Blogger and psychology professor Warren Throckmorton has a new piece up exposing how David Barton, the pseudo-historian who founded the religious-right organization WallBuilders in Texas, is trying to cover up errors in his historical work. Barton’s apparent strategy: revise his claims but don’t tell anyone about those corrections.
Throckmorton points out how a Barton tour of the U.S. Capitol for the far-right group Family Research Council in 2007 was turned into an FRC video presentation. In that video Barton makes various assertions about the intentions of the nation’s founders. A number of those assertions are distortions, and Throckmorton writes that 34 Christian historians and social scientists asked FRC to remove the video from You Tube. FRC recently made the video private on its You Tube page. Then Barton revised the video and posted it on his WallBuilders site. (Throckmorton includes both versions of the video in his blog post.)
Throckmorton goes on to list a number of revisions in Barton’s new video — revisions Barton apparently made without any announcement or other public acknowledgement that his old video was filled with distortions. Some of the changes are fairly subtle (though still significant). A number, however, fail to completely correct Barton’s distortions. Throckmorton lists a number of claims that Barton has revised, including:
- A claim that Congress printed the first English-language version of the Bible to be used in schools
- A claim that 29 of 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence had seminary or Bible school degrees
- A claim that Thomas Jefferson started a church in the Capitol
- A claim that, as president, Jefferson ordered the Marine Corps Band to play for worship services in the Capitol building
Throckmorton notes that some of Barton’s revisions still are likely to mislead viewers of the video:
“Clearly, Barton has changed his story on some key claims he has been making for years. However, he continues to defend erroneous conclusions even as he walks back on his prior stories.”
Nevertheless, he write:
“As Barton begins to walk back some his claims, I am curious about who will inform all of the audiences he has misled. He has told countless churches and evangelical audiences that Congress printed the first Bible for the use of schools, and that 29 out of 56 signers had Bible school degrees, and so on. Will he take responsibility for informing these audiences of the errors? Will the Family Research Council do so?”
You might recall that Barton has acknowledged making historical claims based on what he’s read Louis L’Amour novels, has made false claims about Thanksgiving proclamations issued by President Obama compared to those issued by earlier presidents, and has called the idea that the founders wanted the Bill of Rights to protect the rights of the minority “ridiculous.” Last year Thomas Nelson Publishing pulled publication of Barton’s book about Thomas Jefferson, citing criticism from scholars and others that the book was filled with distortions and misleading information.
We wonder whether Texas State Board of Education members and other gullible politicians who claim Barton is a respected historian will ever admit that so much of what he promotes about history is misleading or just downright fraudulent.