David Barton is at it again. In a span of about two minutes, the professional liar recently made several false claims, including that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is an “Atheist Mormon.” [From the audio clip on RWW's site:]
He has actually proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would re-write the First Amendment to take away original protections and limit the protections in the First Amendment.
Actually, Senator Reid didn’t propose the amendment, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall did. And campaign finance reform was not on the minds of the authors of the First Amendment, nor was it written to protect the flow of unlimited amounts of money in the federal campaign process. Senator Udall’s amendment would protect citizens from that flow.
What it also tells me is, and he’s apparently a Mormon guy, that’s fine. He is probably an atheist Mormon, Mormon in name only and the reason I say that is that so many Mormon folks are so conservative on the Constitution and such great defenders.
There is no “apparently” about it, Harry Reid IS a Mormon. (How do you like that little dismissal of Mormons – “that’s fine.”) And while it is true that Mormons as a group have the highest percentage of self-identified Conservatives and the lowest percentage of self-identified Liberals, it is not correct to call Liberals Mormons “in name only” just because they aren’t Conservative. It would be like saying soon-to-be unemployed VA Representative Eric Cantor is a Jew in name only because he’s Conservative. And it’s thoroughly hypocritical to have such a mendacious snake oil salesman who proclaims to be a Christian question someone else’s devotion to his faith. But the Gish Galloping continued.
And so, when you look at what he’s doing, the Bill of Rights is laid out in the Declaration of Independence, you start with the first belief that there’s a Creator, the second belief that the Creator gives us certain inalienable rights, the third belief in the Declaration is that government exists to protect those inalienable rights.
Where to begin? First of all, the Bill of Rights (which usually refers to the first ten Amendments to the US Constitution) is not “laid out in the Declaration of Independence.” While there are certainly references to grievances later addressed by the Bill of Rights (which was not written by the same body of people who wrote the Constitution), they are not all individually and specifically addressed. They’re pretty much ignored completely in the Articles of Confederation, written less than eighteen months after the Declaration. If the Bill of Rights were such an important part of the Declaration (as Barton implies), then why were they not mentioned at all in the Articles of Confederation, the framework for the first United States of America? As for the sequence of beliefs laid out in the Declaration, Barton is twisting things to support his erroneous agenda that the United States was founded as a Christian Nation. The first belief isn’t that “there’s a Creator” but that all men are created equal. It’s an important distinction because it’s true that all men are born equal whether or not you believe in a God. (I don’t believe in a God, but I do believe we are all born equal and that no one is born “better” than anyone else.) In fact, this line was specifically written as a refutation of the then-widely held belief by monarchs in the Divine Right of Kings. It was a message to King George III that just because he was born into a family of nobility did not mean he was better than anyone else, or that he was born with rights others did not have. It does say that government exists to secure these rights, but he leaves out an important distinction: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed.” There is no dependence on God for our rights. Humans guarantee our rights with the support of other humans.
So eleven years later when the Founding Fathers did the Bill of Rights they said, hey, these are those rights that we were talking about that the government is not allowed to touch because these come from the Creator and government exists to protect rights from the Creator.
The “Founding fathers” did not “do” the Bill of Rights, the First Congress (a body of men elected after ratification of the US Constitution, which had no Bill of Rights when it was ratified) did. They were introduced by James Madison (one of the primary authors of the Constitution), but he didn’t think they were necessary, and that his primary motivation for introducing the original twelve amendments was so that they could tell their constituents who wanted them that they tried. In his introduction of the Bill of Rights, Madison made no mention of God or a Creator, nor did he reference the Declaration of Independence, nor any “God-given rights.”
So that’s why we’ve never messed with the Bill of Rights because they were always off limits to government because they came from God directly to man, they did not go through government to get here.
Actually, if you read Madison’s comments, he mentions that several States already had a Bill of Rights, and that the ones he proposed were similar to the ones in the States. It’s important to Barton that he maintain the fiction that our rights came only from God and not from an agreement among humans that people should be treated better than they have been.
If you don’t have the belief that you will answer to God for what you do, you will sell your country, you will sell your kids’ future, you will sell everything going on and that’s where we’re getting. And so it’s not just a belief in God, it’s the belief that you answer to God and you believe that, and see that’s where Harry Reid is not. You know, he may believe in God, he probably says he does; I don’t think he has any cognizance of having to answer to God for what he does.
Actually, Davey, Harry Reid doesn’t have to answer to God for what he does in Congress. He only has to answer to the people of the state of Nevada. And they continue to send him back to Congress despite the right wing crazies the Republicans run against him.
If the David Bartons of the world have any fault, it’s that they so badly want the United States to become a Theocracy that they’ll ignore the Ninth Commandment not to bear false witness (lie) about the intent of the people who threw off the shackles of oppression to declare the colonies free and independent states. And it’s up to the rest of us to stop them from succeeding. And that is best done by voting.
This is our daily open thread. Have at it.