Rob Burgess

When I heard Rafael Cruz, father of Republican presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, would be speaking Thursday evening at Rozzi’s Catering and Continental Ballroom, I knew I had to attend. Papi Cruz has been acting as an official surrogate for his son’s campaign, arriving ahead of his progeny in upcoming primary states.

Upon taking the stage, Cruz spun a false American history narrative just begging to be fact-checked. The first whopper concerned the supposed socialist beginnings of the Plymouth, Massachusetts Pilgrims. To hear Cruz tell it, the first year they almost starved because of a failed communal experiment.

“Historians say that the settlers in Plymouth, and their supporters in England, did indeed agree to hold their property in common — William Bradford, the governor, referred to it in his writings as the ‘common course.’ But the plan was in the interest of realizing a profit sooner, and was only intended for the short term; historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism,” reported The New York Times’ Kate Zernike Nov. 20, 2010. “The arrangement did not produce famine. If it had, Bradford would not have declared the three days of sport and feasting in 1621 that became known as the first Thanksgiving.”

The next distortion concerned the Supreme Court cases Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington Township School District v. Schempp (1963), which Cruz maintained removed prayer and the Bible from public schools, respectively.

“No Supreme Court ruling has ever banned prayer or the Bible from public schools,” states a June 8, 2003 First Amendment Center press release. “Students have a First Amendment right to pray alone or in groups, bring their scriptures to school, share their beliefs with classmates, form religious clubs in secondary schools and in other ways express their faith during the school day — as long as they don’t disrupt the school or interfere with the rights of others.”

Cruz then claimed the Robert Aitken Bible of 1782 was printed by Congress as a “neat edition of the Scriptures for the use in schools.” (While this wording appears in Aitken’s 1781 petition to Congress, the approved wording makes no mention of this.) Cruz further maintained the Constitution “was a divinely inspired document because it was forged on the knees of the framers.”

For the moment, let’s put aside the expressed deist views of Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams — Founding Fathers who rejected revelation. Here’s what “Father of the Constitution” James Madison had to say in his 1785 essay, “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments”:

“Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

Cruz’s next assertion raised my eyebrows to new levels. “Did you know the Bible tells you exactly who to vote for?” Cruz quoted Exodus 18:21. “Thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers,” it reads. (Guess who Cruz thought that applied to.)

When former President Jimmy Carter addressed the British House of Lords in February, he gave his opinion on the GOP race. “I think I would choose [Donald] Trump, which may surprise some of you,” he said. “Trump has proven already that he’s completely malleable. I don’t think he has any fixed opinions that he would really go to the White House and fight for. Ted Cruz is not malleable.” This couldn’t have pleased the Cruzes more. “That’s almost like an endorsement,” said Rafael Cruz.

If Cruz’s view of American history speaks your language, what more can I say? You have your candidate. Everyone else should be very, very afraid.

Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.

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