangelicals in recent decades have been deeply attracted to a parallel narrative of cultural despair. Normally the story begins with the rise of secularism in the 1960s, the abandonment of prayer in schools, and the Roe decision, all leading to an apocalyptic decline of American culture that must be arrested soon, before it is too late and "God withdraws his blessing" from America. While very few conservative evangelicals come into the vicinity of Hitler in hatefulness, elements similar to that kind of conservative-reactionary-nationalist narrative can be found in some Christian right-rhetoric: anger at those who are causing American moral decline, fear about the future, hatred of the "secularists" now preeminent in American life, and the search for scapegoats. The solution on offer--a return to a strong Christian America through determined political action--also has its parallels with the era under consideration.

We Have Our Republic - But, Can We Keep It ?

Talk To Action co-founder Frederick Clarkson wrote an excellent piece, last year, on why history, and fake history matter. One way of putting Clarkson's point would be to say that political observers who don't grasp the significance of the effort to falsify American history fail to grasp a crucial cultural element that has driven conflict and partisanship in America over the last two decades. In a Spring 2007 piece published in The Public Eye, entitled History is Powerful: Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters, Frederick Clarkson elaborated on the political significance of history to contemporary American politics:

"The notion that America was founded as a Christian nation is a central animating element of the ideology of the Christian Right. It touches every aspect of life and culture in this, one of the most successful and powerful political movements in American history. The idea that America's supposed Christian identity has somehow been wrongly taken, and must somehow be restored, permeates the psychology and vision of the entire movement. No understanding of the Christian Right is remotely adequate without this foundational concept.

But the Christian nationalist narrative has a fatal flaw: it is based on revisionist history that does not stand up under scrutiny. The bad news is that to true believers, it does not have to stand up to the facts of history to be a powerful and animating part of the once and future Christian nation. Indeed, through a growing cottage industry of Christian revisionist books and lectures now dominating the curricula of home schools and many private Christian academies, Christian nationalism becomes a central feature of the political identity of children growing up in the movement. The contest for control of the narrative of American history is well underway...

History is powerful.

That's why it is important for the rest of society not only to recognize the role of creeping Christian historical revisionism, but our need to craft a compelling and shared story of American history, particularly as it relates to the role of religion and society. We need it in order to know not how the religious Right is wrong, but to know where we ourselves stand in the light of history, in relation to each other, and how we can better envision a future together free of religious prejudice, and ultimately, religious warfare.

We've seen how religious beliefs (and other ideologies) inspire people to view others as subhuman, deviant, and deserving of whatever happens to them, including death. It is the stuff of persecution, pogroms, and warfare. The framers of the U.S. Constitution struggled with how to inoculate the new nation against these ills, and in many respects, the struggle continues today. The story goes that when Benjamin Franklin, a hometown delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, emerged from the proceedings, people asked him what happened. His famous answer was "You have a republic, if you can keep it." To "keep it" in our time, we must appreciate the threat and dynamics of Christian nationalism, and the underlying historical revisionism that supports it. Then we can develop ways to counter it.

Meet Congressman Randy J. Forbes

So, who is the man behind H. Res 888 ?

Randy Forbes, US Congressman from Virginia. As Forbes's Congressional web site tells us:

Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04) was named Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee Readiness Subcommittee today by full Committee Ranking Member Duncan Hunter (CA-52).

"Randy Forbes brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this position that will benefit our Members, his constituents, and the men and women who wear the nation's uniforms. As the Ranking Member on the Readiness Subcommittee, he will work to ensure our military has the proper tools, facilities and training to fulfill its missions," said Ranking Member Hunter.

Congressman Forbes has been a Member of the House Armed Services Committee since taking office in 2001. On the Committee, Congressman Forbes had worked to provide the military with the tools necessary to best defend the United States while ensuring that service members and their families receive the training and support necessary to best complete their mission.

That a man who wields that level of influence over the US military believes all the American history lies Forbes has packed into H. Res 888 (about thirty other Congress members have co-sponsored the resolution) or else is knowingly perpetrating a fraud, should be a matter for deep concern. The re-writing of history is a sort of project that's common to fascist and totalitarian governments. Think of Stalin, ordering Politburo members shot in the back of the head and their images airbrushed from official government photographs. Then, think of Randy Forbes.

TAKING ACTION

Action Item:

Chris Rodda has written an entire book debunking the sort of American history lies that are in House Resolution 888.

You can read Rodda's debunking of many of H. Res. 888's lies here. And if you want more detailed debunking, here's a list of her online writing at Talk To Action.

CUT AND PASTE LETTER TO YOUR REP.

I have excerpted four of Chris Rodda'a history lie debunkings, from her Talk To Action post. Below are the debunkings. My suggestion would be to send your rep. a short cover letter and append these selected lie debunkings. I have selected two lies about the US government "printing Bibles" especially because Chris Rodda offers, for free download from her website, the first chapter of her book "Liars For Jesus", which debunks lies about the US government 'printing Bibles'. So, your reps. (or their aides) can go right to the source documents Rodda uses to prove her case.

Also, if you have the time to do so, Chris Rodda has suggested you go to her post at Talk To Action and cull different lie-debunkings than the ones I've packaged below, so your Congressional Representatives become aware there are many more than four lies in House Resolution 888. Chris is assuming (that seems fair to me) that different Congressional offices that get letters on this subject may well share notes, and so it's important that folks here send more than the four stock lie-debunkings I've provided here because, in fact, there are dozens of lies in H. Res 888, so many in fact that Chris has only had time to debunk a fraction of the total.

Along with the text of Rodda's debunking ( and, you could also include a link to her Talk To Action writing ) you can use this sample letter, sent by I to Mike Doyle, PA-14 :

"Dear Representative Doyle,

I am writing today to urge you to vote against House Resolution 888, "Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our [Nation]."

I am convinced that there are many people in the country and even in Congress who would like to turn this country into a Christian theocracy.  They barely even take the trouble to hide it at this point.  Aside from being filled with inaccuracies about the Founding Fathers and how they arrived at their ideas for our Constitution, this Resolution is clearly an attempt to establish one religion as the "official" religion of the United States.  I am simply aghast that this is even being considered.

I note with disappointment that you voted for H.Res 1143 [NOTE: this actually should be House Resolution 847], "Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith."  As a practicing Catholic, I agree with you, Representative Doyle, that faith is a virtue.  But because you are a representative of the government, I find it incredibly inappropriate for you to express your approval of any one religion, any several religions, or any lack of religion.

I frequently find myself in complete agreement with you, and in general, I am proud to have you as my Representative in Congress.  I hope that you will not continue voting in support of un-Constitutional bills such as Resolutions 1143 [NOTE: this actually should be House Resolution 847] and 888."

There are many other fine examples of letters people have sent, in the comment thread below.

You might consider tossing in the following as well, in your letter. But if you do, please rewrite it in your own voice - make it your own, even vary the point a bit, so nobody will think you're just sending a cloned letter :

"I am utterly confident, having brought the matter to your attention, that your detailed knowledge of American history will enable you to recognize that most of the historical claims made in House Resolution 888 are not supported by the historical record. I also trust you'll be as appalled as I am by this bizarre attack on our great nation's historical record. Thus, I'm sure you'll do the right thing and vote againt H. Res. 888 should it come to the House floor for a vote."

Your Rep. might in fact be an American history ignoramus, but if you do some ego stroking and hold your Rep. to a higher standard, he/she may rise to the occasion.

Remember, above all, to be polite. Many innocent politicians - including many in the GOP - have been hoodwinked by fake American history and it's best to presume, at first, good intent.

Your letter to your rep. will serve as a warning and public notice - that you have alerted your representative to the falsified history in H. Res 888 and expect that she/he will therefore vote against the resolution.

Also, if you do email your rep. I have one request - could you please either email a copy of your letter to me, at my Talk To Action address or simply post it here, in this discussion thread ? And if you're moved to work specifically on the issue of fake history there's some fun projects in the works that you might want to help out with. Best, BW

*

Four Selected Debunkings Of The Lies Contained In House Resolution 888 Introduced by Congressman Randy J. Forbes (by Chris Rodda, author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version Of American History, Volume 1

"

"Whereas political scientists have documented that the most frequently-cited source in the political period known as The Founding Era was the Bible;"

The unnamed study referred to by Mr. Forbes in this statement was conducted by Donald S. Lutz of the University of Houston, whose findings were published in a 1984 article in The American Political Science Review. Misrepresentations of Lutz's study have been around for years, created by taking a particular figure from the study's findings, but omitting crucial parts of Lutz's explanations of these findings. The following is a typical, and slightly more detailed version than that presented by Mr. Forbes, currently being used by the National Council On Bible Curriculum In Public Schools (NCBCPS).

"A study by the American Political Science Review on the political documents of the founding era, which was from 1760-1805, discovered that 94 percent of the period's documents were based on the Bible, with 34 percent of the contents being direct citations from the Bible."

The NCBCPS gives two statistics in this version, claiming that 34% of the contents of the documents studied were direct citations from the Bible, and in an even more astounding claim, that a whopping 94% of the documents of the period were based on the Bible. So, where do these numbers come from?

The 34% comes from the following chart in Lutz's study:

Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.com

From this chart it does appear that 34% of the documents included in Lutz's study cited the Bible. That's because they did. And, without Lutz's explanation of this figure, this chart seems to support the assertion that the Bible, more than any other source, influenced the political thought of the founders. So, the Christian nationalist history revisionists simply omit the explanation that follows.

"...From Table 1 we can see that the biblical tradition is most prominent among the citations. Anyone familiar with the literature will know that most of these citations come from sermons reprinted as pamphlets; hundreds of sermons were reprinted during the era, amounting to at least 10% of all pamphlets published. These reprinted sermons accounted for almost three-fourths of the biblical citations..."(1)

The 916 documents included in the study were not official documents, legislative proceedings, etc., but writings "printed for public consumption," such as books, newspaper articles, and pamphlets. Only items of over 2,000 words were included. Taking into account that three-quarters of the biblical citations came from the subcategory of sermons, which comprised only 10% of the category of pamphlets, the Bible is really in the same range as Classical influences for documents that weren't sermons.

This explains the 34%, but what about the even more far-fetched claim that 94% of the documents of the period were based on the Bible? Well, that comes from a video put out by pseudo-historian David Barton. Barton somehow concluded from his own "study" that 60% of the documents of the period were based on the Bible, and then just added the 34% from Lutz's study, ending up with a total of 94%.

Of all the findings in Lutz's study ignored by the revisionists, 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 the 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 Federalist's inclination to Enlightenment rationalism is most evident here in their failure to consider the Bible relevant."(2)

See also http://www.talk2action.org/story/2007/4/15/04011/4130

"Whereas throughout the American Founding, Congress frequently appropriated money for missionaries and for religious instruction, a practice that Congress repeated for decades after the passage of the Constitution and the First Amendment;"

I would ask Mr. Forbes to provide even a single example of such an appropriation. The best he will be able to do will be to misconstrue a few provisions from Indian treaties, as is done by the Christian nationalist history revisionists.

The revisionist version of American history is full of tales about government efforts to promote Christianity to the Indians, and these tales, which contain little truth to begin with, are often turned into vague statements, such as that in Mr. Forbes's proposed resolution, used to imply that our early Congresses funded religious education for the American people. The reason for the use of legislation regarding Indians to create these lies is simply the availability of material that can be turned into lies. There were no actual instances, for example, of the early Congresses passing legislation that aided sectarian schools for children who were American citizens. There was, however, cooperation between the government and the Indian mission schools of the 1800s. Although the government's reasons for this were always secular, such as in an 1819 bill that appropriated a small amount of money for Indian mission schools to add agriculture education to their curriculums, the fact that this cooperation existed means there are actual acts, reports, etc., that can be misrepresented or misquoted, turning them into vague claims, like that of Mr. Forbes, that the government funded religious education. The same is true of Indian treaties. Congress never provided funding for any religious purpose for the American people. It did, however, appropriate funds to fulfill treaty provisions, which occasionally included things such as the building of a church, but even these cases were rare.

Of the hundreds of Indian treaties made during the first fifty years following the ratification of the First Amendment, only nine contained provisions related in any way whatsoever to religion, and only four of the nine contained an explicit provision for the building of a church or the salary of a religious teacher. Several of these were nothing more than provisions compensating missionaries for the churches and other buildings they lost when Indian land was ceded and/or relocating the missionaries to the land reserved to the Indians in the treaty. Another example, the 1794 treaty with the Oneida and other tribes, included a provision to build a church to replace a church that the British had burnt down when these tribes sided with the Americans during the Revolutionary War. In this same fifty year period, only one treaty provided direct funding to schools run by a religious organization. This was an 1827 treaty with the Creeks, which provided funding for the tribe's three existing schools, which had been established by missionaries. This is the basis of Mr. Forbes's claim that our early Congresses "frequently appropriated money for missionaries and for religious instruction."

"Whereas in 1777, Congress, facing a National shortage of `Bibles for our schools, and families, and for the public worship of God in our churches,' announced that they `desired to have a Bible printed under their care & by their encouragement' and therefore ordered 20,000 copies of the Bible to be imported `into the different ports of the States of the Union';"

First of all, the first two quotes in this statement, which Mr. Forbes claims were "announced" by Congress, were not the words of Congress, but come from the petition of a group of Philadelphia ministers. Second, Congress did not import any Bibles.

In 1777, three ministers from Philadelphia, Francis Alison, John Ewing, and William Marshall, came up with a plan to alleviate the Bible shortage caused by the inability to import books from England during the Revolutionary War. The ministers' request for help from Congress, and Congress's consideration of the ministers' petition had to do with the problem of price gouging during the war.

The ministers' idea was to import the necessary type and paper, and print an edition of the Bible in Philadelphia. The problem with this plan, however, was that, if the project was financed and controlled by private companies, the Bibles would most likely be bought up and resold at prices that the average American couldn't afford. What the ministers wanted Congress to do was to import the materials and finance the printing, as a loan to be repaid by the sale of the Bibles. As Rev. Alison explained in the petition, if Congress imported the type and paper, and Congress contracted the printer, then Congress could regulate the selling price of the Bibles.(4)

The petition was referred to a committee, which concluded that it would be too costly to import the type and paper, and too risky to import them into Philadelphia, a city likely to be invaded by the British, and proposed the less risky alternative of importing already printed Bibles into different ports from a country other than England. If Congress did this, they would still be able to regulate the selling price and be reimbursed by the sales.

What appears in the Journals of the Continental Congress after the committee's report is the following motion.

"Whereupon, the Congress was moved, to order the Committee of Commerce to import twenty thousand copies of the Bible."(5)

The problem for those who claim or imply, as Mr. Forbes does, that the Bibles were imported is that, although this motion passed, it was not a final vote to import the Bibles. It was a vote to replace the original plan of importing the type and paper with the committee's new proposal of importing already printed Bibles. The vote on this motion was close -- seven states voted yes; six voted no. A second motion was then made to pass an actual resolution to import the Bibles, but this was postponed and never brought up again. No Bibles were imported. This little problem is solved in the religious right history books by either misquoting the motion to turn it into a resolution, or omitting the motion altogether and ending the story with some statement implying that the Bibles were imported.

See also Chapter 1 of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, "Congress and the Bible," at http://www.liarsforjesus.com/downloads/LFJ_chap_1.pdf

"Whereas in 1782, Congress pursued a plan to print a Bible that would be `a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools' and therefore approved the production of the first English language Bible printed in America that contained the congressional endorsement that `the United States in Congress assembled ... recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States';"

Congress did not "pursue a plan to print" this Bible, as Mr. Forbes claims, nor did they "approve the production." Robert Aitken was already printing his Bibles as of January 21, 1781 when he petitioned Congress.

There are many versions of this story in the religious right American history books, all worded to mislead that Congress either requested the printing of these Bibles, granted Robert Aitken permission to print them, contracted him to print them, paid for the printing, or had the Bibles printed for the use of schools. Congress did none of these things. All they did was grant one of several requests made by Aitken by having their chaplains examine his work, and allowing him to publish their resolution stating that, based on the chaplains' report, they were satisfied that his edition was accurate. The words "a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools" are taken from a letter written by Aitken,(6) not the resolution of Congress.

Aitken actually asked Congress for quite a bit more than they gave him. In addition to his work being examined by the chaplains, Aitken requested that his Bible "be published under the Authority of Congress,"(7) and that he "be commissioned or otherwise appointed & Authorized to print and vend Editions of the Sacred Scriptures."(8) He also asked Congress to purchase some of his Bibles and distribute them to the states. None of these other requests were granted. The only help Aitken ever got from Congress was the resolution endorsing the accuracy of his work.

The actual resolution of Congress is selectively quoted various ways, such as Mr. Forbes's version -- "the United States in Congress assembled ... recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States" -- omitting that Congress also had a secular reason for recommending Aitken's Bible, and, in many cases, to make it appear that the resolution was a recommendation of the Bible itself, rather than a recommendation of the accuracy of Aitken's work.

This was the entire resolution:

"Whereupon, Resolved, That the United States in Congress assembled, highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion as well as an instance of the progress of arts in this country, and being satisfied from the above report, of his care and accuracy in the execution of the work, they recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States, and hereby authorise him to publish this recommendation in the manner he shall think proper."(9)

The secular benefit of this resolution, omitted in the revisionist history books, was that it acknowledged "an instance of the progress of arts in this country." Publicizing the accuracy of Aitken's Bible was a great way to promote the American printing industry. Few American printers at this time were printing books, and the books that were printed were not only more expensive than those imported from England, but had a reputation for being full of errors. Congress knew that as soon as the war was over and books could once again be imported, any progress that the book shortage had caused in the printing industry would end. The war had created an opportunity for American printers to prove themselves, and Robert Aitken had done that. Printing an accurate edition of a book as large as the Bible was a monumental task for any printer, and Congress wanted it known that an American printer had accomplished it.

Despite a seven year interruption in the availability of Bibles, the recommendation of Congress, and over a year with no competition from imports, Aitken was unable to sell many of his Bibles. Another attempt in May 1783 to get Congress to buy them &endash; this time to give as gifts to the soldiers being discharged -- failed, and Aitken ended up losing over £3,000 on the 10,000 Bibles he printed.

See also Chapter 1 of Liars For Jesus, "Congress and the Bible," at http://www.liarsforjesus.com/downloads/LFJ_chap_1.pdf

"


The Christian right's fake history has been cited extensively on the floors of the US Senate and Congress over the last decade, and if I can ever convince Chris Rodda to finish her study on the subject we might get an empirical bearing on just how extensive the problem truly is. I'll clue you into one pleasant truth though - the politicians citing that fake history are, by a 20:1 margin or better as compared to Democrats, in the GOP. The Republican Party has become the fake history party, and to the extent the GOP's base is Christian that's a BIG liability because Christians aren't supposed to lie... in theory at least.

If you think H. Res. 888 can't pass, please consider that only nine of the members of Congress voted against the "Christmas Resolution" ( H. Res. 847 )




Display:
Thank you for bringing this important issue to our attention and for the considerable time you have obviously spent gathering and synthesizing this information. I wrote a letter to my Rep in Congress and will follow the vote with interest. You have provided us with a valuable service here, and I will do what I can to help you in spreading the word.
Atheist Revolution
by vjack on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 09:17:50 AM EST
Chris Rodda started the ball rolling, then I picked up the issue, now you're moving it further along.

Best, Bruce Wilson

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 05:49:59 PM EST
Parent



Dear Rep. Lantos, I am not one of your constituents, as I live just over the border in District 14. However, I study and shop in your district. I am writing for two reasons. First, to express my sincere wish that you make a full and robust recovery from your illness. Second, to express my concern over, and opposition to, House Resolution 888. "Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as `American Religious History Week' for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith." This bill would enshrine in law a number of misconceptions, distortions, outright lies and downright fakery about the place of Christianity in the early history of our country and in the development of our Founding Documents. This country was not founded as explicitly Christian, but this law attempts to rewrite history, and say it was. It would favor Christianity over other religions. It would provide an opportunity for those who are invested in this to promote one religion over another, something that the founders of our country specifically forbade. I note that you did not cast a vote for H.Res 847, "Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith." I am hoping that you will use your position on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to stop this bill in committee. If you or your staff would like more information on the distortions and inaccuracies presented in H.R. 888, I direct you to http://www.talk2action.org/story/2008/1/5/121740/6989 and http://www.talk2action.org/story/2008/1/4/24725/53989 I understand that you will be unable to respond directly to this e-mail, as I am not one of your constitutents, but I hope you will act to quash the resolution. I again express my hope that your recovery is swift. Sincerely, Liz Ditz ======= Dear Rep. Eshoo, I have just become aware of House Resolution 888 [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:H.RES.888:] I understand that this resolution is still in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and you do not serve on that committee. I note with disappointment that you voted for House Resolution 847, "Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith." I recognize, however, that the resolution was a "feel good-do nothing" item, and I imagine you thought voting for it wouldn't hurt, while voting against it might have negative political repercussions for you. House Resolution 888 is a different matter. I am very strongly opposed to this resolution. H. Res. 888 is part of an organized attempt to manufacture a myth: that the United States was founded as a Christian Nation. This false history is being planted by fundamentalist groups who wish to turn our pluralistic nation into a theocracy, breaking down the walls between church and state that have sustained our freedom for over 200 years. The "Big Lie", the rewriting of history for the convenience of privileging a position and using the levers of government to maintain political and cultural polarization was a tactic of Hitler, Stalin and Mao (among others). Americans deserve better than this from our government. If you would like more information on the distortions and lies contained in H. Res. 888, please visit the following websites: http://www.talk2action.org/story/2008/1/5/121740/6989 and http://www.talk2action.org/story/2008/1/4/24725/53989 I want to see our proud tradition of freedom of religion, and freedom from religious oppression continue in this country. I want to see the Congress get out of the business of rewriting settled history on behalf of special interests, and get on with the real business of government. Please do whatever you can to oppose HR 888. Sincerely Elizabeth Ditz

by Liz Ditz on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 01:12:57 PM EST

In addition to contacting one's own Representative (in case this thing gets to the Floor), the Committee now considering it has a website at http://oversight.house.gov/,  with a contact page at http://oversight.house.gov/contact/  .
Anyone can write to Committee Chair Henry Waxman.  

I did (admittedly, I mis-named the bill.   HR 888 was something completely different):

Greetings Chairman Waxman,

As a Democrat, and as a Christian, I am concerned about HR 888, currently being deliberated by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.     Setting aside the selective memory demonstrated by the numerous "WHEREAS" clauses,  I believe establishment at the Federal level of a Religious History Week (especially when such a resolution tries to force Congress to affirm that "America was founded as a Christian nation") represents an incremental assault on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.    I ask you and the Committee to not recommend  this Resolution for adoption.    If HR 888 is brought to the full House for a vote,  I ask you to consider amending the resolution to more accurately reflect the actual diverse religious history of our country, and affirming the proud American tradition of religious tolerance, by alluding to several other documents of note, such as the Flushing Remonstrance ( http://www.nyym.org/flushing/remons.html )
or Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli   (  http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/treaty_tripoli.html )   or the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
--------------
My concern is that this is, as a friend put it, a win-win for the Religious Right.   Voted in, it codifies the fuzzy history they like and teach.   Voted down, it becomes a rallying point like the flag-burning non-issue.

by sndsfnny on Mon Jan 07, 2008 at 05:23:36 AM EST

Dear Representative Andrews: After receiving your annual report on the issues I have decided to answer your call for my views and ideas on the issues in order to, as you stated in your letter, "promote the honest government our country so much needs". I had planned to draft a letter to you late last year following the portentous approval of H. Res. 847 (the isn't Christmas great resolution), but, alas, the hectic pace of making ends meet in an average middle-class American family did not allow me the opportunity to do so; however, as H. Res. 888 reaches critical mass and following your letter urging me to help you "promote the honest government our country so much needs", I am taking the time to fulfill my civic responsibility. I have been thoroughly disappointed with the United States Congress over the past several years for myriad reasons, but never so much as when Congress itself takes measures to undermine the very foundation on which this nation was established. A foundation that has been compromised may cause a structure to collapse absolutely. In the midst of the Christmas season, on the verge of the Presidential primaries, the religiously militant faction of the right wing of the Republican Party introduced a seemingly innocuous resolution. Resolution 847 was an obvious ploy. Who doesn't like Christmas? It was designed to portray those who would have the courage to preserve a wall of separation between church and state and vote no, as un-American Scrooges and possibly even anti-Christian. The religiously militant are fully aware that votes on resolutions like these can be used in campaign ads for the upcoming 2008 House elections. Another more insidious effect of introducing and passing legislative drivel like H. Res. 847 is to set the stage for even more deleterious resolutions - resolutions like H. Res. 888. H. Res. 888 is a litany of half-facts, willful interpretations of history and outright lies. I urge you to consider the painstaking fact checking of the flimsy assertions that comprise H. Res. 888 done by Chris Rodda at the following link: http://www.talk2action.org/story/2008/1/4/24725/53989. I am confident that you will conclude that the majority of the claims made in H. Res. 888 are not supported by the facts of history. Thus, I am also confident that, should H. Res. 888 make it to the floor for a full vote, you will promote the honest government our country so much needs and vote against H. Res. 888. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely,

by jtay999 on Wed Jan 16, 2008 at 04:12:43 AM EST
Parent


My Oklahoma Representative is John Sullivan. When I first saw Bruce's article on Daily Kos, I immediately called the Secular Coalition for America to get their take on it. At that moment they were preparing an email to go out to their members to take action, which I subsequently did. I received a response from Rep. Sullivan (see below), that I in turn responded to. This, in the perhaps naive hope to start at least a small dialog. I sent a link to the Kos article, as well as to this page, and I received another response! Alas, it was the exact same response as before; word-for-word.

Well, here it is:

Dear Friend,

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns regarding H. Res. 888, the Religious Heritage Resolution. It is good to hear from you on this important issue and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

As you may know, H. Res. 888 seeks to affirm the spiritual and religious principles upon which our nation was founded. In addition, this resolution also expresses support for designation of an "American Religious History Week" each year to recognize the importance of preserving the heritage of faith in our nation.

Like you, I believe that freedom of religion, regardless of what religion an individual chooses to practice, is one of our nations founding principles. Each of the founding fathers held their faith strongly, and expected the laws of our nation to allow every citizen to do the same. All of the major documents that have influenced our nation and laws, including the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, and the Emancipation Proclamation, make references to God. H. Res. 888 has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for further legislative consideration. Please know that I will keep your thoughts in mind should this legislation come before me on the House floor.

Again, thank you for contacting me to share your thoughts on this important issue. It is an honor to serve you in Washington and Oklahoma. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future via email to share concerns that you and your family may have, or please visit my website at http://sullivan.house.gov.

Sincerely, S

John Sullivan

Member of Congress

by jmrunning3 on Fri Mar 07, 2008 at 05:17:11 PM EST



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