Eight Tortured Words

14 August 2007

Every time I walk into a Barnes & Noble bookstore, I always pass by the book Ten Tortured Words: How the Founding Fathers Tried to Protect Religion in America... and What's Happened Since. A casual glance through the book shows it to be your standard David Barton-esque attempt to twist the Constitution into some sort of religious document.

The excellent Chris Rodda has begun to dissect the book here.

Aside from not knowing which body drafted the First Amendment, or in what year, Mansfield tortures the words of James Madison in a rather unbelievable way. Here is how Mansfield quotes James Madison, in an attempt to paint him as a Christian nationalist:

"Religion is the basis and foundation of government. -- JAMES MADISON"

That certainly is an interesting quote. Mansfield says that it comes from Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (in which Madison argues that not even a tiny amount of government money should go towards supporting a religious institution). However, when we look at the actual text itself, we see how horribly Mansfield tortured those words himself (quoted words are bolded):
"15. Because finally, 'the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his Religion according to the dictates of conscience' is held by the same tenure with all his other rights. If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weigh its importance, it cannot be less dear to us; if we consider the 'Declaration of those rights which pertain to the good people of Virginia, as the basis and foundation of government,' it is enumerated with equal solemnity, or rather studied emphasis."

So Madison said that a declaration of human civil liberties (including, among other things, the ability to freely practice your own religion and follow your own conscience) is the basis and foundation of government. Mansfield managed to turn these words into something else entirely. Yet he's the one complaining about people misrepresenting Madison's original intentions.

No comments: