It’s fascinating to watch religious-right extremists turn on each other. We saw that last week, when Christian J. Pinto of the Christian-right website Noise of Thunder Radio suggested that phony historian David Barton — the minister of propaganda for the religious right — is actually a liberal.
What brought about Pinto’s attack on Barton’s conservative credentials? Pinto’s beef is Barton’s recent suggestion that the Constitution would permit people in a local community to establish religious law. Speaking on comedian Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” cable program, Barton suggested that even establishing Sharia law would be permissible in some communities. Pinto transcribes the exchange between Stewart and Barton:
STEWART: “Do you feel like the majority in a locality should be able to determine?”
BARTON: “Sure, sure …” (Barton speaks about Hasidic Jews)
STEWART: “So you would allow — let’s say, Dearborn, Michigan is a majority Muslim.”
BARTON: “And it is …”
STEWART: “You’d be alright with Sharia Law and the whole business?”
BARTON: “Sure, sure …”
STEWART: “Well, that’s consistent.”
Of course, the Constitution forbids government’s establishment of religion or religious laws in this country. But Pinto’s problem with Barton’s contention wasn’t the Constitution. He called Barton’s statement “liberal” and Sharia law “brutal and bloodthirsty.”
He also said that Barton lied when he told Stewart he was not taking out of context a quote from a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson. In fact, Barton does take Adams’ quote out of context, suggesting that Adams believed in the “Holy Ghost,” one of the divine Trinity of Christianity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost). Pinto also criticized Barton’s dishonest portrayal of Adams’ beliefs last month, suggesting that the head of WallBuilders is a “propagandist” for politicians and pressure groups who say the Founders intended to establish a Christian nation.
Of course, we agree that Barton is a propagandist who has distorted history about the Founders (and about much else). The Constitution adopted by the Founders forbids government from promoting one religion over all others. But Pinto’s criticism of Barton comes, oddly, from the the right. Rejecting the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation, Pinto instead indignantly argues that the nation’s founding was dominated by “occult societies” like the Freemasons, and he identifies many of the Founders as anti-Christian zealots:
“The evidence will show that the troubles for Christianity in America did not begin when they took prayer out of schools in the 1960’s. It began with the American Revolution. This is especially bad news for those who think we need to ‘get back to the founding fathers.’ George Washington and Thomas Jefferson do not represent the solution — rather, they were the very beginning of the problem.”
Pinto is also rabidly anti-Catholic (in one online article quoting a 19th-century theologian who claimed that “the masterpiece of Satan is Popery”) and has this to say about religions other than his own version of Christianity:
“We believe that the ‘gods’ of other world religions are not representations of the True God, but are demonic powers and principalities that make up the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of the Devil.”
As you can see, Pinto isn’t particularly happy with an America open to people of all faiths. Of course, Barton appears to have the same problem with religious freedom — which makes the fuss between him and Pinto all the more fascinating.