The Important Difference Between “Could” and “Did”

Via Americans United, we learn that the Community Issues Council spent $50,000 to rent billboards in Florida proclaiming there is no such thing as the separation of church and state:

That’s what Floridians will see as they drive through Pinellas and Hillsborough counties near Tampa Bay, Fla., during the next six months.

A local fundamentalist group has decided to wage war on church-state separation by posting ten billboard advertisements that send the message that “America’s government was made only for people who are moral and religious.”

The billboards highlight quotes from our Founding Fathers that are misleading, false or taken out of context.

AU points to this billboard in particular:

They point out that there is no evidence that Washington ever said this, but the CIC’s president, Terry Kemple, doesn’t really care:

Others carry the same message but with fictional attribution, as with one billboard citing George Washington for the quote, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

“I don’t believe there’s a document in Washington’s handwriting that has those words in that specific form,” Kemple said. “However, if you look at Washington’s quotes, including his farewell address, about the place of religion in the political sphere, there’s no question he could have said those exact words.”

A look at the CIC’s “No Separation” website shows that they are apparently relying heavily on the “scholarship” of David Barton … but even Barton admits that this quote cannot be attributed to Washington.

But apparently the fact that Washington never said it isn’t going to stop the CIC from claiming that he did, because it’s something that he “could have said.”

Of course, George Washington could have said a lot of things: