If Pawlenty Wants to Pander to Evangelicals, He Should At Least Get His History Right

“He’s going to lead the way, every day,” says Tim Pawlenty’s wife, Mary, in a new video for her husband’s presidential campaign. Except she’s not talking about her husband – she’s talking about God. 

That’s just one of the more eyebrow-raising moments in the below ad, which unapologetically panders to the Republican Party’s influential evangelical base by touting the Pawlentys’ church-going ways, Tim’s conversion to the evangelical faith, and the couple’s opposition to marriage equality and abortion rights.

The video’s most problematic statements, however, deal with the separation of church and state. Here’s the former Minnesota governor’s spin:

“The separation of church and state was intended to protect people of faith from government, not government from people of faith. Now we have all this revisionism around what was intended and where those lines really are drawn. I think the Founders of this country made it very clear; we were founded as a nation under god. And it’s not only in our founding documents nationally; it’s in the founding documents of 49 of the 50 states nationally. So it’s very clear what roadmap they put out for us as it relates to faith in the public square.”

I actually agree with what half of Pawlenty says in that bolded section. America's founders did make religion’s role in government very clear in our founding documents. Because they didn’t mention God at all! The Constitution, our supreme legal document and the basis of our entire government, does not mention a deity even once. Religion is mentioned just twice: to prevent the government establishment of religion and to protect its free exercise (the First Amendment), and to prevent any religious test for public office (Article VI). There are always people who point to the fact that the Declaration of Independence references a “Creator,” but the Declaration is simply a political statement, not a binding legal document like the Constitution.  

And saying “we were founded as a nation under god” is just pure baloney. As we’ve been forced to point out time and time again, the phrase “under God” was not widespread until the mid 1800s. It was not inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954, and "In God We Trust" was not made our national motto until 1956 – long after all our Founders, even 9-year-old John Quincy Adams, were dead and buried in the ground.  

Here’s Mary Pawlenty struggling to support the myth that America’s Founders were all devout Christians:

“When I think of those who founded this country, and we look back on the record of what they said and what they believed, we know these were people of faith. We look back on, for example, comments that Benjamin Franklin made at the time of the Constitutional Convention. And he spoke of the fact that ‘If a sparrow cannot fall without God’s knowledge, is it possible that an empire could rise without his aid?’ We know that this country was founded by people of faith, and that that’s a critical aspect of this country’s roots.”

That’s the same Ben Franklin, by the way, who famously said, “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.” I wonder what the Pawlentys would think about that one. Seriously, Ben Franklin?! The guy once wrote, “I have found Christian dogma unintelligible.” Is he really the best example the Pawlentys could find?

Regardless, T-Paw appears to be the front-runner among evangelicals for now. A recent poll found that 45 percent of the National Association of Evangelicals would select him as the Republican candidate.

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