David Barton's Tall Tales for Texas Pastors: Bible Verses in the Constitution, Bible Teachings on Taxes

We told you some of the whoppers David Barton shamelessly spouted to hundreds of pastors and their spouses at the Texas Renewal Project event in Austin on April 3-4. His dishonest claims on Thursday evening that someone who criticizes homosexuality is barred from running for the San Antonio City Council were clearly designed to rile up conservative pastors at the gathering. But when Barton returned to the podium on Friday, he vomited out even more nonsense — this time explicitly trying to tie the Bible to a conservative political agenda.

Barton suggested that too many Americans don’t vote the right way because they are “biblically illiterate.” And the reason they supposedly don’t know much about the Bible, he insisted, is because public schools don’t teach students about it. Barton, who absurdly served as an “expert” adviser when the Texas State Board of Education revised social studies curriculum standards in 2009-10, even invented an example — suggesting that he faced opposition when he proposed requiring textbooks to identify civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. as a minister:

“They said ‘we can’t put reverend doctor in the textbook. What are you thinking? We can’t call Dr. Martin Luther King a pastor.’ He was! ‘Yeah, but we can’t put that in the textbooks.’ We work out tails off to make sure we don’t talk about God in America. It’s amazing how far we’ve gone in that direction.”

Barton is making this up. We recall no such debate during the curriculum standards revision four years ago, and we monitored it from beginning to end. In fact, textbooks — including those used in Texas classrooms today — already did identify King as a minister. We know. We checked. Moreover, open up just about any American history textbook and flip through the index. You’ll find numerous references to the influence of religion in our nation’s history.

But Barton didn’t stop there. He went on to insist that the Constitution includes Bible verses throughout (text from the video clip above):

“If you know the Bible, and if you will read the Constitution, remembering what the Bible says, you will find Bible verse after Bible verse throughout the Constitution. The problem we have is people say this is a secular document, it’s a Godless document…. When somebody today tells me the Constitute is a secular document or it’s a Godless document, they have just told me that they are biblically illiterate. They wouldn’t recognize a Bible verse if it bit them in the ankle because they’re all over the Constitution, but we just don’t recognize the Bible anymore so we call it a secular document and people buy into that because they don’t know the Bible well enough.”

Bible verses in the Constitution? This isn’t a new distortion. Our friends at Right Wing Watch have noted (see here and here) Barton making the same claim to gullible audiences in the past.

But Barton didn’t stop there either. He argued that the Bible makes clear how Christians should vote on public policies, such as taxes. Remember that Barton served as vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party for nearly a decade. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Barton essentially told pastors that the GOP’s positions on taxation are supported by the Bible. He started by talking about the federal tax and spending deal made between President Obama and congressional Republicans in January 2013:

“What happened in this fiscal cliff deal, for the first time in American history, we made the estate tax a permanent tax…. The Bible singles out the estate tax as one of the most immoral type of taxes that can be placed on the nation. Shouldn’t have an estate tax. We just made it for the first time in history a permanent tax. We also took the capital gains tax and we raised it higher than any other nation in the world…. Jesus has two entire teachings condemning the capital gains tax. And we’ve got things like progressive taxes. You see, we went from three types of progressive taxes to five types of progressive taxes in the fiscal cliff bill…. The Bible condemns progressive taxation and affirms capitation taxation. The Bible is so good on economics. That’s why we built our free market system on the Bible. But today we’re biblically illiterate and don’t know that these aren’t political issues. These are biblical issues. The Bible talks about economics.”

The fiscal cliff deal made the estate tax permanent “for the first time in American history”? Barton pretends to be a historian, but he shows over and over again that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about (or that he is lying). Congress instituted the modern estate tax in 1916. The federal government has had other versions of estate taxes as far back as 1797. The Bush tax cuts in the early 2000s led to elimination of the estate tax in 2010, but it returned in 2011.

In any case, Barton’s message to pastors was hardly subtle: good Christians support the Republican Party because the GOP’s positions are biblically based. Utterly shameless. What was even more astonishing, however, is that the hundreds of pastors in the audience didn’t storm out in anger over Barton treating them like gullible fools who’ll believe anything he says.

We’ve got more coming. Stay tuned.

11 thoughts on “David Barton's Tall Tales for Texas Pastors: Bible Verses in the Constitution, Bible Teachings on Taxes

  1. You Know. I have to wonder something. Why would a person who claims to be a Christian behave like this knowing full well that one day God is going to light him/her up like a Nero palace torch because of it and sling him/her like a runaway meteorite into the Lake of Fire to burn and wail pitifully for all time. The traditional Christian fundamentalists say this is the inevitable fate of all who make a lifetime of behaving in these sorts of ways that TFN describes.

    In my honest opinion, not trying to hurt anyone, a person would have to be so psychologically detached from their own behavior that they are unable to notice the graveness of their own sin


    One does these things because they no longer believe in Jesus (or never did) and feel that no eternal penalty awaits them because Jesus was not who he said He was.

    Those are the only plausible explanations I can posit that would explain the facts of what we see.

    Does anyone else have any better hypotheses? If so, I would like to hear them.

    1. The theological concept justifying this kind of behaviour is ‘pia fraus’ (pious fraud), i.e. if it fosters G#d’s case, lying (and almost any other misdeed one could come up with) is not only allowed but actually encouraged. Also, these kind of people have no problem to dispute that ‘bearing false witness’ has anything to do with lying (or that ‘thou shall not kill’ actually means ‘unless with good reason’).

  2. This is simply a case of dumb and dumber. You’ve got the least educated, most gullible, delusional audience listening to a shameless con-man and charlatan.

    There’s a reason Barton confines his exposure to country preachers and not the history department at the University of Chicago.

  3. Its politics – just like fox news, they know they can lie to their audience because they’re super gullible – why do you think they follow religion in the first place?

  4. He is right in one respect, too many Americans ARE biblically illiterate. That’s why Christianity still runs rampant in this country, and in politics.

  5. It doesn’t matter what they are selling; all successful con men are good at the art of lying to a willing audience. Religion is an ideal issue because it’s hard to examine for facts unlike swampland in the southern USA and good liars can even sell that. I’ve heard this guy at work(lying) and he is good;even better than some ministers who hinge their future on selling their literal version of the bible to a congregation just waiting to be fleeced. Barton has good looks, a good word smith, a pleasing voice, an appearance of sincerity all the while with fraudulent credentials. If the audience was really biblically literate He’d be out on his butt and rather quickly. He knows precisely why public schools don’t teach the bible (Supreme court ruling re First amendment) and he better be glad. If the bible was taught comprehensively by neutral sources these kids would boo him out of the system. And what would they say to their science denying parents even before they are eligible to vote, and who for? Barton still gets his followers and exerts his influence because in an effort to overcome stupidity even the gods toil in vain.

  6. What would it cost to send a letter to each of the pastors / ministers who attended Barton’s lies and let them know the truth about how he lied to them? Would probably be money well spent.