In '05 and '08, Todd Akin Entered American History Lies in the Congressional Record: The Congressional History Lie Project
"The Bible was foundational to development of our country. The English Puritans came to the New World to follow the Bible according to the convictions of their own consciences. Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 24 had what today would be considered Bible college or seminary educations. Only a few years later, in 1782, Congress itself authorized the printing of the Bible." -- Congressional Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, Thursday December 6, 2005, statement to Congress during National Bible Week
While Representative Akin's statement on the Bible and the Puritans was accurate, his claim on the "Bible college" or "seminary" educations of 24 of the signers, which traced to claims advanced by David Barton, was not, and Akin's statement that "Congress itself authorized the printing of the Bible" was also false. Congress did nothing but certify the accuracy of a Bible edition printed by Thomas Aitken, and did so for secular reasons - to promote the struggling American book printing industry, under pressure because of a British blockade.
Akin also read the same statement in Congress on September 26, 2008, for the occasion of National Bible Week. But even more importantly, Rep. Akin was one of the original cosponsors, along with Rep. Randy Forbes, of the history lie-packed House Resolution 888, that Forbes introduced in Congress on December 18, 2007 (see subsection on H. Res. 888, and its history lies, towards the end of this article).
Since then, the style of history lies promoted in H. Res. 888, exemplified in the work of author David Barton, has been denounced even by conservative evangelical scholars as factually challenged and in 2012 conservative evangelical publisher Thomas Nelson withdrew from publication Barton's bestselling book The Jefferson Lies because of numerous factual errors.
While the historical accounts of Christian nationalist author David Barton have at long last been widely recognized as inaccurate and misleading, neither mainstream media nor mainstream academia have acknowledged the extent to which Barton's brand of Christian nationalist pseudohistory has permeated national politics, manifested through the spectacle of national politicians declaiming, with fair frequency, Barton-esque American history lies on the floor of the U.S. Congress, and sponsoring Congressional resolutions packed with such history lies.
Why does any of this matter? Why should we care? Talk To Action cofounder Frederick Clarkson explains, in a trenchant essay, History is Powerful: Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters:
"The notion that America was founded as a Christian nation is a central animating element of the ideology of the Christian Right. It touches every aspect of life and culture in this, one of the most successful and powerful political movements in American history. The idea that America's supposed Christian identity has somehow been wrongly taken, and must somehow be restored, permeates the psychology and vision of the entire movement. No understanding of the Christian Right is remotely adequate without this foundational concept."
Several years ago, driving through New Jersey, I stopped by to visit Chris Rodda, author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History. One of our topics of conversation that day was a sheaf of papers about two inches high, Chris' notes on a survey of history lies emitted by United States Senators and Representatives in Congress over the twenty-odd years searchable through the THOMAS system in the Congressional Record.
Chris Rodda, who has made debunking the religious right's history lies - concocted to emphasize America's Christian heritage and the piety of its founders - her specialty, told me that to the best of her recollection, her survey showed that 97% or 98% of American history lies entered into the Congressional Record came from Republicans.
Fascinated, I tried to talk Chris into the project of revisiting and verifying the research, enlisting backing from well-known historians, and releasing it with a great flourish, perhaps to launch a new nonprofit that would fight falsified American history.
Rodda thought it was a great idea, except that she was caught up in other projects. Well, I asked, couldn't the work be farmed out, parceled out to volunteers? No, she replied, that would be impossible because ferreting out all the lies required an intimate knowledge of the various classes of history lies in use, and their myriad permutations, that she alone possessed.
And so the years went by, but the idea stuck in my mind and this Fall, I started to poke around in the Congressional Record myself. I'm a novice to the world of falsified American history, it's true, but what I've found certainly corroborates Chris' Rodda's preliminary survey. So I've decided to cover my findings, sporadically - as time allows - in a running series.
So far, I have yet to find an instance, in the Congressional Record, of a Democrat in Congress or the Senate uttering any of the classic history lies coined by David Barton or any of his colleagues in the American history falsification business; all have come from Republicans. But that doesn't leave Democrats completely off the hook:
One of the most outrageous exercises in the Congressional promotion of American history lies came in December 2007, with the introduction, by Republican Representative Steve Forbes, of House Resolution 888 - a compendium of many of the most classic of David Barton's history lies. Five Congressional Democrats would eventually sign on as H. Res. 888 cosponsors, and they were joined by a whopping 88 Republicans who, by late 2008, had signed on as fellow cosponsors of Forbes' resolution.
House Resolution 888
In a multi-part series at the website I co-founded in 2005 with journalist Frederick Clarkson, Chris Rodda covered the numerous history lies packed into H. Res. 888, in a running series that commenced with the post, Think the "Christmas Resolution" was Bad? Check Out H. Res. 888 in which Rodda wrote,
"On December 18, 2007, Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA) introduced H. Res. 888, a resolution "Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as 'American Religious History Week' for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith." This resolution, which purports to promote "education on America's history of religious faith," is packed with the same American history lies found on the Christian nationalist websites, and in the books of pseudo-historians like David Barton."
Here's a list of many of the "888" posts in the series.
One of the more interesting ones in the "888" series, at least from an immediate political perspective, was 35% of House Republicans Support Christian Nationalist History Revisionism, a post that referenced the fact that over 1/3 of House Republicans had signed on as cosponsors of Randy Forbes' H. Res. 888.
But since then, a number of prominent conservative evangelical scholars have strongly denounced David Barton's pseudo-history. How many Republicans in Congress and the Senate, I wonder, would - if asked by media - defend their past endorsement of Barton-style American history lies? As Chris Rodda and I have often discussed, there are two horns to the dilemma - someone promoting such history lies is revealed to be either 1) also a liar or, 2) a history ignoramus: and, neither title is nice to wear during an election year.
[note: Chris Rodda has a new book series debunking the many lies about Thomas Jefferson that have been put out by David Barton, who has tried to paint Jefferson as a pious Christian nationalist.]