Cynthia Dunbar’s Reading List

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Our friend Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches points us to some juicy information we overlooked when writing our recent post on former Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar: the required reading list for the law professor’s “Foundations of Law” course at Liberty Law School. Through the magic of the Internet “Way Back Machine,” you can find the assigned reading list from her course in fall of 2010. It’s revealing:

Foundations of Law I (Law 501) –Professors Lindevaldsen & Dunbar

Required Texts:
Rousas Rushdoony, This Independent Republic (Ross House Books) ISBN: 1879998246

Frederic Bastiat, The Law (Foundation for Economic Freedom) ISBN: 9781572462144

Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today (American Vision) ISBN: 0915815842

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity (Zondervan Publishing House) any edition is acceptable

Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto (Crossway Publishers) any edition is acceptable

David Barton, Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, & Religion (Paperback) (5th ed., 2008 WallBuilders) ISBN: 9781932225631

The name that immediately jumps out for readers of this blog is, of course, David Barton. We’ve dedicated plenty of keystrokes to the phony “historian” from Texas already, so I’ll just note a couple of things about this particular book. It is a rewrite of an earlier Barton effort, called The Myth of Separation, which was so error-ridden that Barton himself withdrew the book and re-titled it Original Intent. As to its subject matter, historian John Fea characterizes it this way:

In his most famous book, Original Intent, Barton argues that the removal of Christianity from the public square has resulted in a rise in birth rates for unwed girls, a spike in violent crime, more sexually transmitted diseases, lower SAT scores, and an increase in single parent households.

Since this isn’t a statistics course, one wonders if students recognize that there is a difference between correlation and causation. In any case, this isn’t exactly first-year law school reading.

The other name on this list that is even more alarming than Barton (if that is possible) is R. J. Rushdoony, widely considered the father of the Christian Reconstructionism movement. Reconstructionism, sometimes also called Dominionism, exists on the extreme fringe of Christian theology and teaches, among other things, that civil law should mirror biblical law — including widespread use of the death penalty, as prescribed in the book of Leviticus. (Rushdoony himself believed in the use of the death penalty for 15 different offenses, including adultery, homosexuality and “incorrigible delinquents,” as he explains in this 1998 interview with Bill Moyers.)

Rushdoony’s historical theories are equally extreme. This is how William Edgar, a professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, characterized Rushdoony’s overarching legal theory in his (not entirely unsympathetic) obituary for Rushdoony in the journal First Things:

Rushdoony taught us that the American Constitution, with its eloquent absence of references to Christian faith, was a secular document only in appearance… In Rushdoony’s view, the Constitution did not need to include a Christian confession because the states were already a Christian establishment or settlement. The First Amendment prohibited laws respecting the establishment of religion because religion was already established at the local level. There were sabbath rules, religious tests for citizenship, laws regarding heterosexual fidelity, blasphemy laws—all of them strongly connected to biblical law. The First Amendment was intended to protect the states from interference by the federal government.

Now that sounds like the Dunbar we know in Texas.

Not surprisingly, one can’t find a legal scholar or historian anywhere in this reading list, with the possible exception of  Frederic Bastiat, a 19th-century French economist who argued in his pamphlet The Law that government’s only duty is to “defend [individuals] person, his liberty and his property.” C.S. Lewis is, of course, a popular Christian apologist and novelist, and Francis Schaeffer is widely considered to be the intellectual progenitor of the Christian-right political movement in America. The final name on this list was unfamiliar to me, but a quick Google search reveals more of the same — Greg L. Bahnsen is another prominent Christian Reconstructionist.

If this is what law students are learning at Liberty, no wonder their students say, “If you walked into court and argued what Liberty wants you to, you’d be laughed out of the room.”

I’ll leave it to our crack team of TFN Insider readers to uncover more outrageous quotes and ideas among this laughable reading list. Have at it, gang.

8 Responses to “Cynthia Dunbar’s Reading List”

  1. james_breck Says:

    I’ve not read any of the books on Dumbar’s list, nor will I, but I did read John Fea’s “Is America Really a Christian Nation?” last evening. He most definitely knows his subject and slam-dunks several pieces of faux history put forth by David Barton; however it’s quite a gentle slam-dunking. Flea includes sections on the religious beliefs of Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, John Jay, John and Samuel Adams and Witherspoon. In place of Witherspoon and Samuel Adams I’d have preferred Madison and Hamilton, both core founding fathers. He also examined some of the more noted clergymen and their messages around the time of the American Revolution, which I didn’t care about. Flea takes a middle of the road approach on the Christian nation issue. Brook Allen’s “Moral Minority – our skeptical founding fathers” is more to my taste. But I’m no doubt biased since, like Allen, I’m not a Christian, my beliefs are a combination of Deist and Buddhist.

  2. Gary Cooper, McAllen, Texas Says:

    If Cynthia Dunbar is teaching in a law school, I should teach electrical engineering. What’s that? No, of course I don’t know much about electrical engineering. That’s my qualification, silly.

  3. Dallas Says:

    Do these graduates get jobs? If so, where? In politican’s offices?

  4. John M. Hays Says:

    I seem to remember they were in high demand by the Bush Justice Department to fill Civil Service Attorney positions. Those would not be changed if by chance a Democrat was elected President.
    Does anyone else have a similar recollection?

  5. james_breck Says:

    John I’m not sure it was Liberty or that other nutbag law school, the Pat Robertson farce, but yeah what happened was Bush appointed an administrator from one of those bastions of idiocy to run the DOJ hiring apparatus. It was a huge morale killer at the DOJ, they were used to getting top-notch talent from the best laws schools in the country and all of a sudden here came a bunch of Jethros and Ellie Maes flooding their ranks. It was a national disgrace.

  6. Charles Says:

    Here are a few of my favorite Rousas Rushdoony quotes—strung together because they all relate to the same subject:

    “The heresy of democracy has since then worked havoc in church and state … Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies. Christianity is completely and radically anti-democratic; it is committed to spiritual aristocracy. [Democracy] is the great love of the failures and cowards of life.”

    My favorite quote ABOUT Rousas Rushdoony—one that I firmly adhere to as well:

    Pointing to Rushdoony’s dislike of democracy and tolerance and the wide use he would make of the death penalty, the British Centre for Science Education called him “a man every bit as potentially murderous as Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot or anyone else you may want to name amongst the annals of evil” and “a thoroughly evil man.” (Wikipedia)

    I have to wonder why Ms. Dunbar is using Christian Reconstructionist texts in a law class at a supposedly Christian university when most sane Christians that I know—myself included—consider Christian Reconstructionism, Dominionism, and Theonomy to be heresy and greatly at odds with the Christian faith. In my opinion, he was an utter fruitcake. In my further opinion, his existence in this world was a waste of hair, blood, and skin cells. As Jesus said about some men, “It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”

    What are you doing Cynthia? How do you justify a heresy like this, and how do you justify teaching it to Christian college kids? I deserve an answer to that question from you, and so does everyone else here. How ’bout it?

  7. dbtexas Says:

    The right wing construct to attack society through “legal” methods is expanding. Louisiana College, a very conservative Baptist institution, is establishing a new law school – The Judge Paul Pressler School of Law. You may recall that right wing Pressler was a primary mover in prodding the Southern Baptist Convention to veer sharply away from any progressive though some thirty or so years ago. The announcement of the new school included the following: “Pineville-based Louisiana College announced news of the law school in 2007, with plans to start classes in 2009. It will have a “biblical worldview,” school leaders said, to train future lawyers to defend conservative Christian values in courtrooms and politics.” There is long battle ahead for the soul of America.

  8. Hartmut Says:

    I am actually surprised about C.S.Lewis being on the list. Many Christian fundamentalists consider him to be a dangerous false prophet.
    Their main objection is to the salvation theology expressed in the last Narnia book. There it is stated that even someone not knowing Christ but acting like a good Christian would can be saved and that good deeds are automtically rendered to God (even if the doer mistakingly worships the Devil) and all wicked deeds are automatically rendered to the Devil even if they are committed in the name of God.

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