Once upon a time, Family Research Council promoted a video which featured a tour of the U.S. Capitol led by self-styled historian David Barton (see the original here). This Capitol tour video was filled with historical errors. Four years ago, 33 Christian historians and social scientists detailed those errors to FRC in a letter:
April 23, 2013
Dear Tony Perkins, Kenyn Cureton, & J.P. Duffy:
Knowing of your desire to offer truthful and accurate information to the public, we the undersigned Christian historians and social scientists request that you remove the video titled “U.S. Capitol Tour with David Barton” at this URL (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlfEdJNn15E) from YouTube.
There are many factual errors on this video which we detail in the attached summary. Given that the video has been viewed over 4 million times, it seems that the errors have been compounded among Christians who trust FRC for accurate information. Furthermore, it is apparent that pastors who go on the tour are learning false and misleading information.
We can provide complete documentation for everything we present here. Given that these claims are highlighted in the video but easily disproved, we believe these errors are enough to warrant the removal of the video with appropriate explanation.
We would be happy to discuss this matter further and hope that we can count on you to represent historical facts accurately.
Since the video was actually posted to the account of FRC VP Kenyn Cureton, he replied by saying Barton had agreed to correct the errors with new content. While this was not ideal, we waited to see what would happen.
In May 2013, after a follow up request from the historians to remove the video, Rev. Cureton made the video private thus removing it from public view. He told our spokesman Michael Coulter that FRC decided to make the video private so that no one could see “the erroneous material.” However, FRC declined to inform the public or provide an explanation for the removal. Eventually, Barton posted an altered version on his YouTube account without comment. I say altered and not corrected because the video was only a partial correction, the video still contains factual errors. The alteration was done in such a way as to make it seem like the video was never changed.
In summary, FRC acknowledged that David Barton was aware of his historical fiction and tried to alter the video without public acknowledgement of the errors and effort at correction. FRC leaders were aware of the many errors and did not alert their constituents to the false information.
Family Research Council Has Invited David Barton to Do It Again
If anything, the situation has worsened since 2013. Since then, David Barton has falsely claimed to have an earned PhD, only to go silent about the claim when it was revealed that the degree in question came from diploma mill Life Christian University. Barton never attended the school and was simply given the degree in the way an honorary degree is given. In academia, falsely claiming an earned doctorate is considered fraud. When I asked FRC’s Cureton if he was aware of this fraudulent claim, he referred me to media relations. I have heard nothing back from that department.
In the Capitol tour video, pastors who attended the event commented on what they had heard. I will never forget a pastor who looked into the camera and said he was angry because: “We’ve been lied to.” Watch:
Sadly, that pastor was right. He had been lied to. What he didn’t know is that the falsehoods were coming from his hosts and their featured speaker. That pastor might still think Congress printed the first English Bible in America for the use of schools. He might still think 29 out of 56 signers of the Declaration had Bible school degrees or that Thomas Jefferson ordered the marine band to play for worship services in the Capitol. If ever he learns the truth, I wonder if he will be even more angry at those who misled him. FRC should think about this before they host more historical fiction for a new group of pastors.
Recently, I appeared on the Up for Debate radio program hosted by Julie Roys to debate the status of the Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment forbids non-profit organizations from electioneering. Some religious groups want to repeal the amendment in order to allow pastors to endorse candidates for office without putting church tax exempt status at risk. Erik Stanley of Alliance Defending Freedom argued for the repeal of the amendment.
While discussing the matter, I volunteered that I have no problem with pastors expressing their views about political candidates but I do have a problem with tax exempt churches using tithes and offerings for political purposes. Those funds are exempt from taxation and as such should not be funneled into support for specific candidates. In short order, churches would become political action committees with donors getting a tax exemption for money eventually going to fund partisan politicking.
In response, Erik Stanley mentioned the Free Speech Fairness Act (HR 781/S264). Stanley characterized the bill as a fix for the Johnson Amendment, not a complete repeal. The text of the bill is as follows:
H. R. 781
To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow charitable organizations to make statements relating to political campaigns if
such statements are made in the ordinary course of carrying out its tax exempt purpose. _______________________________________________________________________
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
February 1, 2017
Mr. Scalise (for himself and Mr. Jody B. Hice of Georgia) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means
To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow charitable organizations to make statements relating to political campaigns if
such statements are made in the ordinary course of carrying out its tax exempt purpose.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the “Free Speech Fairness Act”.
SEC. 2. ALLOWING 501(C)(3) ORGANIZATION TO MAKE STATEMENTS RELATING TO POLITICAL CAMPAIGN IN ORDINARY COURSE OF CARRYING OUT ITS TAX EXEMPT PURPOSE.
(a) In General.–Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
“(s) Special Rule Relating to Political Campaign Statements of Organization Described in Subsection (c)(3).–
“(1) In general.–For purposes of subsection (c)(3) and sections 170(c)(2), 2055, 2106, 2522, and 4955, an organization
shall not fail to be treated as organized and operated exclusively for a purpose described in subsection (c)(3), nor
shall it be deemed to have participated in, or intervened in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any
candidate for public office, solely because of the content of any statement which–
“(A) is made in the ordinary course of the organization’s regular and customary activities in carrying out its exempt purpose, and
“(B) results in the organization incurring not more than de minimis incremental expenses.”.
(b) Effective Date.–The amendments made by this section shall apply to taxable years ending after the date of the enactment of this
So if the speech is made in the course of carrying out tax exempt purposes and results in insignificant costs, the speech would be permitted. Given the restriction on spending, this is not a repeal but a fix.
But is it an adequate fix? I argue that it is not. I don’t think any loophole for churches to spend tithes on political purposes, even de minimis, should be allowed. What is de minimis to one church might not be considered de minimis to another. Furthermore, the point of fixing the free speech problem should be on speech, not money. In kind contributions should also be forbidden. As this is written, I don’t support it.
One of the co-sponsors is Jody Hice a Christian from Georgia who sounds dominionist tones. He talked about the “repeal” of the Johnson Amendment at a recent David Barton sponsored meeting.
As I have noted before, most pastors don’t want to endorse candidates from the pulpit which is as it should be in my opinion.
It has been fascinating to watch the differences of perspective play out in the controversy over possible improper links between Donald Trump’s campaign and people associated with Vladimir Putin. Two illustrations follow. First, listen to Evelyn Farkas described her efforts to alert colleagues in the Obama administration about the need to preserve information pertinent to possible Trump collusion with Putin loyalists.
The Trump supporter who tweeted this video claims Farkas’ statements establish that she helped Obama spy on Trump. Her statements are being played on right wing outlets this morning as evidence that Obama really did spy on Trump. For instance, Hugh Hewitt played the video for White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and tweeted this:
Getting @Reince45 on the record re Evelyn Farkas statement should oblige every MSM outlet to cover story and this aspect of #RussiaStory
Farkas didn’t say she or anyone spied on Trump. In the context of discussing Russian interference in our election, she said there was intelligence about possible connections between Trump’s staff and Russia. Farkas didn’t say how they got the information but she was clear that she didn’t want Trump’s people to keep it from seeing the light of day. Trump supporters are focusing on the possibility that Trump was being surveilled. However, what I think is much more important is the core of Farkas’ claim. She said intelligence exists which ties the Trump campaign in some manner to the Russians. Is the leaking of such information a problem or is it whistleblowing?
Second, watch Speaker of the House Paul Ryan explain Devin Nunes’ decision to brief President Trump about information he received from a “whistleblower-type person.” Keep in mind that Nunes and the Republicans have been quite critical of those who have leaked intelligence to the press. Apparently, whistleblowing is fine but leaking is bad, even though one must leak to blow the whistle.
Ryan: Nunes told me whistleblower gave him info & “he was going to brief others”
Trump apologists see in Farkas’ words an admission of spying and vindication for Trump’s claims of being “wiretapped.” They seem more outraged about Trump surveillance than the possibility that Trump’s people colluded with Putin’s people. In contrast, if there was collusion between Trump and/or his campaign staff with the Russians, then I am glad the previous administration found out and preserved the intelligence.
After vocal reactions from a wide range of conservatives, CPAC rescinds the invitation.
For background on this matter, see posts from yesterday (here and here).
One wonders what took so long and what tipped the scale toward disinviting Yiannopoulos. Last night at 8:17pm, ACU chairman Matt Schlapp was still defending Milo as a speaker.
Jonah 1st amendment is dead on campus. Conservatives should fight back. As radioactive as milo is he is fighting back. https://t.co/grkdlGNBt3
The annual conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee is coming up next week. However, controversy has already arrived in the form of Milo Yiannopoulos. His invitation to speak at the conference is not sitting well with critics. The criticism of the invitation became especially hot after two videos surfaced of Yiannopoulos defending young teen-adult sex (as young as 13 as recorded in the interview). I am not going to embed the videos but you can listen for yourself here and here (see also the video embedded at the tweet below and full interview here).
Some have called on other CPAC speakers to boycott the conference.
Perennial CPAC attender, Ronald Reagan biographer and Grove City College colleague Paul Kengor told me the invitation is “appalling. William F. Buckley Jr. is rolling over in his grave.”
Kengor added that the keynote invitation is the “inevitable consequence of the Trump-Bannon attempted takeover of the conservative movement and GOP. Milo is a Bannon-Breitbart creation/superstar. For traditional-values conservatives who boarded the Trump train to defeat Hillary, well, it’s time to pay the piper.”
Kengor has a message for the American Conservative Union:
I beg this question of the American Conservative Union, Matt Schlapp, and its board members who I respect so much: Is Milo even a conservative? I realize it might seem uproariously fun to watch an outrageous, crude, militant homosexual tell leftists to go blank themselves, but is this really the poster-boy you want as the new model for young conservatives? The alt-right loves him. What would Ronald Reagan say about him as the CPAC keynoter? William F. Buckley Jr.? Russell Kirk?
He added, “If this is your idea of the new conservative movement, count me out.”
For his part, Yiannopoulos is claiming he was joking and did not refer to sex with minors. If one listens to the interview posted by the Reagan Battalion, it is hard to square his Facebook post with the interview where he defends young teen-adult sexual relations.
Did someone hack Sen. Grassley’s account?
If not, it is noteworthy that before church this morning a U.S. Senator implied Vladimir Putin has had his political opponents killed. It is also noteworthy that a Senator is reaching out to the President through Twitter.
Apparently, Grassley hasn’t been paying attention because Trump monitors his own Twitter account. Can’t find an answer yet.
Can you imagine the phone call? “Hey Vlad, Chuck Grassley wants to know why you’re killing off all your political opponents?”
I think we should all tweet an “Ask Putin” tweet.
On the urgent issue of civil rights, Senator Goldwater represents a philosophy that is morally indefensible and politically and socially suicidal.
-Martin Luther King, Jr. on the nomination of Barry Goldwater as GOP candidate for president.
Over the weekend, far right conservative filmmaker and pundit Dinesh D’Souza inflamed Twitter by claiming that Rep. John Lewis (“John Lewis is not a “legend”–he was a minor player in the civil rights movement who became a nasty, bitter old man”) and Rosa Parks (“So Rosa Parks wouldn’t sit in the back of the bus–that’s all she did, so what’s the big fuss?”) were minor civil rights figures. The response was appropriately swift and severe.
This might be the most historically ignorant thing you’ve ever written, and that’s saying quite a lot. https://t.co/ha51yoUxKP
Like D’Souza, his supporters cast Democrats as the party of racism since Democrats in the South were opposed, in large measure, to the 13-15th Amendments.
Today, D’Souza continues to defy the facts about race and political party:
When the South was deeply racist it was a one-party Democratic region; now that it’s largely non-racist, it is also largely Republican
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) January 16, 2017
D’Souza’s formulations fail to take into account the factors which have made African-American support for the Democrat party so strong. These are not hard. Goldwater as a GOP presidential candidate opposed civil rights legislation. When Democrats were moving toward civil rights, high profile conservative Democrats in the South switched to the GOP (e.g., Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms) and championed segregationist policies. Even though Ronald Reagan signed MKL Day into law, nearly half of GOP members opposed the day, whereas 95% of Dems supported it.
It would be easy to go on and on to provide reasons why African-Americans provide a voting bloc for Democrats. Trump received 8% of the African-American vote in the last election. This was a two point improvement over Romney in 2012 but should indicate to any reasonable observer that the vast majority of African-American voters don’t like what the GOP is doing and saying now. What happened pre-Harry Truman is interesting historically speaking but it doesn’t have much of an impact on what is going on now.
Fellow Grove City College professor Michael Coulter (Political Science) and I will be blogging through the day and evening regarding the election. Feel free to comment via the Live Blog feature and/or here on this post. In the comments section, please include links, news, etc, which interest you about the most bizarre election season in my lifetime. Live Blog
Bookmark this page and come back for election night when we’ll be live!
Join Grove City College professors Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter for observations and discussion of election night 2016.
As of Monday morning (11/7/16), Nate Silver’s group has Clinton with a strong probability to win.
Recently, several big name Christian leaders have made a case that a vote for a third party/independent candidate is a waste of a Christian’s vote and will only serve to elect Hillary Clinton. Dire warnings and shaming accompany these appeals.
Here are several reasons I disagree and believe that voting for an independent or minor party candidate is a good option.*
No one owns or is entitled to my vote and support. If the GOP and Democrat parties put up unqualified and unfit candidates, I am not obligated to support one of them. In this instance, for different reasons, I believe Clinton and Trump are equally unacceptable.
There is no biblical mandate to support one party or another in a two party system. The two party system is not divinely inspired.
Party loyalty was considered a problem by some of our key founding fathers. In his 1796 farewell address, Washington warned about party spirit. He said, “There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”
A viable third or even fourth major party would be a benefit to the nation and allow representation for important viewpoints now stifled by the two-party system.
At some point, an independent party must gain votes from citizens to gain viability. An independent movement will not grow unless citizens cast a ballot for independent candidates running for office. This election featuring two of the most unpopular candidates in history is a good opportunity for citizens to exercise their right to declare a pox on both houses.
From the perspective of someone who doesn’t support either Clinton or Trump, now is the time to declare independence from the two-party stranglehold on what is possible.
I don’t believe a sufficient case has been made by evangelical Trump supporters that Clinton will destroy the country. While I think the Republic will survive Trump, I think his weaknesses may actually be more dangerous to our safety than Clinton’s. Having said that, I believe both candidates bring unacceptable qualities to the table.
My position has nothing to do with “moral preening” or “fig leaves” or some other self-righteous way to dismiss reasoning which results in support for an independent candidate.
From my point of view, voting third party/independent is the long run option. We must start somewhere and now seems like as good a time as any. In any case, no advocate for holding one’s nose and voting for Trump has been able to provide a biblical basis for staying with the status quo. That is because there isn’t such a basis. The Bible doesn’t address a republic such as ours and only endorses the selection of moral and upright people as rulers. If anything, the Bible promotes the selection of upright people for leadership. Other than independent candidates, there is no real option to exercise that value this year.
Some (e.g., Wayne Grudem, Eric Metaxas) have suggested that pragmatic voting is how we should proceed. They believe God (and in Metaxas’ case Bonhoeffer) would get behind Trump because the consequences will be better in a Trump administration. This position requires an omniscience which no human possesses. No one knows what the consequences of each selection will be and it is presumptuous to assert that one does know. Since these pragmatists don’t have a direct line to God, we cannot accept their warnings and guilt trips as inspired revelation.
If you think Donald Trump has made a good case for himself, vote for him. If you think Hillary Clinton has made a good case for herself, vote for her. However, if you believe neither candidate is acceptable, then find someone you support and vote for that person with thanksgiving that you have the right to do so.
*Full disclosure – I favor independent candidate Evan McMullin.