- What is Atheism
- Law & Politics
- Press Information
- Christians Take Over Interfaith Army Chapel in Combat Zone
- Press Kit
- 9/11: 'Never Forget' Must Include All Victims
- Atheists Advocate Separation of Church and State at DNC
- Congressman Pete Stark to Speak at 2013 National Convention
- American Atheists Announces 50th Anniversary Logo Design Contest
- American Atheists Announces Harassment Policy for Conventions and Conferences
- American Atheists Jubilant Over Latest Religion Report
- American Atheists Removes Religious Billboards from Charlotte
- Former Pastor Now American Atheists Public Relations Director
- Former Pastor Teresa MacBain New Public Relations Director
- ITALIAN JUDGE LUIGI TOSTI ACQUITTED!
- American Atheists to Protest Bradford County, FL Decalogue on May 19
Supporting Civil Rights for Atheists and the Separation of Church and State
Inaccurate Founding Father Quotes
Inaccurate Founding Father Quotes
Report compiled by Wayne Aiken, N.C. Director AMERICAN ATHEISTS
Inaccuracies and improper usage of quotes from the Founding Fathers during the November 24, 1997 debate on the Ten Commandments display were an attempt to revise the history of the founding period of this country and deny the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state. It appears that evangelist David Barton and his “WallBuilders” organization may be the source for many of these quotations. Atheists have researched and analyzed these quotes, and our extensive and detailed findings have been distributed to the City Council.
The most prominent of the Founders such as George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Ethan Allen, and here in North Carolina Ezekiel Polk, Charles Polk, and Charles and Ezra Alexander were Deists rather than Christians. Deists believed in the supremacy of human reason over faith and revelation, and disdained the supernatural. They opposed both government suppression and government establishment of religion.
We have distributed complimentary copies of Robert Boston's book, \Why the Religious Right is Wrong about Separation of Church and State\ to the city council. It gives background information about each Founder, as well as the political and religious environment from colonial times to now. Knowledge about each Founder's beliefs and actions should clearly show that these quotes as they were presented were used out of context.
Some of the highlights of our analysis of the quotes are as followed:
- Alleged quotation attributed to Thomas Jefferson from the Jefferson memorial in Washington, D.C. “God who gave us life gave us liberty and can the liberty of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis -- a conviction in the minds of people that they are the gift of God...”
Jefferson did say this, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue of government support of religion. The quotation is taken from a famous letter in which he argues against slavery; Jefferson maintained that slavery violated a person's God-given freedom, although he also owned slaves.
- Alleged quote from George Washington's farewell address: “let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion... Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in the exclusion of religious principle...”
Washington was well-known for making any number of quotes which led many people to infer that he was a practicing Christian; he often spoke on religious themes, and he often attended the Episcopal churches, although he always left before the communion was administered, arousing controversy within the congregation.
- Alleged quote from the U.S. Supreme Court decision of HOLY TRINITY v. UNITED STATES (1892): “Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of Mankind, it is impossible that it should be otherwise... Our civilization and institutions are emphatically Christian...”
This is another inaccurate statement from David Barton, and he has admitted that this quote appears nowhere in the TRINITY v. UNITED STATES case.
- Alleged quote from James Madison: “We have staked the whole future of American civilization and political institutions on our capacity to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
This is another unverified quote spread by David Barton. According to Church & State magazine (July/August, 1996 article “Christian Nation,” Barton has issued a statement admitting that certain quotations attributed to prominent historical figures in his 1992 book “The Myth of Separation,” are either false or, at best, questionable, and he admits that this is one of the most controversial among them.
- Alleged charge to the framing committee of the first constitution in America in the state of Connecticut in 1639: “To frame a constitution as near the law of God as they can.”
This is irrelevant to our current system of laws. In fact, the early colonies were theocracies with established churches: Anglican in the south and Congregationalist in New England. Even Rhode Island, founded as an experiment in religious freedom, limited full citizenship to Trinitarian Protestants. Our present system, with separation of church and state, is a deliberate departure from these and earlier European governments.
- Alleged quote from John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States: “The highest glory of the American Revolution was that it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”
This quote is taken from the first edition of David Barton's videotape, “Americas's Godly Heritage.” The original source for this quote is the book, “The Pulpit of the American Revolution 1860” by John Wingate Thornton. This particular quote attributed to John Quincy Adams is not documented with footnotes, nor is it even enclosed in quotation marks as all other quotes in the introduction to his book. Instead, it reads like Thornton's own conclusion about what John Quincy Adams believed. These words are not documented nor attached to a date, and have not been traced back to an original source. Elsewhere in this book, Adam's father, John Adams, is quoted properly with footnotes and quotation marks. In the absence of proper documentation, this quote should be considered questionable at best.