The myth of a prayer meeting at the Constitutional Convention just refuses to die.
Earlier this week, the American Family Association’s Reason and Company show opined favorably on Melania Trump’s reading of the Lord’s Prayer. In the process, Abraham Hamilton III said starting at 40 seconds in that Franklin’s effort “led to a three day prayer meeting at the Constitutional Convention.” He added, “So we have a long history of recognizing the God of the Bible in our country.” Watch
No. Franklin made a motion to have daily prayers but the Convention never acted on it and daily prayers were not held. In fact, Franklin later recorded that only three or four delegates thought prayers were needed. Even if Franklin’s request had been acted on favorably, it doesn’t follow that the delegates all prayed to the God of the Bible. Among the delegates, there was significant disagreement about God and the Bible. Some hardly believed, some scoffed at the Bible’s miracles while accepting the moral teachings of Jesus and still others were more orthodox.
For a detailed account of the Franklin proposal and how it grew to be an oft-repeated myth, see this article by Louis Sirico on the website of the Association of Legal Writing Directors. The last paragraph of his article is a fitting end to this post:
With respect to Franklin’s proposal, advocates have invoked it both as a solvent for specific disputes and as support for a general accommodationist policy. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the incompleteness of the historical record led many to accept the false history that Franklin had rescued the Constitutional Convention from collapse. Since then, although some writers have clung to that story, legitimate historians have endorsed an accurate story that most respected advocates have accepted and used to fashion their arguments. True history, then, has prevailed over false history. But false history continues to linger. In any event, the Franklin proposal demonstrates how history can prove a powerful force in effective advocacy. Whether accurate or mystical, stories of the past will continue to shape the present and the future.
In the case of the AFA and many religious right organization who use David Barton’s history, “false history continues to linger.”
I have said things in columns that I now don’t believe. It happens, but one should acknowledge it and move on. Claiming it didn’t happen isn’t the way to go.
Bryan Fischer once wrote in a column that African-Americans on welfare “rut like rabbits.” Now he denies it. Listen to an excerpt of Fischer’s radio show provided by Right Wing Watch. In it, he claims he never referred to African-Americans in this manner.
However, a review of the Wayback Machine tells a different story. Here is the column and the paragraph is below:
He later changed the paragraph to refer to Hispanics, Caucasians and African-Americans but he can’t say he never singled out African-Americans to start with.
No. Just. No.
Writing on OneNewsNow, Bryan Fischer says Japan has no terrorism because the nation has no Muslims.
Fischer relies on one Jewish Press article which takes him far away from the facts.
Fischer says Muslims can’t proselytize and there are no Muslim organizations. He says a lot of things that aren’t true.
For the facts, see this Politifacts article. The writers there evaluated similar claims back in November and rated them “pants on fire” which mean blatantly false.
See also this article on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website and then this list of Muslim worship centers in Japan.
Of late, lots of conservatives are voicing opposition to the Confederate flag. However, at least one can’t get his mind off gays long enough to join in.
Demoted AFA spokesperson Bryan Fischer minimizes slavery and the symbolism of the Confederate flag to attack gays. In an op-ed on something called “Cowgernation,” Fischer rants:
But if we are going to remove symbols of oppression from our culture, why stop with the Confederate flag? By any objective measure, the rainbow flag of the Gay Reich should be next.
Comparing American slavery to some bakers who were fined for not baking a cake, Fischer accuses gay lobbyists of being slave owners:
The slaveholding South has risen again, after a fashion, only this time all the plantations are owned and operated by the Human Rights Campaign. In today’s world, even if its critics are right, the Confederacy ain’t got nothing on the haters in the homosexual movement.
One may agree with the bakers and still cringe when someone compares American slavery with doing business now.
More disturbing is the fact that Fischer can’t bring himself to condemn the Confederacy (“even if its critics are right,” he says, implying they aren’t).
The Trail of Tears was a low point in American history when the United States government brutally carried out a systematic removal of Native Americans from locations throughout the South to the Indian Territory (now eastern Oklahoma). Broadly the forced removal began in 1830 with the signing of the Indian Removal Act and culminated in the forced death march of the Cherokee in 1838 and 1839 where 4,000 of an estimated 17,000 travelers died. The last Cherokees arrived in present day Oklahoma in March, 1839.
The Trail of Tears has been obscured in the retelling of American history. It seems obvious that the American Family Association does not grasp the significance of the event and has spread misinformation to their millions of listeners and readers about the relationship of the United States and native peoples.
This is not a partisan issue. In 2004, conservative Senator Sam Brownback authored a resolution apologizing to the Cherokee and other native people for the Trail of Tears. It was not passed until 2009 and signed by President Obama on December 19, 2009. According to the American Family Association and Bryan Fischer, the US had nothing to apologize for.
In a recent interview on CNN, I realized that my choice of language does not reflect fully my heart on gay issues.
I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation. I regret that my words to express that concept were hurtful and divisive. For that I apologize unreservedly to all that were offended.
I’m a doctor trained in multiple fields of medicine, who was blessed to work at perhaps the finest institution of medical knowledge in the world. Some of our brightest minds have looked at this debate, and up until this point there have been no definitive studies that people are born into a specific sexuality. We do know, however, that we are always born male and female. And I know that we are all made in God’s image, which means we are all deserving of respect and dignity.
I support human rights and Constitutional protections for gay people, and I have done so for many years. I support civil unions for gay couples, and I have done so for many years. I support the right of individual states to sanction gay marriage, and I support the right of individual states to deny gay marriage in their respective jurisdictions.
I also think that marriage is a religious institution. Religious marriage is an oath before God and congregation. Religious marriage must only be governed by the church. Judges and government must not be allowed to restrict religious beliefs.
I am not a politician and I answered a question without really thinking about it thoroughly. No excuses. I deeply regret my statement and I promise you, on this journey, I may err again, but unlike politicians when I make an error I will take full responsibility and never hide or parse words. As a human being my obligation is to learn from my mistakes and to treat all people with respect and dignity.
He pretended to know that being gay was “absolutely” a choice earlier today. Now he doesn’t pretend to know how it happens. What a difference less than a day makes.
Just a bit ago, Alan Chambers contested Carson’s remarks on this blog.
Bryan Fischer’s wish didn’t last a day:
Here’s hoping Ben Carson does not retreat one inch from his declaration that homosexuality is “absolutely” a choice.
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanJFischer) March 4, 2015
I’d say he retreated more than an inch.
Carson had a hard time choosing (see what I did there) what message to go with. First, he confidently said being gay was a choice. Then he told Sean Hannity in the afternoon that the “liberal media” wasn’t treating him fairly. Carson even said he wasn’t going to talk about gay issues anymore. At that point, with Hannity, there was no apology. Then later, as I noted in this post, he was talking about gay issues again with his apology.
In a letter to the Southern Poverty Law Center yesterday, AFA attorney Patrick Vaughn said the American Family Association is a “free speech zone.”
In 2012, AFA Tim Wildmon took essentially the same stance regarding Fischer’s views while Fischer was serving as Director of Issues Analysis. Now, in the face of a firestorm of controversy involving the Republican National Committee, the AFA backs away from most of the outrageous things Fischer has said while he represented the AFA.
The AFA claims to be a free speech zone but not that long ago the AFA targeted Worldview Weekend host Brannon Howse because he criticized the AFA’s involvement in Rick Perry’s prayer meeting, The Response. The AFA issued an ultimatum to two other radio hosts who worked with Howse: Todd Friel and John Loeffler. Both hosts were told they had to break ties with Howse or lose their spot on the AFR network. Friel eventually stayed with the AFA while Loeffler decided not to acquiesce to the AFA’s demands.
Howse and his colleagues clearly were not a part of the AFA nor on their payroll. Fischer on the other hand remains an employee of the AFA. Free speech allows Bryan Fischer to spew positions which now the AFA says they repudiate. However, not that long ago, free speech did not allow Brannon Howse to criticize the AFA’s involvement in Rick Perry’s coming out party.
Last night, Rachel Maddow exclusively reported that the American Family Association demoted Bryan Fischer. Instead of being Director of Issues Analysis, he will simply continue to host his Focal Point radio broadcast.
In 2012, AFA president Tim Wildmon told me via email that being a talk show host (e.g., Fischer) on the American Family Radio network was analogous to Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News. Wildmon felt no obligation to own Fischer’s outrageous comments in the same way that O’Reilly was able to say whatever he wanted without apology or explanation from Fox News. While O’Reilly has offended some people, he has never blamed the Holocaust on gays, or said native Americans did not deserve to keep their lands. In other words, Wildmon dodged the issue. His action last night confirms that he has been dodging all along; Wildmon said he demoted Fischer because of his statements about gays and the Holocaust. Those remarks occurred in 2011 when Bryan Fischer defended Scott Lively’s bookThePink Swastika.
Fischer’s demotion appears to stem from a trip to Israel hosted by the AFA for members of the Republican National Committee. The association of the AFA and the RNC did not play well in an article by Debra Nussbaum Cohen published this week in the Haaretz newspaper. The title and subtitle summarize the tale:
U.S. NGO: Evangelical ‘hate group’ funding Republican National Committee trip to Israel
Evangelical political operative planned 9-day freebie trip for national committee members, on behalf of the conservative Christian AFA group which blasts Muslims, gays. SPLC rights group staffer: Our issue is not with the trip, but with the ‘heinous beliefs’ of those sponsoring it.
Since at least 2011, Fischer has promoted the notion that the First Amendment offers no protections for religions other than Christianity. Fischer’s misinterpretation of the First Amendment is what brought me into the David Barton/Christian nation controversy. Some of my first posts examining the false Christian nation claims were in response to Fischer’s comments. The AFA has promoted these views for years and demoting Fischer will not change much.
AFA’s spokesman regarding the Israel trip David Lane told Haaretz that “America was founded by Christians for the glory of God and the Christian faith.” This is not a true message, nor will this rhetoric help the GOP. The RNC partnering with the AFA sends all of the wrong messages to non-Christians and Christians such as myself who defend religious freedom for all and know that the First Amendment is for all citizens, of faith and no faith. If the RNC is serious about addressing this serious mistake, they should return the funding from the AFA and pay their own way. Or don’t go.