By Chris Rodda
Just a week before her now infamous inaccurate dating of the last swine flu outbreak, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann spit out a few more bits of historical hogwash, including a fake George Washington prayer, to bash the president.
On April 21, the very same day that she enlightened us all with her scientific analysis of CO2, Bachmann also took to the House floor to rant about Obama’s statement in Turkey that the United States is not a Christian nation, and the covering up of the gold “IHS” inscription, a monogram that symbolizes Jesus’ name, behind where he was standing for his speech at Georgetown University.
Before getting to the fake Washington prayer, Bachmann, referring to Obama’s statement in Turkey, shared her thoughts about Abraham Lincoln:
“I wonder, Mr. Speaker, if President Abraham Lincoln, one of President Obama’s heroes, would have said overseas that he believed America was a nation of secularists…”
Well, Obama, of course, didn’t say America is a nation of secularists either, so I don’t know what the hell Bachmann was talking about there.
Bachmann then proceeded to spew out a fake Washington prayer found on numerous Christian nationalist websites, compounding the lie by attributing this prayer to Washington’s inaugural address, something that even the Christian nationalist history revisionists aren’t stupid enough to try to get away with.
“And, Mr. Speaker, likewise, as President Obama insisted a Catholic university cover the image of Christ during the Easter season while he spoke at that school, George Washington, our first President, demonstrated that he was not offended by the image of the risen Christ. In fact, our Nation’s first President let his views be known quite clearly on his inauguration by a prayer which George Washington himself gave at his inauguration. He said, and I quote, Mr. Speaker:
“‘Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large. And finally, that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’
“Mr. Speaker, our first President, George Washington, insisted on his inauguration day as the first President of this great country, that unless the citizens of our country imitate the example of Jesus Christ, that we would not be a happy Nation. What a clear contrast between our first President and our current President.”
Where did this prayer come from? Well, it’s a rewriting of the last paragraph of the circular letter sent by Washington to the governors of the states in 1783, when he resigned from the Army at the end of the Revolutionary War. This paragraph was altered by a church, inserting a few “Thys,” “Thous,” and “Thees,” and adding the “Almighty God” opening at the beginning, and the “through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen” closing to the end, thus creating Washington’s “prayer for the nation.” This fabricated prayer was put on plaques in several churches associated for one reason or another with Washington, then spread to to the Christian nationalist American history books, and eventually to the internet, which is apparently where Michele Bachmann gets her historical “facts.”
Bachman then continued to display her incredible ignorance of American history by saying that the founders signed the Constitution and the Bill of Rights on the same day, apparently having so little knowledge of even the most basic facts about the founding of our country that she doesn’t understand that there were nearly two years between the Constitutional Convention and the drafting by the first Congress of the amendments that would become the Bill of Rights, and another two and a half years before the Bill of Rights was ratified. By this point Bachmann had shifted the subject of her ranting from Obama’s secularism to taxes, making fear of taxation the reason for the Bill of Rights.
“And the day that the Founders signed the Constitution, they also signed the first ten amendments to that Constitution; and those ten amendments were given as a gift, a protection to the individual American. Why? Because our Founders were so concerned about the abuse of taxing authority of their mother country, Great Britain. They were so concerned about that abuse of a taxing authority that they said to the American people in the first ten amendments: We want you to know that your Federal Government will be limited in its power.”
It’s no big surprise that Bachmann wrapped up her rant by getting in a plug for the Congressional Prayer Caucus, the group founded by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) that has consistently propagated the Christian nationalist version of American history, most notably with Forbes’s proposed House Resolution 888, a resolution for an annual religious heritage week, packed with a seventy-five “Whereas” clause litany of historical revisionism and misinformation that, nonetheless, managed to get an astoundingly scary ninety-three historically ignorant co-sponsors, including, of course, Prayer Caucus member Bachmann.
“And with all due respect, Mr. Speaker, I think it’s so important, on behalf of the Prayer Caucus of this Congress that, as the National Day of Prayer approaches, that all American citizens do what our first President prayed in his inaugural prayer, and what President Lincoln prayed as well in his address and in his proclamation, that we would do well to imitate the life and example of Jesus Christ, and we would do well to humbly not forget God, but to humble ourselves before an Almighty God and not expect that it is we ourselves that have created these blessings for our country, but that it is a gracious heavenly God who holds our Nation in His hands.”
Chris Rodda is the Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and the author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History.