ROBERTSON'S REGENT UNIVERSITY FLUNKS
Magazine Ad For TV Preacher's Graduate School Recruits
Donations With Bogus James Madison Quote
preacher Pat Robertson's Regent University is soliciting
support with a full-page ad in U.S. News & World
Report that features a bogus quotation about the Ten
Commandments supposedly uttered by James Madison.
ad, which appears in the April 9 edition of the magazine, is
centered around a large-type assertion at the top of the
page attributed to Madison. "We have staked the whole
of our political institutions," Madison is quoted as
saying, "upon the capacity of mankind for
self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to
govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves
according to the Ten Commandments of God."
ad gives no source for the statement, and with good reason:
It appears nowhere in the writings of Madison. It was
debunked years ago by Madison scholars and even many
Religious Right leaders have admitted that the quote can't
and Regent are advertising their ignorance," said Barry
W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for
Separation of Church and State. "I feel sorry for the
students who pay thousands of dollars to go there if they're
learning Religious Right mythology instead of real
The inaccurate Madison Ten Commandments quote was circulated
among the Religious Right chiefly by David Barton, a Texas
man who peddles a revisionist history arguing that the
United States was founded as a "Christian nation."
In 1996, Barton admitted that the quote is bogus and
recommended that people stop using it.
1993, the curators of the Madison Papers at the University
of Virginia were asked if they could verify the quote. They
replied that they could not. Wrote Curators John Stagg and
David Mattern, "We did not find anything in our files
remotely like the sentiment expressed in the extract you
sent us. In addition, the idea is inconsistent with
everything we know about Madison's views on religion and
government, views which he expressed time and time again in
public and in private."
founded Regent in 1977 as CBN University, named for his
Christian Broadcasting Network. Today he serves as its
chancellor and president. The school is headquartered in
Virginia Beach but recently opened a satellite campus in the
Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., because
Robertson wanted a presence near the nation's capital.
noted that it's ironic that Robertson would try to draft
Madison as an ally to prop up his university. Our fourth
president, Lynn pointed out, was a strong advocate of
separation of church and state. He opposed tax funding of
religion, publicly funded chaplains in the Congress and the
military and even expressed regret for issuing proclamations
declaring official days of prayer during his presidency.
noted that in an 1819 letter to a friend, Madison wrote,
"[T]he number, the industry and the morality of the
Priesthood & the devotion of the people have been
manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church
from the State."
Lynn, "Unlike Robertson's phony Madison quote, you can
look that one up."
Madison wrote frequently about religious freedom and its
corollary, the separation of church and state. AU
has compiled some of Madison’s best quotations on the
United is a church-state watchdog group based in Washington,
D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization represents 60,000
members and allied houses of worship in all 50 states.