After a decade of debunking pseudo-historian David Barton's claims about American history, it's pretty hard for anything that comes out of his pie hole to surprise me, but even I was taken aback by the utter preposterousness of one of his latest claims -- that gun accidents just didn't happen in the founding era!

Explaining on the January 14 episode of his WallBuilders LIVE! radio show why some people just don't understand that you need good guys with guns to stop bad guys with guns, Barton said:

"That's what these guys do not see and do not look at. They're just flat scared of guns. And the solution to that is exactly what the founding fathers said and that is you start teaching kids to use guns when they're very young because gun accidents are caused by non-familiarity with guns. Once you're familiar with them, you don't have accidents with them."

He then made the incredible claim that gun accidents just didn't happen in the founding era, saying:

"I have searched and in the founding era I think I've only ever found two gun accidents, and everybody was hauling guns back then. You took your guns to church -- you were required by state law in some states to take your guns to church. We didn't have accidents because everyone was familiar with how to use them. It's not being familiar that makes it dangerous."

The next day on Glenn Beck's web-based TV show, Barton made the same claim, after first explaining that the reason people were so familiar with guns back then was that everyone was taught how to use them as part of their education.

BECK: "So, everybody grew up with a gun. And they taught you how to use a gun. It was part of school."

BARTON: "That's right"

Barton then proceeded to pull out a few letters from the founders to prove that using guns was a usual part of education back in the founding era. He first quoted a few lines from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to his fifteen-year-old nephew in which Jefferson told his nephew to take a two hour break from his studies every day to exercise. The exercise that Jefferson recommended was long walks, and he told his nephew to take his gun with him on his walks. This letter is neither here nor there. It says nothing about teaching the use of guns being part of school. All it says is that Jefferson thought that walking and shooting were good ways to exercise and "relax the mind," and recommended them to his nephew over "games played with the ball, and others of that nature," which he warned were "too violent for the body, and stamp no character on the mind."(1)

Barton, who is certainly familiar with the rules set down by Jefferson when founding the University of Virginia, (since he cherry picked quotes from these rules when concocting his lie about Jefferson establishing theological schools at the university), seems to have forgotten that Jefferson didn't even allow students to keep guns at the university, let alone making them a part of their education. The university rules, written in 1824, stated:

"No student shall, within the precincts of the University, introduce, keep or use any spirituous or vinous liquors, keep or use weapons or arms of any kind, or gunpowder, keep a servant, horse or dog, appear in school with a stick, or any weapon ..."(2)

But it's the second letter that Barton read (or paraphrased) on Beck's show that he and Beck flat-out lie about. This letter was from John Quincy Adams to his brother Thomas. Adams had left his two oldest sons, George and John, in Massachusetts with an elderly aunt and uncle while serving as foreign minister to Russia, and was becoming concerned about George, whom he was hearing from family members was becoming effeminate, lazy, and a discipline problem. George was getting his academic education in school, but Adams wanted his brother, who also had a son, to step in and take charge of George's extra-curricular activities.

As we'll see in a minute, Barton not only lies about the John Quincy Adams letter that he uses, but even the part of the letter that he selectively quotes actually contradicts his claim that there were no gun accidents in the founding era. But first, watch, or read, what Barton said about this letter:

 

BARTON: "Now, here's John Quincy Adams. He's overseas, sent there by President James Madison, and he's got three kids being raised by his brother Thomas. They're nine, and they're six, and they're three.

"'This is what he writes back. He says, 'One of the things which I wish to have them taught as soon as possible which no man can teach them better than you is the management of firearms. The accidents which happen among children arise more frequently from their ignorance rather than their misuse of weapons which they know to be dangerous.' He says, 'I want you to take George -- the nine-year-old -- out with you in your shooting excursions, teach him to use the musket. I want you to teach him the construction of the musket, the necessity of prudence of handling the musket, and I want him also to learn the use of pistols, and exercise him at firing at marks.'

"Now, that's a typical education for a nine-year-old at that time."

BECK: "And that's not for hunting."

BARTON: "That's not for hunting."

BECK: "That's for protection."

BARTON: "That's for protection."

Now, here's the un-Bartonized excerpt from the letter, with the parts carefully omitted by Barton in bold:

"One of the things which I wish to have them taught, and which no man can teach them better than you, is the use and management of firearms. This must undoubtedly be done with great caution, but it is customary among us, particularly when children are under the direction of ladies, to withhold it too much and too long from boys. The accidents which happen among children arose more frequently from their ignorance, than from their misuse of weapons which they know to be dangerous. As you are a sportsman, I beg you occasionally from this time to take George out with you in your shooting excursions, teach him gradually the use of the musket, its construction, and the necessity of prudence in handling it; let him also learn the use of pistols, and exercise him at firing at a mark.

"In general let him have as much relaxation and sport as becomes his age, but let him be encouraged In nothing delicate or effeminate."(3)

See how Barton chopped out the line where Adams said that his brother was a "sportsman" so that he and Beck could do their little "That's not for hunting. That's for protection" shtick? And firing at marks was also a popular pastime among gentlemen of the era, who typically referred to it as an "amusement" or a "diversion." Note also that Barton omitted the sentence where Adams said that his reason for wanting his brother to teach his son to use guns was that it was "customary" to "withhold it too much and too long." Kind of contradicts his and Beck's claim that "everybody grew up with a gun. And they taught you how to use a gun. It was part of school," doesn't it?

But, the biggest contradiction is this: Barton quoted Adams as saying, "The accidents which happen among children arise more frequently from their ignorance rather than their misuse of weapons." But Barton is claiming that there were no gun accidents at the time. Why on earth would Adams be talking about what frequently caused gun accidents if, as Barton claims, there were no gun accidents?

Not to digress too much, but I can't help but mention something else here about the way Barton portrays John Quincy Adams and his son George. In addition to the letter about learning to use guns, Barton loves to bring up the letters that Adams wrote to George instructing him on how to read and study the Bible. But what Barton never mentions is how George turned out. What was the result of the strict regimen of Bible study and manly-man activities that Adams imposed upon his son? Well, George took to drinking and gambling, knocked up a servant girl at the home of a family friend, and eventually committed suicide at the age of twenty-eight. Barton never gets to that part of the story.

Now, back to what Barton said on Beck's show.

After reading from the letters of Jefferson and John Quincy Adams, Barton told his tale about a classroom full of gun-toting elementary school children in the 1850s saving their teacher's life by whipping out their guns to stop a gunman who came to their school -- a story that appears to have come not from an actual historical event, but from the Louis L'Amour novel Bendigo Shafter, as I wrote last week in my post "Is David Barton Now Getting His 'History' From Louis L'Amour Novels?" (An update on that post: Barton never answered my email requesting a source for his story.)

At the end of "Bendigo" Barton's gun-toting students story, he makes his 'no gun accidents' claim again:

 

BECK: "Kids did not shoot each other."

BARTON: "Oh no. No, no, no. Again, two accidents I have seen in two hundred years of everybody having guns. It just didn't happen."

Barton claimed on his radio show to have "searched" and only found two gun accidents in the founding era, but his claim became even more incredible on Beck's show. Now it's two gun accidents in two hundred years!

I really have to wonder just where the eminent historian Barton actually "searched" to only find two gun accidents in two hundred years when I was easily able to find countless reports of gun accidents in just a few minutes with nothing more than a quick search of Newsbank's historical newspapers archive. All it took was simply searching on a few combinations of words that you'd expect to find together in articles about gun accidents.

I found a plethora of articles about hunting accidents and other accidental shootings among adults, but what I primarily want to focus here on the accidents involving children, since Barton's claim is that all children were taught to use guns and that is why there were no gun accidents.

This is a just small sampling of the articles I found, many of which, as you'll see, sound just like the articles you see today -- most of them ending with warnings to parents about leaving guns around children or letting children play with guns, and many of them noting that gun accidents were a very frequent occurrence:

From the Pennsylvania Packet, Philadelphia, December 16, 1783:

"We hear from Weymouth, that last week the following melancholy accident happened there: As a number of young men were out a hunting, a musket accidentally went off, by the discharge of which, one person was considerably wounded, and another by the name of Lovell, instantly killed: In which event, a promising youth of about 17, was torn from the enjoyment of his parents and friends, who pungently feel the loss."


From the Vermont Gazette, Bennington, Vermont, September 3, 1787:

"Monday last a daughter of Mr. Ichabod Allen of this town, aged eleven years, was instantly killed with a pistol, by her brother, who is about six years old. The particulars of the unhappy catastrophe, as related by the distressed family, (the parents being absent when the accident happened) are, That the pistol had been loaded, extremely heavy a few evenings before, by a young man of the family, with intent to shoot an owl; that he laid the pistol upon a shelf near the chamber floor, but the little boy finding where the pistol was laid, and having been frequently indulged in snapping and playing with it, found means by setting a chair against the wall and climbing upon the back of it, to get the pistol down, unknown to the family, and went out to play with it as usual. At the time the girl was killed she was sitting in a sleigh box before the door, holding an infant in her arms; the whole charge of the pistol lodged in her body just above the left breast, which put an immediate period to her existence. It is supposed the boy must have been very near her, when the pistol went off, as there was nearly forty shot holes in a space but little bigger than the circumference of a dollar.

"A solemn warning this to all parents and guardians of children not to teach them to use, or even so much as to suffer them to play with such weapons before they arrive to years of discretion."


From the Massachusetts Spy, Worcester, Massachusetts, October 1, 1789:

"At Capeelizabeth, on Saturday the 5th inst., James Mayo, a child of two years old, was shot through the head by his brother, a boy about 12, who was playing with a loaded musket -- The jury were of the opinion that the child's death was accidental."


From the Herald of Freedom, Boston, February 2, 1790:

"UNFORTUNATE ACCIDENT

"We learn from Shaftsbury, in Vermont, that a number of small boys were lately hunting there when one of them, named Ebenezer Bottom, was pushing a wad into his gun with his finger at the same time that another boy was priming it, the gun discharged, by which accident Bottom was badly wounded in the hand, and John Welsh, son of Mr. Ebenezer Welsh, of Norwich, was shot in the body and died in a few days after. -- This affords a melancholly caution to parents not to trust their children with guns till they have discretion to know how to use them."


From the Litchfield Monitor, Litchfield, Connecticut, August 17, 1791:

"PORTSMOUTH, July 27.

"Saturday last, the following melancholy accident happened in the parish of North-Hampton. -- A son of Mr. John Page, about 12 years of age, went into the house of a negro family, in his father's neighbourhood, (the negro man and his wife were absent, and had left three or four children at home, the eldest about 7 years old) and observing a loaded gun in the corner of the room, he immediately took it into his hands, cocked it, and drew it by the muzzle to the door, when by some accident it went off, and discharged its contents of powder, shot, and wadding into his breast and out at his back, which put an immediate period to his existence.

"We hope the above will serve as a caution to parents how they leave implements of destruction in the way of their children."


From the Weekly Register, Norwich, Connecticut, March 13, 1792:

"The following accident happened in this city last Saturday -- A loaded musket being left standing in the corner of a room in the house of Mr. Charles Jeffry, jun. a neighouring boy came in and took the musket to the door, where he discharged it; a girl of Mr. Jeffry's about seven years old, at the same instant coming in the door, the charge went through her arm, which took it off."


From the Litchfield Monitor, Litchfield, Connecticut, May 1, 1793:

"Winchester, April 10, 1793:

"On Tuesday the 9th inst. William Case, aged 18, son of Mr. William R. Case, of this town, died of a wound received in his right arm by the accidental discharge of a musket. The Wednesday preceding his death, the deceased, in company with a young man of the neighbourhood, went in pursuit of ducks: On their way to the pond, the unfortunate, being forward of his companion, whose gun unhappily went off, the contents was lodged as above; and notwithstanding every means and effort of the faculty and his friends, he died a few days after the accident. He was a promising youth, much endeared and lamented by his parents, and all his acquaintance. -- It is hoped that this accident, among others, will be a lesson of caution to those who either for sport or exercise make use of fire arms."


From the Rising Sun, Keene, New Hampshire, October 6, 1795:

"MELANCHOLY ACCIDENT.

"Last week, at Chesterfield, a young man by the name of Johnson, about 16 years of age, was handling a loaded musket, it accidentally went off and discharged the contents into his throat, which killed him instantly."


From the Philadelphia Gazette, September 12, 1795:

"A FATAL ACCIDENT.

"On Tuesday last, a daughter of Mr. Thomas Davis, formerly of this place, was at a Mr. Strutton of Amherst, near Buffaloe river, and no person being present but children, a little son of Mr. Strutton, took up a loaded rifle, and while handling the piece, unfortunately discharged the ball through the head of Mr. Davis' daughter, at which instant she fell, and lay a considerable time before any grown person arrived. -- A lesson to the incautious heads of families."


From the Rural Repository, Leominster, Massachusetts, June 2, 1796:

"ACCIDENT. -- In Hopkinton, last week a boy, about 14 years old, was shot by accident, as follows: another boy who was with him, not knowing the gun to be loaded, pointed at his side, and snapping it, the gun being charged, its contents entered one side -- medical assistance was called; but, alas! too late -- Death had seized him."


From the New-Hampshire Gazette, Portsmouth New Hampshire, May 15, 1798:

"A very unfortunate accident happened in Orford on the 13th of April last. A son of Mr. Platt's and a son of Mr. Hogan's, were accustomed to play with an unloaded musket; it being loaded, unknown to the boys, when the parents were gone out, they took the gun as usual, it went off, and the contents went through the head of the latter, which put an instant period to his existence. -- This is a warning to all who own muskets, to keep them secure from children when loaded."


From Greenleaf's New York Journal, New York City, June 10, 1796:

"ACCIDENT.

"Last Sunday se'nnight as two lads were playing with a gun, which was very imprudently laft in their way, loaded, at a house in Chatham street, the contents discharged into the bowels of the youngest (about 6 years old) and he expired in a few hours. How many fatal accidents proceed from carelessness."


From the Independent Chronicle, Boston, May 17, 1798:

"SHOCKING ACCIDENT.

"On Saturday last at Malden, the following unfortunate event took place: -- As Mr. John Hancock, was sitting in a chair after dinner, sportively instructing a young man, who had taken up a gun, which had been charged the day before, in the manual exercise; when Mr. H. directed him to take aim and fir, he received the contents into his head, which instantaneously put an end to his existence, Æt. 37. Let this be a warning to all young people, how they sport with arms, and heedlessly trifle with instruments of death."


From the Farmer's Cabinet, Amherst, New Hampshire, January 3, 1804:

"On Sunday, the 18th inst. Abigail Underwood, a deserving woman, æt. 24, was killed by a discharge of a musket loaded with shot, at the house of Messrs. Wiswall and Moore, paper makers, in Waltham. -- A youth came into the room where she was cutting the hair of an acquaintance, took up a gun, and snapped it twice, when it went off, and carried one half of her head with it. -- The verdict of the jury -- Accidental death. It is much to be lamented that the frequent repetition of similar disasters to the above, does not prevent persons suffering loaded guns to be in dwelling houses."


From the Albany Gazette, Albany, NY, September 17, 1804:

"Melancholy Accident. -- On Friday last, Henry Selden, aged 13 years, son of Mr. Joseph D. Selden, of this village, left home for the purpose of hunting pigeons. Not returning in the evening, his parents were much alarmed; but flattered themselves that he had fallen in company with a young man who was also absent, and that they had tarried the night, that they might be on the ground for hunting in the morning. The latter, however, returned at about noon on Saturday, without having seen the former. The people then collected and commenced a search for him. -- The had not proceeded far, before he was discovered on the side of a ledge of rocks about half a mile east of the village, and lifeless. From the situation in which he was found, it is presumed that he had discovered some game at the top of the ledge, which is so steep as to be almost inaccessible, and was endeavoring to approach near enough to make a shot. To facilitate his ascent, he had left his shoes a little distance below. His gun was standing several feet above where he was lying, and in an erect position against the side of the ledge; which renders it possible that he first climbed up the rock, and while in the act of drawing his gun after him it went off. The contents entered the side of his head, and must have put an immediate period to his existence.

"Thus has been cut off, in the morning of his days, by one of those accidents to which we are every day liable, a promising youth, the eldest hope of his fond parents! And thus are their expectations blasted in a moment! -- Scarce a week passes without bringing us accounts of lives being lost through the careless use of fire-arms. We wish the publication of them might produce the proper effect. But although we have little expectation, still we indulge a hope, that this melancholy event will operate as a warning to parents and others; that it will be productive of caution, and in some measure prevent the occurrence of similar accidents."


From the Weekly Visiter, Kennebunk, Maine, January 6, 1810:

"MELANCHOLY ACCIDENT.

"On Monday the 23rd of October last. Mr. Ira Sweet, being in the house of George Tuttle, of Winchester, who was he neighbor and intimate friend, took a musket in to his hand, which was in the room, and having sat down in a chair, laid the musket across his knees, he then opened the pan, as he says, and seeing no powder therein, imprudently cocked and snapped the piece, which discharged its contents (being loaded with common shot) through the neck and lower part of the head of a sprightly little boy, three years and five months old, the son of Mr. Tuttle, and who sat within a few feet of the muzzle -- An instant period was put to his life.

"On the recital of such shocking occurrences, it is the duty of all people to consider the consequences of the common heedless use of fire arms. View the scene which took place in the above case, and similar the too frequent cases of like nature -- There were several persons in the house; the mother in an adjoining room, hearing the tremendous roar of a gun in the midst of her family, succeeded by shrieks of those present, exclaimed, "somebody is killed, who is it?" She was answered in a frantic tone, "It is your son." She was met in a cloud of smoke by the agent, with the lifeless boy in his arms; his head hanging down with large streams of blood pouring therefrom. The parental agonies in such cases, will admit of no description or consolation.

"The actor of this tragic scene, tho as free as any man from any evil design, cannot acquit himself from gross imprudence, and must feel agonies, perhaps equally keen with parental, tho' of another kind, and which may not forsake him until his dying day. The relations, neighbors, and intimate connexions of the bereaved, must feel the most poignant grief, and the community at large must sympathize therein, and regret the loss on such occasions. And as fire arms, those instruments of death, are promiscuously in the hands of children, and men, of the imprudent, as well as the prudent, the intemperate as well as others; whoever, after such repeated warnings, presumes to use them in a heedless manner, so as to endanger or take the life of man, would do well to remember that they must be accountable to God the judge of all, and who will suitably punish such outrageous conduct."

Gun accidents among adults were, of course, also frequent. Many were hunting accidents, but a surprising number were the result of grown men doing incredibly stupid things like this:

From the Weekly Oracle, New London, Connecticut, April 29, 1797:

"Philadelphia, April 15.

"On Friday, the 7th inst. a sea-faring man, who had bought an old pistol at Gonaives, arrived at his lodgings near Almond-street, and seeing a man snapping a musket at different persons in a jocular way, bethought himself of his pistol, which, taking from his chest, he primed, and affixed to it a new flint -- when, melancholy to relate, after he had snapped at several persons, it went off, and took from society a worthy young man, about 19 years of age, of the name of David Harrington.

"It is to be hoped, this, with the many other instances of a like nature, may prevent the foolish custom of wantonly playing with those dangerous machines."

There were also numerous accidents on militia training days. A good number of these accidents happened during actual training, but many more happened before and after the actual training, and were caused by militiamen playing with their guns and showing off. A frequent cause of these training day accidents was the practice of a group of militiamen going to an officer's house to "give him a gun" or "give him a morning gun," which meant showing up early in the morning to "salute" the officer by waking him up with loud gunfire.

From the Herald of Freedom, Boston, October 23, 1788:

"Portsmouth, (N.H.) October 18.

"We hear from Concord, that on Tuesday last, (it being parade day with one of the company's there) several young men went to the house of one of their officers, to give him a gun, as it is termed. For this purpose, they loaded their pieces very heavy; one of them, a Mr. Scales, put in a very extravagant charge, and upon being cautioned that the gun would burst, he replied, I will venture it. Being arrived at the door, Scales discharged his piece, which immediately burst, the force of which whirled him round opposite to the muzzle of one of his companion's piece, which being discharged in the confusion, the contents were lodged in his body, and wounded him in such a manner as to occasion his dissolution before the close of the day. May his fate serve as a warning to others, how they persevere in a practice which has often proved fatal to the lives of many."

Yeah, Mr. Barton, I know you have your own personal library of over 100,000 old books and documents that you're always bragging about, but maybe you might want to invest in a subscription to Newsbank's old newspaper archive the next time you're gonna "search" for something.


1. Albert Ellery Bergh, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 5, (Washington D.C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1907), 85.
2. Ibid., vol. 19, 447.
3. Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., Writings of John Quincy Adams, vol. 3, (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1914), 497.

Thanks to an astute commenter on my post from last week, "A Debunking of Pseudo-Historian David Barton's Book on the Second Amendment," we may now know the source of one of the tales that Barton has been telling to promote the idea that not just teachers -- but students -- should be armed in schools.

I began my post with a few quotes from Barton, one of which was a story he told on Glenn Beck's web-based TV show about a classroom full of gun-toting elementary school children in the 1850s saving their teacher's life by whipping out their guns to stop a gunman who came to their school.

This was the 'historical' account related by Barton told on Beck's show on January 15:

"The great example, in the 1850s you have a school teacher who's teaching. A guy -- he's out in the West -- this guy from New England wants to kill him and find him. So he comes into the school with his gun to shoot the teacher, he decides not to shoot the teacher because all the kids pull their guns out and point it at him and say, 'You kill the teacher, you die.' He says, 'Okay.' The teacher lives. Real simple stuff. Saved the life of -- there was no shooting because all the kids -- we're talking in elementary school -- all the kids pull their guns out and says, 'We like our teacher. You shoot our teacher, we'll kill you.'"



I assumed that Barton was either exaggerating a real story or just making the whole thing up, but since he didn't give any source for the story or enough specifics to fact check it, I thought it would be impossible to find out whether or not there was any truth to it. I didn't even consider that it might have come from a novel, but when a commenter on my previous post noted the striking similarity between Barton's story and a story from the Louis L'Amour novel Bendigo Shafter, I downloaded the Kindle version of the novel and checked it out.

I wasn't about to read an entire Louis L'Amour novel, but read enough to get the gist of the story:

The teacher in L'Amour's novel was Drake Morrell, a gambler and gunfighter who had killed five men. Morrell was sentenced to be hanged in San Francisco, but somehow escaped and ended up in a town in Wyoming, where he became a respected citizen and, of course, the school teacher. But he was still being pursued by a character named Stacy Follett. Years earlier, Morrell had exposed that Follett and his friends were cheating at cards. Two of Follett's friends had confronted Morrell with guns, and Morrell had shot and killed them. Follett caught up with Morrell and went to the school where he was teaching to kill the now respectable school teacher, who was defended by his gun-toting students.

Here's how the character Follett recounted the incident at the school to another character in the book when asked if he had killed Morrell:

"... And then I looked at him over my cup. "Did you kill Drake Morrell?"

He chuckled again. "Decided agin it." He sipped his coffee. "You know somethin'? After he started that there schoolteachin' I figured I had him dead to rights. I laid out for him, waitin' until he was out of school, and when he come out the door, I shaped up with my old Betsy girl here" -- he slapped his rifle -- "right on his belly. I had him where he couldn't move. There was youngsters all around him, and he stood there lookin' at me and never turned a hair. He had sand, that Morrell."

"Had?"

"Has. He's still around. You want to know what happened? I nigh got myself kilt. Five or six of them youngsters, weren't but two of them upwards of twelve or thirteen, they outs with their six-shooters and had me covered.

"They told me he was their teacher and he was a mighty good one and if I shot him they'd fill my hide."

He chuckled again. "An' you know somethin'? They'd of done it, too."

"What happened?"

"Nothin'. I pulled down my flag. Pulled her down right quick. I never seen so many youngsters with six-shooters."


Remarkably similar to the story Barton told on Beck's show, isn't it?

So, did Barton get his piece of 'history' from Bendigo Shafter? Only Barton can prove that he didn't. I therefore challenge David Barton to provide a source for the story he told on Beck's show, and have sent the following email to Barton's WallBuilders "research department" to give him the opportunity to do so:

Mr. Barton,

It has been pointed out that the story you told on Glenn Beck's show on January 15, 2013 about the classroom full of armed students in the 1850s saving their teacher from a gunman bears a remarkable similarity to a story in the Louis L'Amour novel Bendigo Shafter.

To prove that you did not present this fictional story as real history, can you please provide the source for the story you told on Beck's show?

Thank you,

Chris Rodda

The holiday season is upon us, and one thing that means for us at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is that we'll be getting reports of alleged improper promotions of religion. We'll check out these reports, and, as always, we'll find some cases where there are legitimate issues that need to be addressed and others where no lines are being crossed. But that's not what this post is about. This is about something that started out as a routine look at a possible holiday-related military religious issue, but ended up leading one of MRFF's research volunteers to stumble upon one of the worst cases of hypocrisy from a self-proclaimed "Christ-centric" company that I've ever seen.

A little background:

It's a pretty common practice in the military for officers and senior NCOs to do things during the holiday season to help those on their bases who are struggling financially -- typically the young enlisted service members who have families to support. Many bases set up "angel trees," for example, where people can take a tag off the tree with the name of a child to buy a gift for. (Incidentally, MRFF gets a lot of emails about these "angel trees" every year, but we've never once found any of them being used to inappropriately promote religion.)

One such holiday program is at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, where the First Sergeant's Council runs a Thanksgiving basket program, which this year will provide 300 young airmen with families with turkeys and everything else for their Thanksgiving dinners. A story about this Thanksgiving basket program on the base's website raised a red flag, not because of what the First Sergeant's Council is doing, but because of who this year's turkeys are being donated by -- a Christian ministry called FLOCK, which stands for "Faithful Love Offering for Christ's Kingdom."

There's nothing wrong, of course, with a religious organization donating things for our troops, and there are many good organizations out there that do this out of nothing but genuine generosity and support for the troops. There are others, however, that have ulterior motives, and that's where MRFF steps in. We check to make sure that donations like this don't come with any evangelical strings attached, as they unfortunately sometimes do.

So, Mark, a research volunteer for MRFF, began our routine procedure of checking out this turkey-donating ministry to see if they have a track record of using their donations as opportunities to proselytize. As long as Mark didn't find any indication that the airmen at Whiteman Air Force Base were going to be getting turkeys that were accompanied by a note saying "This turkey brought to you by your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" or something like that, that would have been the end of it. And Mark's quick checking-out of this FLOCK ministry actually was the end of it as far as it being a typical MRFF issue goes, but that was only because what he found out about this ministry was much worse than anything he expected. At this point Mark emailed MRFF president Mikey Weinstein and myself to let us know what he had found.

The article on the Whiteman Air Force Base website had said that the FLOCK ministry was run by House of Raeford which is one of the country's largest poultry companies. It is also a very Christian company, with a CEO who started a ministry "dedicated to bringing youth and people of our nation to a personal salvation experience with Jesus Christ through music, testimony, and God’s word," chaplains at all of its facilities, and of course, its FLOCK ministry.

News releases on the company's website tout all the wonderful charitable things this nice Christian company does. Also touted is the company's unbelievable safety record, with press releases like the one from September 2012 announcing that one of its facilities had reached the milestone of "one million man hours without a lost time accident."

How is it that this company is able to receive awards for things like "OSHA recordable rates less than the industry average?" Well, as an investigation of this company by the Charlotte Observer uncovered, it's through the unconscionable way these nice Christians have found to get around having to report things like "lost time accidents." They simply force injured employees to keep working. If the injured employee returns to work the same day, it's not a lost time accident and the company doesn't have to report it.

We're not talking about minor injuries here. One of the cases uncovered by the Charlotte Observer was that of a woman whose arm got caught in a conveyor belt. Her arm was broken and part of one of her fingers was cut off. Now, an injury that serious would certainly put an employee out of work for a while, right? Well, not at House of Raeford. That would make it a "lost time accident" that would have to be reported as such. So, this injured woman was forced to return to work for the next shift. Since she didn't miss a complete shift, her broken arm and amputated finger didn't have to be reported as a "lost time accident." Problem solved.

From the Charlotte Observer's 2008 report on its investigation:

The company has compiled misleading injury reports and has defied regulators as it satisfies a growing appetite for America's most popular meat. And employees say the company has ignored, intimidated or fired workers who were hurt on the job.

House of Raeford officials say they follow the law and strive to protect workers.

But company and government records and interviews with more than 120 current and former employees show:

• House of Raeford's 800-worker plant in West Columbia, S.C., reported no musculoskeletal disorders over four years. Experts say that's inconceivable. MSDs, including carpal tunnel syndrome, are the most common work-related injuries afflicting poultry workers.

• Its Greenville, S.C., plant has boasted of a five-year safety streak with no lost-time accidents. But the plant kept that streak alive by bringing injured employees back to the factory hours after surgery.

• The company has broken the law by failing to record injuries on government safety logs, a top OSHA official says.

• At four of the company's largest Carolinas plants, company first-aid attendants and supervisors have dismissed some workers' requests to see a doctor -- even when they complained of debilitating pain.

Companies have a financial incentive to hide injuries. Ignoring them lowers costs associated with compensating injured workers for medical care and lost wages.

Also, the government rewards companies that report low injury rates by inspecting them less often. And regulators rarely check whether companies are reporting accurately.


But James Mabe, the manager of that 800-worker House of Raeford plant in West Columbia, S.C that reported no musculoskeletal disorders over four years, had an explanation for the apparent immunity of the company's employees from these injuries that are so common for everyone else in the industry -- Hispanics are good with knives! Seriously, this Mabe guy actually told the Observer: "Hispanics are very good with their hands and working with a knife. We've gotten less complaints," and "It's more like a natural movement for them." Yep, it's not because all those immigrants who make up so much of House of Raeford's workforce don't report injuries for fear of losing their jobs or getting deported -- it's that Hispanic people don't get injured because they're just naturally good with knives!

The article from Whiteman Air Force Base about the House of Raeford FLOCK ministry's donation for those Thanksgiving baskets says that when "the first sergeants started calling companies to get an estimate for 300 turkeys and Thanksgiving supplies, some were discouraged by the prices they were receiving - upwards of $13,000." So, what's $13,000 to House of Raeford? Well, that's only a little more than the $12,400 fine they paid last month for their latest violation of child labor laws, when they were caught having two teenagers operating an electric knife on a chicken processing line.

Federal and state labor laws prohibit anyone under 18 from working on a poultry processing line, another law that those nice Christians at House of Raeford don't seem to think applies to them. According to the Charlotte Observer, this was not the first time House of Raeford has been caught using underage workers. During a 2008 immigration raid of the company’s plants, federal officials found six juveniles working on the chicken line, including a 15-year-old who was working 10-hour shifts. During its investigation, the Observer was told by current and former workers that "the company frequently hired underage workers" and six supervisors said that "top managers allowed the hiring to secure cheap, compliant labor."

And then there's all the environmental law-breaking. In August 2012, House of Raeford was convicted of 10 counts of knowingly violating the Clean Water Act for sending contaminated wastewater to a municipal treatment plant in Raeford. According to the Department of Justice: "House of Raeford allowed plant employees to bypass the facility’s pretreatment system and send its untreated wastewater directly to the city of Raeford’s wastewater treatment plant, without notifying city officials. In addition, House of Raeford failed to prevent employees from sending thousands of gallons of wastewater into a pretreatment system that did not have the capacity to adequately treat the wastewater before it was discharged to the city plant. The untreated wastewater that was discharged directly to the city plant was contaminated with waste from processing operations, including blood, grease and body parts from slaughtered turkeys. A House of Raeford former employee admitted that the facility would continue to “kill turkeys” despite being warned that the unauthorized bypasses had an adverse impact on the city’s wastewater treatment plant."

According to a 2008 Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety hearing, "House of Raeford has repeatedly been cited by State and Federal occupational safety and health agencies: 130 serious safety violations since 2000, among the most of any U.S. poultry company." And it appears that the violations continue, as with this one from June 2011 where OSHA found that House of Raeford "did not furnish to each of his employees conditions of employment and a place of employment free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees, in that employees were exposed to extended exposure to anhydrous ammonia due to improperly maintained/fitted doors where the broken doors allowed emergency ventilation of the atmosphere in the engine rooms to be reduced."

But amazingly, in spite of having no regard for federal laws, House of Raeford has received nearly $100 million in government contracts from the Department of Agriculture from the Department of Agriculture from 2006 to 2012.

And now, of course, this "Christ-centric" bunch of law-breaking employee abusers is getting some good press from the Air Force because of those 300 turkeys their FLOCK ministry is donating.

Would that first sergeant at Whiteman Air Force Base still be "amazed how generous FLOCK was by providing free turkeys" if he knew how the workers who processed those turkeys are treated by the hypocrites who are supplying this "Faithful Love Offering for Christ's Kingdom"?

 

<p>On Thursday's episode of Glenn Beck's web-based GBTV show, Beck's guest was none other than pseudo-historian David Barton, who, as everybody knows by now, just got his bestselling book <em>The Jefferson Lies</em> <a href="http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/book-news/religion/article/5... by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson</a>. Barton was on Beck's show to refute the critics and save face with his followers. (And Beck will be publishing the next edition of Barton's Jefferson book through his publishing arm.)</p> <p>One of the lies that Barton has been telling for a very long time in his presentation and TV appearances is that Thomas Jefferson signed his presidential documents not just "in the year of our Lord," but "in the year of our Lord Christ."</p> <p>For many years, Barton had claimed to have in his possession a document that proved that Jefferson signed his documents, but he had never revealed in his books or on his website exactly what this mysterious document was. I knew that it had to be some sort of document written by someone else that Jefferson had merely signed, but all I could do was guess at what it might be until October 2008, when I actually attended on of Barton's presentations. At that presentation, Barton showed a corner of the document on the big TV screen, but not enough to tell what it was. </p> <p>A few months after I attended his presentation, David Barton decided to bash me on his radio show, <a href="http://www.wallbuilderslive.com">Wallbuilders LIVE!</a> (which is actually pre-recorded; seriously, this guy can't even give his radio show an honest name). At the October 2008 presentation that I attended, I had gone up to Barton and given him a copy of my 2006 book <em>Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History,</em> a book that debunks dozens of the lies from his earlier books and videos. In January 2009, he decided to come after me on his radio show, where he not only lied about my book, but lied about our encounter at his presentation (which was pretty dumb considering he knew that I had the whole encounter on video, since my friend with the video camera had made no attempt to hide that we were filming it). But the details of all that are unimportant now, except for the fact that a couple of months later I decided to make a series of videos on YouTube showing not only that Barton's version of what occurred at his 2008 presentation was not true, but debunking a whole bunch of the lies he had told in the presentation itself. I put these videos on YouTube in March 2009.</p> <p>Since I mentioned this mystery document in my video series, and that Barton was deliberately trying to keep anyone from seeing what it was, guess what happened - an image of the ships' papers document suddenly appeared on Barton's website. Now I finally knew what Barton's mysterious "in the year of our Lord Christ" Jefferson document was. This was a pre-printed form that ships leaving America had to carry (sometimes also referred to as a passport or a sea letter) that was printed by the hundreds, if not thousands. Each president signed a big stack of these forms in advance to be distributed to the all the ports, where they would be filled out as needed by port officials.</p> <p>Fast forward to 2010 when Barton was appearing as a regular guest on Beck's old show on FOX. I started making a series of videos that I called the "No, Mr. Beck ..." series, each video debunking a different lie that Barton had told on Beck's show, and posting them on HuffPo and in a few other places. One of these videos was titled "No, Mr. Beck, Jefferson Did Not Date His Documents 'In the Year of Our Lord Christ.'" (If you can't or don't want to watch the video, I included a transcription of it when I first <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-rodda/no-mr-beck-jefferson-did_b_622... it back in June 2010</a>.)</p> <p><iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/55jwrsnn5Tw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p>  <p>(The rest of the "No, Mr. Beck ..." series videos can be found on the <a href="http://www.liarsforjesus.com/">homepage of my website</a> if anybody wants to watch the rest of them.)</p> <p>Now, fast forward to April 2012. Barton's book <em>The Jefferson Lies</em> is published, and, of course, the Jefferson ships' papers lie that I had debunked way back in 2009 is in the book.</p> <p>In May 2012, someone else who's been writing some blog posts about Barton for the past couple of years puts out a little book refuting <em>The Jefferson Lies,</em> and includes a bunch of the lies that I had debunked in my book and my videos between 2006 and 2010. Among these was the one about the ships' papers. This book refuting Barton's book came out in May 2012, just a mont after barton's book was released. (I'm also writing a book debunking <em>The Jefferson Lies,</em> but mine isn't quite finished yet because I'm including a bunch of brand new, never used before lies that Barton came up for his new book and had to do some research to debunk those new ones.)</p> <p>Now it's August 2012, and Barton's book has been pulled by it's publisher. Barton needs to save face with his believers, and is quite mind-bogglingly managing to do just that. They all seem to still believe him, and lots of them are praying for him. Barton is well on his way to coming out of this whole thing virtually unscathed.</p> <p>Now, Barton's face saving certainly would not be complete without an appearance on his pal Glenn Beck's show, which is where we get to the reason for the title of my post. You've probably already forgot what the tile was, right? OK ... so you don't have to scroll all the way back up to the top and lose your place, it was "David Barton Tells Glenn Beck More Obvious Lie to Refute Debunking of Less Obvious Lie."</p> <p>So, what was this more obvious lie that Barton told on Beck's show? Watch this clip from the show, where Barton is attempting to refute the debunking of his ships' papers lie, and you'll hear it.</p> <p><iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/47749112" width="500" height="375" frameborder="0" webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen></iframe></p> <p>Did any of you history buffs catch it? Barton's example of Jefferson not bowing to another government entity when he was president was that he released the men imprisoned under the Sedition Act, even though it was a federal law that the courts had upheld! Barton may lack honesty, but he certainly has some cojones! This isn't a lie about some obscure document like his ships' papers lie that he got away with for years by simply not revealing exactly what the document was. This guy actually thinks he's going to get away with lying about the freakin' Alien and Sedition Acts, something that anyone who has studied American history in even the slightest depth would know all about.</p> <p>Here's a transcription of what Barton said:</p> <blockquote><p>"Jefferson has a long record of not doing presidential things that he disagrees with. The Alien and Sedition Acts were a federally passed law. We have twenty-four guys sitting in jail because the courts enforced it. Jefferson disagreed with it. He took all twenty-four out of jail. He refused to enforce the law. Anything he disagrees with he doesn't do. If he had trouble with that [the way the ships' papers were dated], it's a government printer."</p></blockquote> <p>By the time that Jefferson took office, the Sedition Act had expired. Jefferson, of course, opposed this act, but this had nothing to do with him freeing anybody who was imprisoned under it. The Sedition Act had been passed by Jefferson's Federalist political rivals and signed by John Adams in 1798 to keep Jefferson's Republican political supporters from writing anything bad about the Federalist Adams administration! The act's expiration date was March 3, 1801, the last day before the end of Adams's term as president. He didn't have to stand up to anyone to free any prisoners!</p> <p>And there weren't even twenty-four prisoners even when there actually were prisoners. There were only ten men who were even convicted under the act to begin with, and even fewer who were actually put in jail, with the longest sentence being eighteen months, and the rest being much shorter than that. I'm pretty sure that James Callender, who would later turn on Jefferson and publish the Sally Hemings story, was the only one actually still in jail when the act expired on March 3, 1801. The rest had been freed long before Jefferson became president.</p> <p>I'm sure that a few more whoppers await us as Barton continues to weasel out of this little predicament he's gotten himself into, particularly since this was only the first of what will be several appearances on Glenn Beck's show. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!</p> 

 

On Thursday's episode of Glenn Beck's web-based GBTV show, Beck's guest was none other than pseudo-historian David Barton, who, as everybody knows by now, just got his bestselling book The Jefferson Lies pulled by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson. Barton was on Beck's show to refute the critics and save face with his followers. (And Beck will be publishing the next edition of Barton's Jefferson book through his publishing arm.)

One of the lies that Barton has been telling for a very long time in his presentation and TV appearances is that Thomas Jefferson signed his presidential documents not just "in the year of our Lord," but "in the year of our Lord Christ."

For many years, Barton had claimed to have in his possession a document that proved that Jefferson signed his documents, but he had never revealed in his books or on his website exactly what this mysterious document was. I knew that it had to be some sort of document written by someone else that Jefferson had merely signed, but all I could do was guess at what it might be until October 2008, when I actually attended on of Barton's presentations. At that presentation, Barton showed a corner of the document on the big TV screen, but not enough to tell what it was.

A few months after I attended his presentation, David Barton decided to bash me on his radio show, Wallbuilders LIVE! (which is actually pre-recorded; seriously, this guy can't even give his radio show an honest name). At the October 2008 presentation that I attended, I had gone up to Barton and given him a copy of my 2006 book Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, a book that debunks dozens of the lies from his earlier books and videos. In January 2009, he decided to come after me on his radio show, where he not only lied about my book, but lied about our encounter at his presentation (which was pretty dumb considering he knew that I had the whole encounter on video, since my friend with the video camera had made no attempt to hide that we were filming it). But the details of all that are unimportant now, except for the fact that a couple of months later I decided to make a series of videos on YouTube showing not only that Barton's version of what occurred at his 2008 presentation was not true, but debunking a whole bunch of the lies he had told in the presentation itself. I put these videos on YouTube in March 2009.

Since I mentioned this mystery document in my video series, and that Barton was deliberately trying to keep anyone from seeing what it was, guess what happened - an image of the ships' papers document suddenly appeared on Barton's website. Now I finally knew what Barton's mysterious "in the year of our Lord Christ" Jefferson document was. This was a pre-printed form that ships leaving America had to carry (sometimes also referred to as a passport or a sea letter) that was printed by the hundreds, if not thousands. Each president signed a big stack of these forms in advance to be distributed to the all the ports, where they would be filled out as needed by port officials.

Fast forward to 2010 when Barton was appearing as a regular guest on Beck's old show on FOX. I started making a series of videos that I called the "No, Mr. Beck ..." series, each video debunking a different lie that Barton had told on Beck's show, and posting them on HuffPo and in a few other places. One of these videos was titled "No, Mr. Beck, Jefferson Did Not Date His Documents 'In the Year of Our Lord Christ.'" (If you can't or don't want to watch the video, I included a transcription of it when I first posted it back in June 2010.)

(The rest of the "No, Mr. Beck ..." series videos can be found on the homepage of my website if anybody wants to watch the rest of them.)

Now, fast forward to April 2012. Barton's book The Jefferson Lies is published, and, of course, the Jefferson ships' papers lie that I had debunked way back in 2009 is in the book.

In May 2012, someone else who's been writing some blog posts about Barton for the past couple of years puts out a little book refuting The Jefferson Lies, and includes a bunch of the lies that I had debunked in my book and my videos between 2006 and 2010. Among these was the one about the ships' papers. This book refuting Barton's book came out in May 2012, just a mont after barton's book was released. (I'm also writing a book debunking The Jefferson Lies, but mine isn't quite finished yet because I'm including a bunch of brand new, never used before lies that Barton came up for his new book and had to do some research to debunk those new ones.)

Now it's August 2012, and Barton's book has been pulled by it's publisher. Barton needs to save face with his believers, and is quite mind-bogglingly managing to do just that. They all seem to still believe him, and lots of them are praying for him. Barton is well on his way to coming out of this whole thing virtually unscathed.

Now, Barton's face saving certainly would not be complete without an appearance on his pal Glenn Beck's show, which is where we get to the reason for the title of my post. You've probably already forgot what the tile was, right? OK ... so you don't have to scroll all the way back up to the top and lose your place, it was "David Barton Tells Glenn Beck More Obvious Lie to Refute Debunking of Less Obvious Lie."

So, what was this more obvious lie that Barton told on Beck's show? Watch this clip from the show, where Barton is attempting to refute the debunking of his ships' papers lie, and you'll hear it.

 

Did any of you history buffs catch it? Barton's example of Jefferson not bowing to another government entity when he was president was that he released the men imprisoned under the Sedition Act, even though it was a federal law that the courts had upheld! Barton may lack honesty, but he certainly has some cojones! This isn't a lie about some obscure document like his ships' papers lie that he got away with for years by simply not revealing exactly what the document was. This guy actually thinks he's going to get away with lying about the freakin' Alien and Sedition Acts, something that anyone who has studied American history in even the slightest depth would know all about.

Here's a transcription of what Barton said:

"Jefferson has a long record of not doing presidential things that he disagrees with. The Alien and Sedition Acts were a federally passed law. We have twenty-four guys sitting in jail because the courts enforced it. Jefferson disagreed with it. He took all twenty-four out of jail. He refused to enforce the law. Anything he disagrees with he doesn't do. If he had trouble with that [the way the ships' papers were dated], it's a government printer."

By the time that Jefferson took office, the Sedition Act had expired. Jefferson, of course, opposed this act, but this had nothing to do with him freeing anybody who was imprisoned under it. The Sedition Act had been passed by Jefferson's Federalist political rivals and signed by John Adams in 1798 to keep Jefferson's Republican political supporters from writing anything bad about the Federalist Adams administration! The act's expiration date was March 3, 1801, the last day before the end of Adams's term as president. Jefferson didn't have to stand up to anyone to free anybody!

And there weren't even twenty-four prisoners even when there actually were prisoners. There were only ten men who were even convicted under the act to begin with, and even fewer who were actually put in jail, with the longest sentence being eighteen months, and the rest being much shorter than that. I'm pretty sure that James Callender, who would later turn on Jefferson and publish the Sally Hemings story, was the only one actually still in jail when the act expired on March 3, 1801. The rest (with the exception of one other who had finished serving his actual sentence months before Jefferson took office, but didn't have the money to pay the fine he had also gotten) had been freed long before Jefferson became president.

And, as I said in my "No, Mr. Beck …" video above, Jefferson couldn't have changed the wording of the date on this form even if he had wanted to. The language was mandated by an international treaty from 1782 and had to appear exactly as it did in a document annexed to that treaty, and the language was written by a country that was a Christian nation, so that's how they dated it.

I'm sure that a few more whoppers await us as Barton continues to weasel out of this little predicament he's gotten himself into, particularly since this was only the first of what will be several appearances on Glenn Beck's show. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!

Last week, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) found out that all four branches of the military have now revoked permission from Holman Bible Publishers, a subsidiary of LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, to use the official U.S. armed forces branch emblems on their military Bibles. Much has already been made of this story by FOX News and other Christian news outlets, such as Glenn Beck's The Blaze. And, since this story is red meat for the likes of FOX, et. al., and it now appears that it won't be going away any time soon, I want to clear up a few things. As expected, MRFF is being grossly and deliberately misrepresented as an atheist organization whose aim is to rid the military of all Bibles and all religion. This is ridiculous. MRFF is not an atheist organization. In fact, 96% of MRFF's 28,000 clients are Christians -- Catholics and mainline Protestants who are not considered to be the right kind of Christians or Christian enough by the fundamentalists. MRFF is only fighting a particular subset of Christians -- the fundamentalists and dominionists who see the U.S. military as a "mission field" for their evangelism and proselytizing. To these Christians, the military provides an endless supply of young men and women who they can prey upon and turn into "government-paid missionaries for Christ," typically targeting them when they are worn down by training and at their most vulnerable, with the approval and aid of their fundamentalist brethren in the military itself. Before getting to the military Bible issue, I want you to watch a little video. The first part of this video is a collection of clips showing military chaplains and some of the many fundamentalist parachurch ministries that operate freely within the military clearly stating what their real mission is. The last few clips show the mission of these chaplains and parachurch ministries being put into practice in Afghanistan. (The ranks and positions identifying the individuals in this video are the ranks and positions they held at the time the clips were filmed.)


What does any of this have to do with the Holman military Bibles? Well, going beyond the obvious church/state separation issue of the government endorsing religious books by allowing the use of official U.S. military emblems on them, the Holman Bibles contain a lengthy section of essays and contact information promoting the Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF), an organization of about 15,000 military officers, ranging from cadets at the military academies to 3-star generals, with chapters on virtually every military base worldwide, who think the real duty of a U.S. military officer is to raise up “a spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit.” In other words, these Bibles are a recruiting tool for the OCF and, with the official military emblems on them, were a government endorsement of the OCF mission. U.S. military regulations prohibit the endorsement of non-federal entities. The OCF is a non-federal entity that not only condones the mission of parachurch ministries and fundamentalist military chaplains who seek to turn the military into a force of "government-paid missionaries," like those seen in the above video, but actually has that same mission itself. MRFF has probably received more complaints about these particular Bibles, which are displayed and sold in all the base exchanges and other stores on military bases, than any other single issue. The reasons for individual complaints have varied. Some have been strictly about the constitutional issue of official military emblems on Bibles. Some have been because of the manner in which these Bibles are displayed in the exchanges, often being placed right next to books that are denigrating to other religions, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam, and in some cases being placed in sections of military training books, as if the Bible is considered to be part of military training. Many of the complaints coming from Christians have been that the military wasn't only unconstitutionally endorsing Christianity, but endorsing only a particular brand of Christianity that they, as Christians, do not subscribe to. Although this is an issue that MRFF has been working on for quite some time, the military is now claiming that its revocation of permission for Holman Bible Publishers to use the military emblems on the Bibles had nothing to do with religion, and is merely the result of a revamping of its trademark licensing programs. But this explanation is pretty hard to believe. The first is that the purpose of the revamping of the military's trademark licensing program was to expand the licensing of military trademarks into the retail sector. Under a 2004 act of Congress, each of the military's branches was given the authority to create its own trademark licensing office and earn revenue through the licensing their branch's trademarks to manufacturers of toys, clothing, and many other commercial products. The manufacturers pay royalties on the use of military logos and emblems, with the proceeds being used to fund Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs. There has been no explanation from the military as to exactly how this expanding of its licensing program could possibly have led to the Holman military Bibles suddenly being deemed ineligible and having their license, approved in 2003, revoked. But the military wants the official story to be that the revoking of Holman's license had nothing at all to do with religion or complaints about these Bibles. The recent revamping of their licensing programs just seems to be nothing more than a convenient coincidence. The documents obtained by MRFF in response to a FOIA request submitted in June 2011, three months before the first of the military branches suddenly decided to revoke the license held by Holman Bibles for over eight years, show that AAFES (the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which runs the BXs, PXs, and other stores on military bases) was clearly concerned about the complaints about the Holman Bibles, with emails as early as June 6, 2011 from AAFES to Lifeway saying that these Bibles had "become a hot issue," and referencing and linking to a June 2, 2011 article on MRFF's website as the reason they were becoming a hot issue. The article referenced by AAFES was an email from a MRFF client, an active duty JAG officer, about the use of the military emblems on these Bibles. In the article from FOX News, it sounds like the military had already decided to stop the use of the military emblems on the Bibles prior to being contacted by MRFF, but this is simply not true. But, whatever the reason for the military's decision to disallow the use of official military emblems on these Bibles, the right thing has finally been done, which is all that matters. And, despite any erroneous claims you might see or hear that MRFF is trying to prevent service members from buying Bibles, or that Holman can't sell their Bibles on military bases anymore, service members will absolutely still be able to buy these Bibles in their BXs and PXs just as they have for the past eight years. They will just no longer have the official military emblems on them, as they never should have in the first place.
Holman Bible Publishers, a subsidiary of LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, will no longer be allowed to use the official U.S. armed forces branch emblems on their military Bibles. Over the past few years, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has probably received more complaints about these Bibles, which are displayed and sold in all the base exchanges and other stores on military bases, than any other single issue. Here are a few photos of these Bibles, which, up until now, have sported the branch emblems of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines on both the boxes they come in and on the Bibles themselves. Photobucket Photobucket In addition to the constitutional issue of allowing the use of official U.S. military emblems on any Bible, these Holman military Bibles also contain a lengthy section of essays and other information promoting the Officers' Christian Fellowship (OCF), an organization of about 15,000 military officers who think the real duty of a military officer is to raise up “a spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit.” This is the organization that has produced such fine Christian officers as Air Force Major Jonathan C. Dowty, a.k.a. the Christian Fighter Pilot, who became a member of the OCF while at the Air Force Academy and later went on to be an OCF team leader at Edwards Air Force Base. The Bibles also contain a bogus quote from George Washington, created by taking a paragraph of Washington's 1783 circular letter to the governors of the states at the end of the Revolutionary War and altering it to turn into a prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Here's the press release from MRFF about our win in getting all four branches of the military to revoke their permission allowing LifeWay to use the branch emblems on their Holman Bibles.

MRFF Pressure Halts “Military Bible” Authorization by All Four Military Branches

In clear violation of the U.S. Constitution, USMC, Air Force, Army, Navy insignia were used to promote Southern Baptist Convention Bible ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Following efforts by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), all four branches of the U.S. Military have revoked their approval of the Military series of Holman Christian Standard Bibles (HCSB). The Holman Bible is a modern English, Baptist translation that was completed in 2004 and is published by LifeWay Christian Resources’ Holman Bible Publishers, a subsidiary of the Evangelical fundamentalist Southern Baptist Bible Convention. These editions were prominently emblazoned with exact replicas of the trademarked emblems of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. MRFF is a civil rights organization representing over 28,000 members of the armed services and veterans (96% of whom are Christian). As of June, 2011, MRFF had been contacted by nearly 2,000 servicemembers who witnessed the Bibles being conspicuously featured on military Exchange shelves and storefronts across the globe. This raised fears among military personnel that, in the words of an anonymous U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate, it was “a big step towards establishing the Holman Christian Standard Bible as the official religious text of the military services of the United States.”

“SHOCKING CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATION”: READ THE LETTER WRITTEN TO MRFF BY AN AGGRIEVED, ANONYMOUS USAF JUDGE ADVOCATE AND FOUNDATION CLIENT

The dangerous nature of an official endorsement of Bibles by the U.S. Military is made clear by the fact that the Holman translation does not include those texts purged from the Bible during the Protestant Reformation which are still included in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox editions of the Holy Bible. Entitled “The Soldier’s Bible,” “Sailor’s Bible,” “Marine’s Bible,” and “Airman’s Bible,” respectively, the HSBC Bibles contained material merging Evangelical symbolism and theology with national and military iconography and anthems. Each HCSB Military Bible also contained “quotations, prayers, and inspiration” from figures ranging from George Washington and President George W. Bush to various historical figures from each of the respective branches of the U.S. Armed Services.

READ THE CEASE AND DESIST LETTER SENT BY MRFF LEGAL COUNSEL AND THE RESPONSES FROM THE MILITARY

Following a request filed by MRFF’s outside legal counsel under the Freedom of Information Act, the foundation discovered that the U.S. Military had given authorization to LifeWay allowing for reproduction of the emblems, an action that stood in direct violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Upon investigation, each branch of the military responded in succession with the notification that permission to use each branch’s imagery had been revoked. “Once again our foundation has decisively beaten back those who would see the wall separating church and state reduced to rubble,” said Mikey Weinstein, President and Founder of MRFF. “The very fact that the Pentagon — or ‘Pentacostal-gon’ — had allowed for the insignias of the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force to be used for such a clearly Evangelical fundamentalist agenda should sicken anyone with any inkling of respect for the ‘sacred’ principle of religious freedom as enshrined by the foundational documents of our nation, namely the U.S. Constitution.”
Last month, I wrote about Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, the unit whose commander, in his infinite wisdom, had decided to change the unit's nickname from the "Werewolves" to the "Crusaders," a change that came complete with a nice big crusader shield and cross being painted on its planes. This unit, given the nickname Werewolves before its first WWII combat tour, was renamed the Crusaders in 1958 when the plane it was flying was the F-8 Crusader. But in 2008, when the unit was preparing to deploy to Iraq, the name was changed back to the Werewolves by the unit's then commander, Lt. Col. William Lieblein, who, stating the obvious, said, "The notion of being a crusader in that part of the world doesn't float." But earlier this year, the unit's new commander, Lt. Col. Wade Wiegel, decided to change the name back to Crusaders, telling the Beaufort Gazette that he just didn't see calling a U.S. military unit the Crusaders as being "politically incorrect." On April 18, after receiving dozens of complaints about this name change, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) sent a letter to the Commandant of the Marine Corps and Secretary of the Navy demanding that the unit stop using the name Crusaders and the cross and shield imagery. After receiving MRFF's demand letter, the decision was made to change the unit's name back to the Werewolves. So, problem solved, no more issue, right? Well, not quite. On May 18, the General Counsel of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Robert D. Hogue, and one of his colleagues spoke on the phone with MRFF's lead legal counsel on this matter, Caroline Mitchell of the firm Jones Day. MRFF was not aware at the time of this phone call that the decision had allegedly (according to what the military said after the fact) already been made to change the unit's name back – and, apparently, neither was the General Counsel of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, who proceeded to explain to Ms. Mitchell that there was a secular purpose to using the Crusaders name and imagery. When msnbc.com reported on this story last week, they mentioned the phone call between MRFF's counsel and the Marine Corps counsel, but this part of the story is so insane that it deserves more attention. Seriously, you ain't gonna believe the points that General Counsel of the Commandant of the Marine Corps made in his attempt to defend the use of the Crusader name and cross. The most incomprehensibly unbelievable point advanced by these legal geniuses was that the Crusades were not religious. They were just military in nature, and therefore the term Crusades evokes “military” history, not “religion.” I kid you not. The General Counsel of the Commandant of the Marine Corps DOESN'T THINK THE CRUSADES WERE RELIGIOUS! These Marine Corps lawyers then asked Ms. Mitchell if a cross always has a religious connotation, and they were ready with an example of one that doesn't – the X on the Confederate flag! That's right. Their great example of the secular use of a cross is a symbol that evokes something much better – the Dukes of Hazzard (oh yeah, and racism and slavery, too). But wait, there's more! They also asked Ms. Mitchell if the use of the Crusaders name and imagery would be permissible in a theater where the people are “illiterate,” apparently assuming that everyone in the Middle East is illiterate, and that the image of a shield with a cross on it wouldn't be clear to anyone, whether they could read or not. They next asked if the usage of this name and imagery would be acceptable in Africa, apparently unaware that there are significant Muslim populations in Africa as well as the Middle East. Other questions included whether or not it would be acceptable to remove the cross, but leave the shield and continue use of the Crusaders name, or to use an image of a Crusader plane instead and keep the name. Yes, folks, these brilliant points and questions were brought to you by the General Counsel of the Commandant of the Marine Corps – the senior legal advisor to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Deputy Commandants of the Marine Corps, and other top officials of the Marine Corps. We have a serious problem here.

A couple weeks ago, many people were introduced to Christian nationalist pseudo-historian David Barton when Jon Stewart had him on The Daily Show to interview him about his New York Times bestseller The Jefferson Lies. People were apparently quite curious about who this Barton guy was -- so much so, in fact, that he became the #1 Google trend the next day.

Right now, I'm scrambling to quickly write a little book specifically debunking all the lies in Barton's new book. I hadn't planned to post any excerpts of what I'm writing until my book was closer to being done, but yesterday I came across one particular lie from Barton that is so incredible that I just have to share it. For anyone who's ever wondered just how far Barton will go, I think this one answers that question.

This particular lie comes from the section of Barton's book where he's trying to convince his readers that Jefferson rejected all of the secular Enlightenment writers, and only embraced the Christian ones. He first goes after David Hume, taking a quote from Jefferson completely out of context to make it look like Jefferson's problem with Hume was his religious views, when Jefferson's real problem with Hume was that he was a history revisionist. What Barton quotes out of context for his Hume lie is something that Jefferson wrote specifically about his disapproval of Hume's History of England, and had absolutely nothing to do with Hume's religious views.

But it's the next lie, in which he pulls a similar trick to make it appear that Jefferson had a problem with Abbé Raynal because of his religious views, where Barton really outdoes himself. Seriously, you ain't even gonna believe this one!

From Barton's book:

Jefferson was similarly forthright in his criticism of other secular enlightenment writers, including Guillaume Thomas François Raynal (known as Abbé Raynal). Jeferson described his works as "a mass of errors and misconceptions from beginning to end," containing "a great deal of falsehood" and being "wrong exactly in the same proportion." He even described Raynal as "a mere shrimp."

As with Hume, Jefferson was referring to a particular work, and it was a work that had nothing to do with religion. Raynal had written a history of the American Revolution that was full of errors, and these errors had been copied from Raynal's book into another work. That is what Jefferson was referring to in the first two quotes that Barton uses.

But it's the third quote that he uses - that Jefferson called Raynal "a mere shrimp" - that really shows Barton's astounding level of dishonesty and just how far he will go when taking things out of context. The "mere shrimp" comment had nothing to do with Raynal's writings at all. It was referring to the man's height!

Jefferson was recounting some of Benjamin Franklin's anecdotes to author and publisher Robert Walsh for an article that Walsh was writing about Franklin. Here is the one that the "mere shrimp" comment comes from:

The Doctor told me, at Paris, the two following anecdotes of Abbe Raynal. He had a party to dine with him one day at Passy of whom one half were Americans, the other half French & among the last was the Abbe. During the dinner he got on his favorite theory of the degeneracy of animals and even of man, in America, and urged it with his usual eloquence. The Doctor at length noticing the accidental stature and positions of his guests, at table, 'Come' says he, 'M. L'Abbe, let us try this question by the fact before us. We are here one half Americans, & one half French, and it happens that the Americans have placed themselves on one side of the table, and our French friends are on the other. Let both parties rise and we will see on which side nature has degenerated.' It happened that his American guests were Carmichael, Harmer, Humphreys and others of the finest stature and form, while those of the other side were remarkably diminutive, and the Abbe himself particularly was a mere shrimp. He parried the appeal however, by a complimentary admission of exceptions, among which the Doctor himself was a conspicuous one.*

Yes, my friends, that is how far David Barton is willing to go with his misquotes - claiming that a comment about someone's height in a story told by Benjamin Franklin was a "vehement denunciation" by Thomas Jefferson of the religious opinions in that person's writings!


* Thomas Jefferson to Robert Walsh, December 4, 1818, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 12, (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1905), 110-111. (This is the same source that Barton lists in his endnotes, so he was looking at exactly the same thing as I was looking at.)

Anyone who saw Jon Stewart's interview of Christian nationalist pseudo-historian David Barton on The Daily Show last night probably noticed something missing -- there was almost no discussion about what's actually in Barton's new book, The Jefferson Lies. Instead of talking about the book, Stewart opted for talking about more general topics, and Barton was able to walk away completely unscathed.

When I first got Barton's book a little over a month ago, I decided to do what I usually do with Barton's crap, and made a video debunking some of the book's many lies. This was when I did not anticipate that Barton's book would become a bestseller and make the leap into the mainstream, climbing to #11 on Amazon and #25 on the New York Times bestsellers list.

After the interview on The Daily Show last night, I feel like I need to put out something today, so I'm posting the video I made when I first got the book. It only debunks the lies in one of the chapters, and is really long, which is why I only posted it on my personal blog after I made it. I had planned to split it into shorter segments before posting it elsewhere, but don't want to spend the time doing that right now because I've changed course and, rather than doing the rest of my debunking of this book via video, I'm quickly writing an actual book debunking Barton's Jefferson book point by point.

My book will be out pretty fast because of the wonders of on-demand printing, but in the meantime, here is my video debunking most of the lies in Barton's chapter about Jefferson and the University of Virginia, which also includes many lies about Jefferson's other educational endeavors.

I apologize for the length of this video, but I hope people will watch at least part of it, or watch it in parts if they don't have time to watch it all in one shot. I don't have the resources to make slick professionally produced videos like the ones Barton is able to put out, so you just have to put up with me sitting at my desk talking to my flip cam, but I trust that most people will listen to the content and ignore the production quality (or complete lack of production quality).

I also have many shorter videos debunking individual Barton lies on my website if anyone wants to watch something that's not as long as this one.


After Stewart's previous interview of Barton last May, I was at such a loss for what to do that I decided just to give away a free PDF version of my book Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History. This book actually contains the debunkings of a number of the lies used in Barton's new book, and the free PDF is still available here for anyone who wants to read it.