I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

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My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The mother of all quote mines

One of the worst things about originalism -- the notion that our interpretations of the Constitution should be based solely on the beliefs and intentions of the Founders -- is that it has created an incentive for the distortion and fabrication of history. The following quote mine, from an article in Talk2Action, is a particularly good example of originalism-inspired misrepresentation of history:

I'll be writing much more over the next few weeks about the numerous instances of Christian nationalist revisionism found in Ten Tortured Words, but will end for now with a striking example of Stephen Mansfield's own brand of word torturing, in the form of the following Madison "quote," found on page 146.

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

Where does this quote come from? Well, according to Mansfield's note, Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments. Here is the untortured paragraph from that document, with the words assembled by Mansfield to create his quote in bold.

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.

Of course, the fundies are not the only ones who distort and fabricate history to promote their originalist agenda. Here is the example that I have oft-quoted from the infamous Dickinson College commencement speech of Judge Jones:

. . . .we see the Founders' ideals quite clearly, among many places, in the Establishment Clause within the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This of course was the clause that I determined the school board had violated in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. While legal scholars will continue to debate the appropriate application of that clause to particular facts in individual cases, this much is very clear. The Founders believed that "true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry."* At bottom then, this core set of beliefs led the Founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things," to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state."*

As I hope that you can see, these precepts and beliefs, grounded in my liberal arts education, guide me each day as a federal trial judge.

*Quotations from The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America by Frank Lambert (Princeton University Press, 2003).

A lot of Judge Jones worshipers have told me that I misinterpreted the above quotation -- they just can't accept the fact that their hero would say something so stupid. He was clearly biased against the Dover defendants. I think that Judge Jones himself realized that his Dickinson College speech went over like a lead balloon -- so far as I know, he never repeated that "true religion" stuff.

BTW, though Judge Jones said that his notion about the "true religion" of the Founders was learned in his undergraduate days, he was actually quoting from a book that was published long after he graduated.

Originalism sucks.
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