Sunday, December 04, 2005

Robertson violates commandment
This week, Pat Robertson repeated one of his favorite lies about Rev. Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
Barry [Lynn] is -- Barry says that if a church is burning down, the local community could not send the fire engine to put the fire out because that would violate, quote, separation of church and state. He is fanatical.

This is not the first time Roberson has made this claim. It has been a standard part of his rant against Lynn and AU since at least 1999. No amount of correcting him will make him stop using his false anecdote. In 2002, Lynn published a "Memo to Pat and Jerry" attempting to set the record straight.
I've seen both Robertson and his colleague Jerry Falwell take pot shots at me with information I have repeatedly told them is not true. Robert­son, for example, continues to tell national television audiences that I believe that a public fire department can't go to a burning church without violating the separation of church and state. He apparently uses this "anecdote" to demonstrate my radical, wacky beliefs.

Trouble is (for him), I never said it and don't believe it. Journalists who have heard the claim and bothered to research the point fail to find evidence of me saying it. The reason is that fictional attributions don't show up in Internet news databases.


Sometimes I write letters to these fellows to try to correct their declarations that are flatly false. Sometimes I send Federal Express-delivered packets of material to prove things they say are false. They never respond; they simply repeat the false statements. I doubt that there is any real way to get through to them. Maybe I should just put up signs outside their homes with the words: "We disagree about so many things that there is no reason for you to make up things you know are not true."

A good story brings a dull speech alive. And along with the desire to use effective anecdotes is the related temptation to embellish. Reagan and Clinton both claimed to have been witnesses to things others told them about.

Robertson has moved from the realm of garden-variety untruthfulness into the realm of malicious serial lies. The temptation for public speakers to choose anecdotes on the basis of their effectiveness rather than their truthfulness is somewhat understandable. However, continuing to tell an untrue story once you have been informed of its untruthfulness is pure, crude dishonesty. In the US legal code, this is called libel and slander. In the Ten Commandments this is called bearing false witness.

Pat Robertson is a liar, a slanderer, and a bearer of false witness. He should be ashamed of himself and his followers should be ashamed to be associated with him.

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