Bevin’s Christian proclamation deceitful, FFRF contends

1Matt BevinThe Freedom From Religion Foundation and its Kentucky members are outraged at Gov. Matt Bevin’s “Christian Heritage Week” proclamation for next week.

On March 14, Bevin signed a proclamation that twists American history to paint a false narrative about the country’s founders. The proclamation is intentionally dishonest, FFRF asserts in a letter to the governor, and uses Bevin’s official position to promote his personal religion — ironically violating the country’s true heritage of religious liberty based on a secular government.

First, the proclamation states that George Washington said, “Animated alone by the pure spirit of Christianity, and conducting ourselves as the faithful subjects of our free government, we may enjoy every temporal and spiritual felicity.” This quote is both modified and taken out of context. The beginning of the quoted sentence is actually, “And may the members of your Society in America, animated alone …” Washington was describing a group of Catholics, not himself, as being animated by the “spirit of Christianity.”

Even more brazenly, the quote is altered to further this deception. The real quote is “… and still conducting themselves as the faithful subjects of our free Government, enjoy every temporal …” Changing the word “themselves” (referring to Catholics) to “ourselves” and inserting the words “we may” before the word “enjoy” is dishonest. Washington was most likely a deist, as were many of the Founders, believing in a god that created the universe but plays no active part in it, including rewarding theocratic governmental proclamations.

Second, the proclamation states that Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” This quote, too, is altered to misattribute the religious content to the Founder when he was, in fact, not speaking of himself. The real quote is: “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?” Jefferson was emphasizing the importance of the people’s secure trust in unalienable rights, neither promoting a belief in a god nor referring in any way to his own religious beliefs.

In fact, Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” and was highly skeptical of Christianity. He famously took a razor to his bible to remove all its supernatural claims. Jefferson rejected the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus, and the trinity. It is deeply misleading to refer to Jefferson as a Christian without mentioning his severe skepticism. He would emphatically object to this proclamation, since during his presidency he refused to issue Thanksgiving proclamations.

Furthermore, this proclamation perpetuates the myth that our country was founded as a Christian nation. This is patently false. As John Adams noted: “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

“Finally, the separation between state and church is one of the most fundamental principles of our system of government,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor state. “The U.S. Supreme Court has held that public officials may not seek to advance or promote religion, specifically stating, ‘If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.'” 

This proclamation would more appropriately be called “Christian Heritage Revisionism Week,” FFRF declares. The state/church watchdog asks that Bevin rescind the “Christian Heritage Week” proclamation, acknowledge and apologize for its deliberate historical inaccuracies, and refrain from issuing similar proclamations in the future.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit educational association that works to uphold the constitutional principle of separation of church and state, and to educate the public about nontheism. It represents more than 32,000 members and has 20 chapters across the country, including 200-plus members in Kentucky and a state chapter in Louisville.

Photo by usbotschaftberlin via Wikipedia in the Public Domain

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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