Exposing David Barton’s Lies about America

We’re glad to see that more Americans are learning the truth about the far right’s minister of propaganda — phony historian David Barton. Regular TFN Insider readers already know a lot about Barton and his Texas-based organization’s efforts to destroy basic constitutional protections for religious freedom in America. In addition, the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s 2006 report on the religious right in Texas exposed Barton’s politicization of religion.

Yesterday MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell turned his focus to Barton as well, asking why this fringe right-winger matters. Guest Peter Montgomery of People for the American Way gave O’Donnell’s audience a pretty accurate portrayal of the far right’s minister of propaganda. Here’s a little of what Montgomery had to say about Barton:

“He’s a historian in the same way that the creationists who teach that the world is 6,000 years old are scientists. they comb through history, looking for one little scrap of evidence, and they ignore mountains of evidence to the contrary.”

“By making every issue a religious issue and claiming that God has one particular position — and Barton will tell you that the Bible mandates the far-right position on everything, not just abortion and gays but immigration and economic policies — he then says  if you’re wrong, if you disagree with him, you’re not just wrong on the issues, but you’re anti-God. . . . We believe that’s dangerous and it’s bad for democracy. If you’re opponents are ‘evil,’ it makes it a lot harder to have a real conversation about policy and to reach compromise. It makes it very hard to solve are problems.”

“I think a lot of Christians would not recognize the Bible as David Barton promotes it.”

Watch O’Donnell’s segment on Barton here.

21 thoughts on “Exposing David Barton’s Lies about America

  1. I think the way to deal with Barton is two-fold:

    1) Label him as a propagandist rather than a historian—which is true.

    2) Send you own anti-Barton traveling medicine show around to churches—any church willing to listen.

  2. You only need to have stayed awake in 8th Grade government class to realize that Barton is a complete charlatan. It takes a little effort to understand exactly what Barton is doing, that is, a version of the Gish Gallop, a presentation technique popular with creationists, side show barkers and telemarketers: dump a lot of false information quickly then move on.

    Barton is not simply a sloppy historian, rather, he’s a propagandist who deliberately stitches together his narrative and is careful to deliver it to the willfully ignorant.

    Here’s Chris Rodda taking down Barton fact by fact. I included Part 6 because an interesting story starts at the end of Part 5 and I thought you’d like to see “the rest of the story!”

    Part 5

    Part 6

  3. Ben, it’s hard to worry about a little thing like humility when you have 50 or 60 cases of unsold books in your garage.
    Just kidding, Gene.
    I always say, “separation of state and religion” now, never “separation of church and state”.

  4. In all fairness, I have found Gene Garman’s book *America’s Real Religion* quite useful.

    Definitely better documented that David Barton!

  5. Yes, we all love Gene, even if he is a bit repetitious. I tend to say separation of religion and state these days too—and when you think about it—our society is so pluralistic now that any number of religions could be competing to be the official state religion—a lot of them religions that millions of people might not particularly want.

  6. This is not about anything but providing the best information available in respect to the issue. Of course I wrote my book, but it is full of information which summarize what I gathered from my education at Baylor University and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where I majored in religion and history. I have read Leo Pfeffer and Leonard W. Levy, so I know what the experts before me have written. I simply summarize and gather documents into a source which make the point as clearly as possible. For example, I repeatedly use “separation between Religion and Government,” because those are the exact words of James Madison, the Father of the Constitution. How much more authoritative can anyone be? How much more convenient can a book be when it brings the sources and documents into a compact summary of the issue. That is what I have done, from my perspective, and I have no problem promoting it at every opportunity. The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer.

  7. I plan to get a copy as soon as I have some disposable income. Right now it’s all earmarked for insurance and food and gas.

  8. Yes, I am kidding Gene, too. (This message brought to you by The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer, written by Gene Garman.)

  9. Can I just say, for the record, that I wish Chris Rodda’s work were more…propaganda-friendly? She, rather than Mr. Montgomery, should have been that guest with Larry O’Donnell. Unfortunately, she is so meticulous in her takedowns of Barton, which is really needed to show just how devious his little bits of truth scattered in the dross of BS are used as so-called evidence, and no one can condense her work into soundbite-sized rebuttals. I dunno; I guess I just feel like she does so much work, and so little credit from the MSM for it. She really is one of my heroines today.

    Please don’t take this as a knock on Mr. Montgomery, who did a great job of summarizing Barton’s biblical fertilizer.

  10. Tom and Ben – thanks for the kind words. I just wanted to make sure that you knew that the report on Barton that I was talking about on MSNBC cites and links to Chris Rodda’s work both in the text and in a list of additional resources at the end of the report.

  11. The problem with taking down Barton and his ilk is that you are dealing with fundamentally dishonest people. If you watch enough of Barton’s clips you will soon learn that he never discusses history conversationally as would a real historian which evangelical Christian minister with a BA in religious education from ORU Barton certainly isn’t, rather he throws out pre-packaged sound bites and snippets always the same. Tide goes in, tide goes out, never a miscommunication aka Bill O’Reilly. Creationists are shameless and unconscionable. They will try to beat you down with words.

    The short solution is to confront Barton often, in public and say loudly, “That’s not true!” Whereupon the creationist will play the Civility Card.

    The longer solution is to continually educate, educate, educate the public so these charlatans get less of a foothold. It’s a long process but eventually creationists will be regarded in the same light as palm readers and astrologers; an entertaining diversion but nothing seriously considered.

  12. Peter, I didn’t know. Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to check that report out. Nice work on the show. Barton is so painfully dishonest, I’m glad that people like you and Chris are pointing out his lies. Well done.

  13. Doc Bill, you’re right, it always get back to education. Which brings us, with each issue and each lie, and each discussion, back to the original purpose of this site.

  14. Wow. Hey Ben, a real life TV star just talked to us! Sparkles are flying across my monitor right now! Ahahahaha.

    Thanks, Mr. Montgomery, and keep up the great work, ’cause there sure aren’t enough of you to go around. Too bad our side doesn’t have megachurch-funding. What’s up with that, Jesus?