PBS to Air Revisionist History

Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State writes an eye-opening piece about a documentary called Wall of Separation that will be airing on PBS later this month.

The movie is produced by Boulevard Pictures, which says this about our nation’s history:

“…[W]hat would surprise most Americans is the discovery that this [understanding of separation of church and state] is not what the Founding Fathers of our country intended when they established our nation and wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights. They in fact had a radically different definition of establishment and the role of religion in state and federal governments than we do today. So radical, in fact, that some say the modern understanding of the role of religion in the public square is exactly the opposite of what the Founders intended.”

AU did some more research on the producers and found out quite a bit about their backgrounds:

And then there’s Brian Godawa, the writer and director of “The Wall of Separation,” who is an even more interesting character. Godawa did movie reviews for a time for the Chalcedon Foundation’s Web site. Those of you who follow religion and politics will recognize Chalcedon as the nerve center of Christian Reconstructionism, the most militant wing of the Religious Right. Godawa also was a featured speaker at the American Vision’s “2006 Worldview Super Conference,” a Reconstructionist event.

Godawa has extreme conservative views (he called Brokeback Mountain “a brilliant piece of subversive homosexual propaganda”). While those views alone don’t necessarily mean this movie will be warped, the backgrounds of Godawa and Boulevard Pictures president Jack Hafer suggest you won’t be getting a fair portrayal of history.

As Lynn states:

The “diversity of viewpoints” argument doesn’t wash either. This project smacks of covert Religious Right propaganda, not a forthright contribution to the national dialogue.

None of us at Americans United has seen “The Wall of Separation;” PBS declined to share a copy with us. So we can’t say for sure that it’s all bad. But many signs indicate that it may be an intentionally warped and inaccurate view of the role of religion in our nation’s founding.

Keep an eye out for the movie. If the information in incorrect, the producers need to be publicly called out on it.

At least the movie’s airing on PBS, so you figure the viewers will be skeptical of revisionist claims in general.

One commenter on the AU blog said that he saw the movie the other night. He’s now looking up the information that he heard. At the very least, he mentions a note regarding music:

I was a little shocked to see, on PBS, the propaganda techniques ‘Wall’ used. For example, when quoting from Hugo Black’s opinion in Everson, a dark, minor key melody plays in a low register. When Rhenquist criticizes Everson, a hopeful pentatonic scale sounds on a bright clarinet.

The commenter mentions Judge William Rehnquist… who wasn’t actually on the court at the time. Perhaps he means Judge Wiley Rutledge, who wrote a dissenting opinion.

(Thank to TXatheist for the link!)


[tags]atheist, atheism, Barry Lynn, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Wall of Separation, PBS, Boulevard Pictures, Constitution, Bill of Rights, Brian Godawa, Chalcedon Foundation, 2006 Worldview Super Conference, Brokeback Mountain, Jack Hafer, Religious Right, Hugo Black, William Rehnquist, Wiley Rutledge[/tags]

  • Darryl

    The nutjobs have learned that a lie is just a ‘truth’ that hasn’t been repeated enough. In a nation as gullible as ours, lies, bold and unrepentant lies, can be pounded into the heads of Americans to the point that some don’t really care that the lies are not literally true. Wanting it to be true is enough. Forgive me religious readers, but I must say that this dangerous desire is kin to the magical- and wishful-thinking that inhabits the religious mind.

  • Anthony

    I think… with great humility… that I am the most militant anti-delusionist (they call me anti-theist) visitor on this site….

    … but I actually think the Christians win on this one. While there are definitely some quotation nuggets to support the deist/atheist arguments, I think the overwhelming worldview of our founding fathers was Christian, and that they did not intend for the degree of separation which we have today, nor for today’s degree of non-Christian religious freedom. The Library of Congress’s Religion and the Founding of the American Republic has many documents that provide tangible evidence, and that exhibit went a long way to changing my views on this issue.

    I see in the Founders intelligent, critical thinking rationalists who, without any other framework accessible (a world without evolution!!!), relied on Christianity to provide answers on the many fuzzy areas of life. Not unlike related delusions in the 21st century.

    I’ve taken to arguing the merits of church/state separation (well.. along with church extinction *innocently blinks*), and I try not to argue based on the Founder’s Intentions.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    This is a shame. I hope whoever made this decision gets fired.

  • brandon

    Anthony,

    Thanks for the fair response. I think we could all learn a lot by studying the Founders. If you want to argue for church extinction, I hope you do it in a non-coercive manner, without the aid of the state.

    I am much more inclined to fight with the Founders for an extinction of state power.

    Its very annoying that the general response has been that PBS should not air a documentary that disagrees with particular peoples’ views. If its so incorrect, produce your own documentary and have PBS air that. Stop arguing for censorship.

  • Logos

    brandon, if you don’t want state power what do you want?

  • brandon

    pretty simple: limited government (protection of life, liberty, property only)


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