Monumental Question: Did Signers of the Declaration and Constitution Finance a Bible for Every American Family?

David Barton told Kirk Cameron they did for Cameron’s new movie Monumental. Watch the video clip from the movie:

For this post, I am interested in what Barton and Cameron say about the first Bible mentioned by Cameron and Barton dated 1798.

Kirk Cameron: What are these?

David Barton: This is a family Bible done in 1798.

Barton: This Bible was funded by about a dozen signers of the Constitution and signers of the Declaration as well as by President John Adams and Vice-President Thomas Jefferson. They’re the guys that put up the financial backing to do this Bible.

Cameron: Funded by signers of the Declaration…

Barton: and Constitution

Cameron: and Constitution

Barton: yeah, Gunning Bedford, signer of the Constitution, John Dickinson, signer of the Constitution, you had so many of the signers who were part of this, you had Alexander Hamilton helped fund this Bible.

Cameron: Because they wanted families to gather around the Bible…

Barton: They wanted the Word of God out to every family.

Cameron: Because they believed that would make for a better country.

Barton: Makes for a better country, makes for a better faith. And again, this is a product of our atheist, agnostic, deist Founding Fathers, or at least, that’s who we’re been told they were today, When you see this stuff, you go wait a minute. These guys…why would any atheist, agnostic, or deist promote the Word of God, fund it and want it distributed to every family and everyone in America? Why would they fund a Bible that you can take and give out to your neighbors, and evangelize them, it doesn’t make sense. Now, on the other hand, if these guys happened to be Christians, that makes a lot of sense.

Did a dozen or so Signers of the Declaration and Constitution finance this Bible to give to every family in America? Since Barton did not say who published the Bible mentioned in the clip, I cannot respond with 100% certainty. However, given the size and the publication date, I doubt the claim that the Founders put up money to get that 1798 Bible to every family.

The only Bible of that size published in 1798 that I can locate is the Thompson Hot Press Bible. At the time, it was the largest Bible printed in the new nation and it was the first hot press Bible published. The ink and type were heated and then seared — hot pressed — onto the page, making a very clean impression.

The 1798 Bible was issued originally in 40 sections starting in June 1796 at half a dollar a number. One of the sources I consulted indicated that Thomas Jefferson paid $5 in February of 1798 as a payment on a subscription of $20 for a hot press Bible. Jefferson’s name is listed among the subscribers.

Buying a Bible by subscription was common then and was a way to provide the printer with some idea of how many copies to print. An analogy today might be to think of a magazine subscription is a purchase of a year’s volume of issues. You are committing to pay one price but might pay in payments instead. Here is a description of a Bible being offered by subscription in 1688 by William Bradford:

The first proposal to print the Bible in English in America was made in 1688 by William Bradford of Philadelphia. The publication that announced this intention was worded as follows: —

“These are to give Notice, that it is proposed for a large house-Bible to be Printed by way of Subscriptions, [a method usual in England for the Printing of large Volumns, because Printing is very chargeable] therefore to all that are willing to forward so good (and great) a Work, as the Printing of the holy Bible, are offered these Proposals, viz.: 1. That It shall be printed in a fair Character, on good Paper, and well bound. 2. That it shall contain the Old and New Testament, with the Apocraphy, and all to have useful Marginal Notes. 3. That it shall be allowed (to them that subscribe) for Twenty Shillings per Bible: [A Price which one of the same volumn in England would cost]. 4. That the pay shall be half Silver Money, and half Country Produce at Money price. One half down now, and the other half on the delivery of the Bibles. . . . Also, this may further give notice that Samuell Richardson and Samuell Carpenter of Philadelphia, are appointed to take care and be assistant in the laying out of the Subscription Money, and to see that it be imploy’d to the use intended, and consequently that the whole Work be expedited. Which is promised by

“william Bradford. “Philadelphia, the 14th of the 1st Month, 1688.”

Bradford wanted half down and the rest later. Buying by subscription allowed printers to go ahead with a project but the result was that the subscriber got what he paid for. Barton told Cameron that the 1798 Bible was funded and financed by the Signers so that it could be “distributed to every family and everyone in America.” If, indeed I am correct and the Bible in the movie Monumental is the 1798 hot press Bible, then this claim is quite misleading.

Barton says the Bible was “funded by about a dozen signers…” However, the 1798 hot press Bible had, by my count (I have the two page subscriber’s list), 1272 subscribers. Some of the signers of the Declaration and Constitution were on that list, but they were subscribers just like the other 1200+ people who paid their subscription money to get the entire Bible. Barton’s narrative makes it seem as though the signers mentioned (e.g., Adams, Jefferson, Bedford, Dickinson, etc.) put up money over and above the price of a personal copy in order for the printer to distribute them to others. That is not what happened with the 1798 hot press Bible.

If there is some other folio sized Bible published in 1798 that was created in the manner described by Barton, then I hope he will identify it. I can’t find it. However, if the Bible mentioned in Monumental is that hot press Bible, then Cameron’s movie will be at least one part historical fiction.

 

Human Rights group sues Scott Lively over persecution of gays in Uganda

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal lawsuit against Scott Lively on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda over Lively’s activities in fostering persecution against gays.

You can find the filing and more background at CCR’s website.

CCR is basing the suit on accusations of violating the Alien Tort Statute (28 USC 1350) which states in sum: “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”

The filing makes a strong case that Lively’s work in Uganda has systematically, since 2002, led to persecution of LGBT people in Uganda. Lively, according to this New York Times article, thinks the suit is ridiculous, adding, “I’ve never done anything in Uganda except preach the Gospel and speak my opinion about the homosexual issue. There’s actually no grounds for litigation on this.”

This will be an interesting case to watch. I can imagine other suits based on advocacy of persecution of other minorities, e.g., religious minorities, coming forward if this is successful. For instance, if there are people in the U.S. who support or work with foreign entities to limit religious freedom in other nations, perhaps religious minorities would bring suit here.

Kirk Cameron’s Search for National Treasure Leads to Christian Reconstruction

Let me begin this post by saying that I have not seen Kirk Cameron’s upcoming movie Monumental, but I have seen the trailers. These clips are the basis for this post and the one on Saturday. On Saturday, I noted that Cameron recruited Herb Titus for his movie. Titus has become popular with Birthers who believe Obama is not a natural born citizen and therefore ineligible for the Presidency.

Reading more, it appears that Dr. Titus is also of the Christian Reconstructionism persuasion. Here he delivers a tribute to Rousas J. Rushdoony, father of Christian Reconstructionism, here he argues that public education is unbiblical, here is his book on dominion and law and here he and law partner William Olson argue against the Lawrence vs. Texas case that nullified sodomy laws nationally.

According to this Atlantic article by Harvey Cox, Titus was fired as law school dean at Regent University because of his dominionist views. Titus later sued the school for $70 million (I don’t know how it turned out). Cox featured Regent University in a November, 1995 article on the religious right. Concerned about Pat Robertson’s dominionist writings, asked about the views among the faculty there:

I [Cox] thought it was important, if awkward, to bring up these questions with Regent faculty members. And I did so. The answer was very clear. Regent, they insisted, is absolutely not a dominion-theology school, and Robertson himself had demonstrated this recently by getting rid of the dean of the law school, Herbert Titus, because Titus was leaning in the dominion direction. (Titus, who was a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union before his conversion to evangelical Christianity, is currently suing the school for about $70 million.) I did not wave quotations from Robertson’s books in front of anyone, because by this time I thought I might hear once again that he just doesn’t choose his ghostwriters carefully enough. Also, Terry Lindvall sounded persuasive when he told me that whatever might have been the case in the past, the battle over Herbert Titus had really been a “struggle for the soul of the university” in which the dominion-theology party had decisively lost. “This is no Masada,” he said. “We just want the evangelical voice to be heard and to make a positive contribution.” In his mind, the matter was settled once and for all.

Most viewers of Monumental will not know this.  About Titus, Cameron says he has been the Dean of two law schools, not saying, of course, that Titus was let go from one of them.

Many evangelicals will jump on this bandwagon without really understanding the implications.

 

Montgomery County, MD: PFOX is not an alternative, it is part of the problem

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays has been getting push back over the ex-gay pamphlets sent home with students recently in Montgomery County, MD. Earlier today, Peter Sprigg, who is on the board of PFOX and works for the Family Research Council wrote the Washington Post to criticize a Post article for calling homosexuality “innate.” Mr. Sprigg:

The March 6 article “Schools review policy on fliers” repeated as fact what are actually mere opinions of those critical of the flier distributed in Montgomery County high schools by Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays (PFOX).In particular, the statement, “mainstream medical and mental-health associations say that homosexuality is innate” was unsubstantiated. Here is what the American Psychological Assocation says about the origins of sexual orientation:“Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.”The statement in the Montgomery County Public Schools curriculum that homosexuality is “innate” was added by the Board of Education; it was was not recommended by MCPS staff. In other words, it is a political statement, not a scientific one. This simply illustrates why students in Montgomery County need access to alternative sources of information about the choices they have in responding to same-sex attractions — alternatives like those offered by PFOX.

Peter Sprigg, Germantown

The author is a member of the PFOX board. He served on the MCPS Citizens Advisory Committee for Family Life and Human Development from 2005 to 2011.

Although the APA has also reviewed evidence regarding reparative drive theory in 2009 and found it wanting, Sprigg is partly correct that APA has not taken a definitive stance on the origins of sexual orientation.

However, calling orientation innate is not the same thing as saying that sexual orientation derives from pre-natal factors. There is evidence for the innateness of sexual orientation without regard to origins.

What is also troubling about Sprigg’s letter is that he offers an organization as an alternative that does what he accuses the Montgomery Board and the Post of doing – making political statements in place of scientific ones. PFOX has no interest in all of the evidence regarding sexual orientation. Instead, they promote reparative therapy, with the dubious view that parenting and sexual abuse causes sexual orientation. The one PFOX conference I attended several years ago was a sad affair for a group of parents I spoke with after the sessions. Why? Richard Cohen had just finished telling them that lack of love was the culprit behind the gayness of their kids.

As I write this, PFOX is just one of the organizations along with FRC that continues to mislead their constituents regarding current information regarding sexual orientation. They blast those who say that homosexuality is innate or may be a response to pre-natal factors while at the same time promoting bad parenting and trauma as causal factors. If the origins are so unknown, then why does PFOX promote reparative drive theory and therapy?

Montgomery County may still be in an ideological war over the factors which cause sexual orientation to take the direction it does, but an answer to that problem is not more “information” from PFOX.

 

Barton, Birther featured in Kirk Cameron’s new Monumental movie

Kirk Cameron has a new movie coming out called Monumental. It claims to search American history to find our natural treasure. Cameron interviews a variety of people, most of whom appear on the Christian nation wing of the church, to make his points. As RWW pointed out Friday, Cameron interviews David Barton about the Aitken Bible. Barton, as is typical, takes an interesting story and misleads his audience.

 

You can read Chris Rodda’s more accurate rendering of the situation here. I hope to have something on this within the month (stay tuned for more on a new project on this coming soon).

Another of Cameron’s “experts” is Herb Titus. Titus has been Dean of the Oral Roberts and Regent University law schools and is prominently featured on birther websites such as this one. (obamareleaseyourrecords.blogspot.com). Titus and Cameron go to Harvard to tell viewers that the separation of church and state is a myth.

A lot of evangelicals will go see this movie and will come away believing that Cameron has assembled unbiased scholars who are simply revealing what the evil statist academic machine wants to hide. Lots of potential for mischief there.

I will have to wait to see what conclusions Cameron provides, but an effort that leads with Barton and a Birther is not getting off to a good start.

Ugandan Government Reacts to #StopKony campaign

First some video from NTVUganda and then a statement from the government:

RESPONSE TO INTERNATIONAL DISCOURSE OF LRA ACTIVITY

***Friday 9th March2012***18:00 hour

***No Embargo***

RESPONSE TO INTERNATIONAL DISCOURSE OF LRA ACTIVITY

Uganda welcomes all campaigns which seek to raise awareness and highlight the plight of people affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). We are grateful forrenewed efforts which seek to contribute to the arrest of Joseph Kony and the elimination of the LRA from the Central African Region. The Government of Uganda however, would strongly urge that any awareness campaign fully takes into consideration the current realities of the situation.

The Lord’s Resistance Army has been a concern of this government since the late 80’s and have exacted a great toll on the Ugandan people and independent estimates approximate that 30,000 children were abducted and used as child soldiers over the course of the 25 year conflict.

Misinterpretations of media content may lead some people to believe that the LRA is currently active in Uganda. It must be clarified that at present the LRA is not active in any part of Uganda. Successfully expelled by the Ugandan Peoples Defence Forces in mid-2006, the LRA has retreated to dense terrain within bordering countries in the Central African area. They are a diminished and weakened group with numbers not exceeding 300. The threat posed by the LRA in our neighboring countries is considerably reduced and we are hopeful that it will be altogether eliminated with the help of US logistical support.

The people of Uganda, especially those in the north of the country are on a path of rebuilding, reconciliation and reintegration and are now vibrant and prospering communities. To aid this prosperity the Government implementeda 10 Year Peace, Recovery and Development Plan for Northern Uganda (PRDP).

The Ugandan Government is encouraged by this outpouring of international support for its continuing campaign to eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to all countries and communities. We are hopeful that our neighboring countries can also become free of LRA activity and enjoy the peace and prosperity that northern Uganda has experienced in the last 6 years.

For God and My Country

Fred Opolot

Executive Director

#StopKony: How is that working in Uganda? UPDATED

UPDATE: This post brought a strong reaction from a couple of readers who believe I am overstating the threat of Kony to Northern Uganda. Indeed, this article at Foreign Policy makes the case that Kony is not in Uganda currently. I am researching this more and will correct anything I have gotten wrong. For now, in addition to Okwonga’s piece, please read Michael Wilkerson’s piece at Foreign Policy.

Apparently, the Invisible Children video is not playing well in Uganda.

———

If you tweet, you know that Uganda has been trending on Twitter this week. The reason for the interest in Uganda is an effort by The Invisible Children group to make Joseph Kony a household word. The idea being that if he becomes well known, people will push the powers that be to end his reign of terror. Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army has been terrorizing Central Africa for over 20 years, stealing children and making them slaves.

As the knee jerks, some have found fault with the simple effort of the Invisible Children folks to use social media. I don’t have a problem with it, because anything that puts some light on the subject could help. Doesn’t mean it will, but it could help.

One thing that I hope happens is that the world starts asking the leadership of Uganda about their response to the situation. For a response that seeks to expand the interest of observers to Ugandan leaders, I point you to this essay by Musa Okwonga I read yesterday in the UK Independent. Here is his conclusion:

I don’t think that Invisible Children are naïve.  I don’t think that President Obama was ever blind to this matter either: his own father, a Kenyan, hails from the Luo, the same tribal group that has suffered so much at the hands of Kony.  My hunch – and hope – is that they see this campaign as a way to encourage wider and deeper questions about wholly  inadequate governance in this area of Africa.

And as far as President Museveni is concerned, my thoughts are these: if thousands of British children were being kidnapped from their towns each year and recruited into an army, you can bet that David Cameron would be facing some very, very serious questions in the Commons.  You can bet that he would be grilled on why, years after the conflict began, there were still about a million of his citizens slowly dying in squalor in ill-equipped refugee camps.  You can also bet that, after twenty-odd years of this happening on his watch, he wouldn’t still be running the country.

 

Note to Kirk Cameron: If you don’t want a fight, then don’t start one

I grew up in the Southern Ohio town of Portsmouth, Ohio (BTW, the same place BTB’s Jim Burroway called home). In my little town in the 1960s and 70s, group identifications were clear and animosity toward minority groups was in style. Name calling toward African-Americans, Catholics, gays and Kentucky natives was common and often vicious. I lived near the river as opposed to the section of town farther from the river and on a higher elevation. I was a river rat, and the others in the more well-to-do side of town were the hill toppers. Sometimes, hill toppers said “river rat” with a sneer as a put down; hill topper could be said with a sneer but it just didn’t sound as sinister. I still don’t know how that was fair.

Anyway, in my neighborhood if you called someone a name, you better either be really fast or be able to defend yourself. I saw many fights (and took part in a few) that started with a racial or religious slur or just plain old school yard name calling. What I learned is that people don’t like to be called names. In fact, they can get downright defensive and ugly over it. So, I learned something early — if you don’t want to start a fight, don’t call people nasty names.

I don’t know where Kirk Cameron grew up but it appears he didn’t learn the same thing I did. On CNN’s Piers Morgan Show recently, Cameron said about homosexuality:

I think that it’s unnatural. I think that it’s — it’s detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.

Predictably, reaction has been negative to Cameron’s words. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)’s statement about Cameron’s comments was direct but really, pretty tame.

Cameron is out of step with a growing majority of Americans, particularly people of faith who believe that their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters should be loved and accepted based on their character and not condemned because of their sexual orientation.

I know a lot of other people weighed in and some were probably pretty offended. So Cameron came out with a rebuttal, saying

I believe that freedom of speech and freedom of religion go hand-in-hand in America. I should be able to express moral views on social issues–especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years–without being slandered, accused of hate speech, and told from those who preach “tolerance” that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I’m in the public square.

He is right, of course, about his ability to express his moral views. However, I think other people have the right to express their moral view of his moral views. When those offended by his comments say he is a homophobe, they are expressing a moral view, right?

This seems so elementary to me. If you say a group of people is “destructive to the foundations of civilization,” you might expect members of that group to react. Like if you say, Christianity is destructive to the foundations of civilization, then one might expect a reaction from members of that group.

Back home, if you called someone a slur, then they would probably call you one back. Then another more hateful sounding name would come out, followed by an escalation until fists flew. Happens all the time. Why would anyone be surprised by this?

I admit I called a few people names in my boyhood, but I can’t remember ever saying to an opponent, “you are destructive to the foundations of civilization!” I wasn’t fast enough to say stuff like that. But on the play ground, all manner of one or two syllable words were used to communicate the message that the name caller is better than the one being branded. Essentially, whether one says, “redneck,” “homo,” “river rat,” or “destructive to civilization” about a person because of their membership in a group, the message is clear: you are less than me and I wish you would go away.

One of my mentors often told me that discretion is the better part of valor. I agree. Cameron says he is a Christian. The Bible teaches us that all things are lawful, but not all things edify. Just because you have a right of free speech doesn’t mean you should use it. Sometimes it just confuses things. Like how Cameron now says he loves everybody. I never tried that in my old neighborhood, but I doubt it would have worked — hey you’re a jerk! But I love you! I am trying to figure out how to tell people I say I love that they are destroying the foundations of civilization and make that work.

So I think Mr. Cameron needs to understand that when you use your free speech, people will reciprocate. When you call people names, they often call you some back. The best thing to do is to stop whining about it and stop calling people names. If you can’t help yourself, then don’t feel surprised when the targets of your free speech don’t feel the love.