Right-wing commentator and youth organizer Charlie Kirk continues to host TPUSA Faith’s monthly Freedom Night in America events at churches around the nation where he consistently spreads historically baseless claims about the Constitution and the founding of this country.
On Wednesday night, Kirk and right-wing radio host Dennis Prager of Prager U appeared at Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona, where the duo misrepresented American history in order to promote the Christian nationalist agenda. During his remarks, Prager assured the largely Christian audience that despite their theological differences, they were all on the same side because it is his calling as a Jew to bring Christians “to God, and to the Ten Commandments, and the Bible.”
“I have a love affair with America’s Christians,” Prager said. “It’s reciprocated. I feel very loved by America’s Christians.”
Kirk kicked things off by asking Prager, who is Jewish and who has produced several books and lectures on the Torah, to explain just how vital the Bible was to the founding of this nation.
“Can you just speak a little bit about America’s founding roots and how the American founders knew the Torah,” Kirk suggested. “Deuteronomy was the most quoted of any book—secular or religious—in the writing of the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the Declaration of Independence. We teach our kids in government schools that America was a secular nation, but in reality, it was the Bible that founded the philosophical tradition of the greatest nation ever to exist in the history of the world.”
The assertion that the Bible, and Deuteronomy in particular, were “the most quoted” sources during the founding era is a claim that Christian nationalists love to make, despite the fact that it is false.
As we have explained before, this claim relies on misrepresenting a 1984 study that examined the writers and sources of ideas that were most often cited in “the political writings of Americans published between 1760 and 1805.” The study found that the Bible was the most frequently cited source solely because many of the pamphlets included in the research were sermons that had been reprinted for mass distribution (and these sermons, predictably, contained frequent references to Deuteronomy). When the sermon pamphlets were excluded, quotes from the Bible appeared no more frequently in the political writings of the era than citations of the classical or common law. In fact, when the study focused solely on the public political writings from 1787 to 1788, when the U.S. Constitution was written and ratified, “the Bible’s prominence disappears” almost completely.
So, contrary to Kirk’s confident assertion, Deuteronomy was not the most quoted of any book—secular or religious—in the writing of the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the Declaration of Independence.
Prager, of course, readily agreed with Kirk that “the founders quoted Deuteronomy more than any other biblical Book and any other secular book,” before adding an irrelevant bit of information designed to bolster Kirk’s false claims.
“The founders knew the Bible—the Torah, in particular—so well that [Thomas] Jefferson and [Benjamin] Franklin suggested that the Great Seal of the United States depict the Jews leaving Egypt,” Prager said. “These two were the least religious. They were not doctrinally Christian. They were God-centered—even Jefferson—but it just shows you how much the Torah meant to the founders of this country.”
While it is true that upon completion of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Jefferson and Franklin recommended the creation of a Great Seal for the new nation that featured an image of Moses, that recommendation was rejected by the Continental Congress. It was not until 1782 that a design featuring an eagle clutching arrows and an olive branch was finally chosen for the Great Seal.
None of these facts, of course, actually matter to Kirk because his goal isn’t to tell the truth or present an accurate view of history, but rather to convince Christian conservatives that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and that they have a biblical obligation to ensure that it remains one. We’ve seen this same strategy used time and time again by pseudo-historian David Barton and other Christian nationalists.