Boykin Expands on Barton Lie


As Right Wing Watch points out, the casual lies of David Barton are often magnified by others, who take some smaller falsehood told by him and turn it into an even bigger falsehood. The deranged Jerry Boykin does exactly that in this video, claiming that “the Bible is referenced four times more than any other document in our Constitution.”

Of course, the Constitution doesn’t reference any documents at all, much less the Bible. So where is he getting this from? He’s getting it from Barton, who claims in his video American’s Godly Heritage that “the founders” quoted the Bible 4 times more often than they quoted Blackstone and 12 times more often than they quoted John Locke. He didn’t say anything about documents referenced in the Constitution at all. And Barton is simply distorting — flat out lying — about a study by Donald Lutz that I’ve written about many times.

The Lutz study was not of documents written by the founding fathers, it was of 15,000 documents from the founding era — that is, 1760 to 1805. The documents studied did include some of the writings of the founding fathers themselves, but they were only a small part of the documents studied. Those documents also included newspaper articles, pamphlets, letters to and from other people, and, interestingly, sermons. Lots of them. Because in those days, sermons were often printed in newspapers.

The Lutz study does, in fact, focus specifically on the debate over the Constitution and has a section devoted to looking at the sources cited in writings about the Constitution from 1787 and 1788. Guess what? The Bible is almost entirely absent at the time. The Federalist Papers, written by Madison, Hamilton and Jay to explain and defend the new Constitution never once says that a given provision in that document is based on Biblical ideas. Not once. And neither did anyone else, at the time.

In fact, the only people quoting the Bible in regard to the Constitution during the ratification debates were those who were opposed to the Constitution and were urging people to vote against it. And Lutz says so in the very book that Barton cites, saying of the ratification debates in 1787 and 1788:

The Bible’s prominence disappears, which is not surprising since the debate centered upon specific institutions about which the Bible has little to say. The Anti-Federalists do drag it in with respect to basic principles of government, but the Federalist’s inclination to Enlightenment rationalism is most evident here in their failure to consider the Bible relevant….The debate surrounding the adoption of the Constitution was fought out mainly in the context of Montesquieu, Blackstone, the English Whigs, and major writers of the Enlightenment.

So what we have here is a textbook example of how one lie leads to an even bigger lie and then to a yet bigger lie. Barton lies about what Lutz’ study says, using it to establish the bigger lie that “the founders” — only a tiny portion of his study — cited the Bible 4 times more often than any other document, and then Boykin takes that and uses it to claim that the Constitution cites the Bible 4 times more often than any other document.

Comments

  1. abb3w says

    @0, Ed Brayton:

    Of course, the Constitution doesn’t reference any documents at all, much less the Bible.

    Four times zero is zero.

    The technical untruth would seem to be in the words “more than”.

  2. typecaster says

    Boykin also has the good sense to never speak to an audience that might ask him to cite those references, either to the Bible or to the “other documents”.

    I’d love to see this asshat interviewed by either Rachel Maddow or Chris Rodda.

  3. kantalope says

    How come my version of the Constitution doesn’t have footnotes? I want to check each one of those citations.

    And wasn’t it Proverbs that mentions a bicameral chamber for representative government or was that Lamentations…probably should be Revelations.

    But I can play too. The Declaration of Independence cites Harry Potter 42 times more than any other document.

  4. says

    I’ve seen it mentioned before and I’ll mention it myself…Its not like the constitution is a long read or difficult to find on the internet or at your local library if you haven’t got electricity out at your place yet.

  5. Chiroptera says

    ashleybell, #4: Its not like the constitution is…difficult to find on the internet or at your local library….

    Hell, they used to give away free copies by the truck load when I was younger. Is there anyone here nearing 50 years of age who didn’t have half a dozen copies by the time they graduated college?

  6. sc_10f6570233dbf550a2666a74fd6de552 says

    kantalope, wouldn’t you say that Douglas Addams was mentioned 42 times more in the Constitution than any other book?

  7. frrolfe says

    just have gained access to the murdoch cesspool here. called “sky” but is fox uk. what is really amazing is the US centric view of xianity. we’re ALL screwed. friends again?

  8. ottod says

    I missed the Donald Lutz study Ed mentions. Anyone have a reference, a title, or a link?

    Was this guy as fact- and detail-unaware when he had command responsibility, or is he beginning to circle the drain?

  9. kantalope says

    I don’t know about the constitution but for the declaration

    four/for – mentioned exactly 42 times…coincidence I don’t think so

    to/two/too – 78 times

    addams (spelled adams) – twice

    Satan omitted any Douglas: but I see through his evil plotting

    and 78 + 2 + 42 = 122 and I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone what that means.

  10. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    As far as I can tell from this, you’re saying that Boykin simply accepted Barton’s claim without checking it, and then misinterpreted (deliberately or not) what Barton said. Completely opposite to what anyone in the sciences (or other liberal arts, I suppose as well) would do, which is to actually read the original sources and find it for himself. Not surprising, considering that the authoritarian mindset is to accept an “authority” without question. This is, of course, what they do with the bible as well.

    Shorter:

    “Well of course if you expect them to actually READ Barton’s sources…”

  11. says

    Now that Barton has been debunked, I can see that this will be like creationism. The far right will still support him but the rest will say we should teach the controversy without coming out saying they support it or not.

  12. says

    Hell, they used to give away free copies by the truck load when I was younger

    Hell, when I was in High School (and I’m quite a bit under 50) we were required to read and understand to constitution in my US History class. I do not recall there being any biblical analysts during that section of class. Then again I did go to an evil secular public school.

  13. Ben P says

    Of course, the Constitution doesn’t reference any documents at all, much less the Bible.

    I’m being an ass and this is utterly irrelevant, but that’s not exactly true, and it certainly doesn’t cite any documents as a source.

    The constitution references itself several times, and references the Articles of Confederation at least once.

    For example Art. VI, Cl. 1

    All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

  14. Trebuchet says

    @ffrolfe:

    just have gained access to the murdoch cesspool here. called “sky” but is fox uk. what is really amazing is the US centric view of xianity. we’re ALL screwed. friends again?

    Sorry for the nitpick, but Murdoch only owns about 40% of Sky. His attempt to get the rest was scotched by the phone hacking scandal. The US-centric view of Christianity is quite natural, of course, if you believe the USA is God’s Chosen Country.

  15. christophburschka says

    “the Bible is referenced four times more than any other document in our Constitution.” […] Of course, the Constitution doesn’t reference any documents at all, much less the Bible.

    So it’s true. Sorta.

  16. christophburschka says

    It’s also somewhat refreshing that this particular lie is so easy to catch and debunk. Arguing about evolution requires a scientific background your opponent likely cannot comprehend. Arguing about what is or isn’t in the bible (aside from being frustratingly beside the point) either ends in quibbles over interpretation, or with the realization that your opponent never read it.

    The Constitution is a historical document less than 250 years old. We have the original, in the original language. It’s less than 20 pages long, amendments and all. You could technically pull it out in a debate and just go through it together.

  17. says

    “You could technically pull it out in a debate and just go through it together.”

    There’s an app for that, the SCotUS. And depending on whether it’s currently comprised of 9 upstanding KKKristian KKKonstructionists, 9 commonistical activislamoathehomos or some combination of the 2, youse getz yer revealed troot.

  18. peterh says

    “…Hell, they used to give away free copies [of the Constitution] by the truck load when I was younger.”

    Still do. Contact a local group such as DAR, NRA, local fireman’s aid society, or the like. As noted above, it’s not a difficult read. As an eisegetical exercise it’s really not very fertile ground.

  19. ottod says

    @peterh

    I’ll bet there are people that go through their entire lives without once using the word, “eisegetical.” I’m pretty sure David Barton has never used it. I hereby propose a new word: “Barton,” v., to practice eisegesis or to eisegize.

  20. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    Well, I’m impressed. Now I can’t wait to use eisegesis or eisegetical in a conversation.

    By the way, the spell checker here doesn’t recognize the word.

  21. peterh says

    @ #23,

    Most other spell-checks, up to & including Word 2007, won’t recognize it either, but it’s an upright, honest & useful term.

  22. dingojack says

    Wow – who knew that inanimate things such as words (even ‘eisegesis’) could have states of mind (‘upright’* and ‘honest’, for example)? [/pedant]
    ;) Dingo
    —–
    * unless, of course, you mean that the individual letters are not rotated ± 90° (therefore they are upright).
    And so they are! Amazing!

  23. dingojack says

    Really? Gee Whiz! @@
    Dingo
    —–
    PS: Commonly used [Ad Pop?], and still quite wrong.
    Inanimate subjects and objects should not be ascribed states of mind. For example ‘a suspicious package’ is quite commonly used when ‘a suspect package’ is meant. [/pedant] :D

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