David Barton Tries to Suppress Free Speech

Prominent Texas Republican Targets Critics with Lawsuit

September 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.”

“If this suit is simply an intimidation tactic designed to dissuade people from criticizing Mr. Barton’s past associations and chill free expression, then this could be the case of a revisionist historian trying to revise his own history, in our opinion,” Miller said.

Barton’s lawsuit alleges that Democrats Rebecca Bell-Metereau of San Marcos and Judy Jennings of Austin defamed him last year in a campaign YouTube video. It also charges that an Internet writer libeled him by calling Barton a liar.

Bell-Metereau and Jennings were critical of Barton’s appointment in 2009 to an “expert” panel advising the SBOE on new social studies curriculum standards. Barton is a political activist and self-styled “historian.” The campaign video noted that Barton is “known for speaking at white supremacist rallies.”

Writers long ago reported that Barton was promoted as a speaker at two events sponsored by questionable groups in the early 1990s. An April 1993 article (link below) in Church & State, magazine of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, noted that Barton was a featured speaker at a 1991 summer retreat in Colorado sponsored by Scriptures for America – a far-right organization that the Anti-Defamation League has linked to the “Christian Identity” movement (link below). According to the ADL, the “Christian Identity” movement argues that Jews are spiritually degraded and pose a threat to civilization, that blacks and other people of color are inferior to whites, that gay people should be executed and that northern European whites and their American descendants are the “chosen people” of scriptural prophecy.

Barton and his organization claimed in a July 2, 1993, letter that WallBuilders’  staffers “had absolutely no idea” that the head of Scriptures for America was “part of the Nazi movement.” (Link below.)

Barton’s appearance at that retreat and another 1991 event in Oregon sponsored by a separate group reportedly linked to the “Christian Identity” movement were the subject of two articles in the Casper Star-Tribune in June 1997. (Links below.)

April 1993 article from Church & State: http://www.au.org/files/pdf_documents/sects-lies-and-videotape.pdf

Anti-Defamation League on Scriptures for American and Christian Identity movement: http://www.adl.org/learn/ext_us/peters.asp?learn_cat=extremism&learn_subcat=extremism_in_america&xpicked=2&item=8

Letter from Wallbuilders: http://a.tfn.org/site/DocServer/WB_letter_Barton_speech.pdf?docID=2863

Articles from Casper Star-Tribune: