David Barton Misleads Again

Our friends at Right Wing Watch found this video clip of David Barton — the history revisionist who heads Texas-based WallBuilders — claiming that passages of the Constitution come “verbatim” from the Bible. In this case, Barton claims that the Constitution’s language on treason comes “verbatim” out of Ezekiel 18:20.

From Right Wing Watch:

Here is Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.”

And here is Ezekiel 18:20:

“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

This is the second time that Barton has falsely claimed that a specific provision in the Constitution reflects Biblical language verbatim, leading us to suspect that he does not actually know what the word “verbatim” means.

8 thoughts on “David Barton Misleads Again

  1. What I find a bit odd about Barton’s claim of verbatim quoting from the bible is that I have never seen either Hebrew or Greek anywhere in the Constitution.

  2. What I like best about that clip is that Barton is speaking to a mostly-empty auditorium.

  3. That’s interesting because no record exists of either the Bible or Christianity being discussed during the 4 month long Constitutional Convention. In fact the only religious episode occured one morning when deist Ben Franklin suggested opening the session with a prayer. The motion was seconded by Roger Sherman; however it was then met with a flurry of objections and failed to pass.

    On a related(right wing evangelical) topic after a considerable amount of reading – Jeferson, Madison, John Locke, Priestey, Diderot, Montesquieu – I’ve concluded that this world would be a much better place if John Calvin had never lived.

  4. What comes out of the fossilized scripture mind of Barton is irrelevant. Totally. Who cares if the Constitution was founded on the Bible or Harry Potter. Who cares what Jefferson thought, or ate, or wrote? Perhaps fun subjects to discuss on the back porch with a beer.

    But, irrelevant.

    Number one. We in the 21st century run the country, not Jefferson. Thank you, Mr. Jefferson, for your insight but times change and so do we. We’ll keep the stuff that works and toss the stuff that doesn’t.

    Number two. The Constitution is a living document. It has changed a few times since Jefferson and the world has not come to an end. It will change more over time, too.

    I really lose patience with the Bronze Age “thinkers,” and I use the term very lightly, like Barton and his fellow undereducated followers. It doesn’t matter TODAY one whit whether Jefferson was a Christian or not 200 years ago. Sorry, just not relevant to our society. Barton clings to his imaginary past because he doesn’t have the intellect to propose shaping the future. He’s a spent charge, a damp squib; a source of derision, scorn and ridicule, but nothing else.

  5. Breckinridge brings up an extremely salient point. If you look at the full spectrum of religious right nuttery or fruitcakiness, the very worst of it does indeed come from the bowels and urinary tract of Calvinism and so-called “reformed theology,” which also has Calvinist roots.

    Rousas Rushdoony was a Calvinist, and Christian fundamentalism itself was born in the same Princeton University Calvinist crucilble that enabled Rushdoony. Francis Schaeffer was a Calvinist. D. James Kennedy was a Calvinist. Numerous other Lords of the Religious Right were and are Calvinists. Interestingly, the religious righters that hijacked the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979 are being heavily criticized by Baptist pastors (the ones not afraid to speak up) for taking the SBC in a decidedly “Calvinist direction” over the past 33 years. These two people are also Calvinists:



    Nancy Pearcy, who claims to possess “total truth,” (How scary is that?) is actually an employee of the Discovery Institute.

    Several years ago, I pointed this anomaly out to Randall Balmer at Barnard College (Columbia University). He said that he had never noticed this, but seemed to be glad that I pointed it out to him. Of course, my key question to him was: “Why is Calvinism the root of so very much that spews out of the Religious Right?” Well, he did not have an immediate answer because he had really never noticed it, but he promised to think on it some.

    Thank you for being so observant and astute Breckinridge and for calling this to the attention of TFN. I was begining to think that I was the only person who ever noticed this.

    I can think of possibly one thing about Calvinism that might—just possibly—be the key factor here. Calvinism is founded at least partially on the concept of “predestination.” This means that God picks out the people that are and are not going to be saved by Jesus even before they are ever born. In Calvinism, God is reduced to being the ultimate chessmaster of the universe, moving pawns and kings around the board in whichever way suits his fancy. In addition, this concept, taken a short step further, would advocate the notion that everything that happens in our universe, great and small, is predestined to happen by God. In other words, if a glob of snot falls out of your nose and lands on your pencil eraser during a staff meeting, God prescheduled that to happen at exactly 3:05 p.m. When Cindy, sitting across the conference room table from you, shreeked “Oooooo!!!! Snot!!!” at the site of your glob, that reaction at that precise moment was itself preordained from the foundation of the world.

    Well, if your entire goal in life is to be a danger religious right fruitcake, Calvinism has the unique utility of giving you a license to do anything you want to do. For example, let’s pretend you are a Calvinist and 500 people disagree with your fruitcake “Christian Reconstructionist” theology. Anyone who disagees with your theology is an enemy of God, and the enemies of God must be destroyed. Therefore, you kill them in God’s name. A day or two rolls by and he thinks back on the executions:

    “Was that the right thing to do? Well, it would have happened only if the Lord had predestined it to happen. Therefore, it was what was supposed to happen all along. God must have arranged it, so I am off the hook.”

    This is the kind of extended distortion of scripture and theology that Islamic extremists reach for when they want to crash airplanes into tall buildings.

    So, in summary and just as a hypothesis to test, I would pose that some of the fruitcake Calvinists think (by some weird extension) that the concept of predestination gives them a free license to do whatever evil thing they want to do in our world and then soothe what tiny shred of conscience they might have left by blaming it all on God. Comedian Flip Wilson had the right idea here: “Duh debble made me do it.” With the strung out Calvinists: “God must have made me do it.”

  6. John Calvin was an advocate of the cruel, mean-spirited type of religion practiced is prevalently in west Texas. I hesitate to even call it Christianity.Instead of preaching a message that celebrated the benevolent man that was Jesus Christ, Calvin’s approach was to beat people over the head with the Bible, all the while screaming threats of eternal damnation in their ear. It’s a most rigid and unappealing approach to religion.

    And this theme may sound familiar: “Knowledge of the sciences is so much smoke apart from the heavenly science of Christianity” said Calvin in 1556. Calvin was anti-Darwin before Darwin was even Darwin. Again it smacks of a current religious right theme – all science must be denied, because if any scientific discovery proves one single thing in the Bible to be wrong, then that means the entirety of the Bible is wrong. It’s the all or none proposition.

    I don’t know this to be a fact, please correct my if I’m wrong, but I think Calvin also cooked up the idea that if you aren’t born-again, if you haven’t had a conversion experience and become infused with the spirit, then you can’t go to heaven. This is yet one more of the pillars in quicksand upon which right wing evangelicalism is constructed. It’s the use of religion as an exclusionary tool.

  7. The problem with Calvinists is they put their faith in John Calvin instead of Jesus Christ, hence the reason they’d like to kill their enemies (all who don’t believe in Calvin). From what I’ve seen, they’re cold-hearted folks whose marriages don’t go too well (the women are beaten down) and who are generally just not happy.

    On the other hand are believers in and followers of Jesus Christ. They “love their enemies” as Jesus teaches them to do in his Word. Whereas Calvinists like to see people burn (John Calvin was notorious for burning people at the stake), followers of Jesus like to pull people out of the fire.

    Hope you can tell the difference.