Space Force

From: (email withheld)
Subject: space force
Date: January 14, 2020 at 9:46:25 PM MST
To: “‘[email protected]‘” 

I just read that your group got it knickers in a twist over the use of a Bible.

Are you aware that Congress authorized the printing of Bibles and paid for it at the beginning of this nation

Are you aware the capital buidling was used for a church?

Are you aware that Washington was sworn in on a Bible

Are you aware that the separation of which you speak is not in the Constitution but RATHER was quoted by Jefferson and that has been used erroneously out of context?

I’m sure you are – so then please explain to me – how do you explain that –  I mean how do you honestly justify that there is a separation when clearly the founders did not EVER intend for their to be one.

thank you

Response from MRFF Senior Research Director Chris Rodda:

Hi …

It is apparent that you’ve been getting a dose of revisionist history from somewhere, so let me address the examples you’ve given in your email.

No, Congress did not authorize and pay for Bibles. This is one of the most popular lies promoted by history revisionists like David Barton. The Bibles in this lie were privately printed by Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken in 1781. Aitken made a number of requests to the Continental Congress, such as that his Bible “be published under the Authority of Congress,” and that he “be commissioned or otherwise appointed & Authorized to print and vend Editions of the Sacred Scriptures.” And because of the slow sales of his Bibles he also asked Congress to purchase some of them and distribute them to the states. But Congress did not grant any of these other requests. We weren’t going to be like England with an official and official Bible printers. For all his many requests, the only thing that Aitken ever got from Congress was that they granted a request for their chaplains to examine his work and passed a resolution endorsing the accuracy of it, which Aitken was allowed to print and put in his Bibles. At the time, almost no books were printed in America, so the people were skeptical that an American-printed Bible could be as good and accurate as books imported from England and other countries. The secular benefit of this resolution for Congress was that it acknowledged “an instance of the progress of arts in this country,” and publicizing the accuracy of this Bible was a great way to promote the American printing industry.

Yes, the Capitol Building was used for church services in the early days of our government. This was because there were almost no buildings in Washington at the time, and no churches to hold services in. But these services ended up being anything but solemn worship services. They ended up being the social event of the week for the people of the new capital, where there was almost no social life. This is how these church services were described by Margaret Bayard Smith, wife of Samuel Harrison Smith, a Philadelphia newspaper editor who moved to Washington in 1800 to establish a national newspaper:

“…I have called these Sunday assemblies in the capitol, a congregation, but the almost exclusive appropriation of that word to religious assemblies, prevents its being a descriptive term as applied in the present case, since the gay company who thronged the H. R. looked very little like a religious assembly. The occasion presented for display was not only a novel, but a favourable one for the youth, beauty and fashion of the city, Georgetown and environs. The members of Congress, gladly gave up their seats for such fair auditors, and either lounged in the lobbies, or round the fire places, or stood beside the ladies of their acquaintance. This sabbathday-resort became so fashionable, that the floor of the house offered insufficient space, the platform behind the Speaker’s chair, and every spot where a chair could be wedged in was crowded with ladies in their gayest costume and their attendant beaux and who led them to their seats with the same gallantry as is exhibited in a ball room. Smiles, nods, whispers, nay sometimes tittering marked their recognition of each other, and beguiled the tedium of the service. Often, when cold, a lady would leave her seat and led by her attending beau would make her way through the crowd to one of the fire-places where she could laugh and talk at her ease. One of the officers of the house, followed by his attendant with a great bag over his shoulder, precisely at 12 o’clock, would make his way through the hall to the depository of letters to put them in the mail-bag, which sometimes had a most ludicrous effect, and always diverted attention from the preacher. The musick was as little in union with devotional feelings, as the place. The marine-band, were the performers. Their scarlet uniform, their various instruments, made quite a dazzling appearance in the gallery. The marches they played were good and inspiring, but in their attempts to accompany the psalm-singing of the congregation, they completely failed and after a while, the practice was discontinued,— it was too ridiculous.”

As for Washington being sworn in on a Bible, any individual has the right to be sworn in on a Bible — alway have, always will. But this was not required — never has been, and shouldn’t be now. Are you aware that the words “So help me God” weren’t even included in the original military oaths created by the founders? These words weren’t added to the officer’s oath until 1862, when a new oath needed to be written after the Civil War, and weren’t added to the enlisted oath until 1962. The oath that George Washington took for the Revolutionary War had nothing religious about it.

And, no, Jefferson’s phrase “separation of church and state” is not used out of context. Jefferson wrote those words to the Baptists in Connecticut, one of two states that still had a religious establishment as of 1801 under which minority religions such as Baptists were persecuted. The context of Jefferson’s words was that he hoped that Connecticut would soon join the rest of the country in having a separation of church and state. When the theocracy in Connecticut was finally overthrown in the state’s election of 1817, Jefferson wrote to John Adams: 

“I join you therefore in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood is at length broken up, and that a protestant popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character.”

What MRFF is fighting against is a “protestant popedom” in our military. Having an “official” Bible for any branch of our military, with a statement that “ALL” commanders of this branch “WILL” be sworn in on this Bible is exactly what Jefferson and the other founders did not want to see in this country. If a commander choses to be sworn in on a Bible as an individual choice, that is just fine. But an official Bible, and any hint of a requirement that it must be used by any member of our military, is not!

Chris Rodda
Senior Research Director, Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Author, Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History, Volumes 1 & 2

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  1. Jared Atkinson

    This is the absolute best response I’ve ever read on this site! *Mic Drop*

  2. Amber Thompson

    They ignore the establishment clause, part 2 of the amendment.

  3. Sami Thompson

    I’ve always thought it would be more appropriate to be “sworn in” with a copy of the U.S. Constitution than any religious text.

  4. Bill Bright

    Has any more been done in regard to this issue?

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