More coverage of police crackdown on gay rights meeting; anti-gay bill may be considered this session

Freedom of association, freedom of speech; these are precious freedoms that Ugandan gays do not have. And if David Bahati gets his way, very soon, Ugandan LGBT people may not have freedom to live.

Note Bahati at the end of the video. He says Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Chair Stephen Tashobya has assured him that the bill will be acted on in the next session.

Folks, it looks like it is time to wake up again.

Police break up LGBT conference in Uganda

Uganda’s police with nothing better to do…

KAMPALA — Ugandan police on Monday raided a gay rights workshop in Kampala and questioned activists attending the gathering, rights campaigners said.

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, the organisation behind the workshop, said that police interrupted the meeting and began questioning participants at the event, including activists from Canada, Kenya and Rwanda.

The police forced their way into some of the activists’ hotel rooms, the group said in a statement.

The training workshop was intended to bolster the local gay community’s abilities to report rights abuses, the statement said.

Activists condemned the police action and said it represented a growing trend.

From NTV Uganda:

Exodus issues additional statement regarding criminalization and Dennis Jernigan in Jamaica

Been traveling so this is just now going up:

Exodus International Releases New Policy Statement On the Criminalization of Homosexuality

Ministry responds to Christian Music Artist and Exodus Board Member, Dennis Jernigan’s Remarks in Kingston, Jamaica

Orlando, Fla—Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with homosexuality, released a new policy statement on the criminalization of homosexuality. While the ministry has long held this perspective, they felt compelled to release a written statement in light of Exodus Board Vice Chairman, Dennis Jernigan’s, comments to the media in Kingston, Jamaica. Exodus board member, Don Schmierer, experienced a similar collision with the media on a trip to Uganda in 2009.

“Dennis Jernigan recently traveled to Jamaica to share his testimony and lead worship at a number of venues,” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus. “While there he was thrust into a media firestorm and asked to comment on President Obama’s threat to issue sanctions against Jamaica for their laws concerning the criminalization of homosexuality.

“Dennis shared his belief that President Obama is deceived about homosexual behavior and the biblical morality of it. Dennis assured me he is not for the criminalization of homosexuality, and he will release his own statement on this matter. However, Jernigan offered this immediate response ”:

“I believe my heart and intent were misconstrued and therefore, may have harmed Exodus’ mission of ministering to those struggling with same-sex attraction (SSA). To that end, as of this moment, I step down as Vice Chairman of Exodus.”

Here is an excerpt of the Exodus policy statement, also supported by its Board of Directors.

We will not support any legislation that deprives others of life and dignity based on their sexual orientation or the expression of such within the confines of a consensual adult relationship. Finally, we stand with the LGBT community both in spirit, and when necessary, legally and physically, when violence rears it’s head in Uganda, Jamaica or anywhere else in the world.

Chambers is working with the Exodus International Board and staff to craft strong statements, policies and procedures that will ensure their position on life-impacting issues such as this one.

“It is our resolution that unfortunate incidents like this do not happen again in the future,” said Chambers. “As president of Exodus International I take full responsibility for any board member, staff member or ministry affiliate’s ignorance of global issues, especially as they travel. I will make it a priority to keep all who are professionally affiliated with Exodus apprised of the nations where legislative initiatives or laws clearly violate our policy opposing criminalization of homosexuality. We will also craft a policy for our ministry that prohibits our involvement with groups and nations that violate our policies.”

Did we refer to original sources in Getting Jefferson Right?

Of course we did. I have referred to the original table of texts used by Jefferson on this blog to point out where David Barton incorrectly added some miracles to his account of the Jefferson Bible. They are also in Getting Jefferson Right.

I pointed out here and we provided in the book the subscriber’s lists proving that Jefferson was not one of a few founders who financed the first hot-pressed Bible in the United States. He subscribed to it, as did over 1200 other people.

We quote the entire 1782 Virginia law on manumission; Barton only quotes part of it.

However, Barton yesterday told a radio host in Texas (Not Too Late Show – Listen at about 28:00 into the podcast or click the link below) that a couple of professors from Messiah College (guess he got us confused with John Fea) did a point by point refutation of The Jefferson Lies, but then said we only quoted other professors and did not refer to the original sources.

Listen to the 39 second portion by clicking the link: NotTooLate.

So yes, Mr. Barton, we did refer to the primary sources, and no, we did not just quote other experts.

In case, you want to comment on the episode, Not Too Late’s Facebook page is here:

Did Alabama Public Television fire executives over David Barton’s videos?


Two executives, Allan Pizzato and Pauline Howard, were fired with no reason given on Tuesday. One of those fired gave no specific reason but another provided a hypothesis:

Howland, deputy director and chief financial officer, described the firings in an interview with Current and said she was “baffled” by the dismissals. But she also recalled how Pizzato had asked staff in April for advice about a series of videos that AETC commissioners wanted APT to air.

The videos featured David Barton, an evangelical minister and conservative activist whose publications and media appearances promote his theories about the religious intentions of America’s founders. He frequently appears on political commentary programs hosted by conservative Glenn Beck.

The American Heritage Series, a 10-part DVD series offered by Barton’s Texas-based organization WallBuilders LLC, “presents America’s forgotten history and heroes, emphasizing the moral, religious and constitutional foundation on which America was built.” Christian broadcast networks Cornerstone Television and Trinity Broadcasting Networks air the series, according to the website.

No word from AL PT if they will now air the videos, but I suspect many will be watching to see if they do. The DVD series is where Barton claims that Jefferson founded the Virginia Bible Society along with many claims that just don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Ht – Rob Boston.

Dear Thomas Nelson: How many reviews will it take?

Last week, InterVarsity Press stopped printing a new book on the Reformation due to a negative review of the book by Reformation scholar, Carl Trueman.  The book pulled was by G.R. Evans and titled The Roots of the Reformation. Trueman uncovered multiple errors of fact and other misleading statements in the book which led IVP to make a decision to take the following action:

Therefore, as of the beginning of June, IVP has taken The Roots of the Reformation out of print and will no longer be shipping orders of this edition. Our goal is to publish a carefully revised second edition of the book by the end of August, in time for Fall semester classes. Further, IVP will offer a complimentary copy of the second edition, including free shipping, to everyone who has already purchased the current edition.

That is amazingly commendable of IVP. One fact based review and the publisher did an honorable thing. This action made me wonder when Thomas Nelson might do the same thing with David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies. How many reviews will it take? Before I list my own posts and link again to Getting Jefferson Right, let me list the reviews I have seen which have address The Jefferson Lies.

Wall Street Journal – “A Still Unsettling Founding Figure” by author Alan Pell Crawford.  Crawford asserts:

But to claim, as Mr. Barton does, that Jefferson was “unpretentious, living and acting as the common person for whom he had sacrificed so much” lays it on a little thick. Such a description would have surprised Jefferson’s purchasing agents, through whom he ordered hundreds bottles of French and Italian wine annually, on credit.

Jefferson’s religious beliefs are central to Mr. Barton’s thesis, in the service of which straw men are consumed in bonfires.


A commitment to the notion that Jefferson promoted Christian orthodoxy leads Mr. Barton to misinterpret the early history of the University of Virginia.


Mr. Barton seems not know these facts, and he virtually ignores the cultural and theological world of the young Jefferson’s time and place—what it meant to grow up a scion of the Virginia gentry, a classically educated Anglican, and an intellectual whose attitudes toward church and state were informed by a knowledge of the religious wars that had scarred Europe little more than a century before.

In a scathing and extended review, humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson blasts The Jefferson Lies, detailing the many errors of fact in it. Jenkinson, who hosts a weekly radio program called The Jefferson Hour devoted a program to the critique and provides a must-read review on his blog. About the errors in the book, Jenkinson says:

Barton makes a large number of factual errors in the course of his book. It would be interesting to enumerate all of them, but it would be a tedious and thankless task, and the book is not sufficiently important in Jefferson studies to merit the scores of hours it would take to correct all of them. A few will suffice to show the level of historiography in The Jefferson Lies. Almost all historians make mistakes. The problem with Barton’s errors is that many of them seem to be deliberate distortions.

He summarizes by saying:

David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies is a dangerous book. Although some of the arguments Barton develops might have served as a corrective to the somewhat over-secularized portrait of Jefferson that has emerged in recent years, he greatly overstates his case, omits whatever does not fit his preconceived notions about Jefferson, distorts the truth, takes Jefferson’s pronouncements out of context, and lines up a series of straw men to cast down on behalf of his irresponsible claims.

So far, the reviews are far worse than what Trueman had to say about the IVP book. There are more.

Noted church historian Martin Marty was one of the first to review The Jefferson Lies, doing so on his Sightings page at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School. Marty wrote:

Reviewer Craig Ferhman (sic) in the Los Angeles Times found all that Barton found to be “outrageous fabrication.” On TV, Barton even said, with no evidence, that Jefferson gave a copy of his Jesus book to a missionary, to use “as you evangelize the Indians.” Had the Indians been converted with that text, their heirs would have had no place to go but to what became the humanist wing of the Unitarian-Universalist church.

Why does any of this matter? One, basic honesty is at issue; do American religionists need to invent such stories in order to prevail? Two, what if they did prevail? Most of the founders thought that religion was most honest and compelling when its leaders and gatherings did not depend upon lies about the state and, of course, upon the state itself. “Separation of church and state” is admittedly a complex issue, dealing as it does with inevitable conflict and messiness in a free and lively republic. May debates over it go on, but with honest references to Jefferson and his colleagues and not on the grounds David Barton proposes.

Then there are John Fea’s blog posts on The Jefferson Lies, parts one, two, three, four, five and six. John is chair of the history department at Messiah College and author of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? None of these posts are positive about the book and they expose Barton’s misuse of history from the beginning. Fea also approvingly notes my post on Jefferson as a slave owner, where I document Barton’s selective quotation of Virginia law. We should also add Fea’s quotes about Barton’s approach to history in this Salon article.

In his review of Getting Jefferson Right, University of Colorado history professor Paul Harvey outlines some of the factual problems with The Jefferson Lies. At the same time, Harvey wonders if exposing the factual problems with Barton’s book will matter. I wonder that too. Thomas Nelson, will it matter?

Finally, I have exposed many of these problems on this blog and in my book with Michael Coulter. As one can see, we am not alone. Scholars, Christian and otherwise, have exposed the significant issues of fact and Barton’s tendentious approach to Jefferson. There are far more errors in The Jefferson Lies than Dr. Trueman found in The Roots of the Reformation. These errors have been exposed in significant publications and blogs for the world to see.

Thomas Nelson, how many reviews will it take for you to follow IVP’s lead?



More calls from Uganda’s clergy to bring back anti-gay bill

This thing is never far from the surface.

Top religious leaders from across the country have asked Parliament to speed-up the process of enacting the Anti-Homosexuality law to prevent what they called “an attack on the Bible and the institution of marriage”.

I don’t think the committee chair in charge of the bill (Stephen Tashobya) wants to  deal with the bill. Several months ago, he told me his committee has much more important business. However, he told me something similar during the last Parliament when the bill languished until the last month and then began to move.


Exodus International issues statement on reparative therapy

This seems to be a change…

The California House recently passed a bill outlawing reparative therapy for youth under the age of 18. The Senate is set to vote in coming days. With the media abuzz, we have had numerous calls from news reporters across the country, asking for our opinion and position. Many others have simply mischaracterized Exodus International as a reparative therapy organization. One such instance was a newscast on an ABC affiliate  in San Francisco. The reporter stated that our “members now live heterosexual lives—many with spouses and kids—because of reparative therapy”. We have written this statement to clarify our ministry objective which highlights the mission of Exodus International.

Exodus International supports an individual’s right to self-determine as they address their personal struggles related to faith, sexuality and sexual expression.  As an organization, we do not subscribe to therapies that make changing sexual orientation a main focus or goal. Our ministry’s objective is to equip the Church to become the primary place where people of faith seek support, refuge and discipleship as they make the decision to live according to Christian principles.

We believe in a “gospel-centric” view, meaning that all people, regardless of individual life struggles, can experience freedom over the power of sin through a daily relationship with Jesus Christ, a commitment to scripture, and by being a part of a vibrant, transparent and relational community of believers found in the local church.  Exodus is partnered with more than 260 churches and support-based ministries who serve individuals and families experiencing a conflict between their faith and sexuality. (emphasis in the original).

Note the phrase not in bold: “ As an organization, we do not subscribe to therapies that make changing sexual orientation a main focus or goal.” As I read it, that means Exodus (as a national group) no longer subscribes to reparative therapy. I wonder how some of the local ministries are handling this. I know the one closest to this area is on board, but I am curious if other groups are.

David Barton’s whitewash of Thomas Jefferson as a slave owner

In Getting Jefferson Right, we examine David Barton’s claims about Thomas Jefferson’s role as a slave owner and supporter of emancipation for slaves. Jefferson did make several efforts toward emancipation and spoke about the evils of slavery. However, there is another side to Jefferson as a slave owner that Barton whitewashes in The Jefferson Lies.

In the book we examine three main questions: could Jefferson have freed his slaves under Virginia law? Was Jefferson merely a passive slave owner? and Did Jefferson believe blacks and whites could live together? In this post, I am going to show one way that Barton obscures the truth about Virginia law in his book.

Here is what Barton claims about Jefferson:

If Jefferson was indeed so antislavery, then why didn’t he release his own slaves? After all, George Washington allowed for the freeing of his slaves on his death in 1799, so why didn’t Jefferson at least do the same at his death in 1826? The answer is Virginia law. In 1799, Virginia allowed owners to emancipate their slaves on their death; in 1826, state laws had been changed to prohibit that practice.

So according to Barton, Jefferson was unable to free his slaves while alive and couldn’t at death because of Virginia law. Is this true?

Not at all. In fact, Barton must know this because he cited Virginia’s 1782 law on manumission which made such emancipation possible. Well, he cited part of the law. Here is what Barton cites of the law in his book:

[T]hose persons who are disposed to emancipate their slaves may be empowered so to do, and…it shall hereafter be lawful for any person, by his or her last will and testament…to emancipate and set free, his or her slaves.

Now, here is the entire relevant section of the 1782 law on manumission:

[T]hose persons who are disposed to emancipate their slaves may be empowered so to do, and the same hath been judged expedient under certain restrictions: Be it therefore enacted, That it shall hereafter be lawful for any person, by his or her last will and testament, or by any other instrument in writing, under his or her hand and seal, attested and proved in the county court by two witnesses, or acknowledged by the party in the court of the county where he or she resides to emancipate and set free, his or her slaves, or any of them, who shall thereupon be entirely and fully discharged from the performance of any contract entered into during servitude, and enjoy as full freedom as if they had been particularly named and freed by this act.

Note the second selection above in bold print. This is the relevant portion of the 1782 law Barton omits. This section allowed slave owners to release their slaves by filing a deed. Emancipated slaves needed a document which was recorded according to the law as proof of their status. This law allowed slave owners when they were alive to free their slaves, provided slaves were of sound body and older than eighteen if a female and older than 21 if a male, but not above the age of 45. Thus, Jefferson could have freed many of his slaves within the law while he was alive. In addition to The Jefferson Lies, Barton, in a recent radio program, emphatically stated that after 1782 slaves could only be freed at the time of a slaveholder’s death. Not only was Jefferson legally permitted to free his slaves, he actually freed two slaves in the 1790s, Robert (1794) and James (1796) Hemings.

In 1806, emancipation became more complex due to some law changes (read more about this in our book), Even so, there was a 24 year window when Jefferson could have freed a substantial number if not all of his slaves. What an amazing gesture it would have been for Jefferson to set his slaves free during his presidency.

Other slave owners set slaves free. In a dramatic example of manumission, Virginia plantation owner, Robert Carter III, planned for the freedom of 452 slaves beginning in September, 1791. Over the course of a decade, he emancipated all of them. A key historical work on Carter’s acts of emancipation is Andrew Levy’s The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Work of Robert Carter the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves. Levy contends that Carter’s decision to free his slaves has been overlooked by historians because of the tarnish it brings to more prominent founders, Washington and Jefferson. Levy cites several historians who defend Washington and Jefferson’s practices as slave owners and then says:

Robert Carter’s Deed of Gift [document emancipating slaves as allowed by the Virginia law we cited but David Barton omitted], of course, does substantial damage to these arguments. It becomes difficult to argue that the founding fathers acted liberally within their own moral universe when small slave owners up and down the Virginia coast were freeing their slaves. It becomes impossible, however, to make that argument when one of their peers commits the same radical act. Similarly, the argument that there existed no practical plan for mass emancipation makes sense only if Robert Carter’s Deed of Gift is suppressed within the historical record…Joseph Ellis, in American Sphinx, notes that Jefferson could find “no workable answer to the unavoidable question: what happens once slaves are freed?” In fact, Jefferson was not looking for one. If the history of the founding fathers were written in a manner that accounted for Robert Carter, they might be that much less heroic, but they could be regarded that much fully as active agents in their own destinies, as men who made choices — who knew, as McColley writes, that “the Virginia statesmen who came out publicly against slavery would be very quickly retired to private life,” and who, as John Quincy Adams once said, “had not the spirit of martyrdom.”

Barton’s treatment of Jefferson certainly doesn’t take into account Robert Carter. Not surprising, I suppose, when Barton’s rendering of slavery in Virginia omits an inconvenient section of the law he quotes.

For more on this topic and many others, see Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President.


Getting Jefferson Right at Religion Dispatches

Today, Religion Dispatches published a review of Getting Jefferson Right by history professor Paul Harvey. Harvey is also blogmeister at Religion in American History blog.

While Harvey is skeptical that our book will change many minds of those committed to Barton’s faux history, I see it differently. I am encouraged that exposure of these issues will make some difference.