Rick Green Spreads False Christian Nationalist History

Next to the myth that the Bible was the source most frequently cited by the Founding Fathers, there is no claim that Christian nationalists love citing more than that Benjamin Franklin’s call for prayer played a pivotal role in the Constitutional Convention.

This false claim is a staple of Christian nationalist propaganda, so it was no surprise to see Rick Green repeat it during a recent “FlashPoint” event, though he did add a few new wrinkles to the myth.

Green, founder of Patriot Academy and a co-host of the radio program “WallBuilders Live” with religious-right pseudo-historians David and Tim Barton, bills himself as “America’s Constitution Coach” despite his tendency to routinely misrepresent basic facts about the Constitution, which he did again on “FlashPoint.”

“Franklin was the one in all of this disunity and all of this fighting and all of this trying to create this new government really in almost a secular way, he was the one to finally stand up and say, ‘What are we doing?'” Green claimed. “He stood up and he said, ‘In the beginning of the contest, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room.’ And what he was really telling those guys was, ‘When the wolf was at the door and we were in danger [in 1776], we cried out to God and we said, “We can’t do this without God.'”

“Just 11 years into our history, he gives them a history lesson,” Green continued. “He says, ‘Our prayers were heard and they were graciously answered. All of us engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent incidences of a superintendent providence in our favor. Have we now forgotten this powerful friend?’ …  He said, ‘Do we imagine that we can do this without God?’ He said, ‘We need God. We need the Father of Lights to illuminate our understanding so that we can do this’ and he just gives this long speech, quotes 11 Bible verses calling on them to prayer, saying, ‘We should have regular prayer in order to get our hearts right so that we have unity on the right things, so that we can move forward.'”

“And George Washington did something interesting,” Green added. “He said, ‘We’re going to break,’ and they spent three days going to church and praying together, and it brought about the unity so that when they came back into the Constitutional Convention, they were able to solve all of those conflicts and leave with a Constitution that they could all go back home and be proud of and sell the people back home on supporting. But it required first, the prayer, first, the worship, first, the study of scriptures to see what the truth was that they could build upon.”

Right Wing Watch debunked this claim when David Barton made it back in 2022. Incidentally, Barton claimed that Franklin’s speech quoted 14 Bible verses, whereas Green claims that it quoted 11. We still have no idea where they are getting these figures, but Green, like Barton and everyone else who cites this speech, conveniently fails to mention that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention explicitly chose not to heed Franklin’s call to prayer and adjourned without taking any action on his suggestion. In fact, on the bottom of the handwritten version of the speech Franklin delivered that day is a note acknowledging that “the convention, except three or four persons, thought prayer unnecessary!”

Furthermore, Washington did not adjourn the convention so that the delegates could spend “three days going to church and praying together.” Franklin delivered his speech on June 28, 1787, a Thursday. According to “Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution” by historian Richard Beeman, the convention continued to meet on Friday, Saturday, and the following Monday before taking a break to celebrate the Independence Day holiday. Even during this break, members of the Grand Committee, which was created to try to hammer out a compromise over apportion representatives in the new national legislature, continued their work.

Thus, not only did delegates ignore Franklin’s call to prayer, but they certainly did not then break for three days to engage in collective worship, as Green baselessly claimed. Furthermore, the Constitutional Convention began in late May of 1787 and didn’t produce a finished document until mid-September. Given that Franklin delivered this particular speech just one month into convention, it cannot even plausibly be argued that the delegates “were able to solve” all their conflicts after supposedly breaking for three days of prayer in July since it still took them several more months to complete their work.

The willingness to misrepresent history is a common theme among Christian nationalists who time and again spread blatant falsehoods in defense of their right-wing ideology, inevitably leading one to wonder why, if their position is true, do they have to keep lying to try and “prove” it? Clearly, these activists simply do not care about the truth because perpetuating these myths is useful for convincing Americans that their Christian nationalist political agenda is rooted in our history.

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