Glenn Beck Spreads False Claim That First American Bible Was Printed By Congress For Schools

No, Mr. Beck, Congress Did Not Print a Bible for the Use of Schools from Chris Rodda on Vimeo.

With revisionist history denying our heritage of separation of church and state becoming increasingly popular in the right wing it is no surprise that Glenn Beck, who never lets the facts get in the way of his rants, has been promoting the views of the American Taliban. One false claim being spread by Beck is that t “the first bible printed in English was printed by Congress. Chris Rodda responds to this both in the video above and at Talk to Action:

For anyone who has been following the unholy new partnership between Glenn Beck and Christian nationalist history revisionist David Barton, no explanation for why I’m posting this is necessary. For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of watching Beck and Barton in action, here’s the background in a nutshell: David Barton, the pseudo-historian from Texas who’s probably more responsible than any other individual for spreading the erroneous belief that America was founded as a Christian nation, has now teamed up with Glenn Beck. Barton, who appeared on the radar recently as one of the history “experts” in the Texas textbook massacre, is also a former vice-chair of the Texas Republican Party, and, in 2005, was named one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America by Time Magazine. Barton has now made several appearances on Beck’s show, armed with his usual scholarly schtick and pile of impressive historical items from his extensive private collection.

One of the items in Barton’s bag of historical tricks is a rare Bible printed in 1782 by Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken. This Bible has been a mainstay of Barton’s presentations for years, and was, as expected, one of the featured pieces of Christian nation “evidence” whipped out on Beck’s show. Barton’s bogus claim about this Bible? It was printed by Congress for the use of schools — proof that the founders never intended a separation between church and state. Needless to say, Beck and his audience are just eating this stuff up. Barton’s appearances on Beck’s show have propelled his fifteen-year-old book of historical hogwash, Original Intent, to bestseller status, reaching as high as #6 on Amazon. Right now, as I sit here writing this post, this masterpiece of historical revisionism is ludicrously, and alarmingly, holding the #1 spot in the category of “Constitutional Law.”

I’ve addressed this Aitken Bible lie many times before — in blog posts, in a YouTube video after Barton trashed me on his radio show last year, and, of course, in my book, Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History. In fact, because the lies about Congress and the Bible are the most popular of all the Christian nationalist history lies, I made this subject the very first chapter of the book. The chapter, titled “Congress and the Bible,” debunks all the myths and lies regarding the printing, financing, distribution, or recommending of Bibles by our early congresses, most of which are variations of the same three stories — two involving the Continental Congress, and one an act signed by James Madison. The chapter also includes some related lies that have, quite disturbingly, made it into the opinions of Supreme Court justices in a few First Amendment cases.

The American Taliban Uses Religion To Justify Discrimination

Robert Stacy McCain, in discussing Robert Knight’s column, writes “In the secular world of modern intellectualism, it is too easy to forget that not everyone is secular, worldly or modern.” Actually with one of the major political parties in this country becoming outright theocratic and desiring to deny our First Amendment rights to separation of church and state, this is something we never forget. We are often shocked to see such views expressed in 21st century America. In his column entitled We’re smarter than God, Robert Knight (author of Radical Rulers: The White House Elites Who Are Pushing America Toward Socialism) falls back on religious views to justify discrimination against  homosexuals.

It is easy for the authoritarian right to accept Knight’s argument as McCain does since “more than 97% of Americans are heterosexual.” It is not justified to use one’s religious views to promote government restrictions upon the rights of any minority, regardless of how small.

Knight and McCain are convinced that god is on their side in opposing homosexuality and preservation of discrimination against gays in the military. Knight writes:

Those of us who believe that God created male and female and that sex outside marriage – adultery, fornication and homosexuality – is wrong and harmful, are just not being intelligent. It’s apparently not enough to love friends and family who are into homosexuality; we have to love the behavior that threatens their bodies and souls.

The problem with this view is that the world is full of many people with many views as to the nature of god, whether there is a god, and if there is a god what god actually believes about human conduct. No side in such debates has any real evidence and it all comes down to one’s opinion. The founding fathers recognized this when they devised a secular government with separation of church and state.

In secular America, everyone is entitled to their religious views but religious views are to never be the  justification for government policy. Constitutional scholar and then candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination Barack Obama expressed such a theocratic position during the CNN/You Tube debate in 2007, arguing “we are under obligation in public life to translate our religious values into moral terms that all people can share, including those who are not believers. And that is how our democracy’s functioning, will continue to function. That’s what the founding fathers intended.” Obama also discussed separation of church and state when interviewed by CBN in 2007:

For my friends on the right, I think it would be helpful to remember the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy but also our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves.

It was the forbearers of Evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they didn’t want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it. Given this fact, I think that the right might worry a bit more about the dangers of sectarianism.

Whatever we once were, we’re no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers. We should acknowledge this and realize that when we’re formulating policies from the state house to the Senate floor to the White House, we’ve got to work to translate our reasoning into values that are accessible to every one of our citizens, not just members of our own faith community.

Those who believe homosexuality is morally wrong are free to refrain from homosexual relations but do not have the right to impose this view upon others. Even many who are religious agree that we should not impose our views upon others.  McCain expresses a bizarre and nonexistent fear in writing, “Homosexuality may no longer forbidden, but it is not mandatory — yet.”

When Republicans pursue policies based upon religious views there is certainly a difference in degree but morally they are no different than the Taliban or any other group supporting theocracy and opposing the modern world. Such a tremendous difference in world views is also something we must remember when Obama and other Democrats sometimes pursue policies we disagree with. Most people will never agree with any political party on all issues, but that is a different matter from opposing the overall theocratic worldview held by the authoritarian right.