Can Dobson Out-Fruitcake Obama on the Constitution?
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 12:27:00 AM EST
I think he can.

James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, says the Barack Obama distorts the Bible and has a "fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution."

This according to the Associated Press, which was provided a copy of Dobson's pretaped remarks that will air on Tuesday on his nationally syndicated radio program.

Dobson's colorful attack on Senator Obama, who taught constitutional law for twelve years at the University of Chicago, invites examination of Mr. Dobson's views on the Constitution -- something I have written about from time-to-time.

A few years ago, Dobson was a fervent support of Roy Moore, who was ousted from his position of chief judge of the Alabama Supreme Court for defying a federal court order to remove the religious monument to the ten commandments he had installed in state courthouse.

I wrote about this in an op-ed in The Christian Science Monitor at the time:

At a rally on the courthouse steps, James Dobson said:

"I checked yesterday with my research team," Dr. Dobson announced. "There are only two references to religion in the Constitution." The first, from the preamble, he said, refers to securing "the blessings of liberty," which, he asserted, "came from God" (although there is nothing in the document to support that view.) The other was the First Amendment's establishment clause that, he said, "has given such occasion for mischief by the Supreme Court."

However, Dobson's researchers missed - or ignored - Article Six of the Constitution. That's the one barring religious tests for public office and set in motion disestablishment of the Christian churches that had served as arbiters of colonial citizenship and government for 150 years.

Mainstream historian Gary Wills writes that the framers' major innovation was "disestablishment."  

In a November 2006 interview with Larry King, Dobson indulged in some well debunked revisionist history. I wrote about this at the time. Dobson claimed that there is no such thing as separation of church and state.  The historical record clearly shows that while it is true that the phrase separation of church and state is not found in the constitution or the first Amendment, the phrase was in wide use among leading thinkers at the time, and that Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists was an effort by Jefferson to explain his understanding of the meaning of the First Amendment. That is part of the reason why the Supreme Court has used the phrase since at least 1878 to explain the meaning of the First Amendment, and why it has become a standard part of our understanding of the meaning of the Constitution.

   

KING: But we have a separation of church and state.

    DOBSON: Beg your pardon?

    KING: We have a separation of church and state.

    DOBSON: Who says?

    KING: You don't believe in separation of church and state?

    DOBSON: Not the way you mean it. The separation of church and state is not in the Constitution. No, it's not. That is not in the Constitution. That was...

    KING: It's in the Bill of Rights.

    DOBSON: It's not in the Bill of Rights. It's not anywhere in a foundational document. The only place where the so-called "wall of separation" was mentioned was in a letter written by Jefferson to a friend. That's the only place. It has been picked up and made to be something it was never intended to be.

    What it has become is that the government is protected from the church, instead of the other way around, which is that church was designed to be protected from the government.

    KING: I'm going to check my history.

If King did his homework, he would find whatever any honest researcher finds in response such claims about church state separation. Last year I published a long essay in The Public Eye magazine, titled History is Powerful: Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters, and in it, I quoted a classic scholarly debunking by Brent Walker of Dobson's claim, as articulated by Christian historical revisionist, David Barton:  


Of course, neither the words "church state separation" nor "wall of separation" appear in the Constitution. That does not mean Barton's position is correct. The Constitution does not specifically mention "separation of powers" or "the right to a fair trial" either, but who would deny the Constitutional status of those concepts? "Church-state separation" is a metaphor for what certainly was and is the spirit of the First Amendment's religion clauses - government is to be neutral toward religion to the end of ensuring religious liberty.

Barton mentions church-state separation as flowing from Thomas Jefferson's 1802 letter to the Danbury Connecticut Baptist Association. He asserts that later in the letter Jefferson made it clear that he wanted only a "one directional wall" to prevent the government from harming religion, not to prevent religion from capturing the government.

A reading of the entire letter belies any suggestion that Thomas Jefferson thought it was "one directional." There is absolutely nothing in the letter even to hint that that is the case.

Dobson and Obama can disagree all they want about the proper interpretation of the Bible. But Barack Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for twelve years, while James Dobson has a long record of issuing utterly spurious declarations about the constitution with complete conviction.




Display:
We both criticize Obama's interpretation of the Constitution, albeit on different grounds.  I am mortified that a constitutional scholar like Obama so firmly ignores the 14th amendment and advocates for separate but equal institutions for LGBT people.  It is dishonest in the extreme, and he should be embarrassed to claim civil rights lawyer & constitutional scholar creds on the one hand, while undermining the 14th amendment with his words and stances.  After Bush, it doesn't please me one bit to see another candidate for president so brazenly ignoring the constitution.

by Laurel on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 12:46:34 AM EST
The title of my comment says it all.  Obama probably believes that he can't get elected if he takes too firm a stand on that issue.

Despite that he was still the best of the three main candidates.  Hillary Clinton was embarrassingly nervous even to mention gay people during the primary season.

That doesn't mean we should give Obama a free pass, but America is still a very conservative country and it will be another decade or more before LGBT issues are no longer controversial.   (I've mentioned before that the leader of the Conservative Party in Britain recently publicly congratulated a gay member of his party and Member of Parliament on getting hitched.  A decade or two ago that would have been political suicide.  So there is hope for America yet.)

by tacitus on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 11:07:26 AM EST
Parent

but he should be talking up equality under the law and expanding civil rights.  cuz he's mr. civil rights attorney, right?  and he REALLY needs to stop using the language of the religious right (one man, one woman).  he is seriously undermining our effort to keep our toe hold on equality in CA.  i'm sure if he tried or cared, he could find a way to rephrase his position that would still be against marriage but supportive of expanding rights, and not use the rhetoric of the haters.

While on the campaign trail, Jimmy Carter famously opposed the CA initiative that would have banned gay people from teaching.  And he won, at a time when gays had almost no rights.  Obama can do the right thing and win.  If he wants to.

by Laurel on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 03:03:20 PM EST
Parent

But there is a long history of timidity when it comes to Democrats taking a stand on issues over the past few decades.  I don't know how it happened, but the Republicans have usually found a way to put Democrats on the defensive.

From policies like universal healthcare to gays in the military to energy conservation, Democrats as a whole are on the correct side of the issue, and there is a yearning from Democrats for someone to stand up and take on these issues.  Yet somehow our politicians are cowed into silence for fear of the right wing pouncing on them and beating them up.

by tacitus on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 10:30:30 PM EST
Parent

has set himself up for special scrutiny here because he has painted himself as a principled change agent, has talked up hope, etc.  if we keep letting candidates get away with being weak, we deserve what we get.  i'm not letting obama get away with it.  i'm calling him out on his spinelessness.  we all should.  otherwise we have no room to complain.

by Laurel on Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 12:54:31 PM EST
Parent





I didn't hear Dobson railing on about Obama's view of the Bible, but I did hear him talking for the umpteenth time about how the "Fairness Doctrine" was about to destroy conservative and religious talk radio.

He had Congressman Mike Pence on the show to talk about his bill which would ban the FCC from ever implementing it without further legislation.

It seems to me that this is just being thrown out there as more political red meat for the conservative base to scare up (as usual) more votes against the Democrats.  Yes, one or two Democrats have grumbled about how biased the media has become, especially on the radio, but there has been no concerted effort by anyone to put the Fairness Doctrine back into place.

Even the activists aren't talking about it much.  There is much more interest in doing something about the consolidation of the media outlets into just a few hands creating monopolies in many parts of the US.  

Anyway, I don't recall seeing much coverage here on this particular issue that the religious right have been hammering on about.  It could do with a good debunking if you have the time.

by tacitus on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 11:17:50 AM EST



WWW Talk To Action


And Yet Finn Remains Bishop
It has been more than two years since Bishop Robert Finn was convicted by a Missouri criminal court for failing to report child abuse......
By Frank Cocozzelli (1 comment)
On Christmas Day, in the Morning
In recent years at Christmastime, I have posted a response to the preposterous-but-malevolent claims broadcast on Fox News and elsewhere that there is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (4 comments)
Hallelujah, Mike Huckabee, Hallelujah
Fox News personality Mike Huckabee had a defining moment in the wake of the Newtown massacre. One that as we enter the 2016 presidential......
By Frederick Clarkson (3 comments)
Moses And Michele: Departing Member Of Congress Spreads More Misinformation
The Religious Right's Moses fixation continues to grow.As you might recall, the Texas State Board of Education recently demanded social studies textbooks that highlight......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Christian Right Silent about Bob Jones U Sex Abuse Report
One of the deep scandals of our time, and apparently times past, is that sex abuse, particularly of children, has been so tolerated and......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Boot These Bigoted Bans: Movement Seeks To Remove Anti-Atheist Bias From State Constitutions
Eight states still have provisions in their constitutions that either bar atheists outright from holding public office or require people to believe certain things......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
James Madison and Tax-Supported Chaplains
In light of former Sen. Rick Santorum's recent silly declaration that “the words ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the U.S. Constitution,......
By Chris Rodda (0 comments)
Death to Obama; Death to "Homos"; What's Next?
When the Obama administration was young, threats against the president were common, and sometimes quite public. One notorious such incident was that of Rev.......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Rick Scarborough's America
When Stand Up Sunday was convened by Mike Huckabee in Houston it was to feature the leading spokesmen for the Religious Right agenda.  The......
By wilkyjr (0 comments)
The Republican Diversity Program... Is Working
I don't usually write directly about electoral politics, but sometimes I bring an outsider's perspective to how the inside looks to some of the......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
American Christian Right Leaders in Rome
The remarkable and growing alliance between conservative Catholicism and protestant evangelicalism was on prominent display at a recent event at the Vatican. My colleague......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Religious Supremacism on the Rise Against Marriage Equality
This is a crosspost of an op-ed I recently published at LGBTQ Nation.  -- FC Christian right undermines marriage equality with religious supremacism FREDERICK......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
The Author of Loathing Lincoln Explains Why Some on the Christian Right Loathe Lincoln
One under-reported result of the 2014 elections was the rise of Neo-Confederate politics in the U.S. This included the election of unabashed apologist for......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
A Catholic Theocracy Grows in Florida
Catholic Right pizza mogul Tom Monaghan and his Ave Maria School of Law are back in the news.  Journalist Eleanor Bader has a new......
By Frederick Clarkson (6 comments)
Mississippi Madness: Group Wants To Designate An Official Religion
A group in Mississippi is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to change the state constitution in several ways.The proposal put forth by the......
By Rob Boston (5 comments)

Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (5 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (4 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.