FOX News on Kathy Griffin

14 September 2007

Comedian Kathy Griffin recently won an Emmy Award, and then made the following comments:

A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus...
Hell has frozen over. Suck it Jesus, this award is my god now!

It was a joke about how some people use the podium to exploit their religion. Sort of like how boxers will go on and on after a fight about how God and Jesus had helped them to win. I didn't think it was terribly funny, but I saw what she was doing. It wasn't hateful, and it didn't imply that Christians in general are bad people. It was simply an innocuous joke.

Anyway, there were complaints and her comments were ultimately scrubbed from the TV broadcast.

But even this was not enough for the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, who went on the network news circuit to denounce the comments. On CNN, he claimed that Griffin's remarks were "worse than racism." Huh?

FOX News Religion Correspondent Lauren Green, however, had an even more bizarre and convoluted argument:

I want to actually show you that, in fact, Kathy Griffin is wrong. Jesus had everything to do with her winning that award. And here's the reasoning.

Jesus died on a cross 2,000 years ago. His dying words were, "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do." He died and they buried him in a rock cut tomb. Three days later, as the Bible says, he rose from the dead. That day is what Christians celebrate as Easter.

After the resurrection, Christianity began to take off like wildfire, spreading from the Middle East northward to Europe and westward into Ethiopia. In 300 A.D. Emperor Constantine accepted Christianity and it beccame the religion of Europe. Rome soon became the seat of the faith. After several years of human failings, the church went through conflicts and quite a few unbiblical years — the crusades and the inquisition to name just two. Out of that came the Reformation — the reforming of the Church, sort of a back-to-basics Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Out of the Reformation emerged a vision of law by Samuel Rutherford, called Lex is Rex, Law is King. From that, others devised a secular version that is used to help lay the foundation of government for a new land called America. Ninety-four percent of America's founding era documents mention the Bible; 34 percent quote the Bible directly. The idea of bringing unity to the universal is a particularly Biblical concept.

The freedoms we enjoy in this country to speak freely and to live freely are directly related to that man who died on a cross 2,000 years ago.

There are so, so many things wrong here. But as a preliminary matter, let's take a look at what the Bible says about free speech:
anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death.

It's also very curious that Green would use Samuel Rutherford, of all people, to make her point about speaking freely. When Michael Servetus was burnt alive for heresy, Rutherford wholeheartedly endorsed the punishment:
It was justice, not cruelty, yea mercy to the Church of God, to take away the life of Servetus, who used such spirituall and diabolick cruelty to many thousand soules, whom he did pervert, and by his Booke, does yet lead into perdition.

Let's also ignore the silliness and twisted logic of Green's argument ("Jesus died, some people followed his philosophy, some guy said that the law is important, our country values the law, therefore Jesus is responsible for freedoms not found anywhere in the Bible"). What I'd like to focus on instead is Green's percentages claim. It's a meme straight from the pages of David Barton, and has been used by the likes of TV's Chuck Norris (Walker: Texas Ranger) as well. Here is what Chuck Norris said at WorldNetDaily:
94 percent of the period's documents were based on the Bible, with 34 percent of the contents being direct citations from the Bible. The Scripture was the bedrock and blueprint of our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, academic arenas and heritage until the last quarter of a century.

The 34 percent claim comes from a man named Donald Luntz. The 94 percent claim is pure Barton.

But let's look at what Donald Luntz had to say about his own findings:
"...From Table 1 we can see that the biblical tradition is most prominent among the citations. Anyone familiar with the literature will know that most of these citations come from sermons reprinted as pamphlets; hundreds of sermons were reprinted during the era, amounting to at least 10% of all pamphlets published. These reprinted sermons accounted for almost three-fourths of the biblical citations..."

3/4 of the Bible citations are from reprints of sermons. These are not the writings of the Founding Fathers, as Green and Norris would like you to believe, and they really have nothing to do with how our government was established. If you discount the printed sermons, then quotes from the Whigs become more numerous.

Luntz goes on (via Ed Brayton):
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 Federalists' inclination to Enlightenment rationalism is most evident here in their failure to consider the Bible relevant.
Basically, he took the exact opposite position from Green/Barton/Norris. If anyone in this era cited the Bible (aside from the sermons), it was most likely the Anti-Federalists who very much disliked the absence of God and religion in the new Constitution. One Anti-Federalist wrote that it would be a mistake to ratify a document that makes no mention of God whatsoever, citing the Bible in the process: "Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee"

Chris Rodda at Talk to Action then goes on to explore the second claim:
That explains the 34%, but what about Norris's even more far-fetched claim that 94% of the documents of the period were based on the Bible? Well, that one comes from one of David Barton's videos. I don't have the video here to refer to, but from what I recall, Barton somehow concluded from his own study that 60% of the documents of the period were based on the Bible, and then added the 34% from Lutz's study, or something to that effect, ending up with a total of 94%.

Chris Rodda talks more about this meme here, and how it is being promoted for public school curricula.

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