Archive for the ‘David Barton’ Category

Did David Barton Break the Law?

April 2, 2012

The Texas Freedom Network just sent out the following press release:


TFN Asks for Investigation into Whether David Barton’s Support for SBOE Incumbent David Bradley Violates State Law

The Texas Freedom Network today asked district attorneys in Harris and Jefferson counties to investigate whether a State Board of Education (SBOE) incumbent’s campaign fundraising events feature the illegal involvement of a prominent political leader who also publishes instructional materials used in Texas public schools.

Republican SBOE member David Bradley’s campaign website touted David Barton, head of a political advocacy group called WallBuilders, as a featured speaker at two Bradley fundraisers on Saturday (March 31) in Beaumont and Houston. Among the state board’ s responsibilities is adopting instructional materials for public schools. WallBuilders publishes instructional materials. But according to the Education Code, “a person engaged in manufacturing, shipping, selling or advertising instructional materials commits an offense if the person makes or authorizes a political contribution to or takes part in, directly or indirectly, the campaign of any person seeking election to or serving on the board.” Violation of the statute is a Class B misdemeanor.

Barton’s participation in Bradley’s campaign raises questions about the law as well as propriety, TFN President Kathy Miller said.

“Clearly, we think this raises serious legal questions about Mr. Bradley’s fundraising and Mr. Barton’s participation in it,” Miller said. “But it also rings alarm bells about potential cronyism and highlights how big a role politics plays in decisions about what textbooks our kids use in their schools. This isn’t just a technicality. We shouldn’t have people who are involved in creating and selling instructional materials also raising money for candidates for a state board that decides which materials will be sold to schools.”

Barton and WallBuilders have published various instructional materials used in public schools.

  • Barton is co-author of an American history textbook, Drive Thru America, that has been marketed to schools as “designed to meet state-mandated curriculum guidelines” and aligned with standards developed by the National Council for the Social Studies. The state board is set to consider proposed instructional materials for social studies in 2014.
  • Various school districts reported using during the 2005-06 school year materials published by WallBuilders, including the “American Government and Bible” video (Brady ISD); Barton’s book “Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution & Religion” and the “Foundations of American Government” and “The Spirit of the American Revolution” videos (Mineral Wells ISD); and “America’s Godly Heritage” video (Belton ISD).
  • Barton’s organization, WallBuilder Press, publishes the “New Testament Bible Study Course: Dallas High Schools” and “Old Testament Bible Study Course: Dallas High Schools,” which were originally published by Dallas Public Schools. The New Testament course book was still used in at least one Texas school district as recently as the 2005-06 school year. The Legislature passed a law laying out guidelines for public school Bible classes in 2007, and the State Board of Education subsequently adopted curriculum standards for the courses.

Bradley’s challenger in the SBOE District 7 Republican primary is Rita Ashley of Beaumont. Because no Democrat is seeking the seat, the winner of the GOP primary will be a member of the SBOE when that body approves textbooks and other instructional materials for public schools, including for science in 2013 and social studies in 2014.


Poll Respondents: WHAT War on Religion?

March 16, 2012

The religious right insists that faith is under siege in America. Far-right leaders and pressure groups have pushed the “war on religion” trope for years now. Texas Gov. Rick Perry even used it during his doomed presidential campaign last December. Most recently, the right has argued that the Obama administration’s policy on insurance coverage for contraception is part of this mythical “war.”

But a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows that most Americans aren’t buying it. According to that poll, Americans by a 56%-39% margin say they don’t think religious liberty is under threat in America today. Of those who do believe religious freedom is threatened, only 6 percent mentioned the current debate over health insurance coverage for birth control. Others mentioned “hostility towards Christians/religion” (10 percent), “removing religion from the public square” (23 percent) and “general government interference in religion” (20 percent).

David Barton, president of Texas-based WallBuilders, plays especially on such fears. You can see that in Barton’s recent essay absurdly claiming that Barack Obama has been “the most Biblically hostile” American president.

The PRRI poll also shows that a majority of Americans support requiring that employers, including religiously affiliated employers other than churches and other places of worship, include coverage for contraception in their health insurance plans for employees. And 52 percent of Americans (including 59 percent of Catholics and 65 percent of white mainline Protestants) support the right to marry for gay and lesbian couples.

So the next time you hear folks on the right shrieking about a “war on religion” in America, just remember that most Americans know better.

You can read more about the poll on the PRRI’s website here.

Food Stamps Recipients = Wild Animals?

March 14, 2012

Former Texas legislator Rick Green, a speaker for David Barton’s Texas-based WallBuilders organization and Barton’s sidekick on the daily WallBuilders Live radio program, clearly has a pretty low opinion of people who receive food stamps. In a repellent Facebook post  last week (image below), Green compared people who receive that government assistance to wild animals who become dependent on food from humans visiting national parks:

What a country…

The food stamp program, part of the Department of Agriculture, is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service asks us to “please do not feed the animals” because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.

Never mind that the country is digging itself out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Most of us — but apparently not Green — might expect that public aid for struggling families would be higher than usual. What’s really astonishing here is the sneering contempt that Green has for those families.

Green and Barton claim WallBuilders promotes Christian values and what they see as America’s Christian heritage. We fail to see such values in Green’s disgusting attack on the poor and unemployed.

More Zombie Lies from David Barton

March 2, 2012

It’s bad enough that David Barton has promoted mythical quotations of the nation’s Founders and other famous Americans that continue to be recycled by far-right politicians and activists. Now we see that Barton, head of Texas-based WallBuilders and pal of folks like Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich, is recycling right-wing myths that President Obama favors Islam over Christianity.

On Wednesday Barton posted a long essay calling Obama “America’s most Biblically hostile U.S. president.” The essay is essentially a long recitation of right-wing lies, distortions and myths that Barton claims demonstrate President Obama’s “hostility” toward “people of Biblical faith” and “Biblical values” and a “preferentialism for Islam.” You’ve no doubt seen many of these ridiculous claims repeated by right-wing commentators, on blogs and in spam email screeds over the past several years. So here’s just a sampling of the zombie lies Barton is promoting in his essay:

Barton says: “November 2011 – Unlike previous presidents, Obama studiously avoids any religious references in his Thanksgiving message.”

Barton is referring to the president’s Internet address about Thanksgiving. Considering that a public Internet didn’t exist until the 1990s, most previous presidents haven’t given such addresses. They have, however, issued proclamations — and so has President Obama. His Thanksgiving proclamation issued on November 16, 2011, explicitly mentions God and providence numerous times, including here:

“As we gather in our communities and in our homes, around the table or near the hearth, we give thanks to each other and to God for the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives.”

In addition, the president’s Internet address no less than four times notes the “blessings” for which Americans are grateful. One of the most common definitions of “blessing”: “a favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness.”

Barton also neglects to tell his readers that, as ABC News noted: “Three of the Republican presidential candidates – Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum – issued Thanksgiving statements that omitted any references to God. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Rick Perry mentioned God in their statements.”


Debunking Another David Barton Lie

January 17, 2012

David Barton, head of the Texas-based, far-right revisionist organization WallBuilders, has been suggesting that Thomas Jefferson — one of the least religiously orthodox of American presidents — was really an evangelical Christian. Writer Craig Fehrman, however, squashes that tall tale in a Los Angeles Times op-ed about the “Jefferson Bible.” Fehrman writes that there were two such Bibles, both radical in their own ways. From the op-ed:

Today, the facts about “The Jefferson Bible” might seem like an impossible obstacle to anyone who wants to fashion Jefferson as a hero for right-leaning Christians — and America as a “Christian nation.” Instead, the book has been distorted to fit the religious right’s agenda.

There’s no better example of this than David Barton, an amateur historian who’s become quite popular with Perry, Santorum and Michele Bachmann. Barton loves archival flourishes — his Texas offices include a concrete vault filled with 18th century arcana — but his true concerns lie in the present. Though Barton admits that “The Jefferson Bible” often comes up as proof that its namesake wasn’t the evangelical Christian conservatives want him to be, he also says he can refute this. In a TV appearance in 2010, Barton fixated on Jefferson’s “Indians” title page, mixed in some unrelated material about Jefferson’s Indian policy, then pivoted to an outrageous fabrication: “He then gave it to a missionary,” Barton said of Jefferson and his Bible, “and he said, ‘Here, if you get this printed, and you use this as you evangelize the Indians.'”

There’s absolutely no evidence of Jefferson giving either version of his Bible to anyone other than his bookbinder. Perhaps it’s no surprise that last year, in Iowa, Newt Gingrich said, “I never listen to David Barton without learning a whole lot of new things.” That’s because Barton loves to cherry-pick a phrase and manipulate it support his side in a partisan, present-day debate.

Read the whole Fehrman piece here. We’ll also tell you that a new book about Jefferson by Barton and Glenn Beck (!)  is due out in April. The title is The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson. No, we’re not making this up.

Ken Starr vs. David Barton?

January 10, 2012

Ken Starr, Baylor University president and Bill Clinton bête noire, has some interesting things to say in a Washington Post op-ed published Sunday. And David Barton, founder of the religious-right and historical revisionist organization WallBuilders, won’t like much of it.

Starr’s column addresses the question of whether Christians such as himself could vote for a Mormon, such as Mitt Romney, for president. In short, his answer is yes:

“Without endorsing or even praising (much less criticizing) any candidate, I strongly encourage Americans who would ask this question of themselves to consider and weigh thoughtfully our nation’s constitutional traditions. At their best, those are traditions of welcoming religious forbearance. . . . (T)he litmus for our elected leaders must not be the church they attend but the Constitution they defend.”

Starr goes on to discuss previous American presidents and their beliefs about religion:

“(A) number of great presidents have come to the White House without membership in any faith community. Thomas Jefferson was a Deist and was vigorously attacked for his religious views (or lack thereof). Abraham Lincoln, as a matter of conscience, refused to join any church. Yet our nation’s capital rightly dedicates two of its most stately monuments to those two men of unorthodox spiritual worldviews.”

Citizens as voters do well when they pause to reflect on our nation’s history and traditions. If an unbeliever such as Jefferson or non-churchman like Lincoln can serve brilliantly as president, then America should stand — in an intolerant world characterized all too frequently by religious persecution — as a stirring example of welcoming hospitality for highly qualified men and women of good will seeking the nation’s highest office.

Jefferson was a “deist”? An “unbeliever”? Uh-oh. Don’t tell “historian” David Barton. In pursuit of his political argument that the founders intended to establish a Christian nation with its laws and society based on the Christian Bible, Barton places Jefferson in a pantheon of early American leaders who used their public offices to promote Christianity.

Here’s what Barton said about Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and others of the nation’s founders in a discussion with Glenn Beck on Beck’s Fox News program from April 2010:


Another History FAIL from Leo, Barton

December 13, 2011

Terri Leo and her colleagues on the Texas State Board of Education have spent years trying to promote their own distorted and politicized versions of American history in our public schools. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that Leo got her history wrong yet again in yesterday’s announcement that she will not seek re-election in 2012.

Leo, R-Spring, endorsed Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, as her replacement on the board. Toward the end of that endorsement, Leo wrote:

Donna understands fully what Abraham Lincoln meant when he said, “The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.”

Except Lincoln quite likely didn’t say that.

In fact, it’s just one of many “unconfirmed” quotations that the far right’s favorite phony “historian,” David Barton, once attributed to famous Americans in his own work. After years of criticism, Barton felt compelled in 2000 to acknowledge that he has no evidence those quotes were ever uttered. (Yet Leo’s far-right  colleagues on the state board appointed Barton as an “expert” adviser on the social studies curriculum revision in 2009-10 even though he is mostly a political propagandist with no formal academic training in the social sciences.)

Despite his admission of error, Barton’s zombie quotations live on, eating their way into our nation’s civil and political discourse.


Where Did the Guv Go?

October 27, 2011

This post has been updated

We were so looking forward to the One Nation Under God event organized by Champion the Vote, the national campaign that seeks to register evangelical Christians to vote. But now it seems our main reason for tuning in won’t even be there.

Gov. Rick Perry’s likeness and his name as an invited speaker have been scrubbed from, leaving Newt Gingrich as the only other Republican presidential candidate scheduled to appear.


Exposing David Barton’s Bad History

October 13, 2011

David Barton might be a popular speaker in conservative circles and considered a “historian” and “constitutional expert” by politico-entertainers like Glenn Beck and politicians like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. But a scholar’s new review of Barton’s American history textbook (yes, he has one) exposes the Texan’s simplistic, selective and ideologically distorted accounts of the nation’s early history. The review by Prof. Steven K. Green for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund is available here.

Unlike Barton, Prof. Green really is an expert in constitutional law and history. He currently is a constitutional scholar, historian and law professor at Willamette University in Oregon. He also serves as director of the Willamette Center for Religion, Law and Democracy.

Prof. Green explains how Barton’s Drive Thru History America is peppered with factual inaccuracies, offers a simplistic and glorified view of the nation’s early history and promotes a sectarian perspective clearly intended to proselytize students. Prof. Green writes:

“[The textbook] displays a clear devotional tone and contains a number of religious truth-claims that cross the line into promotion of a particular religion. Beyond this, the curriculum presents a problematic historical account of the founding period that falls well outside mainstream scholarly understanding, providing inaccurate, incomplete and biased profiles of various leading figures from that era.”

Barton and co-author Nita Thomason developed the textbook and accompanying materials for students in Grades 6-12. A promotional website markets the textbook for use in both private and public schools. Those materials focus on the nation’s founding period and on selected historical figures, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Abigail Adams. And their profound disrespect for the religious freedom of parents is as objectionable as their distortions of history. Prof. Green writes:

“Inculcating a ‘Christian worldview’ or persuading students to ‘repent’ and ‘listen to God’ is a responsibility that belongs solely with a parent or religious congregation. For a public school to utilize curricular materials toward this end is not only a clear Constitutional violation, it is a betrayal of the trust parents place in public schools.”

The Texas Freedom Network has posted Prof. Green’s review and other information about Barton and his political work in a new David Barton Watch section of our website.

Is David Barton Telling the Truth?

October 6, 2011

That’s one of the questions at issue in Barton’s lawsuit. Barton is charging W.S. Smith, a writer for the Fort Worth Atheism Examiner, with defamation for labeling Barton a “liar” in a story published on the Examiner website last year.

But part of establishing a legitimate libel claim is, of course, demonstrating that the claim made about you is not true. Truth, as the saying goes, is an absolute defense against defamation.

In what is — to my mind — the most insightful profile of Barton yet written, Nate Blakeslee of Texas Monthly tells about a first-hand experience with Barton’s dishonesty. You be the judge of whether the label “liar” fits.

“WHAT SEEMS TO HAVE OFFENDED Barton most about his critics is their questioning not his competence but his honesty. (‘I mean, this is what we do,’ Cheryl [Barton’s wife] said, pointing to the stacks of material in the vault. ‘We’re not trying to fool anybody.’) But honesty has been a problem for Barton over the years and still is…

Perhaps the most embarrassing gaffe Barton has been accused of is an egregious mischaracterization of Jefferson’s famous letter to the Danbury Baptists. Barton allegedly said that Jefferson referred to the wall of separation between church and state as ‘one-directional’ — that is, it was meant to restrain government from infringing on the church’s domain but not the other way around. There is no such language in the letter. This mistaken quote does not appear on Barton’s list of retractions, however, and when I asked Barton about it, he denied ever having misquoted Jefferson’s letter in any of his publications. He claimed instead that unspecified critics had merely heard him mention the ‘one-directional wall’ in a speech and that he had in fact been summarizing Jefferson’s general views on the First Amendment, not purporting to paraphrase or quote from the Danbury Letter. In other words, his critics had dishonestly taken his words out of context to make him look bad.

For whatever reason, Barton is not telling the truth. The mistake in question comes from a 1990 version of Barton’s video America’s Godly Heritage. Here are Barton’s exact words from the tape:

‘On January 1, 1802, Jefferson wrote to that group of Danbury Baptists, and in this letter, he assured them — he said the First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between church and state, he said, but that wall is a one-directional wall. It keeps the government from running the church, but it makes sure that Christian principles will always stay in government.’

In a later version of the video, Barton carefully fixed this mistake, so it’s not something he could have forgotten.”

A Lynch Mob Strategy

September 30, 2011

Lynch mobs don’t care about facts. And lynch mobs made up of politicians and pressure groups really, really don’t care about facts. What they care about is manufacturing rage to advance political agendas. And that brings us to the story of a gay teacher and one of his students in a Fort Worth high school.

Last week a Fort Worth mother charged that her 14-year-old son had been sent to the principal’s office and assigned to in-school suspension for simply telling a classmate that he’s a Christian and that “being a homosexual is wrong.” According to a Fox News story, the mother asked for help from Liberty Counsel,  a right-wing litigation group the Southern Poverty Law Center says focuses heavily on anti-gay activism.

The Fox story repeats claims that the student’s comment came when a discussion in German language class somehow shifted to religion and homosexuality in Germany. The student said his side comment to a classmate got him in trouble with the teacher:

“It wasn’t directed to anyone except my friend who was sitting behind me. I guess [the teacher] heard me. He started yelling. He told me he was going to write me an infraction and send me to the office.”

Matt Krause, the Liberty Counsel attorney helping the student and his mother, protested the suspension (a punishment that the principal reversed). The student “should never have been suspended for exercising his constitutional rights,” Krause said.

Liberty Institute, the Plano-based Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family, also weighed in. The group’s director of litigation, Hiram Sasser, claimed the student was simply exercising his First Amendment rights: “All the kid did is leaned over and said that that kind of lifestyle was against the Bible.”

David Barton, head of Texas-based WallBuilders (which argues against separation of church and state), got in on the act, pushing the story on his Twitter account: “Texas Boy Punishes Student for Opposing Homosexuality.”

And, predictably, notorious anti-gay hater Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association rejoiced when the school district  suspended the student’s teacher with pay while it investigated the incident: “Great news: teacher who got student suspended for biblical view of homosexuality has been suspended by school. You agree?”

But is this really a case of a public school trying to silence a student’s free speech? Or is it, rather, a textbook case of a lynch-mob strategy in which far-right groups manufacture a controversy to inflame passions and promote a political agenda?


Brandeis to Barton: Stop Being a Coward

September 22, 2011

Since David Barton probably won’t take correction from TFN’s press release, perhaps he’ll listen to celebrated Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. In his oft-cited concurrence in the Whitney v. California  decision, Brandeis points out what the Founding Fathers — whom Barton loves so much — thought about trying to “enforce silence” on speech you don’t like:

Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, selfreliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence. (Emphasis added)

— Brandeis concurrence in Whitney v. California, 47 S. Ct. 641, 648-49 (1927)

Barton Tries to Suppress Free Speech

September 20, 2011

The Texas Freedom Network today released the following statement in regards to a lawsuit filed by David Barton against two former Texas State Board of Education candidates and an Internet writer.

Prominent Texas Republican Targets Critics with Lawsuit


Sept. 20, 2011

A libel and defamation lawsuit filed against two former Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) candidates and an Internet writer appears to be an attempt by a prominent Texas Republican to chill free speech about his questionable past associations, Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said today.

David Barton filed a lawsuit on September 1 alleging that two Democrats who lost SBOE races in 2010 had falsely painted him as a sympathizer with white supremacists. Barton is a prominent public speaker and is closely associated with national GOP leaders and former Fox News commentator Glenn Beck. He is also head of WallBuilders, a far-right advocacy group that argues against separation of church and state, and former vice chair of the Texas GOP.

“It’s puzzling that Mr. Barton has chosen now to sue two former candidates for simply discussing something that has been in the public record for nearly two decades – his past associations with groups reportedly tied to white supremacist and anti-Semitic movements,” Miller said. “Instead of suing people for essentially repeating what has already been reported, perhaps he should acknowledge his poor judgment in associating with fringe groups.”


Circling the Wagons for Perry

September 19, 2011

It’s become a staple of modern presidential elections — at the first hint of criticism from the right flank, a Republican puts out a call to religious-right kingmakers to testify to his or her religious bona fides.  So when Texas Gov. Rick Perry found his conservative credentials in question (over the HPV vaccine mandate and other issues that troubled social conservatives), the Perry campaign obviously pulled out the standard playbook.

But Gov. Perry doesn’t do anything modestly.

Where other candidates might simply get Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University to give them a platform to speak to social conservatives — something Gov. Perry did last week — the governor gets the religious pooh-bahs themselves to carry his message to the base.

Leading the charge: pseudo-historian David Barton of the Texas-based WallBuilders organization. Barton took to Twitter a few weeks ago to circulate a detailed rebuttal to a popular email listing “14 Reasons Why Rick Perry Would Be A Really, Really Bad President.” Most of these 14 charges have nothing to do with social issues (they focus primarily on Gov. Perry’s economic record), but Barton wants to make sure all his followers know that the governor no longer supports his controversial Trans-Texas Corridor.

Remind us again, David, what this has to do with “educating the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country.” (Barton is widely credited online with authoring this document, though it is unsigned. But it reads more like Gov. Perry campaign talking points, which made me wonder if the real author wasn’t a lowly campaign staffer and Barton is just the puppet mouthing the lines.)


Barton Gets the Hook

September 14, 2011

So this happened to David Barton yesterday.

Our friends at Right Wing Watch report that  the daily radio show of the religious right’s favorite amateur historian was yanked, mid-show, from a Christian radio station in East Texas. The reason given: Barton’s ongoing defense of new Texas resident and former Fox News commentator Glenn Beck.

Here’s the story, via Warren Throckmorton:

An affiliate radio station of the Moody Network in East Texas, KBJS-FM, canceled David Barton’s Wallbuilders Live radio program during the show yesterday while Barton was discussing Glenn Beck’s religious beliefs. Randy Featherstone, KBJS manager, said the show was dropped due to Barton’s failure to distinguish between Mormon theology and Christianity.