National Prayer Breakfast Organizer Doug Burleigh Predicted Putin and Trump Would Become Friends

With the indictment of Maria Butina for conspiracy and acting as an agent of the Russian government, public attention has come upon the Fellowship Foundation. Founded by the late Doug Coe, I crossed paths with the FF beginning in 2009 when Ugandan affiliates of that organization promoted the death penalty for GLB people in the Ugandan Parliament via the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I took a strong stand against that bill which eventually led to an invitation to the National Prayer Breakfast, hosted each year by the Fellowship. While there, the American leaders allowed me to interview Doug Coe — one of only four published interviews of the reclusive founder — so that he could tell the public in clear terms that he did not favor criminalizing homosexuality.

Now via the documents describing the indictment of alleged Russian operative Maria Butina, the National Prayer Breakfast is again in public focus. The documents refer to an organizer of the prayer breakfast and various individuals who Butina contacted. While I don’t know for certain in each case who she contacted, a source close to the Fellowship told me that Doug Burleigh, the son-in-law of Doug Coe, is the person at the organization who handles networking with the Russian affiliates.

Burleigh Predicted Trump and Putin Would Have a Breakthrough

Almost exactly a year ago at the Russian version of the prayer breakfast, Doug Burleigh made a prediction. A news article from the Russian Evangelical Alliance tells the story:

On another note, Doug Burleigh from Washington’s National Prayer Breakfast forecast that “a breakthrough in relations between Russia and the USA is about to occur. The greatest possible hope for Russia and the USA is friendship between our nations. I believe that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump will yet become friends.” (Reverse translation from the Russian.)

I wonder how Burleigh knew such a breakthrough was about to happen. Prophecy? Or perhaps he was on the inside of efforts to make it so.  According to the indictment documents, the National Prayer Breakfast organizers were aware of a desire to bring Vladimir Putin to the event. Butina also promised to keep them apprised of new developments in the effort to improve relations between the two nations and the two presidents.

The refusal of Donald Trump to criticize or hold Vladimir Putin accountable has puzzled numerous observers. Behind the scenes, an effort to craft a friendship between Trump and Putin has been in operation for several years.

Were the Russians using the National Prayer Breakfast as a ploy to advance political goals? Is the talk of faith a means to a darker end? Butina will have her day in court and I hope evangelicals who went along for her ride will watch and listen carefully.

READ THE AFFIDAVIT AND THE COMPLAINT.

Read Today’s Filing Asking the Court to Prevent Butina’s Flight

Jeff Sharlet’s book on the Fellowship can be found here.

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BN Media’s CEO Joe Gregory and Alleged Russian Operative Maria Butina

Joe Gregory is the Chairman of the Board of BN Media, parent company of Patheos. He is also the founder of the Ring of Freedom donor recognition program for the National Rifle Association. To be in the Ring of Freedom, you must give at least $1-million. Gregory has given more than that. Back in May, I speculated that a negative column I wrote about the NRA might have triggered my abrupt ouster from Patheos as a blogger. From this vantage point, I doubt that but since I haven’t heard anything new, I can’t say for sure.

The NRA has been in the news repeatedly in connection with the Mueller probe of U.S. ties to Russian operatives. Back in April, Rolling Stone published a lengthy article by Tim Dickinson which detailed the efforts of Russian nationals connected to Vladimir Putin to infiltrate the NRA under the guise of supporting gun rights in Russia. A key event reported in that article was a trip to Russia arranged for NRA executives and donors, including Joe Gregory, and accompanied by Maria Butina, recently indicted by the Justice department for conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent.  From Tim Dickinson’s Twitter feed, here is photo of Butina and Gregory in Moscow.

Read the affidavit and the complaint.

To read Tim Dickinson’s Twitter thread on Butina’s Republican contacts, click here.

Maria Butina Got Around

According to the indictment documents, Butina cultivated relationships within Republican party, the NRA, the National Prayer Breakfast, and other Christian right circles (including Eric Metaxas) in order to further the political ends of the Russian government.

In April, the NRA admitted receiving donations from Russians but denied any foreign money went to election ads for Trump. Butina’s indictment has raised new suspicions about why the NRA developed such a friendly relationship with an adversary of the U.S. And then just today, a new filing in federal court alleges that Butina was in a cohabitation relationship with Republican operative with close ties to the NRA (identified by the Rolling Stone and other news outlets as possibly Paul Erickson) as a part of her cover.

President Trump has denied any collusion with the Russian government. However, this indictment and others recently filed paint a picture of relentless activity on the part of the Russian government to infiltrate organizations friendly to Trump and his wing of the Republican party.

I have leaned conservative all my life and I can’t imagine trusting Russians who want to get this close to political power in the U.S. Once upon a time, it was progressives who were accused of being duped by the Russians. Now it appears that Trump Republicans have a special gullibility.

Honestly, I am glad to be out of the Patheos/BN Media orbit. Knowing that the ad dollars spent may eventually go into the NRA coffers and from there into support for policies which bash our allies and support dictators around the world is unsettling. Life is full of such conflicts; I’m just glad that’s one I don’t have now.

Read Today’s Filing Asking the Court to Prevent Butina’s Flight

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Court Evangelicals Franklin and Jack Graham Stick With Trump as Trump Sticks With Putin

Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, TX came out in support of Donald Trump’s acceptance of Vladimir Putin’s assurance that Russia didn’t meddle in the 2016 U.S. election. Trump said this in response to a question about who Trump believed: our intelligence community or Putin.

Franklin Graham tweeted something similar earlier today.

In contrast, fellow Southern Baptist Russell Moore had this to say after the Helsinki press conference:

Currently, Jack Graham is blocking followers who disagree with his tweet.

These tweets from the court evangelicals come from the White House talking points after today’s press conference.

UPDATE: Add Eric Metaxas to this list:

Over U.S. Intelligence, Donald Trump Accepts Putin’s Strong Denial of Russian Election Interference

Social media is ablaze with outrage over Donald Trump’s answer to a question about who he believes regarding Russian meddling in the 2016 election. In short, he said he has confidence in Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats but he believes Putin. Watch:

Let it sink in what Trump told the world. Russia mounted a cyberattack on the U.S. and he still sided with Putin. His rambling, tangential response deflected the question and yet still placed him in defense of Putin’s “strong denial.”

Ronald Reagan is dying many more deaths somewhere today. For an American president to cozy up to a former KGB agent, blame America for our poor relationship, and then to throw U.S. intelligence under the bus is collusion in real time. No need to prove anything covert. In my opinion, it just happened on the world stage.

Some readers may disagree. Let’s discuss.

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David Barton Again Uses Fake Abe Lincoln Quote on Education to Criticize Education

On Friday, David Barton tweeted a video of a talk he gave to legislators in 2017 about education. In it, he gave lots of statistics and what he claimed were historical facts. Much of what he said sounded either obvious or false but I can’t say for sure since I haven’t checked it all. However, at about 30 minutes into the talk, he said something that was vintage Barton. Watch:

He showed a picture of Abe Lincoln and claimed Lincoln said:

The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.

Veteran Barton watchers will know where I am going. The quote can’t be found in Lincoln’s writings or speeches. At one time (as late as 2012), Barton considered it an “unconfirmed” quote. Barton knows the quote can’t be sourced to Lincoln but he attributed it to Lincoln anyway.

This isn’t how actual historians behave. They don’t try to fool their audiences into believing something that isn’t true. And this isn’t the first time with this exact same quote.

How can an audience rely on Barton’s claims when he fudges a quote he knows can’t be found in Lincoln’s works? A fair questions is: what is he fudging on more important claims?

Student Follows Teacher

One of Barton’s warnings to legislators is about professors who have the wrong philosophy. He asserts that liberal professors will turn students liberal. The fake Lincoln quote was designed to put the exclamation point on that principle and warn that liberal professors today mean liberal politics tomorrow.

(As an aside, I have to ask if that’s true, then where did Trump come from?)

In any case, I also have to ask if that’s true, what do we have to look forward to from Barton’s students? Find a quote you like and attribute it to your favorite historical figure. Go out of your way to stretch the truth to create an impression that helps you politically. Deceive your audience for the sake of Jesus and his chosen nation, America?

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Howmuch.net Removes FAIR’s Biased Illegal Immigration Information

Recently I posted a rebuttal to Wayne Grudem’s attempt to theologically defend Donald Trump’s border wall. A commenter on that post cited a Howmuch.net article claiming that the costs of illegal immigration are far greater than building Trump’s wall.

The source for that Howmuch.net article was the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s (FAIR) widely quoted estimate about costs of illegal immigration. Howmuch.net had reconfigured those claims and included them in their article. FAIR claims illegal immigration costs the states over $100 billion per year.

Another reader then contacted Howmuch.net and expressed concerns about the source of the information in the article. Earlier this week, I learned that Howmuch.net reviewed FAIR’s website and information about the organization and has now deleted the page from their website.

FAIR’s estimates have been widely condemned as biased and flawed. Those who founded FAIR have a clear bias against immigrants of color and have consistently sought to limit all immigration, not just illegal immigration. FAIR is an organization has supported Donald Trump when he takes their hard line.

A representative of Howmuch.net sent this statement to me about their decision to remove the article.

HowMuch.net seeks to provide interesting data visualizations and articles to explore financial and economic topics for a broad audience of readers. We always strive to use fair and impartial sources for our data. It was recently brought to our attention that an article using data from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) did not meet our standards for impartiality. We immediately took down the article from our website. We do not subscribe to or advocate for any particular public policy position, and as a result, FAIR does not meet our requirements.

The founder of FAIR, John Tanton, once remarked to supporters that whites were losing their majority and challenged them:

As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?

The history of FAIR is in nativism and resistance to immigration of any kind which isn’t white.  I commend the proactive reader and the folks at Howmuch.net for their speedy response to the legitimate concerns.

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A Wild Metaxas Appears!

We haven’t checked in with Eric Metaxas lately. Let’s see how he’s doing.

It appears he’s about the same, maybe a little worse.

It is sometimes hard to follow Twitter so here’s what happened. First, Metaxas retweeted Wayne Grudem’s biblical defense of Donald Trump’s wall (see my take down of that article here), calling it “A Sane View of the Border Wall Controversy.” Then law professor John Inazu responded:

I wonder at what point in the United States’s genocidal westward expansion Metaxas and Grudem would argue a wall would have been biblically justified.

Good question. What if the Bible had been the holy book of the Chickasaw people?

Then, Metaxas responded to Inazu:

When did you arrive?

Reaction was swift and negative to Metaxas’ insensitive tweet.

Here is a sampling.

Nate Pyle and Katelyn Beaty are Christian authors and Beaty is former editor of Christianity Today.

In contrast to Metaxas, Inazu did stay classy and gave Metaxas a little history lesson:

Since coming out for Donald Trump in the 2016 campaign, Metaxas has bewildered his supporters with his move toward nativism. Metaxas eventually removed the offensive tweet without apology.

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David Barton: The Founders Weren’t Racist Slave Owners

Again this summer, David Barton is separating students from their money. Last summer via Glenn Beck’s Mercury One charity, the historical document collector started a summer internship program designed to prepare students ages 18-25 to educate their professors in history. Round two is this summer and Barton carries on his war with professors via his students.

Barton: Racists? What Racists?

I feel sorry for the students but it is too late for those who have already gone through it. Last summer, some came away with some problems they had to unlearn. In this post, I want to focus on something Barton said in the OneNewsNow interview.

And contrary to reports from liberal media outlets and academics, the country was not founded by a bunch of slave-owning racists, he [Barton] argued. “Once we separated from Great Britain, then you find that three out of four Founding Fathers released slaves, freed slaves, started abolitionist societies, went on to crusade against slavery,” he offered as examples.

While I don’t trust his math, I don’t need to have an exact percentage to assess what happened at the founding of the United States. Whether most founders owned slaves or not (I believe they did), what matters is what they did when it counted.  In Christian America, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention decided that preserving the union was more important that ending slavery. We all know the history. Slavery didn’t end because noble founders “released slaves, freed slaves, started abolitionist societies, went on to crusade against slavery” or any such thing.

Some founders never owned slaves and were always opposed to slavery and in good conscience refused to support the union. Others condemned slavery, but owned slaves and held racist attitudes. Still others believed Africans were destined by God to serve whites. The situation is far more complex than Barton portrays it to be. No rationalization or math trick can change what happened or make it all better. It is only in the current white evangelical Republican echo chamber that such a whitewashing can be considered informed and wise commentary.

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K.P. Yohannan’s Believers’ Church to Halt New Admissions to Caarmel Engineering College Amid Financial Crisis

According to the Indian newspaper The Hindu, Believers’ Church Caarmel Engineering College is closing amid a financial crisis. The news provoked a demonstration at the college on Monday. According to video posted on YouTube earlier this week (and embedded below), the college maintains the school is halting new admissions due to a financial crisis but that current students will be able to finish their programs. There were no promises made going forward. Thus, the future of the school is uncertain.

The Hindu report said students and parents were in a panic because the “college management said that they were unable to run the institution further due to financial crisis.”

Although I am not sure of the significance of this, the protest was triggered by the institution being excluded from the yearly allotment list published earlier this week.

Foreign Donations Helped Fund the Engineering School

Caarmel has been the recipient of Gospel for Asia -U.S. donations in the past. According to a filing in an Indian tax court, Gospel for Asia – India and Believers’ Church acknowledged that they used foreign donations for expenses at Believers’ Church Medical Center and Carmel Educational Trust (the trust which manages the engineering school). The quote below comes that court filing. Shri Venkitachalam represented GFA/BC:

On the contrary, Shri Venkitachalam, the ld.representative for the assessee submitted that both the assessees advanced funds to other registered trusts which have similar objects. According to the ld.representative, the assessee advanced funds to BCMET for construction of hospital building. BCMET is also a registered trust u/s 12AA of the Act. The ld.representative further submitted that Carmel Education Trust also a registered charitable trust u/s 12A of the Act was given funds by the assessee to carry out their charitable activities.

GFA/BC hoped to avoid paying taxes on the deflected income. The tax court had this to say about the income redirected to Caarmel and the medical college:

We have considered the rival submissions on either side and also perused the material available on record.It is not in dispute that substantial income of the assessee trust was not used by both the assessees for the purposes for which they were formed. (emphasis added)

This case in itself should help address issues in Murphy v. GFA. In that case, the Murphys assert that GFA didn’t use donations as donors intended. GFA acknowledged as much in their defense against the tax assessor. However, in all of the literature I have read about GFA, I have never read an appeal for donations to the Believers’ Church Medical College or the Caarmel Engineering College. These facilities charge medical fees and tuition. I suspect most GFA donors would be surprised to learn they exist.

In any case, it appears that Caarmel Engineering College is in some jeopardy. This video shows a vigorous protest and upset crowd over the situation.

UPDATE: If I am understanding the English of the speakers in this video, the closure may only be for one class year. The financial crisis may cause the school to fail to begin a class while they may be able to complete the work of classes underway. The situation does seem to be uncertain which has triggered a lack of trust in management.

At one point near the end of the video, a student asks why a financial crisis in Believers’ Church should effect the school since the school generates revenue through tuition.

With a little more digging, I found this video. At 53:53, a man who appears to represent Believers’ Church stands to read a statement which says essentially that Caarmel will not take new students during the 2018-2019 school year due to a “financial crisis” but the current students will be able to continue their studies.

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On July 4, 1826, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams Died – Happy Independence Day

With slight editing, this post is reprinted from prior posts on Independence Day. In 2015, it was the culmination of my Daily Jefferson series.
Happy Independence Day!

john adamsIn addition to being Independence Day, this is the day that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826.

On this day in 1826, former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who were once fellow Patriots and then adversaries, die on the same day within five hours of each other.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were friends who together served on the committee that constructed the Declaration of Independence, but later became political rivals during the 1800 election. Jefferson felt Adams had made serious blunders during his term and Jefferson ran against Adams in a bitter campaign. As a consequence, the two patriots and former friends fell out of touch. Mutual friend and Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush hoped to bring the men back together. Rush was on good terms with both Adams and Jefferson and after the end of Jefferson’s second term, endeavored to help them bridge the distance. In his letter to Adams on October 17, 1809, Rush used the device of a dream to express his wish for Adams and Jefferson to resume communications. This letter is part of a remarkable sequence of letters which can be read here. In this portion, Rush suggests his “dream” of a Jefferson-Adams reunion to Adams.

“What book is that in your hands?” said I to my son Richard a few nights ago in a dream. “It is the history of the United States,” said he. “Shall I read a page of it to you?” “No, no,” said I. “I believe in the truth of no history but in that which is contained in the Old and New Testaments.” “But, sir,” said my son, “this page relates to your friend Mr. Adams.” “Let me see it then,” said I. I read it with great pleasure and herewith send you a copy of it.

“1809. Among the most extraordinary events of this year was the renewal of the friendship and intercourse between Mr. John Adams and Mr. Jefferson, the two ex-Presidents of the United States. They met for the first time in the Congress of 1775. Their principles of liberty, their ardent attachment to their country, and their views of the importance and probable issue of the struggle with Great Britain in which they were engaged being exactly the same, they were strongly attracted to each other and became personal as well as political friends.  They met in England during the war while each of them held commissions of honor and trust at two of the first courts of Europe, and spent many happy hours together in reviewing the difficulties and success of their respective negotiations.  A difference of opinion upon the objects and issue of the French Revolution separated them during the years in which that great event interested and divided the American people. The predominance of the party which favored the French cause threw Mr. Adams out of the Chair of the United States in the year 1800 and placed Mr. Jefferson there in his stead. The former retired with resignation and dignity to his seat at Quincy, where he spent the evening of his life in literary and philosophical pursuits, surrounded by an amiable family and a few old and affectionate friends. The latter resigned the Chair of the United States in the year 1808, sick of the cares and disgusted with the intrigues of public life, and retired to his seat at Monticello, in Virginia, where he spent the remainder of his days in the cultivation of a large farm agreeably to the new system of husbandry. In the month of November 1809, Mr. Adams addressed a short letter to his friend Mr. Jefferson in which he congratulated him upon his escape to the shades of retirement and domestic happiness, and concluded it with assurances of his regard and good wishes for his welfare. This letter did great honor to Mr. Adams. It discovered a magnanimity known only to great minds. Mr. Jefferson replied to this letter and reciprocated expressions of regard and esteem. These letters were followed by a correspondence of several years in which they mutually reviewed the scenes of business in which they had been engaged, and candidly acknowledged to each other all the errors of opinion and conduct into which they had fallen during the time they filled the same station in the service of their country. Many precious aphorisms, the result of observation, experience, and profound reflection, it is said, are contained in these letters. It is to be hoped the world will be favored with a sight of them. These gentlemen sunk into the grave nearly at the same time, full of years and rich in the gratitude and praises of their country (for they outlived the heterogeneous parties that were opposed to them), and to their numerous merits and honors posterity has added that they were rival friends.
With affectionate regard to your fireside, in which all my family join, I am, dear sir, your sincere old friend,
BENJN: RUSH

I don’t think Rush had an actual dream.* He may have used the dream narrative as a clever device to prod his friend into reconciliation with Jefferson. On more than one prior occasion, Rush communicated his views to Adams via writing about them as dreams. For instance,  Rush responded to a political question from Adams in a February 20, 1809 letter via a dream narrative.  Adams responded on March 4, 1809 (the same day Jefferson’s second term ended) praising Rush’s wit and asked for a dream about Jefferson:

Rush,—If I could dream as much wit as you, I think I should wish to go to sleep for the rest of my Life, retaining however one of Swifts Flappers to awake me once in 24 hours to dinner, for you know without a dinner one can neither dream nor sleep. Your Dreams descend from Jove, according to Homer.
Though I enjoy your sleeping wit and acknowledge your unequalled Ingenuity in your dreams, I can not agree to your Moral. I will not yet allow that the Cause of “Wisdom, Justice, order and stability in human Governments” is quite desperate. The old Maxim Nil desperandum de Republica is founded in eternal Truth and indispensable obligation.

Jefferson expired and Madison came to Life, last night at twelve o’clock. Will you be so good as to take a Nap, and dream for my Instruction and edification a Character of Jefferson and his Administration?

More substantial evidence for questioning whether Rush reported an actual dream is the existence of a draft of this letter which demonstrates that Rush considered another literary device for his prophecy. A footnote in Lyman Butterfield’s  compilation of Rush’s letter explains:

In the passage that follows, BR [Benjamin Rush] made his principal plea to Adams to make an effort toward reconciliation with Jefferson. That pains were taken in composing the plea is shown by an autograph draft of the letter, dated 16 Oct. in Hist. Soc. Penna., Gratz Coll. In the draft BR originally wrote, and then crossed out, the following introduction to his dream history: “What would [you omitted] think of some future historian of the United States concluding one of his chapters with the following paragraph?” The greater verisimilitude of the revision adds much to the effectiveness of this remarkable letter. (Butterfield, L.H., The Letters of Benjamin Rush, Vol. II, 1793-1813, Princeton Univ. Press, 1951, p. 1023)

The evidence shows that Rush considered at least two options to get across his message of reconciliation: a dream or an appeal to a future history book. He first wrote about the history book, then he chose a more creative device, one which he had already used in letters to Adams and which Adams had actually requested in March of that year.

In any case, real dream or not, Adams liked the proposition and replied to Rush on October 25, 1809, about the “dream” saying,

A Dream again! I wish you would dream all day and all Night, for one of your Dreams puts me in spirits for a Month. I have no other objection to your Dream, but that it is not History. It may be Prophecy. There has never been the smallest Interruption of the Personal Friendship between me and Mr. Jefferson that I know of. You should remember that Jefferson was but a Boy to me. I was at least ten years older than him in age and more than twenty years older than him in Politicks. I am bold to say I was his Preceptor in Politicks and taught him every Thing that has been good and solid in his whole Political Conduct. I served with him on many Committees in Congress in which we established some of the most important Regulations of the Army &c, &c, &c

Jefferson and Franklin were united with me in a Commission to the King of France and fifteen other Commissions to treat with all the Powers of Europe and Africa. I resided with him in France above a year in 1784 and 1785 and met him every day at my House in Auteuil at Franklins House at Passy or at his House in Paris. In short we lived together in the most perfect Friendship and Harmony.

Although in a less poetic manner, Rush also wrote Jefferson to suggest a resumption of friendship with Adams. It took awhile (1812), but Adams and Jefferson did resume contact. As predicted by Rush, they carried on a vigorous correspondence until late in their lives regarding their personal and political views. Then 50 years after July 4, 1776, Jefferson and Adams “sunk into the grave nearly at the same time, full of years and rich in the gratitude and praises of their country…”**

*Christian nationalists often point to this story as an illustration of a supernatural event. For instance, David Barton says that Rush had a dream which God brought pass in a manner similar to those in the Bible. If Barton knows about Rush’s rough draft of this letter, he doesn’t disclose this information to his readers. He doesn’t also consider the fact that Rush often used the word dream to describe his thoughts about issues.

Clearly, the accuracy of what Rush predicted is uncanny and from a reformed vantage point represents the working of providence. However, the processes seemed to be quite natural in that Rush thought a lot about his friends and worked behind the scenes to make the reunion happen. Given the early chemistry of Adams and Jefferson, their later relationship could reasonably be expected. The spooky part is their common day of death.

**Much of this post was adapted from a prior post on John Adams and the Holy Ghost letter and published on this blog May 31, 2011.  Read more about Jefferson in Getting Jefferson Right by Michael Coulter and me.

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Images: public domain