Michael Flynn Spreads False Christian Nationalist History

When right-wing conspiracy theorist and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn appeared on “domestic terrorist” Matt Shea’s “Patriot Radio” program earlier this month, he made several misleading claims about the supposedly Christian founding of this nation.

Flynn’s tenure in the White House was short lived as resigned early in the Trump administration for having misled the administration about discussions he had with Russian leaders prior to Trump assuming office. Flynn eventually pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those discussions, but was ultimately pardoned by Trump, who has pledged to re-hire Flynn should he be reelected to the White House in 2024.

Flynn, who has become a full-blown Christian nationalist since then, made much ado about the First Amendment’s religious freedom clause.

“There’s five parts in the First Amendment,” Flynn said. “And the very first part—which I know because I’ve read the Federalist Papers and I’ve read the writings of our founders—of those five parts in the First Amendment, 1.1 is the freedom of religion.”

“They argued about that because they wanted to make sure that there was always a connection between what we know is in our Declaration of Independence: The idea of the Creator,” he continued. “That word is in the Declaration four times; actually five if you include the word ‘Lord,’ because it’s signed ‘in the day of our Lord’ in the year that it was signed. Our founders wanted a constant connection between the founding Judeo-Christian principles and values that our country was formed upon.”

“That’s the very first thing in the very first Bill of Rights,” Flynn reiterated.

First of all, technically the word “creator” only appears once in the Declaration, though the document does contain other references to “nature’s God,” the “Supreme Judge of the world,” and “divine Providence.” But the phrase “in the day of our Lord” does not appear anywhere in the Declaration because Flynn conflated it with the Constitution, which was signed “in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven.”

Secondly, the Federalist Papers had nothing to do with the First Amendment or the Bill of Rights, as they were written in 1787-88 to convince New York to ratify the Constitution. The Bill of Rights was not proposed until the First Congress in 1789.

On top of that, as conservative commentator Matthew J. Franck explained: “Questions of religion, of religious freedom, and of religious strife are not major themes of the Federalist Papers. Not a single one of the 85 essays takes up the protection of religious liberty as a distinct subject worthy of a sustained focus.”

But more importantly, the “very first thing in the very first Bill of Rights” is actually the prohibition that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” And even that is an accident of history, as what became known as the First Amendment was originally listed third among a total of 12 amendments proposed by Congress.

The original first (proposed) amendment outlined representation in the House of Representatives—it allowed for one representative for every 50,000 people. The amendment came within one state of becoming adopted, but has not since been ratified by enough states to become part of the Constitution.

The original second amendment dealt with salaries of members of Congress—it said that Congress can’t raise their own pay without an intervening Congress. Six states initially approved it. Over time, however, states continued to ratify it, including Kentucky in 1792, Ohio in 1873, and Wyoming in 1978.

What was originally the third proposed amendment only became the First Amendment because these earlier amendments had not been ratified at the time that three-fourths of the state legislatures ratified the others in 1791.

Thus, Flynn’s assertion that religious freedom was given a preeminent spot in the Bill of Rights because “our founders wanted a constant connection between the founding Judeo-Christian principles and values that our country was formed upon” is simply false.

As Right Wing Watch has noted multiple times before, the willingness of Christian nationalists to misrepresent history has become a common theme, as time and again they spread blatant falsehoods in promotion of their right-wing ideology.

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