David Barton Shamelessly Misleads Hundreds of Pastors at Big Texas Renewal Project Event

When hundreds of pastors and their spouses descended on Austin on April 3-4 for a Texas Renewal Project event, it was clear that the effort to drag houses of worship into partisan politics was kicking into high gear for the 2014 elections. But we were stunned by the sheer audacity of speakers who told the gathered pastors one mistruth after another — all designed to rile up pastors and encourage them to turn their congregations into political machines.

Some of the most outrageous comments came from David Barton, the religious right’s favorite phony historian and founder of WallBuilders, the Texas-based organization that argues separation of church and state is a myth. Laurence White, a Houston pastor who headed up the Texas Renewal Project’s predecessor organization, the Texas Restoration Project, introduced Barton:

“He knows more about the Founding Fathers than George Washington does. He is the most articulated, informed, knowledgeable defender of America’s Christian heritage and the values and the truths and the convictions that shaped and brought this country into being. I’m proud to call him my friend and the greatest historian of the Founding Fathers I’ve ever known.”

“Greatest historian”? Oh please. Scholars and other writers have picked Barton’s shabby, politicized “work” to pieces. Moreover, Christian publisher Thomas Nelson ceased publication of Barton’s book about Thomas JeffersonThe Jefferson Lies, in 2012 after scholars pointed out that it contained numerous errors and distortions. (And, of course, there is the ongoing embarrassment over Barton speaking at events sponsored by white supremacist groups in the early 1990s.)

But Barton, who served from 1997 to 2006 as vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, is nothing if not shameless. He spoke to the pastors several times during the two-day Austin event. During his first spell at the podium, Barton immediately launched into an attack on San Antonio’s newly revised Nondiscrimination Ordinance (NDO), which now bars discrimination against LGBT people and military veterans in employment, housing and public accommodations. (The city already barred discrimination based on other characteristics, including race, gender and religion.)

Not content with simply disagreeing with efforts to treat LGBT people equally under the law, Barton proceeded to break (repeatedly) one of the Ten Commandments — the one that forbids lying — in front of all those pastors. Speaking just after former Republican Congressman JC Watts of Oklahoma, Barton absurdly claimed that Watts — who opposes marriage equality for same-sex couples — would be barred from serving on the San Antonio City Council because of the new nondiscrimination ordinance (text below from the video at the top of this post; emphasis added):

“The problem is, under the Nondiscrimation Ordinance that they just passed in San Antonio, if you did what JC did tonight and if you stand up for traditional marriage – marriage is a man and a woman – you are dismissed from office in San Antonio under the new city law. So JC, even though he’s elected by an overwhelming majority in San Antonio, he’s out the door. ‘You can’t do that. The people elected him.’ Yeah, but the new law in San Antonio says if you criticize homosexuality or homosexual marriage, you are dismissed from office.”

The crowd let out an audible gasp — as it should have because what Barton said isn’t true. Nothing in the ordinance bars someone who opposes marriage equality for lesbian and gay people from serving on the San Antonio City Council. But Barton doubled down, suggesting what would happen if he ran for office in San Antonio:

“I decide I’m going to run for City Council in San Antonio but they have found that what I’m saying tonight is criticizing homosexuality, I am barred from running for office in San Antonio.”

Not a word of that was true. But Barton continued on, distorting what the ordinance in San Antonio really does — and, of course, riling up the bamboozled pastors at the same time.

And so it went throughout the talks by Barton and other right-wing evangelicals. Speaker after speaker painted a picture of America hurdling down the path to destruction, spiritually and otherwise. The Texas Observer accurately described the overwhelming anxiety that seemed to pervade the ballroom:

“The message on offer is grim and fearful. This is a room full of people that are falling out of love with their country. It used to be a place that held promise for them and their cohort. But it’s changed, dramatically and for the worse, and the pastors don’t know if they can get it back in time.”

Among the biggest complaints were, as one country preacher said to the audience, the “HO-MO-sexual movement” and the “abortion people.”

The government is telling Americans “you’ve got to kill children,” declared Mat Staver, dean of law at the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. He was complaining about the federal requirement that employer-provided health insurance plans include coverage for birth control. (Staver also founded the right-wing litigation group Liberty Counsel.)

Staver went on to compare — bizarrely — the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal to the infamous 1857 Dred Scott case. In that latter case the Court ruled that African-Americans — free or enslaved — had no legal standing in federal courts because they weren’t U.S. citizens. Same thing, right?

Other speakers also played on the pastors’ fear and anxiety over a shifting legal and cultural landscape in America. Jason Taylor, pastor of the Barnone Cowboy Church in East Texas, put the issue in dire terms. “You take a stand!” he thundered:

“And don’t you waver and don’t you move, and you die standing your ground! That’s what this state, by golly, was founded on. That’s what’s in my blood right there. I ain’t moving! I will not be moved. I will die standing the ground for my children and my children’s children. I’m not moving.”

And, of course, speakers encouraged pastors to return home and politicize their congregations. Staver even argued that federal regulations against tax-exempt churches engaging in lobbying and partisan elections are toothless and easy to get around: “You could literally turn your church into a lobbying machine,” Staver declared.

Dragging churches into partisan politics was, of course, the primary reason for the Austin event. TFN exposed the Texas Restoration Project as a front group supporting Gov. Perry’s 2006 re-election campaign. Organizers under that banner hosted six “Pastors’ Policy Briefings” in Austin, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio the year before. Speaker after speaker praised Perry, who had a featured speaking slot at all of the events. In fact, TFN later discovered that major Perry campaign donors funneled money through a private Houston foundation (now defunct) to cover the $1.2 million it cost to hold those events.

The Texas Restoration Project served as a model for state Renewal Projects in a number of presidential election battleground states in 2008 and 2012. The main organizer, David Lane, has used those events to build a massive pastor contact list. And each event featured favored Republican candidates as well as speakers urging pastors to politicize their churches.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor this year, was scheduled to speak at this year’s Austin event, but he ended up sending his wife instead. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz made remarks by video and introduced his father, Rafael Castro, who spoke on the second day. Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and a number of right-wing pastors also spoke. Over the next few days we’ll report more about what they told the pastors and their spouses.

40 thoughts on “David Barton Shamelessly Misleads Hundreds of Pastors at Big Texas Renewal Project Event

    1. You would probably appreciate visiting David Barton’s collection original manuscripts and books written by the founding fathers. You could compare his collection with the collection of original documents at the secular, politically correct schools from which you received your “authentic” degrees.

      1. Wait a minute. Are you saying that no one but David Barton has ever seen these manuscripts and books?


        Are you saying that the real historians at major universities have seen them and are lying about their contents?


        Are you saying that David Barton has seen these documents and hundreds more and could not possibly be lying and/or misrepresenting their content because so-called “Godly men” are incapable of engaging in deceptive behaviors

        If you are claiming the latter about people in general who are perceived to be “Godly men,” you have got to be one of the most naive persons who ever lived. Enjoy your life as a mindless idiot and know that you will be swindled by every crooked preacher and parisioner that comes your way.

        1. Please cite EXACTLY and in detail where David Barton is wrong in his revelation of history and please site accurately the original documents that are your sources and where they may be verified. Please don’t cite revisionist sources found in our politically correct institutions of “progressive” education.

          1. Jim. Thank you for just proving to me that you have no brains at all by writing off every university-trained American history professor who ever lived, thereby by claiming that anything they say about Barton and his scholarships is automatically false because they are part of Satan’s deluded army.

            The next time the moon is absent from the sky because it is in its new moon phase, I will claim that the moon was temporarily stolen by giant, cheese-hungry rats from Alpha Centauri.

            You need to consider whether Jesus is going to kick you in the ass for living your life in ignorance and stupidity.

          2. And what original documents are you referencing? Please don’t quote the biased revisionists, regardless of how “many” there are.

          3. Sorry Jim Kennedy, but David Barton IS a revisionist and traffics in revisionist sourcing, both Biblical and Constitutional.

  1. Revisionist trash. That’s all we need is more idiots trying to push their personal beliefs into the government where it doesn’t belong.. /facedesk

  2. It’s absolutely true that David Barton is barred from holding elected office in San Antonio. Not because of his opinions on marriage or anything else, but because he doesn’t live in San Antonio.

    1. David Barton and J.C. Watts can run for city council in San Antonio in the same way that Hillary Clinton was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York.

  3. Hitler and Stalin would be very proud of TFN for exposing these nasty, evil, outspoken people who are trying to restore some morality to our society and government. Let the network of freedom ring!!! Who cares about history and truth and morality!!!

      1. If attempting to discourage homosexuality and attempting to encourage Biblical marriage is lying, then the entire Bible is a book of lies.

        What is quoting out of context and lying about lying?

        1. I have a slightly altered version of the message that a Christian fundamentalist acquaintance of mine in Alabama used to quote every time a famous person died.

          “D. James Kennedy is in Hell now.”

          If I were taking bets right now and knew that God was going to tell us the right answer immediately after the bets were laid—and my life depended on the right answer—that is the one I would choose.

          1. God has already given us the right answer–it’s call the “Holy Bible”. Don’t take my word for it; read it for yourself. However, let me warn you, if you try seriously to disprove it, you might become one of “us”.

          2. What the Holy Bible says and what God says in it pose no difficult problems for me. Like most mainline Christians and people with a half-functioning brain, our problem is that we do not believe that you know what it says. It’s really easy to duck the issue by making claims that no one can prove, the silliest of all being that:

            “Weez ones is the only true ones what’s saved. All the rest is lost cuz theyzuns is not zactly like us. Dontchey see? When weezuns gits saved, the Holy Spirit enters our bodies and gives us “special eyes” so weezuns and only weezuns has the ability to know what them verses really says. That’s how weezuns knows that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.”

            The past and current ministers at my United Methodist Church have real theological educations from real seminaries, like at Duke University. They would rip your minister to shreds and enjoy doing it.

        2. Out of context? He said he would be “barred from running for office in San Antonio” for criticizing homosexuality. That’s not true. “Context” isn’t the issue here. Barton’s dishonesty is. Or do you think it’s moral to mislead pastors?

          1. Before accusing someone of lying, you would do well to look closely at the language of ordinance. It threatens to remove from office any city official in San Antonio who shows a bias “by word or deed” based on sexual orientation. The San Antonio City Council has been warned before and since passing the ordinance that it is in violation of the constitution.
            The city can now look forward to some very costly litigation.

          2. Jim: It’s you who should “look closely at the language of the ordinance.” In fact, San Antonio’s ordinance once said: “no person shall be appointed to a position if the city council finds that such person has, prior to such proposed appointment, engaged in discrimination or demonstrated a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability.” But the new nondiscrimination ordinance removed that language. Moreover, even the old language didn’t bar someone from serving on or running for City Council because he or she opposed homosexuality or same-sex marriage. But maybe you, like David Barton, prefer to spread misinformation. Isn’t that a sin? That’s what I was taught.

          3. I don’t know Dan. Have you checked to see whether Jim is actually David Barton or one of his stoolies.

          1. I didn’t realize that homosexuality existed until after I started to college and, when I heard about it, I couldn’t believe it. When I was finally convinced that such sick behavior does exist, I became nauseous.

          2. Hmm. A more sheltered childhood than even me, the Preacher’s Kid in small-town America. We heard the rumors that Rock Hudson and Liberace were “queer” in 1961 or so. ‘Course nobody believed the first of those at the time…

    1. Jim, are you making an attempt at sarcasm? I honestly can’t tell. A big component of “morality” by any definition I ever want to use includes ” treat others as you would have them treat you.” Do you subscribe to that, also?

      1. Yes, I would definitely like to be treated to the honest truth by a knowledgeable person whether it justified my behavior or made me feel guilty. I wouldn’t go to a doctor who withheld the truth from me because he felt it might hurt my feelings or cause me to dislike him. Neither would I attend a church that did the same.

    2. > “The government is telling Americans “you’ve got to kill children,” declared Mat Staver, dean of law at the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.”

      Tell you what brother, when the Conservative/GOP/Theocracy nexus makes as strong a stand for the access to food and healthcare for “children” and the vulnerable segments of our population, then you will start to have some credibility. But until then you are just a bunch of power hungry autocratic minded folks stooping to manipulate the voting public with inflammatory nonsense.

      Moreover, your conflation of Biblical values with your own personal materialistic desire for unfettered capitalism is an apostasy and an affront to the authentic intent of Christ’s expectations for us.

  4. The Presbyterian Church USA explains some of this in their curriculum document “Understanding Christian Fundamentalism (Lesson 2).” Here is what they say:

    “Because they believe their goals are mandated by God, they often believe the ends justify the means, a dangerous position. They have used fear tactics to persuade,
    and they are not above blocking information and misusing information to further their agenda. They claim their agenda is “God’s will,” which can be very persuasive.”

    “At the very least, fundamentalists have succeeded in instilling fear in many who feel the fundamentalist agenda will continue to deprive people such as women and children, gays and lesbians of equal rights. And some would credit fundamentalists and their encouragement of hatred towards gays as being at least partly responsible for the rising suicide rates among distraught gay teenagers. In some cases their belief that men must be dominant in the household has been used to justify child abuse and domestic violence. Finally, fundamentalists have successfully convinced many Americans
    and people around the world that Christians are ALL fundamentalists with fundamentalist beliefs and politics.”

    (The word ALL was my emphasis in that last quote.)

    Basically, what we have here is Christians (Presbyterian Church) pointing the gnarled finger of accusation (rightly)at a bunch of Christian fundamentalists who engage in lies, deceptions, and other distortions of the truth to support their peculiar politico-religious views—and they do not care who gets hurt in the process.

    Put another way, sin is no longer sin when bold-faced and obvious sinning (even on a grand and hurtful scale) can be used to support Christian fundamentalist, conservative evangelical, and Religious Right causes.

    The Bible does not support any of this sinful behavior. Nowhere does the Bible say that lying is “good, right, and true” as long as it is done in the name of God.

    All of the people who are telling these tall tales and lies at this so-called “Christian” political meeting ought to be ashamed of themselves for engaging in public behaviors that dishonor Jesus.

  5. Are you a Christian and taking God’s name in vain? Are you a Christian committing blaspheming? Many of the Christians are! Ten Commandments #3: you will not misuse the name of the Lord our God. The King James Version says, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain”. What does that mean? Does it not mean you will not use God’s name when you are committing sins against God? Does it not mean you will not speak for God by saying God did this because…, God caused the hurricane because man was evil; God did this because you were evil; God did this because America did this; or God did this because you….! Have republican Christians not heard of the Devil, the Destroyer, and the Deceiver? The republican Christian Right believes they are the ones that speak for God. The conservatives are quick to place blame in God’s name. I hear God saying something total opposite than what the republicans are claiming God says. When I read the Bible or pray to God, I hear to love and serve by being the shining light of His gossip; not force what I hear from God on other’s free will that will cause the redemptive opportunity to be lost.
    I hear God speaking to me through Deuteronomy 10:12 to respect God; to live in God’s ways; to love our God; to serve God wholeheartedly; and to obey God. I hear God speaking to me in Micah 6:8 to be just to all; to love mercy for all; and to walk humbly with God. I hear God telling me to love, to have compassion, to care, and to serve the poor, the needy and the helpless 236 times in His Word, the Bible. I hear God telling me in Proverbs 14:31 that if I oppress the poor that I will have contempt towards God and that in Proverbs 31:8-9 to defend the rights of the poor and needy; yet the republicans take food from the hungry poor children. I hear Jesus telling me three times in Matthew 19: 23-24, Mark 10:24-25 and Luke 18:24-25 that the rich are as likely to enter Heaven as it is to put a camel through the eye of a needle; but yet the republicans defend the wealthy and capitalism. I hear God telling me in Romans 13: 1-7 to submit myself to governing authorities that He established, to not rebel against those authorities; and to pay my taxes to those governing that He established; but yet I see the tea party, the republicans and the conservatives not summiting to the government with a tenacious rebellion fighting taxes on the rich and any form of government. I hear God telling me over 500 times in the Bible to love.
    You tell me if you really think being a republican is what God is telling you, because God is telling me republicans are committing blaspheme and taking our God’s name in vain. Tell me if the hate towards Gays, the slander, the racism, the rebellion against the government, and the fundamentalism of the republicans is what God wants for His children. Jesus showed us what He thought about the Pharisees and the republicans are today’s Pharisees!

    1. Thank you Larry. You have just quoted a large number of the Bible verses that make people on the religious right become sick or go into instant functional denial about their existence. Do not get me wrong. They know they are there, but they just would rather think about something else.

    2. Are you suggesting that America should move more rapidly into socialism where everyone is equally poor?

  6. Any church whose pastor abuses the pulpit for partisan purposes should be denied the religious exemption from paying taxes. If they are going to become politicized, then we should not be supporting them with the taxes that the rest of us pay.

  7. If David Barton et fils. are so concerned about “baby-killing” (their term for the DECISION of a woman to obtain safe, legal, accessible abortion of HER fetus which is INSIDE HER body, why aren’t they concerned about those extremely late-trimester abortions their beloved state of Texas (where I also reside) at the helm of Rick Perry performs ROUTINELY when it carries out an execution of an already-born, air-breathing human. Admittedly, such humans were found guilty of heinous crimes (even though some were found, post-execution) to have been INNOCENT, but since a criminal who has been alive for, say 160 trimesters (age 40 years), is not as cute as an embryo, such lives are worthy of disposal. I’m not saying let convicted murderers out of jail; I’m just saying don’t kill them. Especially if you go around crowing about how “pro-life” you are…..Rick, are ya listenin’?

    1. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Religious Right has an inconsistent stance on pro-life issues. Getting down to the basics, its members are in love with the idea of killing “guilty life.” Any guilty life you might find, let’s go kill it!!!

      The Religious Right and fundies too have a culture of death, focused mainly on those people who are perceived to be enemies of Christ—which is everyone on the planet that does not believe exactly as Jimbo Kennedy does. After all, Jesus has already counted them as fodder for final death. “Why don’t we just speed up the process some. Maybe we’ll get rewarded for it in Heaven.”

      Their primary focus in life is Biblical law, judgement, and death.