PFOX Plays The Victim; Wants To Fix One Problem By Causing Another

Today, the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays dropped a news release criticizing Virginia’s public universities for failing to distribute their literature to students. In the release, PFOX claims discrimination based on religion and ex-gayness is what motivates the lack of ex-gay literature.
While I don’t doubt that some of those counseling center staffers have problems with conservative religion, I submit that they are correct in their decision not to provide PFOX literature to students.  Much of what PFOX and related groups (e.g., International Healing Foundation, Voice of the Voiceless) promote is scientifically questionable and should be avoided for that reason alone.
The irony is that the group who conducted the undercover investigation accuse the university centers of suppressing accurate information when it is the ex-gay groups which (also?) do this. They know there is no peer reviewed research on therapeutic change that supports them. They also know that at least one of their therapeutic methods (i.e., cartharsis) has been evaluated via research and found to be harmful in some instances. They also know that their narrative regarding homosexuality (i.e., failures in the parent-child relationship) is scientifically dubious and yet they continue to promote this view as if it is supported by research and experience.
It may be that the counseling center directors favor gay affirming religion over non-affirming religion. If so, this would be problematic if the centers are publicly funded. However, any such finding of fact would not be reason to hand out erroneous literature to students. If there are non-affirming groups on campus or in the community (e.g., Andrew Marin’s groups or some other religious group which does not promote debunked theories and methods) then information about those groups should be made available to religious students. Therapeutically neutral approaches should be taught to center counselors to help them avoid establishing an approved religious stance on the subject in a public university. However, PFOX and Voice of the Voiceless should not be allowed to use religious discrimination as a basis to promote their problematic materials.

Robert Carter III: A Forgotten Hero David Barton Doesn’t Want You to Remember

Fred Clark at Patheos reminds us that today is the day that Robert Carter III filed his deed of emancipation at the Northumberland District Court in 1791.

Regular readers of this blog will know that Robert Carter wrote what he called a “deed of gift” that set in motion the largest emancipation of slaves in the United States prior to the Civil War. Carter’s deed listed 452 slaves to be emancipated throughout the remainder of Carter’s life. To see parts of the six page deed, click here. See the image below for the filing date.


Carter, a Virginia plantation owner, became convinced that slavery was morally wrong and put his beliefs into action. David Barton claims in his book The Jefferson Lies that fellow Virginia slave owner Thomas Jefferson was unable to free his slaves due to Virginia law. On the contrary, Robert Carter relied on the Virginia’s 1782 law allowing owners to emancipate slaves via a deed recorded at the county court house. Barton modified his claim somewhat on the Glenn Beck show in mid-August by saying that Virginia law required owners who freed their slaves to provide a security bond for their care. To date, he has produced no evidence for this claim.

Carter’s story is an inconvenient truth for Barton and his fans. In the sad history of slavery, Carter is a brighter light, a true hero of his times. Yet, until recently, there has been little attention to him. Andrew Levy’s book on Carter (The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Work of Robert Carter the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves) helps to correct this but, on the other hand, Barton’s book on Jefferson serves to obscure Carter’s legacy. Levy’s observation about the place of Robert Carter in history is relevant:

It becomes difficult to argue that the founding fathers acted liberally within their own moral universe when small slave owners up and down the Virginia coast were freeing their slaves. It becomes impossible, however, to make that argument when one of their peers commits the same radical act. Similarly, the argument that there existed no practical plan for mass emancipation makes sense only if Robert Carter’s Deed of Gift is suppressed within the historical record.

David Barton claims his organization preserves America’s forgotten heroes. Robert Carter is one he might rather you forget.

Jefferson and Slavery: A Response to David Barton on the Glenn Beck Show, Part Three

In parts one and two of this response to David Barton’s appearance on Glenn Beck’s show, we looked at Barton’s defense of The Jefferson Lies on the subject of Jefferson’s record on slavery. In this post, we look at the remaining claims regarding slavery made by Barton last week. Here again is the video:

Barton claimed that Jefferson inherited 187 slaves when he was 14 years. On the clip at about 4:37, Barton says:

He [Jefferson] inherited 187 slaves when he’s 14 years old. So why didn’t he just release them? Because Virginia law says if you’re an adolescent, you cannot free any slave you’ve been given, you cannot emancipate any slave. So now he’s got 187 slaves he’s not been allowed to free.

It is true that Jefferson inherited slaves at age 14, but Barton gets the number of slaves wrong. Jefferson inherited 20 slaves at that time. In Getting Jefferson Right, we address this matter and get our information right from Jefferson’s Farm Book.

To get the proper accounting, we turn to the primary source of Jefferson’s notes in his Farm Book. In it, Jefferson delineated three categories of slaves he owned as of January 14, 1774. Jefferson titled the entire section, “A Roll of the proper slaves of Thomas Jefferson. Jan. 14. 1774” and then listed forty-one slaves that came through inheritance from his father along with those slaves who were purchased or born before his inheritance from his mother [20 slaves plus 21 who were added via birth and purchase]. He then listed eleven “slaves conveyed by my mother to me under the power given her in my father’s will as an indemnification for the debts I had paid for her.”  Finally, he listed the “roll of the slaves of John Wayles which were allotted to T. J. in right of his wife on a division or the estate. Jan. 14. 1774.” Here Jefferson listed the 135 slaves he received by inheritance from his father-in-law, John Wayles.* Adding these lists together, Jefferson owned 187 slaves by age thirty.

It may seem like a small point but for some reason Barton persists in saying Jefferson inherited the 187 when he was 14. Jefferson’s Farm Book (which you can see here; the total of 187 in 1774 is on page 18 at the bottom) says otherwise. While it is true that Jefferson was unable to free slaves when his father died in 1757, this was in part due to the fact that the only reason at that time allowed for emancipation was meritorious service on the part of a slave. The law allowing owners to emancipate slaves was not passed until 1782 (click here to see the text of the act to authorize the manumission of slaves).Barton then says on Beck’s show that someone told him that Jefferson could not free his slaves because they were collateral for his debts. While it is true that the Virginia legislature added a specific requirement in 1792 that freed slaves were required to work off any debts of the emancipator, this requirement actually could have made it an advantage for Jefferson to free his slaves. While the slaves would have had emancipation postponed until Jefferson’s debts were paid, they would have been free afterwards with Jefferson’s debt paid.  In other words, Virginia law allowed such emancipations but with rules in place to protect creditors.

Also, on the program, Barton states that we failed to discuss other laws that  were related to slavery. On the program, he said that there were a “whole bunch of laws that Jefferson had to deal with.” He then speaks of laws passed in 1778, 1791, 1793, 1795, 1798 and 1802. We are not the only ones not to refer to all of those laws. In The Jefferson Lies, Barton only cites the 1782 and 1806 laws regarding emancipation. We cite the 1782, 1806 and 1816 laws in Getting Jefferson Right.

On the program, Barton didn’t identify what the particular content of those laws were and how they related to slavery, or in what way that those laws might have prevented Jefferson him from freeing even some of his slaves. Our review of those laws do not support Barton’s contention. Male slaves younger than 21, female slaves younger than 18, all slaves older than 45 and slaves not of sound mind and body needed the financial support of their emancipator. All others did not. These parameters were still in place when Virginia amended slave laws in 1819. The bottom line is that we would like to see the Virginia statute or court case that Mr. Barton relies on to make his claim. In his book, the reference he cites concerns Massachusetts law, not Virginia.

Manumission deeds are available for review online. A review of these finds that some emancipators provided deeds for minor children with a promise of freedom at adulthood. Some slaves purchased their freedom. We encourage readers to read through some of the deeds of manumission. See the end of this post for links.

A couple of final points: When Glenn Beck introduced the segment, he said, “They say Jefferson was not against slavery.” I don’t know who “they” are, but we do not make that claim. Jefferson clearly did oppose slavery in principle and he took steps to eliminate the slave trade. However, his personal slave trade continued. In principle, Jefferson favored emancipation connected to deportation away from white society, rather than immediate abolition of the practice.

Last, those reviewing the evidence should ask why Barton omitted a section of Virginia law which would have undercut his basic argument. He mentioned it on the Beck show but did not give any explanation for the omission. Simply listing dates without specifics does nothing to address why Barton did not tell listeners that emancipation of slaves was legal, was done by many slave holders in the period between 1782 and 1806, and that Jefferson emancipated two slaves while he was alive.

Next we move to the segment on the Jefferson Bible.

Links to deeds of manumission:

Lists of slaves freed after 1782 in eight Virginia counties

Searchable links to those same eight counties

Manumissions in Isle of Wight County, VA

James Hemings manumission papers signed by Thomas Jefferson

Francis Drake deed of manumission

Deed of manumission drawn up by Robert Carter for his 452 slaves

Farm Book, 1774-1824, pages 9-13, by Thomas Jefferson [electronic edition]. Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2003.