Brent J. Aucoin is a Professor of History and Associate Dean of the College of Southeastern in Wake Forest, NC. He is also the author of a brand new book Thomas Goode Jones: Race, Politics and Justice in the New South.
A couple of weeks ago Rick Shenkman, the editor and publisher at History News Network (HNN), informed me that Aucoin had submitted a piece to HNN criticizing a post I wrote at Religion News Service titled “Why the Founding Fathers Wanted to Keep Ministers From Public Office.” Rick wanted to publish Aucoin’s piece, but also wanted to publish my response to it.
As you will see from my response, I think some of Aucoin’s criticism of my piece is valid.
I will say this. It is difficult to write very short historical pieces for public audiences, especially when such pieces are anchored to current events in a heated political cycle. I hope my response to Aucoin reflects how I could have done better with my original RNS piece.
Here is part of that response:
Aucoin also criticizes me for failing to qualify my conclusions and adequately addressing evidence that is contrary to my argument. On this point I accept his criticism. My article is deceiving because it suggests that all of the “founding fathers” wanted to keep ministers from public office when in reality only some of them—in this case some of the framers of the state constitutions—opposed the idea of clergy holding political office. Though I think today’s political activists who use the founding era to justify clergy running for office still need to reckon with some of these state constitutions, my argument was sloppy on this point. I wrongly assumed that readers would understand the limitations of my argument based on the evidence I referenced. I will try to frame my arguments more carefully in future posts at The Way of Improvement Leads Home and in other public writings.
Read the entire forum here.