David Barton has a reputation as a silver-tongued speaker, a skill he has polished in thousands of presentations and media appearances. And he is a prolific writer, self-publishing scores of tracts, books and videos over the last two decades. Here, in Barton’s own words, is a sampling of the propaganda that has made him such a polarizing figure.
Separation of Church and State
Barton argues that the nation’s Founders intended to create a Christian America with laws and society based on the Bible and calls separation of church and state a “myth.”
In his America’s Godly Heritage video, Barton falsely claims that the “wall of separation” Thomas Jefferson noted in his letter to the Danbury Baptists was intended to be one-directional (Texas Monthly, King of the Christocrats, Sept. 1, 2006):
- 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.
Barton also claims that the nation’s Founders based key constitutional principles on the Bible, as he did in a July 2011 radio interview:
- Now we have the Due Process Clause in the Constitution and the 4th and the 8th Amendments and that’s where you get an attorney and the right to confront your accuser and habeas corpus and all the things that are there, every one of those came out of the Bible. And it started in the Reformation with these guys pointing to the bad trials going in Europe and they said, look at the trials in the Bible, you got the trial of Naboth under Ahab and Jezebel, you got the trial of Jesus, the trial of Paul, the trial of Peter, none of the trials in Europe were being done biblically, we gotta get a system where we can do that. I mean the Declaration of Independence is about having good trials as it is about anything else and the trial clauses all came out of the Bible.
He has written that U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison, who is Muslim, has “flaunted American traditions and cultural values” by openly taking his oath of office on the Koran instead of the Bible, and he has encouraged others to seek Ellison’s conversion to Christianity:
- Ellison may not have the same beliefs as the Muslims who openly decry and even attack America; nevertheless, their behavior reflects on him. It is therefore understandable that citizens outside his district are highly concerned. This concern was heightened by the fact that Ellison himself publicly flaunted his abrogation of American precedent by making his swearing-in on the Koran a national issue.
Barton has also helped promote hysteria over the non-existant threat of Sharia law in the United States. In a June 2011 broadcast of his WallBuilders program, Barton told show co-host Rick Green that federal Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Congress passed during the 2008 financial crisis, promotes Islamic law:
- And attorneys who went after TARP, because it allows Sharia law, and TARP, the way that Obama did Sharia law — I mean that TARP put Sharia law in places in financing.
- In Hindu [sic], you have not one God, but many, many, many, many, many gods. And certainly that was never in the minds of those who did the Constitution, did the Declaration when they talked about Creator.
Barton also argues that atheists shouldn’t have the same rights as Christians, such as allowing them to hold office or testify at a trial. His organization made this clear in a brief filed in a 2010 federal court case involving religious discrimination:
- It is one thing to allow freedom of conscience to all. It is another to trust atheists to testify at trial or hold office. This is so because, if one does not believe in God and in an eternal state of punishment or reward, one has no reason to fear that punishment and thus, the theory goes, will be more likely to engage in immoral or unethical behavior, to the determent of one’s fellow citizens and of society.
Religion in Schools
Barton has claimed that the end of state-sponsored religious instruction in public schools has led to numerous social ills, as he did in “Back To The Roots,” a publication of the Christian Coalition, 1995:
- We could correlate that when the court made certain decisions on values, we would see subsequent corresponding changes in societal indicators. Like when you took the Ten Commandments out [of public schools], violent crime went up.
Speaking in July 2011 on his WallBuilders’ Live! radio program:
- If the premise is that taking prayer out in ’62, ’63 affected education, then the reverse premise is putting prayer back in will restore education. And that’s interesting because there’s a ton of stats that the schools that returned to prayer have academic scores exactly what they wore prior to 1962, 1963, that is fascinating that we can show that when you take prayer out our academic knowledge just went through the floor but it can also show that when you put it back in their knowledge recovered. So two those things are fairly significant and when you get a double correlation in social sciences that pretty strong stuff and we got that on the effect of prayer.
Barton characterizes the debate over evolution as a “death struggle between civilizations,” with the courts siding with “non-theistic” evolution and threatening what he sees as the biblical foundations for protecting freedom. He has even bizarrely argued that the nation’s Founders already settled the debate over whether to teach about Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution:
- As far as the Founding Fathers were concerned, they’d already had the entire debate over creation and evolution, and you get Thomas Paine, who is the least religious Founding Father, saying you’ve got to teach creation science in the classroom. Scientific method demands that.
In fact, Darwin was born the same year Paine died (1809), and his book on the theory of evolution, On the Origin of Species, was not published until 1859.
Barton has also tried to cast the issue of climate change as a philosophical and spiritual battle rather than a debate based on scientific data and facts. On a WallBuilders Live! radio program in April 2011, he suggested that climate scientists are ignoring scientific evidence on climate change:
- And the great proof that it’s a philosophical worldview is when you refuse to listen to opposing data. When you get all these scientists on the other side … who roll out all these studies that say “no, no, no that’s wrong.” When you won’t listen to opposing data, science has nothing to do with it. You’re into a worldview conflict at that point and your saying that my worldview demands that I have more control over your life, over what you do, that’s why government does exist, you’re here to serve government, not vice versa, and this is the vehicle to do it. This really has nothing to do with science.
- Are you kidding me, Earth Day in the schools? We’ve got to save the Earth? I mean, that’s like a tick … trying to save a whole herd of cattle. I mean, ticks go along for the ride, they don’t manage the cattle, they don’t tell them where to go. And that’s our arrogance in thinking that we can do something to save the planet and control where the planet goes. You know, we’re just along for the ride and we’re insignificant peons on this thing.
Barton is also skeptical of the benefits of funding research at public universities, even though only about 20 percent of research in the United States is currently performed by the private sector. From an October 2009 WallBuilders email opposing the creation of a “national research university fund” in Texas:
- [F]ree enterprise already provides extensive and productive private research whereas government funded research often results in questionable projects and endeavors that would never withstand free-market scrutiny or competition.
In his role as an official “expert” adviser to the Texas State Board of Education in 2009, Barton recommended removing the revered civil rights and labor leader Cesar Chavez from new social studies curriculum standards for fifth-graders in Texas public schools:
- His open affiliation with Saul Alinsky’s movements certainly makes dubious that he is a praiseworthy to be heralded to students as someone who modeled active participation in the democratic process.
Barton uses superficial and misleading versions of history to promote his faith and ideological beliefs, as in his recommendation in 2009 to the State Board of Education to add the following student requirement to social studies curriculum standards:
- (I)dentify and analyze the causes and effects of events prior to and during the American Revolution including the French and Indian War, George Washington’s emergence as a nationally recognized figure following the providential preservation of his life during the Battle of Monongahela, and the Boston Tea Party.
The “providential preservation” of George Washington’s life in that battle is a faith claim and is not a matter of historical record. To require that public school students learn it as fact would clearly be inappropriate.
Another example of Barton’s attempts to politicize history was his claim (again as an official “expert” adviser to the State Board of Education during the revision of social studies curriculum standards) about a recommendation from a conservative curriculum writer “that if McCarthyism is noted [in the curriculum standards], then the Venona papers need to be explained that exonerates him.” Although a leading scholar on the Venona papers has flatly dismissed the claim that they “exonerate” McCarthy, Barton argued otherwise and recommended including the “Verona [sic] Papers” in the standard addressing McCarthyism:
- [The recommendation] is quite proper and reflects a commitment to accuracy and truth in history.
In 2010, Barton argued that the government should regulate homosexuality, claiming that “homosexuals die decades earlier than heterosexuals” and that homosexuals have more than 500 sex partners in a lifetime (both claims have been declared myths by the Southern Poverty Law Center):
- So if I got to the Centers for Disease Control and I’m concerned about health, I find some interesting stats there and this should tell me something about health.
- Homosexual/bi-sexual individuals are seven times more likely to contemplate or commit suicide. Oooh, that doesn’t sound very healthy.
- Homosexuals die decades earlier than heterosexuals. That doesn’t sound healthy. Nearly one-half of practicing homosexuals admit to 500 or more sex partners and nearly one-third admit to a thousand or more sex partners in a lifetime.
Speaking in August 2011 on his WallBuilders Live! radio program:
- I’m sorry, your sexual choice is not a God-given right. You’re talking about a choice and you’re talking about elevating a choice to an inalienable right, which is impossible, you can’t, not under the definition of American documents.
Speaking to Kenneth Copeland in Sept. 2011, Barton implied that voting for candidates who support gay rights would “kill the blessings” of God upon the voter:
- “I will tell you where this becomes very significant politically, it Romans 1:27-32, the scripture says not only does God not approve homosexuality, it says He does not approve those who do approve of homosexuality. So I’ve got a ballot, I’ve got a vote, I vote for somebody that approves homosexuality, God doesn’t approve me if I approve those who approve homosexuality. The Bible is so good about helping us know how to vote, because what you said is exactly right. The reason homosexuality will kill the blessing and I’ll tell you why, if I support someone who supports homosexuality, it will kill the blessing on me whether I’m a homosexual or not.”
On his radio show in Aug. 2011, Barton claimed the American Academy of Pediatrics, a leading group of pediatricians, had warned the country’s school superintendents that schools were indoctrinating and forcing students to be gay:
- If you’ll just let this develop naturally, they’ll end up being heterosexual unless you force them to be homosexual. Well that’s a remarkable letter coming from the leading pediatric association in America. And this is what it says, ‘for this reason schools should avoid developing policies that encourage non-heterosexual attractions among students who may be experimenting or experiencing temporary sexual confusion.’
But Warren Throckmorton investigated the claim and found that warning had come not from the American Academy of Pediatrics, but rather from the “American College of Pediatricians, a small group of socially conservative pediatricians and other interested people. In 2003, the group broke away from the 60,000+ member American Academy of Pediatrics due to disputes over homosexuality and abortion.”
Barton uses the Bible to justify his political positions on immigration. In fact, he has tried to make the case for God creating international borders:
- God’s the one who drew up the lines for the nations, so to say open borders is to say, “God, you goofed it all up and when you had borders, you shouldn’t have done it.”
Barton’s rabid partisanship is evident in his comments about the moral values of nation’s two major political parties:
- There truly is a difference between Congressional Republicans and Democrats, and nowhere is this difference more evident than on traditional moral values. The Democrats’ cry of ‘partisanship’ is simply a smokescreen to divert attention from the lack of a moral compass that permeates their Party.
- However, in the wake of the impeachment vote [regarding President Clinton], the Democrats are finally clamoring for something that America actually does need: bi-partisanship. America does need two parties standing up for what is morally right. America does need two parties demanding accountability for the acts of all individuals regardless of their social position. America does need two parties seeking to preserve the moral foundations of the nation. Up to now, the only thing preventing this bi-partisanship is the Democrats.
- The current partisanship exists only because the overwhelming majority of Democrats demand on the defense of what is morally indefensible and refuse to join with the overwhelming majority of Republicans who continue to defend what is morally right. It is time for Democrats to heed their own call and become bi-partisan, joining with the Republicans in defending America’s great moral values.
Undermining Judicial Independence
Barton believes Congress should impeach judges whose rulings are opposed by social conservatives, such as on the issue of prayer in schools, and he argues that the judiciary should not be an independent branch of government:
- As citizens, we need to educate ourselves on the proper use of judicial impeachment, and then we need to educate our Representatives, reminding them of the need for judicial reform and alerting them to those judges showing a pattern of abuse. The time for encouraging judicial accountability is once again ripe. This is a golden opportunity for citizens to weigh in and make a difference.
The Bible, Wages and Taxation
Barton also uses the Bible to justify his anti-tax and anti-government political positions:
On the capital gains tax:
- The Capital Gains Tax, which is a tax on profits, actually penalizes a person for success the more profit you make the more you have to pay (i.e., the more profit a person makes the higher tax rate they pay on that profit/windfall from an investment). However, In the Bible, the more profit you make the more you are rewarded. Both the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and the parable of the minas (Luke 19:12-27) conflict with the notion of a tax on capital gains. “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” In other words, the Bible implies that those who do well (invest) with what they have will be given more.
- The parable of the landowner and laborers (Matthew 20:1-16) is applicable to the employer/employee relationship and the issue of wages. The landowner hires workers at different times of the day and yet pays each worker the same amount at the end of the day. When the workers hired first complain, the landowner replies, “Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?” (“things” is translated as “money” in some versions) There is an implication that the landowner had a right to determine the wages his workers received, as well as an implication that the workers could accept or reject the landowner’s offer of work. James 5:4 provides a balance in that the Lord hears the cries of the laborers who are cheated out of wages they are due.
On income taxes:
- The current income tax structure in the United States mandates a higher tax rate or percentage the more a person makes. This tax system is contradicted by scripture, especially Exodus 30:11-15, which provided a “half a shekel” tax for everyone numbered. Verse 15 states: “The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel.” In addition, the Biblical Tithe is not applied progressively, rather it is applied equally to everyone (“And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord. . . .And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord.” Leviticus 27:30,32).
On inheritance taxes:
- The Bible speaks to the issue of inheritance numerous times. Proverbs 13:22 states “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (something that is not likely with the current Estate Tax which can take up to 55% of an estate, leaving 45% to the children; when the children pass it on to the grandchildren, up to 55% of the remaining 45% can be taken, leaving only 27% of the original that would be passed on to the “children’s children”). Ezekiel 46:18 states that “the prince shall not take any of the people’s inheritance by evicting them from their property; he shall provide an inheritance for his sons from his own property, so that none of My people may be scattered from his property.” Other scriptures that deal with inheritance are Proverbs 19:14, I Chronicles 28:8, and Ezra 9:12.