Borat "Star" Co-Sponsors House Resolution 888
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 01:46:24 PM EST
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," gained 18 new co-sponsors on February 12, raising the number from 44 to 62.

Most notable among the latest batch of historically challenged members of Congress to add their names to Randy Forbes's litany of erroneous American history claims is Charles "Chip" Pickering, who many will remember from the Pentecostal campmeeting scene in the movie Borat, in which the Mississippi congressman proudly proclaimed to be attending the campmeeting for the tenth time.

This is my fourth post about H. Res. 888. The first addressed the distortions and outright lies in fourteen of the resolution's seventy-five "Whereases," focusing on those related to our country's founding era; the second showed Mr. Forbes's misrepresentations of several 20th century presidents; and the third contained a transcription of Mr. Forbes's recent interview on David Barton's WallBuildersLIVE! radio show, revealing the true goals of the resolution and the ongoing lies about it.

For those not yet aware of just how heinous H. Res. 888 is, the always eloquent Mikey Weinstein, Founder and President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, sums it up perfectly: "Its myriad tortured and deliberate historical fictions, fused by it's Congressional-member drafters into a sorry screed of fascistic Christian exceptionalism and triumphalism, clearly illuminate its private sector and legislative sponsors' unbridled lust to spare absolutely no effort to complete the transformation of our country into 'The United Christian States of America.'"

Since I still have quite a few of the resolution's "tortured and deliberate historical fictions" to get to, I've decided that each time this resolution gets more co-sponsors, I'm going to debunk another one of its historical fictions -- starting with this one for the 18 new co-sponsors it got on February 12.

"Whereas beginning in 1904 and continuing for the next half-century, the Federal government printed and distributed The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth for the use of Members of Congress because of the important teachings it contained;"

Anyone at all familiar with the writings of Thomas Jefferson or the debate over the religious beliefs of the founders will, of course, recognize The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth as the "Jefferson Bible," the volume created by Jefferson by taking clippings from the four gospels, retaining only the words said to have been uttered by Jesus and certain biographical passages, but omitting everything miraculous or portraying Jesus as anything more than a man. But, for some reason, Mr. Forbes, while elsewhere making every possible connection or allusion to the founders, passes up, in this case, an opportunity to point out a genuine connection to a founder...go figure. It is only by reading Mr. Forbes's footnotes that anyone who is not familiar with The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth would realize this book had anything to do with Thomas Jefferson. And, it is one of these footnotes that brings us to the first lie in this "Whereas."

Mr. Forbes claims that: "beginning in 1904 and continuing for the next half-century, the Federal government printed and distributed" this book.

Mr. Forbes's source for this claim? The introduction, by Judd W. Patton, to an edition of the "Jefferson Bible" published in 1996. The problem? Mr. Forbes's source doesn't say this -- probably because it ISN'T TRUE!

The "Jefferson Bible" was printed by Congress only one time -- in 1904. It was not repeatedly printed and distributed by the government for the next fifty years, as Mr. Forbes claims. There were subsequent distributions of the book to Congress during this period, but these were by private groups, which is what Mr. Forbes's source, Judd W. Patton, actually wrote:

"After Congress published and distributed the 9,000 copies in 1904, a tradition began -- by what group or groups is still unknown -- of presenting a copy of Jefferson's work to our U.S. Senators and Representatives at their swearing in ceremonies with each new Congress. Anecdotal evidence indicates that this custom continued for at least fifty years."(1)

So, either Mr. Forbes has a serious reading comprehension problem, or he's deliberately lying about what his source said. I'm leaning towards the latter.

Mr. Forbes's next fabrication is his claim that the federal government distributed the book to Congress "because of the important teachings it contained."

This wasn't even true the one time that the government actually did print it. There is absolutely no indication that this book was printed by the government for any reason other than it being the only one of Jefferson's works that had not yet been published by order of Congress. The reason for the prior omission of this volume was that it was not in the possession of the government when the rest of Jefferson's writings were published. This is clear in the records of Congress, and was also explained to the press by Congressman Joel Heatwole of Minnesota.

From the Washington Post

"Representative Heatwole, chairman of the House committee on printing, was asked the nature of the publication known as the 'Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,' prepared by Thomas Jefferson which Congress has recently ordered printed. He was also asked why Congress should be called on to have the work printed. In answer to the inquiry, Mr. Heatwole said:

"'A great many years ago Congress purchased all of the books and manuscripts of Mr. Jefferson and placed them in the library of Congress, and Congress has attempted the publication of all the works of Mr. Jefferson, complete. This little volume was not published at the time of the authorized printing of Mr. Jefferson's works by Congress; it was not then in the collection. This book had been retained by Miss Randolph, who is at present living at or near Charlottesville, Va., and she now has in her possession the four original copies of the Bibles from which the clippings were made. The book, which has excited more or less discussion during the last few days, was sold to Congress by Miss Randolph and is now in the National museum, where it is kept as a curiosity.'"(2)

The questioning of Mr. Heatwole and his explanation were actually prompted by protests against the government's printing of the book. The objections, which were appearing in numerous papers, contained statements like: "The constitution takes our government entirely out of religious discussion. Congress has no business printing works which support or oppose any conceivable view of the Christian religion." (3) Must have been some secularists, objecting to the book "because of the important teachings it contained," right? Wrong! It was the clergy of various Christian denominations doing the protesting.

The printing of the "Jefferson Bible" did not go unchallenged in Congress either. During the debate, one representative, in response to the argument that it should be printed because the original was the only copy in existence, sarcastically asked Rep. John Lacey, the Iowa Congressman who had introduced the resolution, if he would "consent to put Dillingworth's spelling book as an appendix to the work," and then said he wished it had never been found, a remark that the Congressional record notes was followed by laughter.

On May 21, 1902, in light of the protests from the clergy, which by then included a petition against the publication from the General Synod of the Reformed Church of the United States, Mr. Lacey actually tried to rescind his original resolution to print the book, which had passed on May 10, with another resolution, saying that arrangements had been made to have it printed privately. No action was taken on this second resolution, however, and the plan for the government printing proceeded.

The following articles, from the newspapers of May and June of 1902, show exactly what the clergy of the day thought about Jefferson's Bible. Apparently, unlike Mr. Forbes, they just couldn't see "the important teachings it contained."

From the Philadelphia Inquirer, May 19, 1902:

"Rev. Dr. Kerr Boyce Tupper spoke last evening at the First Baptist Church on 'Jefferson's Bible,' taking as his text, 'That in all things He might have the pre-eminence.' Col., i, 18.

"'Our public prints,' said Dr. Tupper, 'have announced far and wide the suggested project of our National Congress to publish nine thousand copies of Thomas Jefferson's Bible, from which has been eliminated the supernatural and everything that bears upon the deityhood of Christ.'

"'Mr. Jefferson, it is announced, regarded Christ only as a man of high character and superlative goodness, without claim to any supernatural character. What may the Christian pulpit say, what should it say touching this matter? Clearly two things by way of introduction First, the revelation of the character of our Lord is revealed to man through the organ of intellect alone -- the only organ it would seem used by our great statesman in this investigation. The strongest appeals in the Scripture are never to logical faculties, but always to the spiritual consciousness. Second, it would appear poor policy on the part of our government to lend hand and authority to the publication of a work such as before described. Ours is confessedly and conspicuously a Christian government, and Jefferson's Bible, if rightly represented, is essentially an unchristian work.'

"'Jefferson may print his Bible, and the House of Representatives may publish it, but four hundred millions of the world's greatest and noblest spirits will look up to the Divine Son and love, adore and worship Him who as no other has presented to the world a miraculous incarnation, a spotless character, a transcendent teaching, majestic miracles, an atoning death, a glorious resurrection, a radiant ascension, a mediatorial Being at the right hand of the throne of God.'"(4)

From the Macon Weekly Telegraph, May 16, 1902:

"Several Philadelphia clergymen, regardless of denomination, are protesting against congress printing what is called 'Jefferson's Bible.'"(5)

From the Duluth News-Tribune, May 25, 1902:

"The lower house of congress not long ago voted to publish nine hundred copies of a work called 'Jefferson's Bible.' The other day, the Presbyterian general assembly protested against such publication, and many other protests are coming in, mostly from orthodox sources.

"These objections seem well taken. 'Jefferson's Bible' is merely an abridgement or adaptation of the scriptures, prepared by the great American statesman, which is preserved in one of the departments at Washington. The conclusion to which the work leads represents Jefferson's belief, which was that Jesus was merely a man, totally destitute of divine origin or attributes as they are generally understood. The tendency of the work, though evincing deep reverence for Jesus as a man, will be held heretical in all orthodox churches.

"The constitution takes our government entirely out of religious discussion. Congress has no business printing works which support or oppose any conceivable view of the Christian religion. No doubt the proposition to publish copies of 'Jefferson's Bible' will be cut in the United States senate. It certainly should be."(6)

From the Philadelphia Inquirer, June 3, 1902:

"At the meeting of the Presbyterian Ministerial Association yesterday 'The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,' by Thomas Jefferson, which is to be published shortly under the national sanction, was condemned in the report of a special committee which was appointed to consider the matter. The report stated that the book is undoubtedly an assault upon the commonly accepted views of the Christian Church. It also says that the book endeavors to leave the impression that large portions of the Scriptures are historically valueless and that it strips Jesus of deity. The committee presented resolutions requesting the government to rescind the authorization of the book, stating that it would be a direct, public and powerful attack upon the Christian religion. The report of the committee was warmly discussed. Action on the resolution was deferred until next week."(7)

This next article, while reporting on the same Presbyterian Ministerial Association meeting as the Philadelphia Inquirer article above, is interesting for more than just its reporting of that group's protest against the publication of the "Jefferson Bible." In this one, the New York Times actually went as far as accusing Dr. Cyrus Adler, the author of the book's introduction, who happened to be a Jew, of being "a prominent opponent of the Christian Church."

"PHILADELPHIA, June 2. -- A warm discussion was precipitated at the meeting of the Presbyterian Ministers' Association today by a report from a committee of which Dr. Charles W. Nevin is Chairman, making an earnest protest against the publication by Congress of the work called 'Jefferson's Bible,' or, as the book is entitled, 'The life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,' by Thomas Jefferson. The proposal of Congress is to print 3,000 copies for the Senate and 9,000 for the House. The committee's report declares that there are many objections to the work. Everything that appeared incredible the writer laid aside.

"Among the portions of Scripture not used are all the passages referring to the deity of the Saviour, the annunciation, the resurrection, and to the appearances of the risen Saviour between the resurrection and the ascension. An introduction of twenty-five pages is written by a prominent opponent of the Christian Church.

"The work, the report says, is undoubtedly an assault upon the commonly received views of the Christian Church in that it strips Jesus of His deity and makes Him simply one of the great moralists of the world and the Gospel an elevating composition without inspiration. After considerable debate the matter went over until next week."(8)

At the same time that the clergy were protesting its printing, countless other articles about the "Jefferson Bible," appearing in papers all over the country, were just matter-of-factly stating that Jefferson was a "freethinker" who had omitted the miraculous from his work.

From The Fort Worth Morning Register, May 15, 1902:

"Washington, May 14 -- 'Jefferson's Bible,' which is to be reprinted in fac-simile as a public document, is sure to meet with approval.

"The volume is a duodecimo of about 164 pages, though Jefferson paged only left-hand pages. He used testaments in as many languages. On the left-hand pages he pasted clippings in two columns, first in Greek and Latin. On the right-hand he put French and English versions. It makes four finely printed columns in Greek, Latin, French and English. There are marginal notes in Jefferson's own handwriting, with a table in front giving pages and citing chapters and verses from which clippings are taken. He omitted everything of a miraculous nature, confining the clippings to the teachings of Jesus. In the concluding verse of the work, Jefferson combined two verses as follows:

"'John xix. 42: There they laid Jesus (Mat. xxvii. 60) and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher and departed.'

"Jefferson, being a freethinker, buried Jesus forever in the grave, and gave no hope of resurrection and life."(9)

From The State, Columbia, May 19, 1902:

"The house has authorized the publication as a document, in an edition of 9,000 copies, of Thomas Jefferson's compilation entitled 'Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,' otherwise popularly known as 'Jefferson's Bible.' More or less imbued with the beliefs current in France and America in the beginning of the last century, Jefferson regarded Christ as a man of superlative goodness, but without claim to the supernatural character with which Christendom has for nearly 2,000 years invested him. ...(10)

From The Fort Worth Register, May 22, 1902:

"Thomas Jefferson gave political gospel to the people of the United States, that now, a hundred years after it was proclaimed, is received with unquestioning faith by millions. Will they accept with the same regard his teachings of the gospel of Christ?

"Congress has authorized the publication, at the public expense, of Jefferson's work on "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth." It is well enough known that Jefferson was a 'free thinker,' rejecting the divinity of Christ. He compiled, in his leisure hours, a biography of Jesus, taken from the writings of the evangelists and other contemporary writers. Jefferson called the compilation 'The Philosophy of Jesus,' and wrote of it as 'the most beautiful and precious morsel of ethics I have ever seen." Among the marginal note he describes the Roman law of sedition under which Jesus was tried. A map of Judea is attached and there is a table giving the pages, chapters and verses from which the clippings were made. Scholars acquainted with the work speak of it as showing no irreverence, but presenting a consolidation of the teachings of Christ, mingled with only so much of narrative as a Virginia lawyer would hold to be creditable. Everything of a miraculous nature Jefferson studiously omitted."(11)

Similar articles began appearing in 1904, as the printing was nearing completion.

From The Biloxi Daily Herald, August 24, 1904:

..."In Jefferson's compilation of the Gospels he omitted everything of a miraculous nature and confined his clippings to the teachings of Jesus. He clipped from all the Gospels, using the verses which make the clearest statement where the texts are practically the same.

"In the concluding verse of the work he takes John, xix., 42, and Matthew, xxvii., 60, and combines them, clipping out all but the plain statement of the burial. The result is as follows:

"'John xix., 42: There laid they Jesus * * *'

"' Matthew, xxvii. 60: * * * and * * rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher and departed.'

"Thus he followed out to the end his general plan and omitted all that could not be explained to the satisfaction of a practical lawyer, leaving Christ buried forever and giving no evidence of belief in the resurrection."(12)

1. Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson's "Bible": The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, Foreword by William Murchison and Introduction by Judd W. Patton, (Grove City: American Book Distributors, 1997), xv.
2. "Thomas Jefferson's Bible. Chairman Heatwole Explains the Character of the Book to be Published," Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO, May 25, 1902, 13.
3. "Jefferson's Bible," Duluth News-Tribune, Duluth, MN, May 25, 1902, 6.
4. "Jefferson's Bible. Rev. Tupper Says Government Should Not Publish It," Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA, May 19, 1902, 6.
5. Macon Weekly Telegraph, Macon, GA, May 16, 1902, 4.
6. "Jefferson's Bible," Duluth News-Tribune, Duluth, MN, May 25, 1902, 6.
7. "Ministers Condemn Jefferson's Book," Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA, June 3, 1902, 11.
8. "Jefferson's Bible. Presbyterian Ministers Object to Its Publication by Congress," New York Times, June 3, 1902, 3.
9. "Jefferson's Bible, Made up of the Testament in Four Languages, All Miracles Being Omitted," The Fort Worth Morning Register, Fort Worth, TX, May 15, 1902, 1.
10. "'Jefferson's Bible.' Congress to Publish a Limited Edition as a Document," The State, Columbia, SC, May 19, 1902, 6.
11. "The Gospel of Jefferson," The Fort Worth Register, Fort Worth, TX, May 22, 1902, 4.
12. "Bible of Jefferson. It is Being Printed by United States Government," The Biloxi Daily Herald, Biloxi, MS, August 24, 1904, 2.

Due to Ms. Roda's prompting (and using her great research), I wrote my Congressman (James T. Walsh) asking him to vote no on H.Res 888 if it came up for a vote on the House floor.  I got a response a few weeks ago.  He thanked me for my letter, but said that "the future of this bill [sic] in the legislative process is unclear" and that he would "be sure to take [my] views into consideration" if it did reach the floor.  Walsh is retiring this year (probably because he faced a stiff Democratic challenge in 2006, because he is one of the few moderates left in the GOP, and because he voted against "The Surge" in Iraq), so I guess he can vote however he wants without any accountability to his voters or his party when it comes up.  Still, I wish he would have said "Nay," on H.Res 888.

Has anyone else received a response from their representatives re H.Res 888?

"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 08:06:47 AM EST

Here is the response I received (to my first e-mail) from my Congressman, Buck McKeon:

Dear Ms. Price:

Thank you for contacting me regarding House Resolution 888, a resolution affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history.

As you know, H. Res. 888 was introduced in December 2007. This resolution examines the religious history of our nation and how religion is reflected in our nation's documents, events throughout our nation's history, and places throughout our nation's capitol, such as the Washington Monument, the Library of Congress, and the United States Capitol Building. H. Res 888 also designates the first week in May of every year as American Religious History Week for the appreciation of and education about America's history of religious faith. H. Res. 888 has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has yet to take action on this measure.

I recognize the critical role that Christian values have played in our development as a nation. The separation of church and state does not exist just for the protection of the state, but also for the protection of the church. And as we have seen in recent years, there are those who do not understand that premise, which was critical to the thinking of our Founding Fathers, and are undermining that relationship in the name of preserving it. I am committed to upholding the principles that our nation was founded upon. It is important now more than ever to remember that we "are endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

While no action is currently expected on H. Res. 888, please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind should it come before me on the House floor.

For more information on my work in Congress, please visit my website at and don't forget to sign up for my e - Newsletter for the latest updates. Thank you again for contacting me; please feel free to continue to inform me of your views on issues important to you.


Howard P. "Buck" McKeon

Member of Congress

(No doubt about how he would vote! I'm so sure that he'll have my "thoughts" in mind!)

I was not happy with his reply and wrote a follow up letter. Guess what...I've never received a response to the second e-mail. Here it is:

Dear Representative McKeon,

I was very disappointed in the response I received from your office to my e-mail dated Jan. 10, 2008.

It is my hope that you sincerely desire to do the right thing and are not another proponent of pushing Christianity on a secular (meaning not favoring any specific religion, not atheist) nation which was, in fact, founded by people escaping oppressive governments which discriminated against religions (or lack thereof) other that their established religions.

Firstly, while the resolution asks for affirmation of our "diverse religious history," the only religious tradition mentioned in the over 70 paragraphs of the resolution is Christianity.

Consider these HISTORICAL FACTS which are pointed out on the Secular Coalition for America's web site:

The fact is that the "spiritual and religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history" is rife with persecution against Catholics, Jews, Muslims, atheists and other minorities. The Puritans, for example, not only burned witches at the stake, but they also tortured and hanged Quakers.

In 19th Century Philadelphia, Catholic children in public schools were forced to read the Protestant Bible, and their churches were burned when they resisted. Various groups gained political power on explicitly Christian platforms, such as the Know Nothings' anti-Catholic campaign, and the Ku Klux Klan's political and violently brutal campaigns against Jews, Catholics, religious liberals and, of course, African Americans.

Are those some of the facts of our Christian History that you and others wish to educate the American public in? Would you like to include facts about the government and church support of slavery in our Christian history?

I'm sure that you are very aware of our complete history; however, I don't think that will influence your decision which is apparently based on an agenda to promote Christianity in America.

However, I do feel that it is important for you to realize how many Americans there are (not only atheists, but, theists, as well, including Christians) who believe in respecting the establishment and free exercise clauses of the 1st Amendment to our Constitution. Consider the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which was founded 60 years ago. From their web site:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State was founded in 1947 by a broad coalition of religious, educational and civic leaders. At that time, proposals were pending in the U.S. Congress to extend government aid to private religious schools. Many Americans opposed this idea, insisting that government support for religious education would violate church-state separation. The decision was made to form a national organization to promote this point of view and defend the separation principle.

In your letter you state the following, "The separation of church and state does not exist just for the protection of the state, but also for the protection of the church. And as we have seen in recent years, there are those who do not understand that premise, which was critical to the thinking of our Founding Fathers, and are undermining that relationship in the name of preserving it. I am committed to upholding the principles that our nation was founded upon. It is important now more than ever to remember that we 'are endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.' "

I resent being told that I do not understand the premise of our First Amendment regarding the separation of church and state! It is you and (your fellow?) extremist Christians who, rather than not understanding the separation of church and state, are working very hard at undermining it and convincing good Christians to go along with you by using scare tactics, as usual.

I refer you to the following article by Chris Rodda on the "Talk to Action" web site:

It points out the inaccuracies and lies in fourteen of the seventy-five Whereas statements. If you sincerely believe in truth in government, I suggest you read the article, do some research, and form your own opinions.

By the way, I notice that you are not one of the co-sponsors of the proposed resolution. Does that indicate that you have reservations about it or concerns about how your constituents would feel about your endorsement?

Finally, I only know of the proposed H.Res. 888 due to networks I am part of as a nonbeliever and citizen who wishes to be aware of self-serving members of our government. I searched and found no mention of H.Res. 888 on any Christian sites including that of David Barton.

I will work very hard to inform our media that they need to inform the American public about H.Res. 888. When the word gets out, I expect to see more opposition to this proposed resolution.

Sincerely yours,
Sheila Price

Constituent, California CD 25

by EvolutionRules on Fri Feb 15, 2008 at 05:02:52 AM EST

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