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Ten Tortured Words: How the Founding Fathers Tried to Protect Religion in America . . . and What's Happened Since

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2007

    Mansfield Tortures a lot more than Ten Words in this book

    By Chris Rodda After reading an op-ed by Mansfield on the USA Today website, I decided to get a copy of this best-selling author's latest book. Given the assertions made by Mansfield in his op-ed, which included the ridiculous claim that Thomas Jefferson 'insisted upon the Bible as part of the curriculum at the University of Virginia,' I thought I knew what to expect from his book. Ten Tortured Words, however, surpassed even my lowest expectations. When I got the book, the first thing I did was turn it over to read the description on the back of its jacket, which begins: 'It was the steamy summer of 1787, as America's founding fathers fashioned their Constitution, they told the most powerful institution in their new nation what it must not do: 'CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION.'' What??? This seems to be saying that the First Amendment was written in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention. I must have misread this, I thought, and proceeded to reread it several times. No, I read it right the first time. It really does say that the First Amendment was written at the Constitutional Convention. My next thought was that this jacket text wasn't written by Stephen Mansfield hiself, but by some history ignoramus at the publishing company. Mansfield, a New York Times best-selling author, writing an entire book on the First Amendment, couldn't possibly be unaware that this amendment was written two years later by the first Congress. Well, reading the book quickly proved that the benefit of the doubt I was giving Mansfield for this erroneous jacket text was completely undeserved. In fact, I didn't need to read any further than the introduction to realize this. On pages xv-xvi, Mansfield says of Thomas Jefferson's January 1, 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists: 'It did not matter that Thomas Jefferson wrote this letter some fourteen years after the First Amendment became law. It did not matter that Thomas Jefferson was not even in the country during the convention that drafted the First Amendment. ...' This is even worse than the jacket text. Fourteen years after the First Amendment became law??? The First Amendment, drafted by the first Congress in the summer of 1789, didn't become law until December 15, 1791. This, of course, would make Jefferson's writing of his letter to the Baptists almost exactly ten years after the amendment became law, not fourteen years. And, again, Mansfield calls the body that drafted the amendment 'the convention.' On page 65 of his book, Mansfield not only gets this wrong again, but isn't even consistent with the version in his introduction, in this case indicating that he not only doesn't know that the amendment was written by the first Congress, but doesn't realize there was a two year gap between its writing and its becoming law. According to Mansfield: 'Also, he wrote the Danbury letter nearly a decade and a half after the First Amendment was written. ...' Remarkably, in other places in his book, Mansfield does have the first Congress drafting the First Amendment, as if he copied this information without it even dawning on him that it contradicts his other statements and timeline. But, wait...it gets better. Mansfield apparently doesn't understand that the Constitutional Convention and the Continental Congress were two separate bodies, with the Congress continuing to meet in New York while the Convention was taking place in Philadelphia. This is blatantly apparent in his description of how the Northwest Ordinance, also written in the summer of 1787, came about. On page 14, he has Manasseh Cutler pitching his Ohio Company proposals to the Constitutional Convention. 'On July 13, 1787, when the Constitutional Convention was but seven weeks along in its great task, a Massachusetts war hero, medical doctor, and clergyman named Manasseh Cutler asked the Convention to approve a plan for establishing a colony in the Ohio

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2013

    The author hasn't a clue regarding the real facts of the subject

    The author hasn't a clue regarding the real facts of the subject he writes about. Dates, titles, and names are far from factual, but what does that matter to someone who is simply  uneducated on the subject of the book?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2007

    Ten thousand tortured facts

    This guy does not even know or understand the difference in The Constitutional Convention and the Continental Congress, and we are supposed to accept him as some expert historian on our founding fathers? Manfield is a pastor. He attended a Christian college. He has written a book with Tom Delay, another one titled 'The Faith of George W. Bush' and another one subtitled 'Recovering a Christian View of History.' It doesn't take much imagination to see how Manfield is attempting to RECOVER history to support his religious views. This book reminds me of all those other books wriiten by 'experts' about how the Earth is only 6800 years old.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2007

    Surprisingly good

    Being myself more liberal than conservative and tending to be at the worst disdainful of and at best mistrustful of books written from a conservative viewpoint, I am surprised at how much I enjoyed _Ten Tortured Words_. It is a semi-scholarly work in that it foregoes footnotes and only lists sources instead of also including references to and analyses of concurring and dissenting opinion in the endnotes, but for a relatively biased work, the body of the book offers a fair range of historical opinion and lacks the venomous rhetoric that so often plagues and detracts from the credibility of similar manuscripts. Before attempting to explain how the founding fathers felt about religion and what they thought about the interrelationship of government and religion, Mansfield first lists exactly who he considers to be the founding fathers (not just the authors of the Constitution but also all members of the first Congress) before offering a cursory but broad range of their documented opinions on the subjects and finally reminding us of the civil and religious contexts out of which the need for the First Amendment arose. Mansfield explains that the Bill of Rights was intended to place restrictions on the federal government¿s power but not on that of the individual states then, he presents a brief history of the operations of federal and state governments upon religion in America during its first century and offers several examples showing that, for our first hundred years or so, government frequently did provide support, monetary and otherwise, to religious institutions. He argues that, and gives evidence that previous legislators and justices have held that, as long as government does not preference one religion or sect over another, it should offer support to religious institutions and rely on their moral teachings for guidance. As most conservatives tend to do, Mansfield eventually gets around to blaming the ACLU for the current governmental antipathy to and antagonism of religion in the public arena. However, his account is mature and restrained rather than juvenile and caustic, and he leavens his criticism of the organization for its part in the current state of affairs with praise for what he considers its more admirable accomplishments and goals. There are two features of the book I liked particularly well. In the final chapter, Mansfield discusses current legislation that deals with the issues at hand, and he gives the bill numbers. Authors and journalists often tend to omit bill numbers, making it more difficult for concerned citizens to find and reference legislation about which they may wish to express their opinions. Finally, in the appendices, Mansfield provides quite a few relevant quotes from several of the founding fathers and complete documents and bills written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as well as the official opinions of Supreme Court Justices Hugo Black and William H. Rehnquist.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2007

    Required reading

    This book should be required reading for all federal and state judges, college seniors, high school seniors, elected officials, public school teachers, college and university professors, and so called news reporters. Additionally, all individuals nominated for a federal or state judgeship should be required to read this book and pass a test on it.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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