David Barton, the self-styled historian appointed by the Texas State Board of Education to a panel of curriculum “experts,” is angry with the Texas Freedom Network. In an e-mail to far-right activists last week, the founder of WallBuilders (a Christian-right organization that opposes separation of church and state) brands TFN as a member of the “Secular and Religious Left” and even claims that it’s “the state arm of the radical People for the American Way.”
We don’t know where Barton comes up with such nonsense. “Secular and Religious Left”? If by that he means that we support separation of church and state, then he needs to broaden his definition to include a lot of Americans, many of whom certainly do not identify themselves as “secular” or the “religious left.” (He later lumps TFN in with “anti-religious secularist bigots.” That would surely surprise the more than 600 clergy who are part of our Texas Faith Network, as well as the clergy who are part of our Board of Directors.) And “state arm” of PFAW? TFN has no affiliation whatsoever with that fine organization, although we share many of the same mainstream goals — including our work to stop ideologues like Barton from rewriting history and using public schools to promote his own personal and political agendas.
In particular, Barton takes exception to our criticism of his efforts to corrupt the social studies curriculum standards that determine what nearly 5 million Texas children will learn in their public school classrooms:
“Groups such as the Texas Freedom Network (the state arm of the radical People for the American Way) joined with other radicals in the Religious Left to denounce my mentions of Christianity. They nationally distributed a press release of outrageously false claims that were soon parroted by ABC, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, etc.”
“Outrageously false claims”? We suspect this is the press release he means. But in his lengthy screed, he challenges none of the points in that press press release. So let’s recount some of them here:
- Barton lacks any formal academic training that would qualify him as an “expert” in the social sciences. In fact, his bachelor’s degree is in religious education. That’s it.
- He claims that separation of church and state is a “myth.”
- He has argued that our nation’s laws and public policies should be based on the Bible. In fact, he has specifically argued that progressive taxation and labor laws are unbiblical.
- Groups as Texas Baptists Committed and the Baptist Joint Committee have sharply criticized Barton’s interpretations of the Constitution and history.
- Barton also acknowledges having used in his publications and speeches nearly a dozen quotes he has attributed to the nation’s Founders even though he can’t identify primary sources showing that they really said them.
- In 1991 Barton spoke at events hosted by groups tied to white supremacists. He later said he hadn’t known the groups were “part of a Nazi movement.”
- Barton’s WallBuilders Web site suggests as a “helpful” resource the National Association of Christian Educators/Citizens for Excellence in Education, an organization that calls public schools places of “social depravity” and “spiritual slaughter.”
We stand by all of those statements, which we document here.
Barton also goes on to smear Dr. Derek Davis, dean of humanities, dean of the graduate school and director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Mary Hardin-Baylor University in Belton. Mary Hardin-Baylor is a Baptist institution, as is Baylor University, which is Prof. Davis’ alma mater and where he previously taught before moving to Mary Hardin-Baylor. Prof. Davis spoke last week at a press conference hosted by the Texas Freedom Network that focused on the importance of protecting religious freedom in the revision of the social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools.
Barton levels this particularly outrageous personal attack on Prof. Davis:
“(H)e is a national evangelist for a completely secular public square; and based on his previous statements, he apparently wants to see all mentions of Christianity confined, like pornography, to the privacy of one’s own personal life.”
Viciously suggesting that Prof. Davis equates Christianity with pornography is yet another example of the outrageous tactics we’ve come to expect from the religious right over the years. Anyone who believes that keeping government from favoring or disfavoring any particular religion — something our nation’s Founders also believed was critical to securing religious liberty for everyone — becomes a target of the religious right’s venomous attacks.
Prof. Davis and Willamette University’s Prof. Steven Green, who also spoke at our press conference, are true champions of religious liberty. David Barton’s agenda, on the other hand, represents a serious threat to that fundamentally American constitutional principle. And that’s the truth Barton wants to obscure with his attacks on people like Prof. Davis and on the Texas Freedom Network.