Andy Kopsa

Off The Record: On Religion, Politics & Equality

Wall Builders, Schmall Builders

I was recently introduced to a far right-wing Constitutional revisionist group called The Wall Builders.  Wall Builders was started by David Barton, self-identified Constitutional historian who believes the US is actually a Christian nation, formed by Evangelical Christian Founders, intended to bring Christianity into all aspects of our society.  Aside from the fact that the Constitution that I am familiar with, the one that actually is in use today, makes no mention of God or Christ, Barton claims what we really need is to know the religious intent of the Founders, and that the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment, weren’t meant to form wall of separation between church and state.  That, he claims, is a myth.  According to this incredible website, the Founder’s intent was to create a United States as Christian theocracy.

I plan on checking in with the Wall Builders from time to time to see how their wall is coming along.  I am a bit late to the Wall Builder’s party, as David Barton was hired by the RNC in 2004 to help motivate from the political pulpit (and leverage others to do the same), and has been roaming freely in Texas long before that.

The website is ripe for ripping apart.  There is so much bile and hate flowing from their views on non-Christians, homosexuals and anyone seen as ‘other’. It is the insidious kind of hate, slipped in with shady wording, tangible lies, and divisive ideology.  Some of their historical references are successfully debunked on hosts of other websites, and of course by actual history.  But, for this post, I zeroed in on a letter from founder, David Barton, entitled “Calling Muslims to the Capitol?”. For my purposes, owing to my rabid obsession with the Religion Clauses lately, I have pulled this phrase from a particularly interesting paragraph as it allows me to research case-law – a hobby.  Taking just this brief phrase from what is an awful assault on Muslim Americans as David Barton’s reaction to their Day of Prayer in Washington D.C., is a microcosm of how these people work.  Anyway, here it is:

“…Christianity is being knocked down and Islam is being elevated.  For example, a federal court of appeals ruled that public schools in nine western states can require a three-week indoctrination to the Islamic faith in which all junior high students must pretend they are Muslims and offer prayers to Allah…”

As a firmly left leaning democrat, this reeked to me of right-wing fear mongering.  There is so much to love about this simple excerpt:

The Title – “Calling Muslims to the Capitol?” is not a question.  It is a rhetorical statement as reaffirmation of the far right wing’s dedication to de-legitimizing President Obama.  “Muslim” is the call to arms “Capitol” is the direct line to Obama.  One wouldn’t have to read any further to understand exactly what this letter was about.

Semantics – Take the word indoctrination for instance.  An objective reading  (believing it to be sound and based in fact) would assume that using the word indoctrination meant something was terribly, terribly wrong.  Indoctrinate is synonymous with brainwash.  And, couple the word indoctrination with Islam and you have a real shit-show on your hands.  As I read and researched further I of course learned that this was a blatant semantic manipulation to cause fear.  Scare them then rope them in – perfect.

Sources/Lack there of – As usual when reading any article purported to contain facts, I scrolled to the bottom of the page, dying to see what federal court allowed such a blatant violation of the Constitution to happen in our public schools.  What public school was force-feeding young minds religion – let alone Islam?  Color me shocked when there were NO sources cited.  Not a link to the case Mr. Barton vehemently held up as proof that “Christian America” is under attack.  No information on what states were being inundated with the Muslim Menace.  Getting on the stick, I immediately sent an email to info@wallbuilders.com asking for further information on the case Mr. Barton referenced, what states were affected and if there were any other sources I could research.

As I patiently waited for what I was sure to be a quick response with all the pertinent information to support their claim, I did a little Googling.  I did a quickie search, something like “federal court, Islam, indoctrination case”.  It didn’t take but a moment to dig up Eklund v. Byron Union School District – (this is the full PDF of the brief filed on behalf of California School Board Association).  Excellent.  Now I could see how these Radical Islamist/Californians violated the Establishment Clause.  Except, they didn’t.  The court found that teaching about Islam (or any other religious tradition) within the proper context – history – does not violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. If you take a moment to download and read the brief I have linked to in the case, you will find a treasure trove of information.  Here is just one snippet:

from page 11: (citing the court decision in Brown V. Woodland Joint Unified School Dist. (9th Circuit Court 1994):

Some student participatory activity involving school-sponsored ritual may be permissible even under [the Establishment Clause] where the activity is used for secular pedagogical purposes.  For example, having children act out ceremonial American Indian dance for the purpose of exploring and learning about American Indian culture may be permissible even if the dance was religious ritual.  Similarly, a reenactment of the Last Supper or a Passover dinner might be permissible if presented for historical or cultural purpose.

Lack of context:

David Barton falsely claims the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals advocates the Government’s right to indoctrinate school children into Islam via the public school system.  That would truly be horrifying.  Just as horrifying as if the Government forced indoctrination of any religion via public schools.

He has done it with semantics, source-less grandstanding, and selective and false reporting as fact.  The umbrella under which all this crap sits, safely out of the rain of truth and the American way is the lack of proper context.  Context of anything quite frankly, but, specifically, the educational context in which Islam was being “indoctrinated” and the legal context of the ability of a school to teach religious traditions.  The problem with context is that it tends to shed light on what may appear to be black and white.

Again, from the Eklund v. Byron Brief:

California Education Code section 51511 provides:  “Nothing in this code shall be construed to prevent, or exclude from the public schools, references to religion or references to or the use of religious literature, art, or music or other things having a religious significance when such references or uses do not constitute instruction in religious principles or aid to any religious sect, church, creed or sectarian purpose and when such references or uses are incidental to or illustrative of matters properly included in the course of study.”

If he had pulled back and shown that an educational company called Interact supports schools and teachers by providing “Learn Though Experience” packs on various educational topics.  The linked brief above lists Interact as the educational tool in question in Eklund v. Byron.  It is noteworthy that Interact also has units called “Christendom” where students are indoctrinated into Christianity by dressing up as Lords and Ladies, serfs and Monks in Monasteries, and “Joan of Arc” another Christian hitmaker.  (Please note - I need to do further research into Interactive and it’s role in this case.  I plan on calling the attorneys in Fresno who filed the Amici Curiae on behalf of the CSBA and will post a follow-up).

Wall Builders is at best sloppy and negligent in its methods of collecting and disseminating accurate information, at worst, David Barton and his group are divisive bigots with a foot in the political door.  I tend to agree with the latter.

Glossary of Words according to an actual Dictionary:

Indoctrination: To instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., esp. to imbue with a specific partisan or biased believe or point of view.  Random House Dictionary.

Christendom: 1.  Christians Collectively 2. The Christian World 3. Christianity – Random House Dictionary

Glossary of Words According to David Barton:

Indoctrination: The teaching of any religion apart from Christianity – especially that creepy Islam.

Christendom: USA

Further Reading & Sources:

•    U.S. Constitution - when is the last time you took a gander

•    Interact – the educational company promoting “Learning Through Experience”

•    J. Brent Walker – A Critique of David Barton’s Views on Church and State – Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Freedom

•    Right Wing Watch – a fun page on all their David Barton goodies

NOTE:   I can only assume Eklund v. Byron is the case he was talking about.  I am sure they will get back to me soon, and I can confirm.  Until then, I will continue with my assumption.

I just have to wonder how Jesus would feel about being used as a political device?  That is a different conversation altogether…

8 comments on “Wall Builders, Schmall Builders

  1. Patti
    December 14, 2009

    Well said. I can sense T. Jefferson spinning in his grave.

  2. Kyrie Eleison
    December 14, 2009

    I would like to share, for this topic, some excellent advice given by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to his nephew Peter Carr regarding education in religion:

    “4. Religion. Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object. In the first place, divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty & singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, and the consequences of error may be too serious.

    On the other hand, shake off all the fears & servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

    You will naturally examine first, the religion of your own country. Read the Bible, then as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts which are within the ordinary course of nature, you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy & Tacitus. The testimony of the writer weighs in their favor, in one scale, and their not being against the laws of nature, does not weigh against them. But those facts in the Bible which contradict the laws of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of faces. Here you must recur to the pretensions of the writer to inspiration from God. Examine upon what evidence his pretensions are founded, and whether that evidence is so strong, as that its falsehood would be more improbable than a change in the laws of nature, in the case he relates.

    For example, in the book of Joshua, we are told, the sun stood still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus, we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, &c. But it is said, that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine, therefore, candidly, what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it.

    On the other hand, you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature that a body revolving on its axis, as the earth does, should have stopped, should not, by that sudden stoppage, have prostrated animals, trees, buildings, and should after a certain time gave resumed its revolution, & that without a second general prostration. Is this arrest of the earth’s motion, or the evidence which affirms it, most within the law of probabilities?

    You will next read the New Testament. It is the history of a personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions: 1, of those who say he was begotten by God, born of a virgin, suspended & reversed the laws of nature at will, & ascended bodily into heaven; and 2, of those who say he was a man of illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, and was punished capitally for sedition, by being gibbeted, according to the Roman law, which punished the first commission of that offence by whipping, & the second by exile, or death in fureâ. See this law in the Digest Lib. 48. tit. 19. §. 28. 3. & Lipsius Lib 2. de cruce. cap. 2. These questions are examined in the books I have mentioned under the head of religion, & several others. They will assist you in your inquiries, but keep your reason firmly on the watch in reading them all.

    Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to believe there is a God, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, & that he approves you, will be a vast additional incitement; if that there be a future state, the hope of a happy existence in that increases the appetite to deserve it; if that Jesus was also a God, you will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love.

    In fine, I repeat, you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision.

    I forgot to observe, when speaking of the New Testament, that you should read all the histories of Christ, as well of those whom a council of ecclesiastics have decided for us, to be Pseudo-evangelists, as those they named Evangelists. Because these Pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration, as much as the others, and you are to judge their pretensions by your own reason, and not by the reason of those ecclesiastics. Most of these are lost. There are some, however, still extant, collected by Fabricius, which I will endeavor to get & send you.” – Thomas Jefferson

  3. Kyrie Eleison
    December 15, 2009

    Here is a film made by an american Muslim who used to teach about the peace of Islam. He grew up here in our culture with Islamic parents. The point that he grew up here in US culture is very important. http://www.thethirdjihad.com/. The film is “The Third Jihad”. Islam has reinactments too and the film shows some children around 11 years old committing a mock beheading of an infidel. An Infidel is someone who does not submit to Islam. After the mock beheading, it shows some children, around the same age, committing a real beheading of an Infidel. If you do not submit to Islam you are an Infidel.

    There was also a lovely muslim couple, in New York I believe, who started a TV station teaching Americans about the peace of Islam. I don’t know why, but this muslim husband beheaded his wife this last summer.

    One of the problems with those who do not follow Jefferson’s advise that I posted earlier is that they do not realize that Monks, Joan of Arc, Monasticism, the Pope, torchure chambers and the like are not Christian; they are “Roman Catholic” which is a political system that follows the Pope, not Christ. The Pope is not obedient to Christ; he is trying to “replace” Christ. The word “Replace” in Biblical Greek is “Anti”.

    It was the Bible believing Christians that the Roman Catholics were persecuting (see Foxes book of Martyrs) who fled Roman Catholocism and came here to further the Christian religion. Roman Catholocism is diametrically opposed to the Bible and following Jesus.

    Here is a few examples to illustrate this point: “You shall have no other Gods before me”…”You shall make no graven image..” Their churches are full of idols and they wear graven images of an immaciated Jesus dying on a cross around their necks so their priests can pretend to re-sacrifice him. The Bible, which Roman Catholcism doesn’t follow, says Jesus is risen. The God of the Bible says “My glory I share with no one”; Why is the Pope on a pedestal?

    The Bible warns about false teaching throughout and deception in the last days; Genesis 3 “Did God really say..” to the imposter bride “the whore of Babylon” in Revelation (Babylon means “mixed” as in mixed religious teaching). What you have shown here, like everyone who hasn’t read the Bible for themselves is the mixed doctrine.

    You can only get the truth by following Jefferson’s advice.

    • akopsa
      December 15, 2009

      I am unsure of your position. My position is religious freedom, no matter what religion or non-religion you chose. I don’t subscribe to the Bible, much like I don’t subscribe to the Koran or the Torah. So, is your message for me or for the WallBuilders? If it is for me, it is going to fall on deaf ears unless it has to do with the political and legal application of any form of religion. I am going to assume that my mentioning Monks and Joan of Arc – ergo Catholicism – in my piece is what lead to your most recent comment about the Roman Catholics cum Anti-Christ. It is worth noting that the educational company I mentioned and sourced at the bottom of my piece also have a teaching unit on Martin Luther. Too close to Catholics the Lutherans? I don’t see any mention of Christianity in Jefferson’s letter to his nephew you posted. I see an uncle encouraging his nephew to question and remain open. I have no prejudice toward religions of any kind. I just don’t want religion in my Government – or vice-versa.

  4. Kyrie Eleison
    December 16, 2009

    Tolerating one religious group to go around cutting off the heads of those who break their religious rules is a political and legal issue.

    As Cicero famously said, you have no choice between having a philosophy and not having one, only between having a good one and having a bad one. Religion is the same; we all worship something.

    Islam and Communist countries do not allow religious freedom; the penalty being imprisonment and/or death. We have not removed religion from the school system, we have removed “Christianity” and replaced it with “Humanism”.

    Our founders exhorted future generations about philosophical issues. There are thousands of quotes and pieces of literature all saying the same thing. One must ask themselves why they are no longer “believed”? Are we somehow smarter? Hardly. Our founder’s were so highly educated, the common farmer of that time understood the Federalist Papers; a work that law students of today can’t decifer.

    Is my message for you or WallBuilders?… My message is for the person who recognizes Thomas Jefferson as a worthy mentor. Jefferson’s intelligence and wisdom is such that we don’t see anything remotely close in those deemed having scholarly knowledge today. “Before you get on any train of thought, you best find out where it’s going to let you off”. – Ravi Zacharias.

    Our early religious immigrants were convinced that widespread illiteracy and lack of individual knowledge of the Bible had contributed much to the public sanction of atrocities including the Crusades and Inquisition. In the quote by Jefferson above, he specifically exhorted his nephew to read the Bible and with a specific approach and attitude.

    In Jefferson’s own words, “It is too important, and the consequences of error may be too serious.”

    • akopsa
      December 16, 2009

      Who on Earth condones or even tolerates chopping off anyone’s head – no matter who the chopper, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, et. al? Who tolerates or condones the killing of an abortion provider because of one’s Christian belief system? Luckily, we don’t allow either of those things in our law-based society so people who kill other people will be prosecuted.

      I do share your concern for the lack of intellectual interest in our society. I do think, however, as a simple former farm girl, the Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist writings are highly readable and decipherable, it is our lack of desire to read such things and spend time with them that is the problem. Do you find them readable? Also interesting and worth reading are the stacks of case law that have evolved with the changes in our country’s makeup.

      Are Christian’s hands clean? Was it Christians that burned witches at the stake? Was it radical religious beliefs that helped lead to the rise of the KKK? The KKK in addition to being white supremacist were also anti-Catholic and anti-semites. Catholics are notorious for believing they are the only ones that will be allowed in heaven. Radical Islamists do all sorts of atrocious things as we know too well. The extreme of any belief system or ideology to the exclusion, intolerance and persecution of all others is not good no matter what camp it comes from. That is what I have a problem with.

  5. Patti
    December 16, 2009

    My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest.

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Mrs. Samuel H. Smith, August, 6, 1816

  6. Pingback: David Barton and the Miseducation of Texas « Lettuce Spray

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