Why Historians Don’t Respect Barton

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Why does pseudo-historian and bona fide political activist David Barton have such a poor reputation in the academic community? It’s not because of his religious convictions, his politics, or even his lack of formal training — it’s his disregard for the basic standards of accuracy historians enforce upon themselves, says Joanna Brooks of Religion Dispatches:

…what makes David Barton dangerous is his total disrespect for the process of peer review: the driving force of contemporary scholarship. Forget what you’ve heard about political litmus tests for faculty in colleges and universities. If your data and hypotheses don’t pass muster with your peers, you’re toast. And as a working academic who has published in and conducted peer review for a top-ranked history journal, let me tell you that historians are among the most conservative and rigorous peer-reviewers I’ve encountered.

She issues a challenge to Barton:

If David Barton is serious about history, he needs to demonstrate his respect for the time-tested process of peer review, the same way anyone who seeks to publish medical research would submit their findings to the review of their peers. He needs to listen to and acknowledge the hard-wrought findings of those who have devoted their lives to implementing and promulgating the best practices of historical scholarship. And he needs to open his own research to their rigorous review.

Refusing honest and open dialogue about the facts of our nation’s founding is not only bad medicine for scholarship; it’s bad medicine for democracy.

If Barton is as solid a scholar as he presents himself to be, why would he hide from peer review?

Because he’s already getting positive reviews from the only peers he cares about — Republican politicians like Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann.

19 Responses to “Why Historians Don’t Respect Barton”

  1. Charles Says:

    The academic historians are as much a problem as Barton. They sit on all their peer-reviewed facts and assessments, but they do nothing to publicly challenge Barton while he steals true American history from several whole generations of Americans. I think they should be ashamed of themselves because of their silence and the danger it poses to our country and its history. If Barton were just some closet crank in Poughkeepsie, I can understand why they might think that ignoring him is the best way to deal with him. The thing they forget is that closet cranks in Poughkeepsie have seven followers and that is it. You can afford ti ignore them. Barton’s twisted American history has millions and millions of followers from coast-to-coast, and the number is growing larger with each passing day. The academic historian who ignores Barton is making the exact same mistake that Pope Pius XII made by refusing the speak out against the Nazis and the holocaust that HE KNEW was happening right under his nose.

    I lay it at your feet academic historians of Texas (and any other state that might show up here). Your silence is shameful. Your silence is an atrocity against the integrity of the historical discipline that you pursue. Your silence is doing massive injury to history education in the United States. You should be ashamed of yourselves—every last one of you.

  2. james_breck Says:

    I’ve not read 26 million books on American history as Barton has, but I’ve read enough to reach conclusions about the beliefs of our core Founding Fathers, those 7 individuals whose contributions were instrumental to the emergence of 13 disparate colonies as one nation. These are the seven men that Barton would have us believe intended to create a Christian nation. My conclusions are as follows:

    Ben Franklin – He was a Deist who rejected Christianity at the age of 16. He was good friends with and influenced by Dr. Joseph Priestley, the co-founder of Unitarianism, who critisized the authors of the New Testament for “corrupting” Christianity.

    Thomas Jefferson – He was a Deist who absolutely despised all organized religion. Like Franklin, Madison, Hamilton and Adams he was an Enlightenment thinker who valued logic and reason over the supernatural.

    James Madison – He born and raised Christian, attended Princeton when it was a Christian institution, but he ultimately rejected Christianity and seriously questioned the existence of God. He was an agnostic.

    John Adams – A product of puritan New England, Adams was also good friends with Joseph Priestley. In an 1816 letter to Jefferson he described his religious beliefs as Unitarian.

    George Washington – He never spoke of or wrote about his beliefs. While president he went to church once a month because he was supposed to, never took communion and usually left early. He was either a Deist, a Stoic or a check-in-the-box Christian. Washington also specifically requested that no member of the clergy be present at his deathbed.

    Alexander Hamilton – Until 1800 Hamilton’s only interest in religion was how it could be used as a tool to manipulate voters. Karl Rove has likely studied Hamilton extensively. When Hamilton’s son died in 1800 he caught the religion bug.

    John Jay – A true believer and evangelical Christian. Jay also had a burning hatred for Catholics and the Catholic Church.

    My conclusions could not be any different than Barton’s, and I find it absolutely unfathomable that these Enlightenment thinkers would strive to create a Christian nation. If I made mistakes they are honest errors, not the intentional fraud perpetrated by the #1 enemy of Jeffersonian democracy David Barton.

  3. Gordon S Fowkes Says:

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-may-4-2011/david-barton-pt–1 (and pt-2) on the Daily Show, Barton states that the Bill of Rights does not apply to the states. While it seems rather odd considering the tidal wave of decisions limiting states for abridging the Bill of Rights, the Barton position was in fact the case as per the case of Barron vs Baltimore (1833) which was in effect until the Reconstruction Amendments were ratified (13, 14, and 15th Amendments.

    The flea in Barton’s collar is the Supreme Court ruling in US vs Cruikshank (1876) which held (wiki) triggered by the Colfax Massacre:

    The Supreme Court ruled on a range of issues and found the indictment faulty. It overturned the convictions of two defendants in the case. The Court did not incorporate the Bill of Rights to the states and found that the First Amendment right to assembly “was not intended to limit the powers of the State governments in respect to their own citizens” and that the Second Amendment “has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government.”

    Although the Enforcement Act had been designed primarily to allow Federal enforcement and prosecution of actions of the Ku Klux Klan and other secret vigilante groups in preventing blacks from voting and murdering them,[3] the Cruikshank court held that the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses applied only to state action, and not to actions of individuals: “The fourteenth amendment prohibits a State from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; but this adds nothing to the rights of one citizen as against another.”[4]

    In short, this decision effectively allowed to KKK to continue operations, and the Blacks that had gained some political power in Reconstruction lost it for another century. The position make under the Bartonian thesis is to “take back” the country and return it to the good old days before the Civil War was even fought, is the heart and sole of his thesis and the guiding light of Wallbuilding Tea Parties.

    The Bartononian Thesis has traction in those who miss the old days when the US was a “Christian” country misses a tiny loophole: If religion can be established, it can be barred as well, if the states have final say so on religion. Not much chance of that happening, but it is useful to understand the basic Confederate position of Tea Parties and Wall Building, et al.

    Barton makes a big show of citing the vast number of books and documents printed before 1813 which he uses as his proof positive of the Confederate point of view. All Amendments to the Constitution made after the Civil War are either null and void, or must be repealed.

  4. james_breck Says:

    Gordon as you likely know when the Enlightenment ended in 1800 it was followed immediately by a religious revival in America. I take a skeptical view of anything written after 1800 and for good reason. For example there was an enterprising gentleman whose name escapes me that thought there was a good deal of money to be made “Christianizing” America’s most beloved founder, George Washington. This gentleman wrote several volumes, fictional accounts all, on Washington. This was where the story about Washington chopping down the cherry tree originated. Also the legend of Washington falling to knees, looking to the heavens and asking God for help during the cold winter at Valley Forge in 1777. And his tale about a clergyman busily attending GW on his deathbed as he passed away, which was subsequently the subject of numerous paintings, also came from this gentleman. None were true of course but given the religious zeal of the day they were lapped up by the public.

    It is possible to get a glimpse of America as a Christian nation. When Jefferson established the University of Virginal in 1817 it was the first college in America that wasn’t affiliated with a Protestant denomination. As for the others….Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, etc……they all had a different brand of Christianity, and the all hated each other, really and truly hated each other as in “my beliefs are superior and yours are garbage.” The Christian nation crowd only wants a Christian nation on their terms – selective Biblical literalism designed to bolster their beliefs (God hates gays, God wants us to kill abortionists ) and denigrate those who don’t agree with them. The entire movement nothing but a effort to legislate their prejudices and bigotry. They are bad Americans.

  5. Gordon Fowkes Says:

    Until JFK was sainted by a bullet fired by a pro-Soviet sniper from an Italian carbine, being “Christian” meant being Protestant and White, not necessarily Anglo-Saxon. This was well illustrated in the spy movie “The Good Shepard” with Matt Damon and Robert De Nio in which references was pointedly made about Catholics and Italians as “just visitors”.

    There are some I know Right of aisle, who still refer to Catholics as “pagan”. Catholics stood apart at school and the services as they had to eat fish on Fridays. After the Pope changed that rule, the Caholics disappeared from notice as such.

    In the heydats of the KKK, political cartoons portrrayed the KKK as the saviour of Americnas against “Popery”, Papsim, Rome, and the Pope. The “Left Behind” tales at JVIM ministries includes tales of the Anti-Christ as the UN Secretary Generl from Romania who flies around the world in an airplane named “Global One”. The play on the word Romania is code for Rome.

    http://www.jvim.com/

    While it may be factual that the US was never a Christian on paper, it was the default assumption until JFK was elected and shot. After that came the deluge … the Sixties which were an attempt at recreating the Twenties with a politcal twist. The Sixties were more a phenomenon of the East and Left coasts, with the “fly over people” in the middle out to lunch. It wasn’t until the East and Left coasts started the move to ratify the Equal Rights for Women Amendment that Phyllis OrangeJuice raised the banner to resurrect the pedestal that the Fly Over People woke up to the fact that the Redemption of the South as per the Compromise of 1877 had been superceded by the Civll Rights acts of the Sixties as well as the Second Recontrustion of the South by the Civil Rights movemnts of the Sixties.

    The successes of women and minorities in the work place has a zero-sum effect. Since the world of the Personnel Puke holds that the world is divided into discrete segments called “jobs”, the perception is that if a minotry/woman gets a jet or a promotion, a majority/male has to lose one. This perception is being played on in the current job recovery from the collapse of the Junk Market as over eighty percent of the recovered jobs got to while males.

  6. james_breck Says:

    The SPLC is out with a nice critique of the serial liar and fraud David Barton:

    Nimrod Hews would likely have qualified. Back in 1812 Nimrod, a Virginian, predicted that one-third of the world population would die on the 4th day of June that year. Somehow John Adams found his way onto Nimrod’s mailing list and received this dire warning from the Nimrod. Adams glanced at the letter, dismissed it as nonsense, and tossed on the living room table. Shortly thereafter a couple of his neighbors stopped by and read the Nimrod missive. A few weeks later Adams complained in one of his frequent letters to Jefferson that Nimrod had half his neighborhood walking around on eggshells. Those bright boys undoubtedly thought we’d have advanced far beyond such nonsense as the Rapture by now. But no, there are still many a Nimrod among us.

    http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2011/05/05/david-barton-extremist-historian-for-the-christian-right/

  7. james_breck Says:

    Oops. The SPLC quote:

    “Barton, who often promotes conspiracy theories about elites hiding “the truth” from average Americans, subscribes to beliefs found in Seven Mountains Dominionism. This movement teaches that certain kinds of Christians are meant by God to dominate every sphere of society.”

  8. Gordon S Fowkes Says:

    Are the Seven Mountains before or after the Rapture?

  9. james_breck Says:

    The Seven Mountains and the Rapture? Hmm…good question.

    If memory serves when the Rapture bell rings Jesus is going to swoop down to collect the chosen few before the world goes to hell in a handbag. However when Jesus puts in his appearance he’s not actually going to touch the ground for some strange reason. He’ll be hovering just above the surface. Or….maybe he’ll gather his chosen flock off the tops of the Seven Mountains! I’ll bet that’s it! And wouldn’t it suck to be one of the chosen and show up on a peak in the Rockies only to discover that isn’t one of the Seven pickup points? Gotta read that fine print.

    I do know there is Rapture insurance available. No kidding. Consult Google to find the agent nearest you.

  10. Charles Says:

    With regard to the notion of a rapture and a second coming, I am inclined to thing that it will be 98 percent surprise. The Christian God is the God of surprises. He does what He wishes—not what people expect or predict. The ancient Jews had their heads buried deep in scripture all of the time, and they were looking intently for the coming of their messiah. You might say that they were at DEFCON 1 and on RED ALERT 24/7. When He finally came, the uttermost Holy (in their own eyes at least) and most people in general totally missed it. The Old Testament prophecies were recognized as coming true only after the fact, and even they were very vaguely expressed in regard to what actually happened later when he did come. It was an almost total surprise.

    I think it will be a total surprise again—and that people like Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsey will have missed the nature of the actual event by light years. We will also find that having buried our heads in Daniel, Revelations, etc. was of little help in elucidating what actually transpires. God is still full of surprises.

    “But weez ones on the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical side of the house don’ts won’ts him to be a God of surprises. Weez ones needs him to be tame, domesticated, and predictable. Otherwise, our world is too scary to thinks about.”

    Sorry. Here is Lord of the universe. He is very independent-minded. He does whatever He wishes, whenever He wishes, and wherever He wishes. He does not tell us even a tiny fraction about all that He does in the universe, and He plays his cards tight to the breast on most things. He is full of love and full of surprises. I don’t see that as a thing to cause fright. I trust that He is up to good overall, and his surprises can be totally fun. That “born in a barn” thing was a stroke of pure genius. Total surprise. Jeremiah, Ezekial, Daniel (and morons like Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsey) could have stayed up all night for centuries and never come up with that one.

    He is the God of surprises—and I love him for it.

  11. Gordon Fowkes Says:

    That suggests that the Creator of all things on heaven and earth is whimsical, arbitrary, and capricious. That also suggests that one plus one isn’t necessaarily two even if one and one are equal.

    The assertion itself puts oneself in a power position over all others who seek to find God’s truth in His works. A capricious God is the same as a vindictive and vicious God, the likes of which have been used for fun, terror and profit, and worst, pins the face of an abstracted and personal person in loco parentis.

    One cannot know the mind of God, and to do so is classic blasphemy the likes of which have burned the innocent as witches, heretics, unbelivers, capitalists, and Democrats.

  12. Charles Says:

    I don’t claim to know the mind of God Gordon. I just observe his fun and interesting behavior.

  13. Ben Says:

    I wonder what it takes to make a thread like this become the number-one result in a Google search. Anyone know the answer? For instance, if we repeat the name “David Barton” over and over, will that get us closer to the top? I’m pretty sure it will. Hence:

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  14. Gene Garman, Baylor '62 Says:

    What Ryan and Joanna Brooks have noted is accurate, but it is also important to understand, there are scholarly alternatives which seem to get little attention: Leo Pfeffer’s Church, State, and Freedom, Leonard W. Levy’s The Establishment Clause, and Gene Garman’s The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer.

    If those who wish to see Barton ridiculed and countered by the facts, then the three above books are available, Obviously, my own work simply builds the case based upon the work of past scholarship, but it is definitely a more concise framing of the issue and debate, in order to specifically confront and counter the current right wing revisionist distortion of our nation’s history.

    It is way past time to expose Barton for being a fraudulent historian. He was a high school math teacher?

    So, if you want a book which takes on Barton’s nonsense, it is available from Amazon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb7SbUWw9dM .

  15. Charles Says:

    You would be proud of me Gene. The ACLU has just filed suit in the school system that I micturated through K-12. The list of charges in the court brief are about as egregious as you can get with religious violations under the First Amendment. About the only thing the school system had left to do before the ACLU showed up was to hire John Hagee, Tim LaHaye, and David Barton as Principal at the schools involved.

    I fired off one of my famous written tomes (this time with no typos) to the Director of Schools and each member of the County Board of Education. I gotta tell you Gene, Ben, and Dan. That letter was a masterpiece!!! Throughout the letter, I was careful to say “separation of religion and government.” You were right Gene. The impact is much more powerful, and the reader has no wiggle room to opt out the amendment’s meaning on a semantic technicality.

    The thing that troubles me is this. I had imagined that my home county and state of childhood had become immune to this sort of thing. Most litmus tests suggested that this was so. It appears that this was not the case. This past November, for the first time in history, that state elected an all-conservative Republican legislature (both houses with big numbers). I would like to tell you that the people elected were sensible Republicans like Dwight Eisenhower or Gerald Ford. Uh-uh!!!! They elected scores of Michele Bachmann clones—best I can tell. In the few months since their election, they have put forward a regular gravy train of legislative initiatives that are so utterly fruitcake in nature and off the deep end that even the conservative newspaper editors are giving them hell on wheels in the op-ed pages.

    I believe this has emboldened the Don McLeroys to finally emerge from under their moist rocks in hopes that they will be able to convert every public school into a Bible-believing (whatever that is) protestant parochial school. No. Make that Bible-believing Southern Baptist parochial school. I wish I could tell you that the only problem is a desire to “teach the controversy.” Instead, one of the ACLU charges is that the youth pastor at a local conservative megachurch was given free and regular access to the elementary school cafeteria at lunch time. Said pastor would make the rounds at every lunch table—every lunch table—to pal around with the kids, deliver a religious message to the kids at that table, and urge the kids (and their parents) to attend his church. I saw nothing in the legal brief to suggest that he was only after the unchurched kids. My impression was that he was after every kid—even the ones who already had a church. Now I gotta tell you, that sort of naked aggression takes brass testicles, and any school administrator that would allow that must have a brass brain.

  16. Larry Billingsley Says:

    Some of these commenters appear to be of the thinking the God, god, the Almighty, or “whatever” is of male characteristics as described by the use of the “he” pronoun. Other theo-religionists purport that their determination of the God, god, the Almighty, or “whatever” is female–in human terms, or both male and female, if one reads parts of the Old Testament. You guys need to get over the use of the “he” pronoun for the Gods of the OT and the NT. Your translations of the OT Hebrew and the Greek and Aramaic are distorted by your fundamentalisms which in no way are representative of the NT’s Jesus person who was an activist–an not a christian–as one little high school junior once declared in 1974 in the farmlands of Oklahoma.

    David Barton’s assertions are fraudulent, and the “truth is not in him”. The same as that former Arkansas Baptist preacher who is another repugnican wanna-be. I just gotta save all these remarks, i.e. except for Ben’s whatever!

  17. Ben Says:

    Well done, Charles. I heard about that case last week. Over the top.

  18. Gordon Fowkes Says:

    Although there are academic degrees granted for History, but the concept of an “academic historian” or otherwise certified historian does not exist. History is a part of many disciplines at upper division and graduate levels. Some of these subject oriented “history” courses are often skewed in order to fit the needs of the major discipline. History according to the sociologist is treated differently than history according to the political scientist, or economist, or student of military history.

    History is often treated as if it were a single truth as if it was observable in a lab. The thing about History is that it is something passed, which is what it’s call the past. It’s like a law suit with evidence that has to meet evidentiary rules, and taken in context, also which must beet evidentiary rule.

    Most of what is taught as history is hearsay, which may be all that there is avalable, Like in court, one must determine the conditons under which the evidence was collected.

    Barton’s Bible example of a Bible that has what looks like a Congressional endorsement in it, which Barton uses to imply that the Continental Congress approved this version of Christianity as a established religion. The true hisotrian would want to find the records kept of the Congress and look for evidence that the Congresss really did mean to endorse Christianity.

    Barton correctly states that this was the first Bible printed in English in America, Prior to that, the Coloniests bought their Bibles from England. The Revolutin interfered with the steady supply of books pritned in England.

  19. Gene Garman, Baylor '62 Says:

    Thank you again, Charles. I am indeed proud of you.

    I have only one repeated recommendation about your framing of the intent of the Constitution’s religion commandments, which are all in terms of “religion,” not “church.” I use the exact wording of James Madison, “Father of the Constitution” and a member of the joint Senate-House conference committee which drafted the wording of the First Amendment. I have the citation for that reference also:

    Madison’s exact wording, in his essay Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments: “separation between Religion and Government,” W&MQ 3:555. Stop using Jefferson’s word “of.”

    Quote Madison exactly and cite the reference, which is called primary source documentation. Let them challenge the exact wording, not only from the Constitutional references, but from Madison himself.

    The above constitutional debate point is the essence of my book, but I doubt TFN has ever made mention of it. Maybe someday even TFN will learn how to frame the debate in words which cannot be denied, not only from the Constitution itself, but also from the man who personally helped write both Article Six, Section 3, and the First Amendment. No one can deny the exact wording in the Constitution or the First Amendment or those of James Madison. Continued use of Jefferson’s “church and state,” terminology is irrelevant and a distortion of what the Constitution actually says and commands.

    I think I have finally convinced Mike Newdow to confront the Court with the Constitution’s actual wording. As Glenn Beck accurately says, the words “church and state” are not in the Constitution, and he is correct.

    It is way past time for the ACLU, FFRF, ARL, and AU to also change their argument to the wording of the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson is not a Founding Father, he had nothing to do with writing the Constitution, was in France from 1784 to 1789, and did not report for duty with the Washington administration until March 1790. You cannot lose the debate when you use the actual wording of the Constitution. My book should be a text for training debate teams and TFN how to frame the debate.

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