The American Family Association is promoting the lecture series “Biblical Foundations of Government with Erich Pratt,” a graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regent University and a conservative activist with Gun Owners of America. The group advertises that “the Bible tells us that all governing authorities are instituted by God and are responsible for the reward of good behavior and the punishment of evil,” and by watching the series “you’ll gain a strong, scriptural understanding of the basis of American civil government and your role as a citizen.”
But the one minute trailer prominently features an uncorroborated quote attributed to John Quincy Adams, “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: ‘It connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.’”
But where did Pratt find this unsubstantiated quote of Quincy Adams?
It was included in pseudo-historian David Barton’s America’s Godly Heritage series, one of the many examples of Barton misquoting or selectively editing the words of the Founding Fathers.
Ed Brayton writes that “the quote, to be blunt, is a fake”:
This is another textbook example of what happens when quotes are simply passed along and repeated without anyone bothering to check the original source to see if it’s accurate. This is why, in scholarly documents, footnotes are used to provide specific documentation of the source of a quote. Let’s follow the trail backwards and see where it leads. The quote is used by David Barton, who is nearly always the modern source of false quotations from the founding fathers. We’ll see an example of another one below. Barton did not get it from the original documents, he got it from another book of quotations by William Federer called America’s God and Country: An Encyclopedia of Quotations. So Federer got it from the original, right? Wrong. Federer’s footnote is to a book by John Wingate Thornton from 1860. The Thornton book is full of quotations and footnotes locating the source of those quotes. But these words, attributed to John Quincy Adams, are not in fact a quote at all. The words belonged to Thornton. The words are not in quotation marks and there is no footnote giving a source. And no one has ever located an original source from Adams that contain those words, of even a similar sentiment to it. The quote, to be blunt, is a fake. Adams never said it. But this is an excellent example of what passes for historical scholarship among the Christian Nation proponents – the truth doesn’t matter so long as something can be made to appear as supporting their position.