JROTC Members Learning Christine O'Donnell Version of Separation Of Church & State
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 09:45:15 AM EST
Many of America's future military officers are being taught, courtesy of a Department of Defense curriculum, the O'Donnell/Angle view that the principle of church-state separation isn't in the Constitution. In 2007, I exposed what Junior ROTC students across America were (and, it would seem, still are) being taught about church-state separation - "It is not found in any governmental American document."

American media is ridiculing Delaware senate candidate Christine O'Donnell for her claim that the principle of separation of church and state is not found in the United States Constitution but as Greg Sargent of the Washington Post observes, Nevada senate candidate Sharron Angle, who might actually win in November, holds a similar view - which is actually quite widespread in the country.

On page 66 of Unit Six of the Army's JROTC Leadership and Training curriculum, "Citizenship and American History" (PDF file of curriculum), we find the following:


The "separation of church and state" phrase was taken from an exchange of private letters between President Thomas Jefferson and the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, shortly after Jefferson became President. It is not found in any governmental American document.

The inclusion of protection for the "free exercise of religion" in the constitution suggested to the Danbury Baptists that the right of religious expression was government- given and therefore the government might someday attempt to regulate religious expression. Jefferson shared their concern. He believed along with the other Founders, that the First Amendment had been enacted only to prevent the federal establishment of a national denomination. He assured them that they need not fear; that the federal government would never interfere with the free exercise of religion.

In summary, the "separation" phrase so frequently invoked today was rarely mentioned by any of the Founders; and even Jefferson's explanation of his phrase is diametrically opposed to the manner in which courts apply it today. "Separation of church and state" currently means almost exactly the opposite of what it originally meant."

That passage in the curriculum is identified as having been adapted by Jim Rice from Separation of Church and State by David Barton, who is probably the leading US history revisionist in America.

In his dystopian novel 1984, George Orwell wrote, "Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future."

David Barton's twisted interpretation of church-state separation, which has gone surprisingly mainstream (it's been taught on the Glenn Beck show, featured on PBS, and promoted by the Department of Defense, in its JROTC curriculum) is concocted to buttress the inaccurate claim that America was founded as a Christian nation.

Barton's writing gets plied, in turn, into curriculum embraced by the Christian homeschooling movement but being increasingly mainstreamed too, that promotes a Christian nationalist worldview, as Public Eye contributor Rachel Tabachnick describes in From Schoolhouse to Statehouse: Curriculum from a Christian Nationalist Worldview

Chris Rodda, author of Liars For Jesus: The Christian Right's Alternate Version of American History and Senior Researcher for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has been writing an ongoing series debunking David Barton's history lies, as showcased on the Glenn Beck Show, such as her July 7, 2010 post, No, Mr. Beck, Our Constitution is Not Based on the Book of Deuteronomy.

[video, below: Rodda's debunking of David Barton's teaching on the Glenn Beck show was featured in a July 8, 2010 segment of the Keith Olbermann/MSNBC show Countdown]

Not many in mainstream media pay attention to David Barton, and when they do it's usually to ridicule him but Barton has recently played an important role in the revision of Texas State social studies curriculum, and Texas public school curriculum has an influence on what's taught nationally.

Barton was on a panel of "experts" appointed by the Texas Board of Education recommended a number of changes to Texas public school social studies curriculum. including renaming the slave trade the "Atlantic Triangular Trade," minimizing the historical role of Thomas Jefferson, who advocated for separation of church and state, and emphasizing the view that the Founding Fathers were motivated by Christian principles. On "Atlantic Triangular Trade" Barton's recommendation was not successful, but the thrust of his efforts are clear:

The horror of slavery would get papered over by the banal "Atlantic Triangular Trade," Thomas Jefferson would be cut out of the American history narrative because he's problematic for Christian supremacists such as David Barton, who want overtly Christian government, and the Founders, who chose to write a Constitution that contained no mention of "God" and prohibited religious tests for public office would be magically recast as having been driven by Christian piety.

That's George Orwell's history principle at work.

I first noticed Chris Rodda's work in late 2006 while I was researching what appeared to be falsified American history showcased by the US Library of Congress. One day in the Spring of 2007, while chatting on the phone with Chris, I found myself idly running Google searches to see if David Barton's falsified American history was being promoted by the United States military and found that David Barton's version of church-state separation was being taught to Junior ROTC students across the nation.  

Why would that matter ? Consider journalist (and Talk To Action co-founder) Frederick Clarkson's summary in his 2007 Public Eye article, "History is Powerful - Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters"

"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."

If America's military class became convinced the true intent of the Founders was to create an overtly Christian nation but that intent had been thwarted by an evil plot to rewrite American history, my reasoning went, it could pose serious problems for the stability of American democracy, to put it mildly.

The JROTC curriculum unit with David Barton's take on church-state separation is even more insidious than it might seem at first glance. As Chris Rodda explained in a May 2007 story here at Talk To Action.

The passage on "Separation of Church and State" appears in a chapter that instructs cadets on how simple majoritarian democracy functions, and that's a deeply deceptive intellectual frame given the textbook is supposed to enlighten the hundreds of thousands of JROTC students, who might in theory read the chapter, about the process of American democracy.

The chapter asks cadets to form groups, with chosen moderators, and come to majority consensus about issues such as changing the legal voting age. But that's really not how American democracy works. There are legal safeguards built in to prevent simple democratic majorities from voting to change basic rights outlined in the Bill of Rights.

Otherwise voting majorities could strip minority groups of their rights, even decide to have them slaughtered en masse and the Rwandan Genocide could be interpreted as a model of democracy in action, with the majority will expressed, rather than through voting, by machete.

In context, the Barton-derived passage on church state separation is rather incongruous and seems to suggest that simple voting majorities could vote to change the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" and also, perhaps, Article VI, section 3 of the Constitution which bars religious tests for public office:

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

The First Amendment, and Article VI of the Constitution establish quite clearly the principle of church-state separation, which might be why the JROTC curriculum with David Barton's take on church state separation doesn't mention them - cadets reading the chapter merely learn, per Barton and Rice, that the principle has been grievously misinterpreted and they might even come away with the impression that the problem could be addressed during a national election, perhaps through a voter referendum that would reestablish what Barton and his fellow revisionists claim was the founder's true intent, to create a Christian nation.

To gesture at one more (egregious) example of fake history in American civic and political life, for years the National Prayer Breakfast, established by the theocratic group The Family (most notably covered in a book by that name from journalist Jeff Sharlet), has featured, in its printed program, a falsified quote attributed to George Washington.

"George Washington's Prayer" even served as the printed invocation prayer for the 2001 National Prayer Breakfast, and it has been publicly cited by at least one US president, Gerald Ford, and declaimed several times (at least) on the floors of the US Senate and House of Representatives. Historians have known it to be fraudulent for, literally, decades. As I wrote in 2007,

In June of 1783, George Washington wrote a circular letter to the Governors of the Thirteen States announcing his resignation as Commander and Chief of the Armies Of The United States, upon the disbanding of the army. This letter is considered one of the more significant documents from American history, and for a number of reasons. The period of Washington's Circular Letter was a time of considerable economic and political turmoil for the newly forming nation, and there was some fear that Washington might heed the encouragement of some who were urging that he simply declare himself king. Washington did not heed such advice and opted, with considerable grace, to step down from his position as top military commander.

The exact origins of the alleged "Washington's Prayer" have not yet been fully traced but the actual text of the prayer has been identified - "Washington Prayer" is actually a bastardized version of text excerpted from the end of Washington's Circular Letter and then substantially altered.

The sobering point I am about to make is this : not ONE United States Senator or Congress Member, or any of their aides, has shown an ability to recognize or a willingness to call out the fabrication if they did recognize it, a falsified quote constructed from one of the more important source documents of American history.

Our leading public servants, nearly every one, have shown themselves to be either cowards or history ignoramuses and that sorry state of events shows how much ground the Christian right's falsified American history has gained

David Barton's project of gradually overwriting and subverting traditional understandings of church-state separation has progressed very far indeed. Here's where we stood in 2007:

In 2007 a poll from the First Amendment Center showed that 65% of Americans believe the founders intended the US to be a Christian nation and 55% from that poll thought the US Constitution establishes the US as a Christian nation.

How much ground has David Barton's falsified version of American history gained since 2007 ? How many more American citizens will come to believe Barton's lies with Glenn Beck's national promotion ?

Those who control the past control the future.    

For those who want to see where David Barton's history revisionism is headed and what we can expect to see in the future, see my article (now online) at The Public Eye - http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v26n1/schoolhouse_to_statehouse .html.

The "Tea Party" worldview is not new and has been taught through textbooks used by some homeschoolers and private schools for over two decades.  These revisionist histories are being used to train adults in seminars and workshops and marketed on Tea Party websites, and, as Bruce points out, in public funded institutions.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 12:18:51 PM EST

They probably don't want this seen or known:

http://www.tampabay.com/news/perspective/how-americans-spread-the -wealth/1125343

People think that the rich only own about half of the wealth in the country.  Actually, the top 20% owns roughly 84% of the resources, the middle class shares about 4%, and the bottom 40% share less than one percent.

I've read elsewhere that the top fraction-of-one-percent owns over half of the resources.

The American public has been mislead into thinking things aren't as unequal as they really are.  They don't realize that the greedy rich are grabbing everything for themselves and what most of the people do have is a tiny fraction of what is available.   Many times we've shown the connections between Dominionism/The NAR/The "Religious Right" and the filthy rich.  Well, there are the results.  People have been brainwashed into supporting things that go directly against their own best interests.

It's all part of a package.  They're brainwashed into thinking that America was a "Christian Nation" and that "those horrible LIBRULS are trying to turn it into an atheist nation with concentration camps for Christians", they're brainwashed into thinking that religion fixes everything (often, it's the CAUSE of the problem rather than the solution), and worst of all- they're brainwashed into thinking that the rich and Big Business actually care about them and should not be regulated or controlled.

Well, the article I linked to shows what the real result is.


by ArchaeoBob on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 06:16:34 PM EST

Also, see the "L Curve" :



by Bruce Wilson on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 09:35:42 PM EST

The attitude of non-rich right-wing extremists towards wealth has infuriated me for years. I've tried to pin it down by historical example: the attitude of European fascists as they evolved from street fighters into partners with big business. The game seems to be to deal with a growing public awareness that there's something unfair about capitalism by pushing the meme that there are "good" capitalists and "bad" capitalists. The good ones put mainstream Germans (or Italians, etc.) to work making steel and battleships and should be left unregulated and ununionized. The bad ones are those cosmopolitan Jews who build banks and movie studios and make nothing but sin and subversion, employing queers and minorities. For some reason this artificial split is convincing to European and American hillbillies. Our Right is looking for a fantasy capitalist who wears a cowboy hat 'n' cross and whom you can have a beer with at a bar - they keep voting for him for President.

by super390 on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 08:13:20 PM EST

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