When Extremists Collide


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.


8 Responses to “When Extremists Collide”

  1. Charles Says:

  2. JC Dufresne Says:

    Watching fanatics eat their young is always entertaining, I’ve got plenty of popcorn, come on over.

  3. james_breck Says:

    John Adams was a self-described Unitarian and influenced by his good friend of Dr. Joeph Priestley, the co-founder of the Unitarian church in England. As usual Barton is full of chit.

    Presidential aspirant Newt Gingrich established a non-profit two years ago, it goes by the letters REAL. One of the first things Newt did was name a board of directors. And – no surprise – Barton was named to the Board. The non-profit recently gave 150K to an Iowa group that is trying to get rid of the state Supreme Court judges who decided the state Constitution makes gay marriage legal.

    Newt converted to Catholicism a couple of years ago. Perhaps because his …um…4th? 8th? 23rd?….wife is Catholic. With that damn liberal Barton advising him Newt probably aspires to be another Jack Kennedy. Or not.

  4. Charles Says:

    I watched the freedom rider presentation on “American Experience” tonight. That was on PBS. While insane white people were popping the coconuts of blacks and white sympathizers with iron clubs, I was noticing the language being used by the outraged local southern people and the bigoted government officials. Basically, it is the same rhetoric in use today with the issues of our times. I am about to conclude that the whole far right movement has its roots in racism and a last ditch effort to save the final remnants of a southern culture that was badly wounded on Palm Sunday in 1865. A little bit more of her was destroyed by reconstruction. Just when there was some hope that she might rise again, the civil rights movement of the 1960s put her on life support.

    On this Memorial Day, I think the time has come to pull the plug on the life support system and let this 150 year old dowager biddy die off forever. I’m not going to her funeral, I am not sending flowers, and I am not going to put a Confederate flag on the grave of her older brother who died at Shiloh.

    Instead, I may visit a local black cemetery that is known to contain the graves of no one else but slaves who died in bondage before the Civil War. It is a lonely and stark place shaded by overhanging trees. There are no tombstones—just sunken rectangles in the ground surface where some sort of grave container collapsed long ago. I sometimes ask myself an odd question. Who was a better American—one of these dead slaves or Terri Leo?

  5. Ben Says:

    Charles deserves some sort of award for that comment.

  6. James Says:

    Always happy to see them rip each other apart. Of course, when they are pushing intolerance, one of their weaknesses is bound to be that they are intolerant of each other.

  7. 1toughlady Says:

    Well said, Charles.

  8. abb3w Says:

    Odd; Pinto sounds closer to historical accuracy than Barton, albeit taking the side of the Anti-Federalists (who objected to the Constitution in part because it was Godless).

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