Christine Caine Appears to Be Harvesting What Joel Osteen Planted

Recently Christian motivational author Christine Caine settled a lawsuit with Christian author Carey Scott over material taken from Scott’s book and used in Caine’s book Unashamed. Caine has remained silent in the face of multiple requests for an explanation or apology regarding the plagiarism of Scott’s book. After I wrote about the situation and asked for a comment, she recently blocked me on Twitter.

Now it appears that Caine has harvested from another author. Earlier this evening I saw a tweet mentioning Caine with a quote that looked familiar to me. Here is the tweet:

This quote was claimed by Caine in 2015 on Twitter.

Caine also used this quote on her Facebook page in 2016.

This year, Caine’s publisher Zondervan produced a book of devotionals where they credited Caine for the quote in a chapter titled, “Buried or Planted?”

Osteen Was Planting in 2009

In 2009, Joel Osteen preached this quote in seed form.

 It’s easy to feel like we’ve been buried, but what’s interesting is the only difference between being buried and being planted is the expectancy of what’s going to happen next.

When you put a seed in the ground you don’t say, “I’m burying this seed,” you say, “I am planting this seed,” because you know it’s coming back.

We all face difficulties but you have the seed of almighty God on the inside. He breathed His life into you. When you go through disappointments, you’re in tough times… you might feel like you’d been buried, but the fact is, you’ve simply been planted.

Then in a 2011, he pruned the verbiage in his book, It’s Your Time.

When you go through disappointments and you’re in tough times, you may feel like you’ve been buried, but the fact is, you’ve simply been planted. That means you’re coming back!

Coincidence?

Now that Caine has blocked me and apparently isn’t going to respond to requests, I doubt I will find out from her if this is an amazing coincidence. The quotes are quite similar and it doesn’t seem right for Caine to get credit for reframing being buried as being planted. Perhaps Osteen got it from someone else, but it looks like he harvested that quote before Caine.

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Does Plagiarism Matter to Christians?

Judging by reaction to recent plagiarism cases, I don’t think plagiarism matters much to most Christians.

Of late, professor Aaron New has brought forward multiple clear examples of plagiarism involving Tim Clinton and the American Association of Christian Counseling. I have published most of them on this blog. The response has been interest from the Christian Post but other than that, a resounding yawn. The AACC’s response has been to blame interns and employees and buy software to find plagiarism before they publish it. Tim Clinton’s other organization, James Dobson’s Family Talk has removed articles with plagiarized material but without comment or apology.

Two days ago, Publisher’s Weekly first reported a settlement between Christine Caine and Carey Scott in a plagiarism case. Caine took some of Scott’s work and used it in a recent book. While Caine’s publisher settled with Scott, Caine has remained silent, without comment or apology. She hasn’t explained how Scott’s material ended up verbatim in her book and promotional material (see my post where I demonstrate Caine’s copying). Outside of a few familiar voices on social media, there is little pressure on Caine to explain herself or take responsibility for her actions. Her publisher has not responded to multiple requests for comment. Silence is the strategy.

Yesterday, World magazine’s Mindy Belz examined the tepid apology offered by author Anne Voskamp for plagiarism on Twitter. The apology for one instance of plagiarism (now deleted) was buried in a blog post in such way that it could easily be missed. She hasn’t had much else to say about it. But why should she, very few people seem to care.

And let’s not forget Mark Driscoll who was responsible for citation errors in several books. In 2013, Janet Mefferd first accused Driscoll of borrowing concepts from Peter Jones without appropriate citation. From there, I discovered additional problems in several of his books. Although Driscoll didn’t acknowledge wrongdoing, one of Driscoll’s publishers quietly corrected most of the problems over the course of a year. Today, Driscoll is back with a new book from Charisma publishing.

What is the Solution?

For her article, Belz spoke with publishing industry insiders. She reported that one answer was better plagiarism detection software. My answer is to hold authors to a high standard. They should do their own work. Fewer books would be published but given the repetitive nature of many books published by Christian publishers, that would be a good thing.

I suspect that part of the reason plagiarism is a mild sin among Christian writers and publishers is that enforcing the rules would require Christian authors to write their own material. Thus, ghostwriters and researchers would be out of work. Pretend experts and Christian celebrities would have to develop actual skills and find something novel and interesting to say without the help of paid experts and researchers.

As illustrated by the above situations, publishers aren’t regularly accountable to the public, nor do they require authors to be accountable. Scott had to go to court to get justice. She couldn’t count on Caine and her Christian publisher to do the right thing. Now that the situation is public, Caine isn’t talking. Although I don’t know what is in mind, her silence gives the appearance that she hopes her popularity will get her through this rough patch.

What has surprised me is that lack of response from Christians on social media to these cases. Only a very few members of the American Association of Christian Counselors have called for AACC leaders to be accountable. Very few evangelicals have directly appealed to Clinton, Caine, or Voskamp to take responsibility for their actions. Given the social media reaction, I suspect Christian publishers are content to ride out the few emails and calls they are getting in advance of the next book release. If many Christian consumers cared, they would go to the social media accounts of these authors and ask for answers.

As the Caine case demonstrates, plagiarism is actionable. However, in Christian circles it doesn’t appear to matter as much as it does elsewhere. Plagiarism leads to job loss or sanctions in the news room (e.g., here, here, here) and academia (e.g., here, here). When I contacted the Colson Center about Tim Clinton’s near verbatim use of a Chuck Colson op-ed in one of his articles, their response was to say nothing and let it go.

In academia, we will continue to enforce high standards of plagiarism. However, it is jarring to realize that our students will enter a world where plagiarism matters less when they work in media organizations which promote Christianity than in places which do not identify as Christian.

 

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Without Apology, Zondervan Settles Plagiarism Case Involving Christine Caine

According to Publisher’s Weekly yesterday, publisher HarperCollins Christian/Zondervan and author Christine Caine settled a plagiarism lawsuit with author Carey Scott. Scott accused Caine of copying sections of Scott’s book Untangled: Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life to include in Caine’s book Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny.

Scott commented for the PW article, Caine did not.

While Scott alleged several instances of copying, I can show one. Consider the last paragraph of page 55 from Scott’s book beginning with “And the enemy”*

Then listen to Christine Caine’s narration from a segment of “Joni Table Talk” where she promotes her book Unashamed.

While this is a small portion, the words and flow of the sentences are copied from Scott’s book. This section was apparently quite important to Caine in that she chose it to promote the essence of the book. Because of the complaint, Caine agreed to change the text of the promotional video (you can view that on You Tube). In the complaint, Scott alleges that Caine acknowledged that she had read Scott’s book.

Sometime in July 2016, following HCCP’s and Zondervan’s review process, Ms. Caine contacted Ms. Scott directly. Ms. Caine affirmatively acknowledged that she had access to and read Ms. Scott’s work. (page 7)

Scott further alleged in the complaint that Caine’s book is “substantially similar” to hers. In a court filing prior to the settlement, Zondervan and Caine contested Scott’s claim that Caine’s book was substantially similar to Scott’s book.

Messages left with Zondervan and Christine Caine were not returned. Carey Scott had no comment.

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* This was Exhibit A in Scott’s complaint against Zondervan and Caine. The first two sentences in Scott’s books are reversed in Caine’s narration.

What Does the American Association of Christian Counselors Foundation Do? Part Two

On September 24, I started a series of articles on the American Association of Christian Counselors Foundation. Specifically, I am examining what the foundation does. In that first article, I wrote that the AACCF exists to serve the American Association of Christian Counselors, the private business owned by Trump advisor and Family Talk Radio director Tim Clinton.  In this article, I compare the stated mission of the AACCF with the expenditures reported on the organization’s IRS 990 filings.

AACCF’s Mission

What the AACCF is supposed to do depends on the audience. To consumers, the AACCF funds programs which aren’t a priority “in a for-profit business model” which is what AACC is.

The AACC Foundation IS OUR NON-PROFIT WORLDWIDE RESOURCE that exists to encourage the development of Christian counseling worldwide through funding of various programs that are not priorities in a for-profit, business model, but are nonetheless crucial to the comprehensive development of a Christian counseling ministry.

What are those programs? Currently, the AACC website lists the Christian Care (referral) Network, the New Century Marriage Initiative, the International Association of Christian Counselors, and student scholarships to AACC conferences.

Elsewhere in the past, AACC included disaster relief in the list. A current website lists a suicide prevention program called Suicide Pair Initiative. I can’t find any evidence of any activity by AACC to put this into motion but AACC has been promoting it since late 2016.

In contrast, on the 990 forms submitted to the IRS, AACCF declares their mission:

In case that’s hard to read, here it is again:

To assist in providing a biblical, Christian ministry of the gospel, hope, encouragement and strength to as many people as possible by providing books, tapes and supplies to counselors who can benefit from this service.

To the public, the AACCF mission sounds charitable and benevolent. To the IRS, the main activity is more accurately disclosed as a vehicle for the sale of books, tapes and supplies. About 96% of AACCF’s revenues comes from sales of books and supplies; the rest comes from donors. About 98.5% of all revenues ends up going back to the AACC (Tim Clinton’s business) via various fees (employee rental, office rent, etc.). According to the 990 forms from 2002 through 2016, only 1.4% ($122,387) has gone to the charitable causes described on the AACC website.

AACCF’s Priorities

So what charitable purposes did AACCF help? There are so few I can list them by year.

2004   Conference scholarships –       $ 2,424

2005   International scholarships – $20,800
Hurricane relief- God Chasers –      $20,000
Mission Trip- Bev Iglesle                     $10,000

2010 – Tuza Project Seminary scholarships $16,427
Tuza travel expenses                                                $ 1,827

2011 – Johnson City TN (tornado relief)     $10,507
Charlottesville, VA (tornado relief)               $12,957

2012 – (Not listed – unknown)                              $ 142

2013 – Tuza Project – travel expenses $23,423

2014 – Tuza Project – travel expense    $ 3,880

In some years, the AACCF declared nothing on their 990 which matched up with any of the purposes listed on the AACC website (e.g., scholarships, marriage initiative, suicide prevention, international counseling associations, etc.). For instance, in 2016 the AACCF took in over $222,000 in contributions but didn’t show grants to any of the priorities listed on the AACC website. The funds went back to AACC via fees for services provided by AACC to AACCF. Of course, there is no bidding process for AACCF to get a good deal on these services. People donate money so that AACCF can spend those funds on services provided by AACC. At least, that’s the story told by the 990 in 2016.

There was one other expenditure listed as a grant in 2014. However, it was given to a for profit business belonging to Tim Clinton. I detailed this arrangement in my last post. Clinton’s men’s weekend adventure Wildfire Men’s Weekend lost money in 2014. Two donors gave $220,000 to the AACCF apparently with knowledge that the nonprofit would give those funds to Tim Clinton’s for profit business. The AACCF also took $10,000 of unrestricted funds to give to Clinton’s for profit business. Imagine the surprise of donors who thought they were helping international counselors get to a conference, or maybe pitching in for disaster relief. Instead, some of those funds went to the “for-profit business model” that the Foundation isn’t supposed to fund.

It is hard to take AACCF’s public mission statement seriously when the charitable giving goes to support the for-profit business. An examination of the 990 forms shows clearly where the priorities are.

Anyone can review AACCF’s 990s at ProPublica.

Professional Associations Should Be Accountable and Transparent

By most measures, the American Association of Christian Counselors appears to be successful. The AACC conferences feature big name Christian celebrities and, according to AACC owner Tim Clinton, often sell out. Although there is no way to verify it, promotional material boasts that the business has “nearly 50,000 members” (see Tim Clinton’s president letter on the About tab).

Mental health professionals and students familiar with other professional organizations might wonder why Tim Clinton has been the president of AACC since he took over in 1998. There are no past presidents, or a president elect as with other associations. This is because the AACC is Tim Clinton’s for profit business. Members don’t take part in governance of the organization, there is no governing board or council, and no member involvement in setting policy.

Disadvantages of the For Profit Model

Over the years, I have studied and been involved in professional associations. In the late 1990s, I was on the board of the American Mental Health Counselors Association as president elect, president and past president of the association. I have served on committees of the American Counseling Association, an umbrella group for several counseling associations. For awhile, I was on AACC’s do-nothing advisory board. From these observations, I can say that there are some advantages to member driven groups (ACA/AMHCA) over a private business model (AACC).

Transparency

An obvious advantage is that typical nonprofit associations* are more transparent than for profit private businesses. Members pay dues and can get access to financial records showing how their dues are spent. Tax exempt organizations file 990 financial disclosure forms with the IRS which are then made available to the public. Not so with the AACC. The AACC did spin off a nonprofit foundation which does report operations on IRS 990 forms and I have started a series analyzing that Foundation.  However, the AACC Foundation doesn’t collect membership fees. Members can guess but they don’t know how their dues are spent by AACC. They don’t know how much are spent on salaries, or member services or any important measure of organizational efficiency.

Accountability

Transparency serves accountability to members. In a member driven organization, members can raise concerns about how staff and officers spend money and make policy. They can have input into the budgeting process. If members don’t like what is happening they can voice their discontent directly to those who make the policies via processes spelled out in the by-laws.

In member driven organizations, officers are elected to represent members. These officers rotate and allow wide representation of interests. Clinton may create a board as a part of the illusion that the AACC is a professional organization, but it has no power. The members of the board of reference could vote to do something but if Clinton doesn’t agree, it doesn’t matter. In a real professional association, the members matter. Their voice carries weight via a vote for state officers, regional officers and national officers. In this way, the organization’s leaders are accountable to the members.

Another aspect of accountability is a functioning ethics process. AACC has a code of ethics. However, I know an individual who wanted to file a complaint but was routed to the public relations director instead of the ethics committee. In such cases, the sensitive matter of an ethics complaint should go to the ethics committee charged with handling such cases, not to a gate keeper. The members of the ethics committee were never identified.

Pushing Products or Providing Services?

AACC constantly pushes dubious products and certifications. Through AACC, you can become certified as a Professional Life Coach through the Board of Christian Life Coaching. Dina Jones is the executive director; she’s also the director of professional relations for AACC. There are four certifications one can achieve, each with a $199 application fee and a biennial $149 renewal fee. Of course, AACC has something called Light University which offers courses in life coaching which will help meet the requirements.

There are more. You can also be certified by the Board of Christian Professional and Pastoral Counselors, and the Board of Christian Crisis and Trauma Response. Just like the life coaching certification program, these boards all have levels of certification with high price tags and renewal fees.

The problem is that there is no assurance that these credentials mean anything to anybody. A license with a scope of practice for independent work in a state is what is needed to legally operate as a mental health provider. Health insurers don’t require any of these certifications. These certifications didn’t arise due to a need among professionals or clients; they came about because they generate income for AACC.

Nonprofit associations spend time working on member needs. Members are involved in meaningful ways developing policies and practices that respond to actual needs among the members. Different incentives operate in the for profit sector. Instead of responding to what members want, AACC has to sell members on the idea that these certificates are what they want.

What We Need

Christian mental health professionals have professional associations to join (e.g., APA, AMHCA, NASW, AAMFT). However, many also want to come together with a group of professionals of like belief for fellowship and reflection on our vocation. I am leaning toward Christian Association for Psychological Studies as a place for that.

For many students in graduate programs, it will take courage to ask hard questions about AACC. Some grad programs are affiliated with the organization. Some professors pad their resume with presentations at AACC conferences and are reluctant to speak out. Some leaders in AACC don’t like the situation but are likewise afraid to give up the benefits of being in a favored position.

The fear of speaking out that I continue to hear from psychology professors and students around the country highlights some of my concerns about AACC. Dissent in professional groups should not result in shunning. It clearly does in AACC world. I am rooting for the graduate students to do things differently.

 

*I realize there are differences between nonprofit and not-for-profit organizations but I am referring to all groups which are not in business to make a profit for the owner or shareholders.

 

Dear AACC – Maybe Someone Should Look at All Your Content

Courtesy of Aaron New, here is another attribution problem at AACC. This article “The Case for Faith: Celebrating Hope in Mental Health Care” posted by “Emily” with authorship attributed to Eric Scalise and Tim Clinton in January of this year is mostly lifted from a book by Siang-Yang Tan and Eric Scalise titled Lay Counseling: Equipping Christians for a Helping Ministry.

Here is just a little bit of the article. The words in italics are taken directly from Tan’s and Scalise’s book. Someone took the article, added a few sentences, put Clinton’s name on it and posted i.

Spirituality is mysterious, but real. It has offered countless millions a place of refuge, solace, comfort, hope and a deeper sense of purpose and meaning—especially in times of tragedy or crisis where grief and despair crouch at the doorstep of the soul seeking to rob a person of vitality and life. Although spirituality continues to be an evolving construct among the social sciences, thus far, the research literature generally affirms its profound and dynamic impact on mental health and mental health counseling. Why is it then—in a multicultural and postmodern society—that some practitioners and counselor educators continue to avoid or even disparage this potential client strength when it comes to treatment planning and desired therapeutic outcomes?

Some may remember that in the early days of mental health research, Freud referred to religion as nothing more than a mass neurosis. McMinn et al (2009) report that psychologists do not assess religious and spiritual issues in most cases and do not therefore include them in treatment plans. Thankfully, this important dimension of the human experience is not being completely ignored (Briggs & Rayle, 2005; Young et al, 2007). Dobmeier and Reiner (2012) note that the 2009 standards from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and related Educational Programs (CACREP) specify some level of spiritualty integration in two of their core curriculum requirements. Religion and spirituality can no longer be simply viewed as an emotional or psychological “crutch,” but for the potential client strengths they consistently represent in the literature.

Now here is the relevant section of the Lay Counseling book.

If you read along in the article and the book, you will find that most of the article is taken from the book with minor alterations. There is a section on ethics codes from ACA and APA which I can’t find in the book. Nothing on the AACC website page says the article is excerpted from the Lay Counseling book.

In any case, here we have a case where Tim Clinton’s name appears on an article when there is no connection in the source document. I don’t know Dr. Tan, but have heard he is pretty nice fellow. Lay counseling has been Dr. Tan’s life work. My guess is he won’t do much about this but it is a pretty shabby way to treat a long time supporter.

PS – If you are reading this and have ever donated to the AACC Foundation, please contact me.

 

Dear AACC: Want to Avoid Plagiarism? Follow These Guidelines.

Two weeks ago, Jimmy Queen spokesman for American Association of Christian Counselors owner Tim Clinton told the Christian Post that Clinton has a “zero tolerance for plagiarism.”

Queen had to make that declaration because Dr. Aaron New and I have found some plagiarism in his articles and books (e.g., here). I have documented much of it on this blog. Queen blamed AACC interns and former employees for the infractions. He told CP that careless interns and employees took material from the work of other people, put Tim Clinton’s name on it and they didn’t realize the extent of it until Dr. New and I brought it to light.

If that is so, then there is a very easy way to avoid plagiarism. According to the CP article, AACC purchased software to detect plagiarism in their “mountains of content.” I have an easier method. Just follow these pointers.

First, do your own work.

Yes, that’s right. Write your own articles and books and when you quote someone else or want to use their ideas, look up the source and cite their work. I know it seems crazy and very time consuming, but it works. If Tim Clinton wants his name on something, then he should write it all himself. Sure, interns can track down sources, but as we have learned, they make lots of mistakes. If your name is on the byline, you’re responsible.

But what if someone else writes some of the article or book? That leads to the next guideline:

Give credit where credit is due.

If an intern writes something, put that person’s name on it. The AACC code of ethics discourages ghostwriter. The AACC code of ethics also requires authors to give credit to people in relation to the work they did. If an employee researches a topic and writes it up, give the person credit. Your name doesn’t have to be on everything.

Doing these two things would take care of a multitude of problems.

While we are at it, here is a sample of Clinton taking material from an edited book and putting it in one of the books he authored himself. If he says this is because of interns or employees, then the authorship of his books is open to question.

First, here is a section from his 2006 book Turn Your Life Around.

This appears to have been taken from a 2001 article by Michael Lyles in the Soul Care Bible. See below:

Just one more.

I call this writing a book by press release.

The highlighted parts all came from a Harvard press release which was reproduced by Science Daily. See below:

Elsewhere in the book more of the press release shows up but I feel like this demonstrates the point. The footnotes in the book point to an article in the AMA’s Journal which doesn’t contain any of this material. I am willing to believe an intern or employee goofed up on this. However, if true, that adds strength to my recommendation that preventing plagiarism is mainly about doing your own work.

In addition, any writer who wants to keep to the straight and narrow will profit from this list of 28 guidelines.

What Does the American Association of Christian Counselors Foundation Do?

Next week, the American Association of Christian Counselors is holding a conference in Dallas, TX. According to the AACC’s owner Tim Clinton, nearly 2,000 people will attend, making it one of the largest gatherings of Christian mental health professionals in the nation.

While many think of the AACC as a professional association, it isn’t like any of the other groups for psychologists, counselors, or social workers. Those associations are not-for-profit and are run by representatives elected by members. Officers are elected and paid staff are accountable to the membership through the elected representatives.

In contrast, according to all evidence publicly available, the AACC is a for profit business owned by Tim Clinton. According to a 2003 filing with the SEC, Clinton is the sole shareholder of the AACC. Clinton is president for life and the other officers work for him. The AACC advisory board doesn’t have much of a role. I used to be on what is now called the Board of Reference (then called the Advisory Board) and we never met as a board. I was never told I was removed from it. It didn’t matter because we never did anything; it was just for show.

AACC Foundation

Many professional associations have foundations which seek donations to provide support for the profession as a whole. For instance, the American Psychiatric Association Foundation solicits donations to advance research in psychiatry and funds various innovative programs. However, that is not how the AACC Foundation operates.

AACC’s business model is complex and because it is a private business, can’t be known with certainty from information available to the public. However, in an effort to better understand the relationship between AACC and the Foundation, friend of the blog and former auditor Jason Watkins and I recently reviewed data from AACC Foundation 990 forms. Watkins compiled the data from 2002 through 2016 (see an image of his spreadsheet here). My analysis which relies on his work is below.

Essentially, the AACC Foundation collects donations and sells products to support the for profit business of Tim Clinton. Less than one percent of the revenue from the past 15 years has been spent by the Foundation on charitable causes which did not benefit one of Clinton’s businesses. More on that below.

According to the IRS 990 forms, the Foundation and AACC provide services to each other. On balance the for profit AACC wins. Here is how the Foundation’s 2016 990 form described the arrangement:

Over the past 15 years, $14.8-million was paid by AACC Foundation to Clinton’s for-profit businesses. As noted above only a fraction go to causes that don’t benefit Clinton’s businesses. The head of the Foundation is Tim Clinton’s brother-in-law Jimmy Queen. There is obviously no independence in this arrangement. Queen is COO of AACC under Clinton and he runs the Foundation. Clearly the Foundation isn’t independent of AACC.

Wildfire Weekend Bailout

The largest grant from the Foundation during the period we reviewed was given to one of Tim Clinton’s businesses — Wildfire Weekend, LLC. In 2014, Clinton canceled several Wildfire men’s conferences. These conferences featured testosterone and the Bible but didn’t get enough registrations to make money so some were canceled. To help make up the short fall, the AACC Foundation gave AACC (Tim Clinton) $230,000. See the 2014 990 entry below:

The 990 disclosed that the funds were used to “support the deficit the organization sustained in holding the conference.” Clinton didn’t make enough money on these conferences so the Foundation’s tax free revenues bailed him out.

It is worth noting that it took AACC two years in some cases to return registration fees to people who signed up but couldn’t go because AACC canceled the conference. Some of those bad reviews are still on AACC’s Better Business Bureau page.

In recent years, the activity of the Foundation has changed slightly. Revenues from media sales are down while contributions are up. However, on the most recent (2016), no grants to charitable organizations are listed. The Foundation is asked on the 990 (page 2) if any new program services had been undertaken and the “no” box is checked. No accomplishments are listed in the space on page 2 for such items. Funds just go to AACC.

Clinton and his folks run busy conferences with many options. They provide contact with Christian mental health providers who want to explore how their profession and faith interact. However, Christian mental health professionals do have other options (e.g., CAPS) when it comes to how they align themselves. This information is provided for my colleagues to make informed choices.

 

AACC Owner Tim Clinton Clarifies Relationship with James Dobson Institute

Recently, the owner of the American Association of Christian Counselors Tim Clinton sent an announcement clarifying his relationship with James Dobson and Family Talk Radio.

Clinton has recently been embroiled in a plagiarism controversy. Although he denies taking the work of others, through his spokesman and brother-in-law Jimmy Queen, he has acknowledged not writing the material attributed to him where the plagiarism has been found. Thus far, his defense has been to blame others when plagiarism has been found in a book or article. Despite some of those articles being on James Dobson’s website, that organization has not commented on the matter.

 

 

Brief Note: David Barton and Ronald Reagan’s Pretty Shallow Faith

Photo: David Barton (Left); Eric Metaxas (Right)

In a Wednesday Onenewsnow article about Ronald Reagan’s Christianity, David Barton is quoted as saying:

Reagan’s faith matured over the years from a “pretty shallow” faith early on to more mature understanding of scripture.

While many people did doubt Reagan’s sincerity, Reagan biographer and Grove City College colleague Paul Kengor told me that Reagan never had a shallow faith. While Barton can be credited with acknowledging that Reagan had a faith, Kengor has shown via his many articles and books that Reagan’s faith was important in his life from his childhood.

Barton was asked to comment on a newly discovered letter written by Reagan to his atheist father-in-law. The letter was in essence an evangelistic appeal for his father-in-law to convert to Christianity. Kengor has a commentary on the letter here.

My concern in this post is not about Reagan’s faith. It seems clear to me that he was an imperfect believer as is the case with any believer. In my view, any comparisons to Donald Trump as court evangelical Robert Jeffress attempted earlier this year are faulty because Reagan actually believed in Christianity. In my opinion, Trump is acting the part and giving evangelicals just enough to keep them as a voting bloc.

Rather, this comment from Barton is another illustration of why he can’t be trusted as a historian. There has been a resurgence of interest in Reagan’s faith over the last decade or so. A historian familiar with the literature should be aware that there are good reasons to believe Reagan’s personal faith was meaningful to him and that he maintained those beliefs throughout his life. One might contest various applications of his faith or how consistent his actions were with the faith but to call his beliefs or faith shallow isn’t accurate.

By the way, if you want to get a icy silence from Wallbuilders, ask Mr. Barton about his earned doctorate.