Happy Birthday to Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13 1743 at Shadwell, Virginia.
In honor of our third president, I can suggest a worthy gift for anyone given in his name.
jeffersonbookcover
Written mostly to debunk self-styled historian and Christian nationalist David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies, our book Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President stands on its own as an examination of Jefferson’s views on religion, the Bible, and slavery.
 

The Jefferson Lies

After Barton’s book was pulled from publication in 2012, he claimed Simon & Schuster would republish it. That never came to pass. Then WorldNetDaily put it out claiming that Christian publisher Thomas Nelson pulled the book due to “political correctness.” Barton’s buddy Glenn Beck claimed that “liberal bastards” were behind the effort to discredit the book. These claims came even though most of the recent critics were Christian college professors. In short, none of these excuses hold water.
Thomas Nelson said at the time that they lost confidence in the books facts and pulled the book due to historical errors. I outlined what I know about the situation in a previous post. In fact, philosopher and college professor Jay Richards recruited 10 Christian scholars, mostly historians, to read our book and then Barton’s. On the whole, the scholars came back to Richards with the feedback that Barton had turned Jefferson into a figure unrecognizable to them. It wasn’t long afterwards that Thomas Nelson took the extremely rare step of pulling the book from publication.

Additional reading:

The David Barton Controversy – WORLD – Thomas Kidd (2012)
Doubting Thomas – WORLD – Thomas Kidd (2012)
Publisher Pulls Controversial Thomas Jefferson Book – NPR – Elise Hu (2012)
Citing Lost Confidence, David Barton’s Publisher Pulls Book on Jefferson – TPM – Casey Michel – (2012)
Barton’s Jefferson Book Yanked – Eric Marrapodi and Dan Gilgoff – CNN (2012)
Christian History: How David Barton is Doing it Wrong – Gospel Coalition – Justin Taylor (2017)
 

Oren Paris III Resigns as Ecclesia College President, Enters Conditional Guilty Plea in Kickback Scheme

Correction: An earlier version of this article said Ecclesia was unaccredited. I have corrected it to reflect that the school is accredited by the Association of Biblical Higher Education but is not regionally accredited which is the gold standard for academic accreditation. 
…………………………………….
Watch out, shoes are dropping in the Ecclesia College kickback case.
Arkansas Online today reports that Oren Paris III resigned from his post as president of Ecclesia College and entered a last minute conditional

Ecclesia College

guilty plea in the kickback and bribery case which came to light early last year. Along with State Senator Jon Woods, and consultant Randall Shelton, Paris was indicted in federal court on March 1, 2017 for allegedly participating in a scheme to funnel state improvement funds through Ecclesia to Woods and Shelton. State representative Micah Neal was also in on the alleged plot and earlier entered a guilty plea.

Read the Indictment Here

Ecclesia College is an Christian school in Springdale AR which has the support of Christian nationalists David Barton and Eric Metaxas. The school is accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education but is not accredited by the Higher Learning Commission which covers schools in Arkansas.
Initially, Paris was defiant and claimed he would be vindicated. Although Paris entered a guilty plea, the move may have been a legal maneuver, according to media reports. His trial was slated to begin Monday and Paris may be hoping to revisit his status if an appeals court overturns Judge Timothy Brooks decision not to dismiss the case.

Read the Plea Agreement Here

In the plea agreement, Paris admits that he “knowingly obtained GIF [General Improvement Funds] money for the College under materially false and fraudulent pretenses.” Paris then caused funds to be paid to Randall Shelton knowing that some of those funds would end up back with Senator Jon Woods in a kickback. By entering a conditional guilty plea to one count, Paris has thrown Shelton and Woods under the bus.
Incredibly, Ecclesia College is standing by Paris, writing on the school Facebook page:

Dear friends,
As you know, Dr. Oren Paris and two others were indicted a little over a year ago by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. For Oren, his immediate family, and the extended family at Ecclesia College, this has been a period of spiritual trial, eased by an ever increasing gratitude for God’s constant presence and His great faithfulness.
While we continue to believe firmly that Dr. Paris has been honest and forthright in his statements from the beginning of this case, he and his legal team are now convinced that the best path forward is to accept a conditional plea agreement negotiated with the government. We stand with him in his decision.
Information recently brought to Dr. Paris’s attention has shed new light on facts he previously knew but had interpreted differently. This enables him to truthfully make the statement required by the government. The terms of the conditional plea agreement clear the path for an appeal to be filed with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to address some the issues raised during the course of this case that have caused us all great concern regarding the appearance of fairness of the judicial system. In the meantime, while Dr. Paris will be stepping down as president of Ecclesia College until his name is cleared in order to avoid further unnecessary distraction from the College’s mission, he will continue to serve Ecclesia.
We know and trust that God is moving on our behalf toward His ultimate answer to our ongoing prayer for His deliverance. Please continue to pray with us that the upcoming appeal will lead to a fully just outcome in the end.We are completely confident that God has every individual and this institution in His all-capable hands. To the faculty, staff, and students operations will continue as normal. We look forward to seeing Him in and through this situation for the overall good and promising future of Ecclesia College.
For His glory,
EC Board of Governance

It is very difficult to square the plea agreement with this statement from the Board of Governance. If his statement to the government is true, then he “knowingly obtained GIF money for the College under materially false and fraudulent pretenses” and “knowing and intentionally engaged in a scheme to defraud the citizens of Arkansas of the honest services of Arkansas state Senator Woods.” (See image below from page 4 of the plea agreement)

This case is not over. Senator Woods and Randall Shelton still must go to trial and no doubt they will have something to say about Paris’ involvement.
 
 
 

New Study: Trump Support Associated with Christian Nationalism and Anti-Muslim Sentiment

Evangelicals have been a big puzzle since Donald Trump has come on the scene. Why would these moral crusaders fall behind a womanizer who bragged about sexual assault? A new study from sociologists Andrew Whitehead, Joseph Baker and Samuel Perry in a recent edition of the Sociology of Religion journal provides some answers.
The study, which is also summarized by the authors in Monday’s Washington Post, points to a belief in core tenets of Christian nationalism as a major factor associated with Trump support. To assess Christian nationalism, the authors asked participants in the Baylor Religion Survey the following questions:

“The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation,”
“The federal government should advocate Christian values,”
“The federal government should enforce strict separation of church and state” (reverse coded),
“The federal government should allow the display of religious symbols in public spaces,”
“The success of the United States is part of God’s plan,” and
“The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.”

The authors found that the more a person believed America is or should be a Christian nation, the more likely that person was to vote for Trump. This was true across party affiliation. The image below taken from the study demonstrates that Democrats with Christian nationalist beliefs were three times more likely to vote for Trump than Democrats who didn’t have those beliefs.

Item five above is one which can be interpreted without a Christian nationalist meaning. Christians of many stripes see God as having a general plan which includes the success and failure of nations in it. One need not see America as having a special plan to endorse this item. Otherwise, I think the items assess important components of Christian nationalist beliefs about church and state.

Make America Christian Again

In short, the more you buy into David Barton’s way of looking at history, the more likely you are to be a Trump supporter. Christian nationalist voters reason that Trump will move America toward their vision of a Christian America even if he isn’t personally devout. Once upon a time, Christian leaders told us that character counts in leaders. Now, power is what matters. Trump voters want policies in place which will coerce a Christian consensus — make America Christian again.*
The authors also found that anti-Muslim sentiment related to Trump support. Christian nationalists, such as David Barton, have demonized Islam beyond the historical record and at least one Christian “religious liberty” group denies religion status to Islam.
After reading this study, I feel on the side of the angels by fact checking Christian nationalists historical claims (e.g., Getting Jefferson Right). Christian scholars have a special responsibility to present the facts and withstand the pressure from Christian leaders to corroborate a false Christian nationalist narrative.
 
*The title of the Sociology of Religion article is “Make America Christian Again: Christian Nationalism and Voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election.”
Further reading:
Does Christianity Need Donald Trump’s Help?

Military to Hear From Kenneth Copeland Who Teaches PTSD Can Be Cured by Bible Verses and Rebuking Satan

A military religious freedom watchdog group is asking Commanding General Major General Pete Johnson to uninvite Kenneth Copeland from theKenneth Copeland Jet February 1 prayer breakfast at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Kenneth Copeland has a rather checkered history but the main reason for the outrage is Kenneth Copeland’s past teaching on how to address post-traumatic stress disorder. On that topic, the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation Mikey Weinstein told the General:

But there’s something else that makes Copeland an even more outrageous choice to speak to any military audience. He has claimed that PTSD isn’t real because it isn’t biblical, saying on a 2013 Veterans Day episode of his TV show:
“Any of you suffering from PTSD right now, you listen to me. You get rid of that right now. You don’t take drugs to get rid of it, and it doesn’t take psychology. That promise right there [referring to a Bible verse he had just read] will get rid of it.”
Copeland’s guest that day, Christian nationalist pseudo-historian David Barton, wholeheartedly agreed, adding that warriors in the Bible fighting in the name of God were “esteemed” and in the “faith hall of fame” because they “took so many people out in battle.”

At the time, Barton and Copeland took a lot of heat over that “advice.” Before I go on, here is the segment:

Gospel Destroying and Demonic Advice

The Gospel Coalition’s Joe Carter called this advice “gospel destroying” and “demonic.” Copeland still has aspects of this advice on his website (source and source). I did a short series on PTSD which highlighted damaging aspects of Copeland’s and Barton’s advice. In short, their advice was insulting to PTSD sufferers. The military should warn their people about Copeland, not invite him to lecture them.

Copeland Disqualified Himself

I hope the General decides to find another speaker. In my opinion, Copeland disqualified himself to speak to our service men and women. In addition to his bogus advice about PTSD, he teaches that people who recite certain Bible verses will survive war. In essence, his teaching is that Christians will survive if they do the right things and recite the right magic Bible verses (Psalm 91 is one he suggests). In his PTSD video, he claims that the Bible gives a promise of survival to soldiers who fight for God. I don’t know what happens to people who don’t believe these things according to Copeland.
I can’t imagine what he will say that will be of general benefit or encouragement to people of all faiths. His teaching in his Veteran’s Day video and on his website requires a rather close adherence to his specific interpretation of the Bible. There are many Christians who reject this approach, not to mention those of other faiths and no faith. Surely, General Johnson can find someone who can bring people together and respect troops of all faith traditions.
Here is the announcement in the Fort Jackson newsletter:

National Prayer Breakfast to take place Feb. 1 at NCO Club sponsoring the National Prayer Breakfast for the Fort Jackson Community 7:30-9 a.m. Feb. 1 at the NCO Club. Nationally recognized televangelist Kenneth Copeland will be the speaker. Tickets are available from your unit. The event is free, but offerings will be accepted at the event. Attire will be duty uniform or civilian equivalent. The purpose of the NPB is to emphasize the importance of prayer for the Nation, Fort Jackson, our armed forces, and our Families. The themes for the breakfast are: prayers for the nation, community relationship and spiritual fitness.

 
This tip came from fellow Patheos blogger Hemant Mehta (who got it from Chris Rodda).

Another Article on Understanding David Barton

Out today, Vox has an article by Tara Burton hoping to help progressive readers understand the David Barton phenomenon. Over the years, Barton

David Barton
David Barton

has been identified as the “historian” behind a Christian nationalist narrative of the nation’s founding. Burton correctly connects newly appointed Religious Liberty Ambassador Sam Brownback and PA Republican candidate for Congress Rick Saccone with Barton. Brownback and Barton have a long relationship. I wrote about the Saccone-Barton link early last year.
Overall, to me as a long time student of this subject, there isn’t much new here.

When an Earned Degree Isn’t Earned

I am disappointed that Burton didn’t use the Vox platform to point out Barton’s academic fraud. She touched on it but left an incomplete impression:

Barton is a self-taught historian and activist. He’s received little formal historical training and his sole credentialed degree is a bachelor’s in religious education from evangelical Oral Roberts University, although he later claimed to have earned a doctorate from officially unaccredited Life Christian University on the basis of his published works.

Yes, he claimed one day to have an earned doctorate, but then the very next day, he took down his boastful claim when I revealed that the “earned doctorate” wasn’t earned but came from diploma mill Life Christian University. Barton no longer claims the degree. He won’t answer questions about his initial claim. Given that Burton said Barton gives Christian nationalism a “veneer of academic respectability,” I think this detail is quite significant.
The issue isn’t simply that he claimed a degree from an unaccredited school. Such that it is, he does have a piece of paper from Life Christian University. The claim which goes to Barton’s credibility is that he said that the degree was earned without specifying the means of earning it. Barton never said the degree was earned based on his published works. That rationale came from the president of Life Christian University, Douglas Wingate.
Despite this missed opportunity, I think Burton’s gets Barton’s influence mostly right when she says:

Barton remains a prominent figure in evangelical and dominionist circles and a regular on conservative conference circuits. He continues to speak on his nationally syndicated WallBuilders radio show, on which he describes himself as “America’s premier historian.” That said, since his fall from grace, Barton has publicly been cited by fewer and fewer prominent politicians, which makes Saccone’s choice to feature him at an early rally striking. But despite this, his influence is such that his particular narrative of American history is still taken by some on the right as, well, gospel.

These days almost no students who take my classes know who Barton is. More younger people seem wary of his claims. However, among those who strongly believe America is a Christian nation, Barton can do no wrong.

Keep Faith in America is a Christian Nationalist Celebration

photo-1432164245265-ab19a48c3d09_opt
Live via webcast from noon to 8pm is a Christian nationalist celebration called Keep Faith in America.  Hosted by former Congressman Randy Forbes and self-styled historian David Barton, the event is sponsored by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, a non-profit organization aligned with the Congressional Prayer Caucus.  You can watch various state legislature events and guest speakers via live stream here.

Keep Conservative Christianity in America

I watched it for over an hour and saw three state events. The first one I couldn’t identify because I tuned in too late and then later on I heard Kansas and Delaware politicians talk about keeping faith in America. Several of the speakers talked about faith and mentioned people of all faiths but the only representative of any faith besides Christianity was a rabbi (I didn’t catch his name). All other people featured during the event were Christian. It became obvious the longer I listened that the event should have been named: Keep Conservative Christianity in America.
These conservative Christians seemed to feel that their faith was under attack. They spoke as if their freedom to practice their religion was in jeopardy. How strange a sight it was to see elected officials standing in places of power praying in the name of Jesus, invoking their specific religion without restriction, and complaining about limitations on their religious liberty. They quoted the Bible as if all religions and people of no religion should respect those teachings. Remember these are legislators who are proclaiming that they, as legislators, need to keep faith in America, but when they say faith, the only faith they are talking about is Christianity.

Bad History

In the Delaware session, bad history was evident. The final speaker of the session (I couldn’t hear his name) told the story of Ben Franklin’s call to prayer as if the Constitutional Convention delegates actually heeded Franklin’s call and prayed daily during the Convention (they didn’t).
Unfortunately, this looks like another concerted effort to confuse Christians about the actual events of the founding era and church-state relations. This can only continue to lead many churches into a false mission of political activism, aligning themselves with Republican candidates who speak Christianese.

Another Idea

Better campaign than Keeping Faith in America: Keeping Christ in Christianity.

Another Conservative Calls Out David Barton's History

Charles C. W. Cooke is the online editor for National Review Online and recently had this to say about self-styled historian David Barton.


Generally, an individual occupying such a position with NR is not known as a liberal or even a “liberal bastard” as Glenn Beck once said about David Barton’s critics. Thus, I was interested to see such plain language aimed at Mr. Barton, a darling of some within what is left of the conservative world.
The Twitter thread is filled with polite give and take wherein Mr. Cooke doesn’t give an inch, reminding his readers that once upon a time Mr. Barton once admitted using second hand quotes without providing proper context. Even then, Barton claimed he only did what those pagan academics did.


Cooke here refers readers to Barton’s efforts to backtrack after it was discovered that some of the quotes in his book The Myth of Separation could not be located in primary sources. Barton said it was his idea to take those quotes out of his books. However, that hasn’t stopped him from using quotes that are not in primary sources or manipulating the words of certain founders to get the meaning he wants (click the links for a few illustrations).
One of the most egregious instances of academic deception was Barton’s effort to pass off a diploma mill doctorate from Life Christian University as an earned degree. He has never explained why he went to all the trouble to create a video for his Facebook and YouTube accounts, post it for one day, but then remove it the next day when I revealed that the “earned” doctorate he proudly pointed to was given to him by a school he never attended. I wonder if donor funds went to pay the fee for that piece of paper.

David Barton Backed Candidate for MI Governor Stripped of State Senate Committee Assignments

David Barton
David Barton

In the war between the alt-right/Christian nationalist and establishment factions of the GOP, battles are being waged in state races around the country. Even Ted Cruz may face a primary challenge in TX. In MI, David Barton and now Sean Hannity have endorsed Patrick Colbeck for governor. Can Steve Bannon be far behind?
Colbeck’s opposition in MI isn’t just the Democrats. On October 10, the MI Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof stripped him of all of his Senate committee assignments. Although Meekhof has not provided a specific reason for the unusual move, it may be an expression of the GOP war between the establishment and alt-right/Christian nationalist factions of the party. According to a Detroit News report, Colbeck is a favorite of the tea party in MI.
Colbeck believes he is being punished for attempting to “drain the swamp.”


Colbeck posted to his campaign Twitter account the extraordinary letter from Meekhof.

Ordinarily, this would be the kiss of death for a GOP candidate. However, Colbeck’s race will be one to watch in order to assess the strength of theMI logo growing coalition between white identity alt-right nationalists and Christian nationalists. Although Trump and Bannon aren’t being mentioned by name as yet, the endorsement of Hannity puts Colbeck in play as an anti-establishment candidate.
Other notes:
Apparently, Sen. Colbeck didn’t like my post on Tuesday about David Barton’s endorsement. He blocked me from viewing his account on Twitter.
 
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A Year Ago Today David Barton Claimed to Have an Earned PhD

A year ago today, religious right activist and member of Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration David Barton posted the following video on his Facebook and YouTube accounts.

In the video, Barton chastises progressives for questioning his claim to have an earned doctorate. He said he has an earned doctorate but that he has chosen not to talk about it. However, the next day Barton chose to take the video off of both websites and chose not to talk about the reasons why.
Barton’s haughty claim to have an earned doctorate gave way to silence after it was revealed that the degree came from Life Christian University, a

Life Christian University diploma reflection
Life Christian University diploma reflection

diploma mill. According to the president of Life Christian University, Douglas Wingate, Barton didn’t attend the school but was given credit for his historical writings. Even though one cannot meaningfully call a degree earned when you don’t take any classes, that is exactly what LCU does with famous preachers and religious leaders.
The state of Missouri advised fellow LCU degree recipient Joyce Meyer that her claim of an earned PhD from the school was against state law. Meyer’s lawyer responded that Meyer had already decided that describing the LCU PhD as earned was false. Meyer now describes her LCU degree as honorary. Although that description is legal in Missouri, LCU’s is not accredited by a Department of Education recognized accrediting body and the status as a university is unusual since the school is registered with the IRS as a church.
Barton called his degree earned but sarcastically dismissed the honest reporting of what he called progressives. Barton has never explained or apologized for his demeaning and misleading statements. Yet, he still claims to be “America’s premier historian.” Would “America’s premier historian” try to pass off what can only be called an honorary degree as an earned one?
As of now, America’s premier historian has chosen not to talk about it.

David Barton Says Lee Wasn't a Racist and Likens Statues of Stalin to Confederate Statues

David Barton
David Barton

On the Joe Pags Show last Friday, David Barton likened Confederate statues as historical icons to the Holocaust ovens and Gestapo headquarters in Germany. In response to my critique of this analogy, Barton gave extended remarks to Austin American-Statesman reporter Jonathan Tilove in an article published today.  In his remarks, Barton said Confederate statues were celebratory at the time they were put up  in the same way statues of Stalin were celebratory. He also said Confederate General Robert E. Lee was “not a racist in any way, shape, fashion or form.”
Before I critique Barton’s statements about Stalin and Lee, let me observe that Barton clearly declared the evils of slavery and the Confederacy in this interview. While I disagree with his analogies and reasoning, I don’t think Barton intends for his defense of Confederate statues to encourage white supremacist Confederate sympathizers. Having made that important observation, I will say that his reference to Stalin doesn’t work and his defense of Lee is in line with the Lost Cause sanitizing of Lee’s life.

Stalin and Confederate Symbols

Tilove asked Barton about his comparison of Nazi atrocities and Confederate symbols. Barton didn’t address that point but pivoted to a new analogy involving Stalin. From Tilove’s article:

TILOVE
I [Tilove] asked if there wasn’t a difference between the maintaining of Nazi sites in Europe as a grim reminder and the heroic glorification of Confederate memorials.
Aren’t the Confederate memorials celebratory?
BARTON
They were for that period of time, in the same way that the Stalin statues that are still up in the Soviet Union were celebratory for him, but now you point at them and go, “Look, look at what they represented”, but that was in a period of time. They are up because they  were celebrated at the time.
And there’s no doubt in my mind that every one of those Confederate heroes was celebrated at the time because of where they were, the part of the country they were in, the people that supported them, but they were racist. That’s an easy teaching lesson at this point. Or it should be.

Stalin is not a good illustration for Barton’s case. In Russia currently, Stalin is returning to a position of esteem. According to USA Today, ten new statues of Stalin has gone up since 2012. Recently, Vladimir Putin criticized the “excessive demonization” of Stalin. Stalin is a respected figure in Russia as indicated by recent polls there.  Statues of Stalin were celebratory when they were put up and they are still celebratory in Russia. Barton isn’t correct that Russians look at the statues and derive some lesson about the evils of Stalinism.
Surely, Barton would not want the same result for Confederate symbols here. The Confederate statues were celebratory when erected and since the Confederacy shouldn’t be celebrated, it is past time for the monuments to come down.

Robert E. Lee

About Lee, Barton said:

TILOVE
What do you think is the appropriate approach to the Confederate memorials?
BARTON
It is kind of a case by case thing. With Robert E. Lee, I totally dislike the Confederacy, I have no sympathy for them at all. But Robert E. Lee is not a racist in any way, shape, fashion or form. He fought for Virginia, and there’s no indication of racism on his part. Now you want to go to Nathan Bedford Forrest, you bet, he’s a founder of the KKK. I’ve got all sorts of problems with him. What those guys did at Fort Pillow, the massacre there of black Union soldiers is unbelievable. So it is a case by case basis in some ways.

Barton’s statement about Lee is astounding. While some of Lee’s biographers have whitewashed his racism, other primary source evidence calls into question such a positive account. Surely Barton has read Lee’s letter to his wife dated December 27, 1856:

The views of the Pres: of the systematic & progressive efforts of certain people of the North, to interfere with & change the domestic institutions of the South, are truthfully & faithfully expressed. The consequences of their plans & purposes are also clearly Set forth, & they must also be aware, that their object is both unlawful & entirely foreign to them, their duty; for which they are irresponsible & unaccountable; & Can only be accomplished by them through the agency of a civil & servile war. In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly interested in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is Known & ordered by a wise & merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy. This influence though slow is sure. The doctrines & miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years to Convert but a small part of the human race, & even Christian nations, what gross errors still exist! While we see the Course of the final abolition of human slavery is onward, & we give it the aid of our prayers & all justifiable means in our power we must leave the progress as well as the result in his hands who Sees the end; who Chooses to work by slow influences ; & with whom two thousand years are but a single day. Although the abolitionist must Know this; & must see that he has neither the right or power of operating except by moral means & suasion, & if he means well to the slave, he must not create angry feelings in the master; that although he may not approve the mode by which it pleases Providence to accomplish its purposes, the result will nevertheless be the same: that the reasons he gives for interference in what he has no Concern, holds good for every Kind of interference with our neighbours when we disapprove their Conduct; Still I fear he will persevere in his evil Course. Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others.

Lee’s version of Christianity required him to fight for African slaves stay in bondage because God willed it. God may take thousands of years to correct the situation but, for Lee, that was preferable to the work of the abolitionist. He called the abolitionist’s work an “evil Course.” Lee’s viewed African slaves as needing “painful discipline” before they could be free. This can only be described as some “shape, fashion or form” of racial superiority which Lee justified with Christianity.
Furthermore, there is primary evidence that Lee was not kind to his slaves, especially those who were caught trying to escape. On such slave, Wesley Norris, told his story in 1866.  Lee was executor of the estate of his wife’s deceased father and as such administered the treatment of slaves. Norris described the beatings ordered by Lee for him and his sister. According to Norris, Lee told the overseer to “lay it on well.” I encourage readers to consult Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s book on Lee for a fuller picture of the Confederate General.
While I agree statues should be evaluated on a case by case basis, I think Barton’s view of Lee is informed more by the Lost Cause than accurate history. If Barton has evidence that Lee was not a racist nor a supporter of slavery, I encourage him to produce it.
Tilove’s post is fascinating and advances the discussion surround the monuments. I encourage you to read the whole piece.