BARTON: Telling the Truth about Moses

Telling the Truth about Moses
By David Barton

Moses by Michaelangelo: CC A 3.0: Jörg Bittner Unna

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) is currently making revisions in the state’s Social Studies standards. This governs what will be included in textbooks, and thus what will be taught in the classroom. This has set the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), a frequent critic of the State Board, on the warpath, launching a public and social media campaign to demand changes in the current standards.

Of the 54,000 words that comprise the Texas Social Studies standard, they are particularly infuriated by a 27-word statement in high-school history requiring students to “identify the individuals whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding documents, including those of Moses, William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu.” They vehemently object to the mention of Moses.

They have therefore launched their “Tell the Truth” campaign, berating the “Texas State Board of Education Members’ claim that Moses influenced America’s Founding documents.”[1] According to TFN, the SBOE “exaggerated, if not invented, Biblical influences on American Founding.”[2] TFN is therefore asking the public to “Tell the State Board of Education to #Teach the Truth.”[3]

Telling the truth is an excellent recommendation. We hope that the SBOE will indeed tell the truth about Moses—that it will tell students that:

  • Noted political scientists from the University of Houston documented that the most-cited source in the political writings of America’s Founding Era (1760-1805) was the Bible, and that among the most frequently quoted passages were those from Moses.[4]
  • Founding Fathers John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin were appointed by Congress to design a Great Seal for the United States, and they placed Moses as the central figure in that design.[5]
  • The inscription emblazoned around the famous Liberty Bell is the quotation given by Moses in Leviticus 25:10.
  • Numerous Founding Fathers specifically invoked Moses and his writings, such as signers of the Declaration Thomas Jefferson,[6] John Adams, [7] John Witherspoon,[8] and Caesar Rodney,[9] Arthur Middleton;[10] signers of the Constitution Benjamin Franklin[11] and James Wilson;[12] and other notables, including Thomas Paine,[13] Joseph Story, [14] Elias Boudinot,[15] and many more.
  • When George Washington died, two-thirds of the eulogies delivered about him likened him to Moses.[16]

However, Moses was an authority in America long before the Founding Fathers. Almost every one of the dozens of early legal codes in colonial America repeatedly invoked Moses and his writings as the basis of its laws; and countless state and federal courts over the next three centuries openly invoked his writings in their rulings.[17]

Main Reading Room, Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress.

Even today, Moses continues to be officially recognized as a significant influence on American government:

  • In the Chamber of the US House of Representatives, Moses is honored as the most important lawgiver in history.
  • Inside the Supreme Court Chamber, Moses is featured three times, and is also honored at several additional locations throughout the building.
  • In the National Archives, directly in front of the display of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is a depiction of the Ten Commandments given by the lawgiver Moses.

The direct influence of Moses and his writings across four centuries of American history is so well-documented that Time magazine concluded “from the Pilgrims to the Founding Fathers, the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement, Americans have turned to Moses.”[18]

Sadly, the Texas Freedom Network has once again confirmed not only its historical ignorance but also its anti-religious intolerance—they become apoplectic over mentions of Judeo-Christian influences, even when history affirms the reality of that influence. They clamor for the SBOE to “Tell the Truth,” but ironically want to keep students from knowing the truth mentioned above. Their attempt at blatant censorship of American history is disturbing.

The Texas Freedom Network is entitled to its opinion, but they are not entitled to rewrite historical facts simply because it does not comport with their anti-religious bigotry. The State Board of Education should continue to “Tell the Truth” by keeping Moses in the Texas Social Studies standards.


[1] See a video posted on: the Texas Freedom Network Facebook page in May 2018: https://www.facebook.com/TexasFreedomNetwork/videos/10155547650203034/ & the Texas Freedom Network Twitter feed on May 14, 2018: https://twitter.com/tfn/status/996037333442072576.

[2] See a video posted on: the Texas Freedom Network Facebook page in May 2018: https://www.facebook.com/TexasFreedomNetwork/videos/10155547650203034/ & the Texas Freedom Network Twitter feed on May 14, 2018: https://twitter.com/tfn/status/996037333442072576.

[3] See a video posted on: the Texas Freedom Network Facebook page in May 2018: https://www.facebook.com/TexasFreedomNetwork/videos/10155547650203034/ & the Texas Freedom Network Twitter feed on May 14, 2018: https://twitter.com/tfn/status/996037333442072576.

[4] Donald S. Lutz, The Origins of American Constitutionalism (Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 1988), pp. 140-142.

[5] Journals of the Continental Congress (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1906), Vol. V, p. 690, August 20, 1776.

[6] John Adams, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1841), Vol. I, p. 152, to Abigail Adams on August 14, 1776.

[7] John Adams, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1841), Vol. I, p. 109, to Abigail Adams on May 17, 1776.

[8] John Witherspoon, The Works of the Rev. John Witherspoon (Philadelphia: William W. Woodward, 1802), Vol. II, p. 485, “Seasonable Advice to Young Persons,” February 21, 1762.

[9] Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington, D. C.: Library of Congress, 1979), Vol. 5, pp. 133-134, Caesar Rodney to Thomas Rodney on September 11, 1776.

[10] Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington, D. C.: Library of Congress, 1979), Vol. 18, p. 221, Arthur Middleton to Aedanus Burke, November 1781.

[11] John Adams, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1841), Vol. I, p. 152, to Abigail Adams on August 14, 1776.

[12] The Works of the Honorable James Wilson (Philadelphia: Lorenzo Press, 1804), Vol. II, pp. 10, 80, 288, 477.

[13] Thomas Paine, Common Sense; Addressed to the Inhabitants of America (Philadelphia: W. and T. Bradford, 1776), p. 47.

[14]  Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, and Company, 1833), Vol. I, pp. 57-58.

[15] Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington, D. C.: Library of Congress, 1979), Vol. 20, pp. 565-566, Elias Boudinot to Samuel Mather, September 30, 1783.

[16] “How Moses Shaped America,” Bruce Feiler, Time, Oct. 12, 2009 (at: http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,1927303-1,00.html).

[17] See, for example, “Affidavit in Support of the Ten Commandments,” WallBuilders (at: https://wallbuilders.com/affidavit-support-ten-commandments/).

[18] “How Moses Shaped America,” Bruce Feiler, Time, Oct. 12, 2009 (at: http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,1927303-1,00.html).

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By |2018-10-10T06:22:03+00:00October 10th, 2018|Categories: Featured, Issues and Articles, Library|Comments Off on BARTON: Telling the Truth about Moses