Barton the Backpedaler

A couple of days ago we blogged that “It’s fascinating to watch religious-right extremists turn on each other.” Well, now you can listen to extremists backpedal like nobody’s business because they turned on each other.

On his WallBuilders online radio show Monday, the radical right’s favorite (phony) historian David Barton took pains to explain away his comments on “The Daily Show” suggesting that Muslim-majority communities in America have the right to impose Sharia law if they want to. Not surprisingly, Barton’s comments resulted in a backlash from fellow religious-righters.

On his WallBuilders radio show Monday, Barton’s co-host tried to explain, in a convoluted way, that Stewart asked the question too quickly. Barton then goes on to explain that he was agreeing with Stewart that Muslims are free to express their faith, not that he agrees with Sharia law.

Barton goes on to say:

There is no way to look at our record and say anything other than “Hey, we do not support Sharia law.”

And this:

We teach too many classes on the Constitution, we do too many books on the Constitution, we do too much on preserving the American Constitution to even be considered as having, or wanting or supporting a replacement. It would be ridiculous.

And also this:

In that sense, if somebody takes that clip and leaves out the other 35 minute interview and they’re saying, “Oh, Barton supports Sharia law,” that is a deliberate distortion. We got a really long track record.

Barton, the same guy who has made a career out of cherry-picking “facts” and ignoring mountains of evidence to the contrary to promote his own right-wing revisionist history of the United States, is now telling us to ignore his comments and consider the totality of his work.

Irony, thy name is Barton.

20 thoughts on “Barton the Backpedaler

  1. I found a PDF document via the WallBuilders Facebook page that said the following:

    ‘During this fast-paced interview, Jon and I covered a wide variety of topics – from education, to bills passed in Congress, to freedom of religious expression. It was a great program; we had a lot of quick-witted exchanges (after all, he is a national comedian). Several days after the interview, however, confusion about one of our exchanges caused rumors to spread that I supported Sharia Law on The Daily Show. As we were talking about free exercise of one’s faith in our high-energy exchange, I began answering a question about Muslims being able to live out there faith as well and Jon added “Sharia Law” to the question during my answer. I did not even know he said “Sharia” until after the interview was over. I unequivocally do NOT approve of Sharia Law in America; I wholeheartedly support the US Constitution.’

    Watch the Stewart interview. I’d say Barton is lying. Again.

  2. There is no confusion, other than Barton’s pathological lying. They weren’t discussing faith, they were discussing law. Barton is lying, of course, that’s all he does.

    Stewart and Barton were clearly discussing the limitations of federal law over state law. Stewart used the example of a large Muslim community in Dearborn, Michigan and said to Barton, “So, if a community that has a Muslim majority, like Dearborn, Michigan, wanted to exercise Sharia Law that would be OK?”

    And Barton was taking it all in. It wasn’t too fast. Barton nodded in agreement, which threw Stewart for a loop, and then Barton clarified his position by saying, paraphrasing, “Yes, that would be their right. What I am saying is that I oppose anybody coming in from the outside and imposing their law.”

    So, yes, indeed Barton clearly stated that in the situation described that he supported Sharia law. I must say, I watched the extended web interview and was quite surprised to hear Barton say that knowing that he was going to catch hell for it later, but it only confirmed my position that Barton is a pathological liar, he lies as a form of speech and that Barton can’t be trusted to hold any position as he will change it on a whim, and back again on a whim.

  3. The only legal law in the USA stems directly from the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, including those laws at the local, state, and national level which conform to the Constitution. If there is one thing the Constitution makes clear, it is that “religion” shall not be established by law or government at any level, whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian or by any other name. The only “religion” laws which are valid in the USA are The Religion Commandments in the Constitution, the name of my book, which closes the debate without any doubt.

    The way to overcome the distortion which continues to prevail throughout this nation is to stop using the misleading wording “church and state,” which words are not in the Constitution and distort what the Constitution says. It is the whole subject of “religion” which is not to be established by law in the USA. When is Stewart and TFN going to finally read the Constitution and accept it as written? When the wording of the supreme law of the land is used, there is no debate as to how ridiculous Barton and his ignorant followers are. Nonetheless, TFN is and has been just as responsible for the continued misrepresentation as Wallbuilders.

  4. I suspect that Barton is one of those people who lies so often that they begin to believe their own lies are the truth. I guess it is sort of a Hermann Goebbels BIG LIE that gets repeated so often that the repeater recognizes it as truth. Is that something like firing a gun in a bank vault? I dunno.

  5. Well, on that level of distortion and “lie” we can also include TFN, the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, People for the American way, FFRF, because all of them are still using the misleading wording “church,” as if the Constitution is to be ignored. The word in the Constitution is “religion,” not “church.” It is a “religious” test and “religion” which are not to be established by law or government, the essence of coercion, at any level of government in the USA. That is what the Constitution commands.

  6. Gene, please give it a rest. Awhile back, you said:

    “I have previously challenged TFN with the same information, but I get no reply from TFN.”

    This is untrue. They have replied to you several times. Does that make you a liar? If your perception of lying is broad enough to include TFN, the ACLU, etc., then it’s broad enough to include you, too.

    I respect your other contributions, but your repetition becomes tiresome. So I will make a request. Find a website or thread where fundamentalists hang out. Start a debate regarding the “separation of church and state.” Whip them in the debate and show us how you change their minds with your proper use of words. Give us a link, of course, so we can follow along. Seriously, if you think it’s as easy as using the right words, show us.

  7. Ben, I submitted my position to the “wallbuilders” link, but as promised on their page, it was apparently offensive, not allowed, and does not appear. So, I will paste it here, just for you and TFN, I will repeat my strict constructionist, grammatically correct, constitutionally irrefutable position:

    This is an open letter, to David Barton and everyone else, to quit using the words “separation of church and state,” because those words are not in the Constitution. It is incorrect to change the wording of the Constitution and then assert it means what it does not say. It is incorrect to assert the word “church” is in the Constitution. It is improper and dishonest to distort what the Constitution plainly says.

    When talking about what the Constitution commands: it is a “religious” test (Art. 6.), which shall not be required, and it is the whole subject of “religion” which shall not be established (First Amendment), not just a church. It is absolutely dishonest to change the words of the Constitution or to say it means what it obviously does not say.

    In other words, the words in the Constitution are no “religious” test and no law respecting an establishment of “religion,” which includes everything related to “religion,” not just to a church. It is the entire subject of “religion” which is not to be established by law or Congress or government at any level and that constitutional understanding is grammatically and correctly confirmed by use of the free exercise word “thereof,” in the free exercise clause, because “thereof” takes its entire meaning from that to which it refers, “religion, ” and the word “thereof” cannot mean just “church.” It means “religion,” the entire subject of “religion,” because that is to what “thereof” refers.

    In other words, the entire argument of Wallbuilders and David Barton, who does not have a degree in history that I know about, is completely destroyed when the Constitution’s words are the center of the constitutional discussion. As the Father of the Constitution wrote, “Strongly guarded … is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution,” James Madison, William and Mary Quarterly, 3:555. Look for that document on the internet by searching for James Madison;s “Detached Memoranda,” or locate it at a library which holds a copy of the William and Mary Quarterly, 3: 555, i.e., volume 3, page 555.

    If I am correct, I repeat, David Barton does not have a degree in history from any college or university, but he was a high school math teacher. Nevertheless, it is a bogus argument which limits the constitutional principle of “separation between Religion and Government,” James Madison, to “church,” rather than to the entire subject of “religion.” Correct understanding of the terminology, that is, the words of the Constitution, in Art. 6., Sec. 3., “no religious test,” and in the First Amendment, “no law respecting an establishment of religion,” cannot be denied by either David Barton, the “Religion Right,” nor the Supreme Court, and cannot stand against a strict construction of the Constitution’s words: in the USA there is to be no “religious” test and no “law” even “respecting” an establishment of “religion.”

    The Constitution commands “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” Art. 6., Sec. 3., and “religion” shall not be established by law, Congress, or any other level of government.

    In the USA religion is to be voluntary, not established by law, and no “religious” test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Those are the religion principles established in the Constitution, and they mean just exactly what they say and command.

    The word “church” is not in the Constitution. The word “religion,” is, so, please, do not be dishonest about what the Constitution says, by asserting it is talking just about a “church.” That is a lie.

    “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.” William and Mary Quarterly 3:555.

    I consider David Barton to be a preacher, an ecclesiastic, which is okay, because I majored in “religion” and have a Master of Divinity from a seminary. However, I also minored in history and simply disagree with the historical version of about what our nation is in respect to religion: America is a nation in which citizens of all religions and of none are welcome. There is to be no “religion” tests and no laws even respecting an establishment of “religion.” The Constitution commands it, I believe it, and that settles it.

    Thank you for understanding the word in the Constitution is “religion,” and it is “religion” which is not to be established by law or Congress. James Madison even objected to the appointment of the chaplain. What part of “Congress” and “religion” does Congress not understand? Thanks for reading my objection to David Barton’s distortion of history.

    Gene Garman, Baylor ‘62,

  8. Gene, did you change any minds?

    I wish you were right—that simply using the right words would make these nutcases admit they are wrong—but I’ve never seen that happen. Instead, as they did on the Barton thread, they ignore you, or delete you, or distort and deceive, or simply keep insisting you are wrong.

    If you can find a thread where you manage to change any minds, please do, and share. But I don’t think you will ever change any minds. They are liars. Your use of the right words won’t matter to them.

    I hope you don’t think I’m being disrespectful to you, because I don’t intend it that way. I’m just skeptical (with good reason, so far), that your argument will have any effect anywhere. But, again, keep trying, and if you manage to get into a debate somewhere online and change minds, please let us all know. Because, seriously, if you find the magic combination of words that will have any impact on the type of person that follows David Barton, you will have accomplished quite a bit. Why not keep posting on the WallBuilders page until they answer?

  9. Ben,

    Apparently, I have still gotten my point across:

    It is the minds of TFN, AU, ACLU, ARL, PFAW, FFRF, etc. whose mind I am attempting to change: stop using the words “separation of church and state” as if those words are in the Constitution. They are not in the Constitution, and they mislead everyone else into thinking and believing that about what the Constitution is commanding is establishment of a state church, etc. The Constitution is talking about establishment of “religion,” the entire subject thereof, not just of a church. It is that distortion in understanding which needs to be destroyed. The Constitution says exactly what it means, so do not distort what it says by using the word “church,” because that is what our opponents want everyone to believe. They are wrong. That is not what the Constitution says. Thomas Jefferson was not a Founding Father, see Webster’s. Quit using Jefferson’s quote as a source as to what the Constitution means. It as simple as that. Then, the debate will proceed at every level of understanding using the exact wording of the Constitution, not of the distortion generated by Jefferson. It is to TFN and AU, etc., to whom my point is directed. I have no hope that the Religious Right will ever want to understand the difference. It is you and every separationist who needs to comprehend the difference and the significance, and which is why I published my book, The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer. I hope you have read it. Unfortunately, TFN sends these little comments on only to the few of us on this little string and probably has never mentioned my book or my point to its entire mailing list, because it too still uses “church-state” terminology, as if that is the point of the Constitution. All use of those words do is confuse and mislead, especially our opponents.

  10. Gene,

    We’re talking past each other.

    Many times you have talked about TFN “losing the debate” to people like Dunbar and Barton. You make it sound as if all TFN has to do is use the right words to win the debate. I’m asking you to show us how it’s done. Go “win” a debate on this topic somewhere online and give a link to it. It should be easy for you, right?

  11. Ben,

    Understanding of the Constitution depends upon its words. I am debating with you. Show me the words “church and state” in the Constitution. I am waiting for your reply.

  12. Gene, if the article linked above was misattributed to you, let me know. I realize that things on the Internet aren’t always accurate.

  13. What I am saying is what I have always said, the word in the Constitution is “religion,” not church. How many times have I quoted James Madison’s words “separation between Religion and Government,” and identified Madison as the source of those quoted words. I have never said the words “separation between Religion and Government” are in the Constitution. Why would I say something so obviously inaccurate? The word in the Constitution is “religion,” not church, and that is the point I have made over and over. Because Madison is the “Father of the Constitution,” I quote him using the same word “religion” as exists in the Constitution. I have over and over again objected to use of Jefferson’s “separation of church and state” as accurately representing what the Constitution actually says. Jefferson had nothing to do with writing the Constitution. Just what is so difficult about using the words of the Constitution? The word “church” is not in the Constitution. What the Constitution separates is “religion” from the powers of government, that is, “religion” is not to be established by law or government, starting with Congress, at any level, The word “church” is a distortion of what the Constitution commands, which is why I object to TFN using the words, including “church-state,” which the last time I looked is still in its preface, unless they have deleted it since the last time I looked. The word “church” does nothing but cause confusion and leads many to think it is only a state church which the Constitution prohibits. No, it prohibits the entire subject of “religion” from being established by law or government at any level. TFN stubbornly has refused to abandon the misleading word “church.” Has TFN ever even printed a statement of the fact that Jefferson had nothing to do with writing the Constitution? He was in France from 1784 to 1789. Why is this accurate understanding of history so difficult to comprehend for TFN? And, as you know, I published a whole book about this issue: .

  14. Gene,

    I hope you believe me when I say that I wish you were right, that if we would all stop using “separation of church and state,” that we would “win” the debate with the far right. But I see no evidence of that at all. I’ve asked you for evidence, but all you’ve given me is your opinion. I’ve asked you to go win a debate somewhere with your tactics, but you haven’t done it. I’ve stumbled across threads where you appear to be debating “non-separationists” and you sure didn’t appear to be convincing them of anything. I didn’t read the entire threads, though. Did you “win” one of those debates? If so, please provide a link.

    Of course, you’ve provided (many, many times) ample evidence that the words “separation of church and state” are not in the Constitution, and you continue to repeat that evidence. But that point is meaningless, because nobody here has EVER refuted that. We all concede that point. There is no need to debate this point with anyone here. Instead, provide some evidence that no longer using “separation of church and state” will help us in the least. Your opinion is not evidence.

    You say: ‘I have never said the words “separation between Religion and Government” are in the Constitution. ‘

    Yes, I know, and to repeat, nobody here has ever said “separation of church and state” is in the Constitution. But, just as many people use “separation of church and state” as shorthand for the concept, you’ve used “separation of religion and “government” many times in your essays, and I don’t blame you. People (including you) are going to need and want a shorthand way of summarizing the concept, whether you call it “separation of church and state,” “separation of religion and government,” or something else entirely. My point is, regardless of what shorthand phrase you use, dishonest far-righters like Beck, Barton, O’Donnell, etc., are going to say those those words are not in the Constitution. What is the alternative to using a shorthand phrase? A one-hour lecture on the topic by a candidate during the middle of a political debate?

    Further, let me draw your attention to one of your own essays again: This one right here:

    Here’s an excerpt:

    ‘You can say that it is subjective to assume the principle of separation between religion and government in the Constitution because it does not specifically use those exact words; but, when the Father of the Constitution, James Madison, (who was one of the Founding Fathers who personally drafted the Constitution and who was personally on the six member committee which produced the final draft of the religion clauses of the First Amendment) says that the Constitution strongly guards “separation between Religion and Government”–even though those exact words are not specifically used in the Constitution, an understanding of Art. 6, Sec. 3, which is in complete agreement with James Madison, certainly cannot be fairly accused of being subjective.’

    So you are defending the principle of separation of religion and government (and, apparently, the use of that shorthand phrase) by showing that Madison used those words himself, and you frequently scoff at “separation of church and state” as said by Jefferson (even though you also use that Jefferson quote in your own essays as supporting evidence, which is odd). Yet, in your own essays, you’ve quoted Madison using almost exactly those same dreaded words, as follows:

    “The Civil Govt . . . functions with complete success; Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State”

    In that quote, he didn’t say “religion” and “government,” he said “church” and “state.”

    So why doesn’t this quote by Madison legitimize “separation of church and state” the same way that his use of “separation of religion and government” legitimizes those words?

    Regardless, whatever words you use, Barton and the others won’t EVER concede the point. Even a one-hour lecture won’t do it. So, in my opinion, quibbling about the use of “separation of church and state” is a time-waster, as we both are proving on this thread. You are a smart guy, and are obviously very widely read on this topic. I wish you’d use your knowledge for something more productive.

  15. Obviously, I disagree. It is the Constitution’s words which prevail in court. The word “church” is not in the Constitution. The word “religion” is in the Constitution. The word “religion” means just what it says, which means the whole subject of “religion” is not to be established by law or Congress or government at any level. Our opponents love to use the word “church” as if that word is in the Constitution and that is what the word “religion” really means. The word “church” limits the understanding of what the Constitution commands, and the word “church” is not in the Constitution. It is silly to argue the Constitution means anything but “religion,” the entire subject thereof. No one can lose the debate when using the word in the Constitution.

    Of course, both Jefferson and Madison, from Virginia wherein a state church existed, used the words “church and state,” but those words are not in the Constitution, as Glenn Beck will tell you on page 287 of his book Arguing with Idiots, regardless, and which is why I do not use either Jefferson’s or Madison’s “church and state” comment when debating what the Constitution says. There is a difference in the Constitution which you cannot deny, and neither can anyone else. The word is “religion” which means the whole subject “thereof.” Madison even objected to the appointment of the chaplain in Congress, because the Constitution commands “religion” shall not be established by Congress, which includes chaplains.

    By the way, you will find my reference to the Madison quote on my spageagecalendar. Just look it up on the internet.

  16. “No one can lose the debate when using the word in the Constitution.”

    Prove it.

  17. What does the word “thereof” in the free exercise clause mean? The word “thereof” gets it entire meaning from that to which it refers and means whatever is meant by that to which it refers. There is no way any English teacher or grammatical construction of the Free Exercise Clause can or will allow any other understanding as to what the First Amendment means than to understand that the wording of the First Amendment means and says “religion,” not church.

    To continue to use the word “church,” when referring to what the First Amendment says and means is an outright revision and distortion of the wording. Even Art. 6., Sec. 3. of the Constitution says “no religious test,” not no “church” test. It is a lie to assert the Constitution is talking only about establishment of a church, a state church, or a national church, when its very words say “religion.” The religion commandments in the Constitution say “religious,” and “religion,” and the word “thereof” can mean nothing else but “religion,” as clearly worded, and anyone who asserts or suggests otherwise is English ignorant or dishonest.

    The wording of the religion commandments in the Constitution mean exactly what they say and can grammatically mean nothing but “religion,” the entire subject “thereof.”

    I have just grammatically proved the words of Article Six and the First Amendment say and mean exactly what they plainly say. The word “church” is not in the Constitution, and to suggest otherwise is simply inaccurate. There is no inconsistency in grammar between Art. 6, the no establishment clause, or the free exercise clause, as any teacher of English grammar will tell you. Further, the debate coaches at Baylor would be proud, because words mean things, and you just lost the debate. You cannot make the religion commandments in the Constitution mean “church.”

    It is the entire subject of “religion” which is not to be established by law or Congress or government at any level. Establishment of President Obama’s Office of Faith=based Ministries is unconstitutional, the congressional chaplain is unconstitutional, as Madison said, school vouchers are unconstitutional, official prayers at schools are unconstitutional, the Ten Commandments on public property, etc., etc., etc., because they are all related to “religion” which shall not be established by Congress, law, or government at any level. The Constitution means what it says and is the supreme law of the land. It is as simple as that.