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The birther movement is quite a phenomenon in its size and longevity. Since the very beginning I have tried to understand it under various models. What has come to mind of late is the concept of slander and this is how I would put it:

People prejudiced against Barack Obama justify their prejudice by slandering him, and in turn they justify their prejudice against anyone connected with Obama by slandering them too.

The original source of prejudice, I believe, is either racism or bias against anyone not on the right politically. Racism still remains stigmatized in the minds of most Americans, so racists have to come up with some other justification, such as calling Obama other things (noting that there’s noting “wrong” with some of these):

  • Ineligible (foreign born)
  • Ineligible (not a natural born citizen because of his father)
  • A forger
  • A liar
  • A Muslim
  • A Communist
  • Gay
  • A foreigner

And by extension, Obama’s parents, grandparents and wife come in for their own slander. The State of Hawaii, it’s constitutional officers, and the Department of Health have been demeaned. Members of Congress are called traitors for not doing anything. Even bloggers and others who criticize birthers have come in for their share. I got this mild example through the Contact Form a few days back:

[B]efore I read this I thought Obama was the biggest liar in the world but now I see I was wrong. He’s tied with you. If you have kids you’re helping to insure they have no future in America.

When I replied asking what I had lied about, the writer evaded the question. I replied:

You have sent me several emails, but you have yet to identify any falsehood or immoral act on my part. It seems to me that your perception of “terrible” is based on prejudice rather than fact.

Slander is deeply offensive to me in all of its manifestations. Combatting it is one of the things that keeps me blogging.

An open letter to Nathan Bickel

[Nathan Bickel describes himself as “pastor emeritus,” I think of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. He publishes the web site, Moral Matters, and is a birther.]

So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander.
(RSV) 1 Peter 2:1

I keep a copy of Luther’s Small Catechism at hand, a paper copy in the drawer at my elbow and an electronic copy on my portable devices. I draw the reader’s attention to the entry on the Eighth Commandment:

The Eighth Commandment

You must not tell lies about your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16 )

What does this mean? We must fear and love God, so that we will not deceive by lying, betraying, slandering or ruining our neighbor’s reputation, but will defend him, say good things about him, and see the best side of everything he does.

I see this teaching as a demand for affirmative responsibility when speaking about someone else. It requires not only that the truth be spoken, but that the truth be honestly and objectively sought, that negative claims be responsibly evaluated before speaking, and that a thing is not claimed to be worse than it is. This principle is the moral underpinning of what I try to do (and I am by no means perfect) on this web site. Debunking is largely an attack on slander1.

There is a difference between disagreement and slander; and there is a difference between resisting slander and support of the person being slandered. These distinctions seem lost on Nathan Bickel based on his online comments asking how I can support Obama. There is a difference between saying Obama’s policies are disastrous and saying Obama committed ID fraud.

My experience with the “birther” movement has been the very antithesis  of the Eighth Commandment. Birtherism is at its core an attempt to put the worst possible spin on everything President Obama does, even his facial expressions are labeled as malevolent. Birtherism takes dirty politics and makes it a personal passion with the fervor usually reserved for a religion.

It started with a rumor that Obama was born in Kenya, not evidence of that. The first stories were accompanied by no reason to believe them, but they were believed. For over five years birthers have sought to find evidence to justify their initial slander.

Slander is sin, and repeated attempts to justify slander is a sinful pursuit that leads those who participate over time in it deeper and deeper in to a web of deception, deceit and depravity. Instead of righteous anger, it breeds hatred, verbal brutality and the desire for vengeance. Birthers have clung to criminals like Larry Sinclair (27 year criminal record including crimes of deceit) and Lucas Smith (multiple convictions including forgery). They have made heroes of other criminals like Walter Fitzpatrick and Terry Lakin. They look the other way when other birthers committed identity theft to steal Obama’s records.

They have inflated the resumes of countless self-appointed experts that claim things they know nothing about. Birthers say that every expert who has reported on Obama’s birth certificate says it’s a forgery, when not one of these “experts” has ever examined a forgery before in their lives2—and birthers lie when omitting the fact that that several real experts have said it’s not a fake (including Mike Zatkovich, and Neal Krawetz). Like a dog to its vomit, birthers eat at the table of cranks, con men and swindlers, while turning away from the wholesome food of credible sources, unbiased investigation and scientific methodology.

Birthers engage in a virtual orgy of slander, not even respecting the dead (like devout Christian and humanitarian Loretta Fuddy). They slander judges, Obama family members, federal agency heads, and the Hawaii Department of Health. They even have to attack a nobody like me, calling me a “paid shill” or a “traitor”—they demonize everyone that disagrees with them. Bickel even argued on Twitter that I wasn’t qualified to have an opinion because I use a profile photo of myself on the blog and Twitter instead of a front view (and of course there are front-view photos of me on the site).


Even though a birther may believe nonsense conspiracy theories about Obama, they are still condemned by the Eighth Commandment against false witness because they are irresponsibly lazy in not doing diligence to check the falsehoods they spread. They don’t demand consistency in the stories they repeat, confirmation of speculation, nor credentials from sources. No story seems too far out and fantastical for at least some of the birthers.

The chief investigator for the birthers, Mike Zullo, has a total of 5 years experience as a policeman on a small-town police force, and that a couple of decades ago, yet he has been promoted to “Lieutenant” and his experience selling used cars tallied with his brief police career to give total years in law enforcement. Zullo has been caught lying and fabricating evidence, yet in their lust for slandering Obama, birthers brush these inconvenient facts aside in order to put Obama in the worst possible light.

Birtherism is evil and those who spread it are slanderers, and that includes Nathan Bickel.

Partial list of slanders published by Nathan Bickel in the last two months:

1I use the word “slander” in the informal sense including both spoken and written speech.

2This excludes Reed Hayes, who has not made his report public.