David Barton (author)

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David Barton
David Barton America A Call to Greatness.jpg
Barton was filmed in 1994 for the docudrama America: A Call to Greatness
Born (1954-01-28) January 28, 1954 (age 61)
Residence Aledo, Texas
Nationality American
Alma mater B.A., Oral Roberts University
Occupation Author, executive

David Barton (born January 28, 1954) is an American evangelical Christian conservative political activist and author. He is the founder of WallBuilders, a Texas-based organization which promotes the view that it is a myth that the United States Constitution insists on separation of church and state.[1][2][3] Barton is the former vice chair of the Republican Party of Texas. He has been described as a Christian nationalist and "one of the foremost Christian revisionist historians"; much of his work is devoted to advancing the idea, based upon research that many historians describe as flawed,[4] that the United States was founded as an explicitly Christian nation.[5]

Barton collects early American documents, and his official biography describes him as "an expert in historical and constitutional issues".[6] Barton holds no formal credentials in history or law, and scholars dispute the accuracy and integrity of his assertions about history, accusing him of practicing misleading historical revisionism, "pseudoscholarship" and spreading "outright falsehoods".[7][8][9][10] According to the New York Times, "many professional historians dismiss Mr. Barton, whose academic degree is in Christian Education from Oral Roberts University, as a biased amateur who cherry-picks quotes from history and the Bible."[4] Barton's 2012 book The Jefferson Lies was voted "the least credible history book in print" by the users of the History News Network website.[11] The book's publisher, the Christian publishing house Thomas Nelson, disavowed the book and withdrew it from sale. A senior executive said that Thomas Nelson could not stand by the book because "basic truths just were not there."[12]

A 2005 Time magazine article entitled "The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals" called Barton "a major voice in the debate over church–state separation" who, despite the fact that "many historians dismiss his thinking... [is] a hero to millions—including some powerful politicians."[13] Barton has appeared on television and radio programs, including those of former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and Glenn Beck. Beck has praised Barton as "the Library of Congress in shoes".[14] In September 2013, POLITICO reported that he has returned to the political arena and is advising state legislators on how to fight the Common Core academic standards promoted by the Obama administration.[12]

Early life[edit]

Barton is a lifelong resident of Aledo, Texas. He graduated from Aledo High School in 1972.[1] He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University in 1976.[15][16]

After graduating, Barton served as a church youth director.[17] He taught math and science and eventually became principal at Aledo Christian School, a ministry of the charismatic church started by Barton's parents.[1][18][19]

In 1987 Barton formed Specialty Research Associates, Inc., a company which states that it "focuses on the historical research of issues relating to America's constitutional, moral, and religious heritage." Specialty Research Associates has submitted amicus curiae briefs in court cases.[16][20][21]

Barton is the founder and president of the Aledo-based group WallBuilders.[22] WallBuilders publishes and sells most of Barton's books and videos, some of which present Barton's position that the modern view of separation of church and state is not consistent with the views of the Founders.[23] Among other beliefs about the religion clauses of the First Amendment, they argue that its religion clauses were not intended to include such faiths as Paganism and Witchcraft, but only monotheistic religions, and perhaps solely Christianity.[24]

Barton is married and has three grown children, including a daughter who performs minority outreach for the Republican Party of Texas.[1]


Barton is a former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party under state chairman Susan Weddington. He has also acted as a political consultant to the Republican National Committee on outreach to evangelicals.[13][25][26]

There was a Tea Party movement to get him to run against Senator John Cornyn in the 2014 Senate election from Texas.[27] However, Barton announced on November 6, 2013, that he would not run for the seat.[28]


He serves on the Board of Advisors of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.[29] This curriculum contains direct quotations from Barton's books, recommends the resources published by WallBuilders, and advocates showing that group's video, Foundations of American Government, at the beginning of the course.[30]

Barton serves on the Board of Advisors of the Providence Foundation.[31] In an article discussing Barton, The Nation described the Providence Foundation as "a Christian Reconstructionist group that promotes the idea that biblical law should be instituted in America."[32]

Barton, in his book The Myth of Separation, argues that Christians were the ones who were intended to hold public office and that Jews and members of other sects were not.[33] According to Skipp Porteous of the Massachusetts-based Institute for First Amendment Studies, Barton was listed in promotional literature as a "new and special speaker" at a 1991 summer retreat in Colorado sponsored by Scriptures for America, a far-right Christian Identity ministry headed by Pastor Pete Peters, which has been linked to neo-Nazi groups.[34] Barton's assistant Kit Marshall said in 1993 that Barton was previously unaware of the anti-Semitic and racist views of these groups.[35][36] In September 2011, Barton sued two former Texas State Board of Education candidates for posting a video on YouTube that stated that he was "known for speaking at white supremacist rallies".[37]

Barton is a lecturer for Glenn Beck's online Beck University.[38]


In 2007, Barton's group Wall Builders received two Silver Angel Awards from the group Excellence in Media.[39] Time included him in its list of "The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America".[40] Barton has been a frequent guest on Trinity Broadcasting Network, including the "American Heritage Series" in 2007 and the "Building on the American Heritage Series" in 2011.[41] Barton has also appeared on the The 700 Club,[42] and The Daily Show.[43]

Barton's 2013 appearance on Kenneth Copeland's "Believer's Voice of Victory" received wider attention when Barton made statements linking abortion and climate change.[44][45][46]

Reception of Barton's work[edit]

Barton has been praised by U.S. conservatives Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann[4] and Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas.[47]

He has received criticism from others, including: J. Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty,[48] Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State,[49] Gordon College History professor Stephen Phillips,[50] Senator Arlen Specter,[7] The Anti-Defamation League,[51] Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation Chris Rodda,[52] Messiah College history professor John Fea[53][54] Baylor University historian Barry Hankins,[55] and Grove City College professors Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter.[56]

Jay W. Richards, senior fellow at the Christian conservative Discovery Institute, stated in 2012 that Barton's books and videos are full of "embarrassing factual errors, suspiciously selective quotes, and highly misleading claims."[57] The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Barton's work as "anti-gay" "historical revisionism", noting that Barton has no formal training in history.[58]

The Jefferson Lies withdrawn from publication[edit]

In 2012, Barton's New York Times best-seller[59] The Jefferson Lies was voted "the least credible history book in print" by the users of the History News Network website.[11] A group of ten conservative Christian professors reviewed the work and formed a negative view of its claims, reporting that Barton has misstated facts about Jefferson.[57][60] In August 2012, Christian publisher Thomas Nelson withdrew the book from publication and stopped production, announcing that they had "lost confidence in the book's details" and "learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported."[61][62] Glenn Beck announced that his Mercury Ink imprint would issue a new edition of the book,[63] for issuing once the 17,000 remaining copies that Barton bought of the Thomas Nelson edition had been sold.[64]

"Unconfirmed Quotations"[edit]

In an article titled "Unconfirmed Quotations", Barton conceded that he has not located primary sources for eleven alleged quotes from James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and U.S. Supreme Court decisions (hence, the title of the article), but maintained that the quotes were "completely consistent" with the views of the Founders.[65] This drew criticism from Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who in 1996 accused Barton of "shoddy workmanship", and said that despite these and other corrections, Barton's work "remains rife with distortions of history and court rulings".[66] WallBuilders responded to its critics by saying that Barton followed "common practice in the academic community" in citing secondary sources, and that in publishing "Unconfirmed Quotations", Barton's intent was to raise the academic bar in historical debates pertinent to public policy.[65]

The Texas Monthly noted in 2006[1] that Barton has denied saying that in his famous letter to Danbury Baptists[67] "Jefferson referred to the wall of separation between church and state as 'one-directional'—that is, it was meant to restrain government from infringing on the church's domain but not the other way around. There is no such language in the letter." The article goes on to say that this denial is contradicted by a 1990 version of Barton's video America's Godly Heritage in which Barton states:

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's legitimacy was reported to be growing in 2006, due largely to his first non-self-published work, a 2003 article in the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy, (Volume XVII Issue No. 2, 2003, p. 399), a "rather tame survey" on Jefferson's writings about the First Amendment.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Blakeslee, Nate (September 2006). "King Of the Christocrats". Texas Monthly 34 (9): 1. ISSN 0148-7736. Retrieved 2008-11-10. 
  2. ^ Billy Bruce (1992-02-18). "First Amendment specialist views church/state separation as "myth"". Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  3. ^ "NOW: God's Country". PBS. 2006-04-28. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  4. ^ a b c Eckholm, Erik (May 4, 2011). "Using History to Mold Ideas on the Right". New York Times. 
  5. ^ What is Christian Nationalism?, Michelle Goldberg, Salon.com, May 14, 2006
  6. ^ "David Barton Bio". Wallbuilders. 2001-09-11. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  7. ^ a b Specter, Arlen (Spring 1995). "Defending the wall: Maintaining church/state separation in America". Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 18 (2): 575–590. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  8. ^ "David Barton - Propaganda Masquerading as History", People for the American Way, Retrieved on April 9, 2013
  9. ^ Boston, Rob (2007). "Dissecting the religious right's favorite Bible Curriculum", Americans United for Separation of Church and State, American Humanist Association. Retrieved on April 9, 2013
  10. ^ Harvey, Paul (10 May 2011). "Selling the Idea of a Christian Nation: David Barton's Alternate Intellectual Universe". Religion Dispatches. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Schuessler, Jennifer (2012-07-16). "And the Worst Book of History Is ...". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-07-19. 
  12. ^ a b Stephanie Simon, "Evangelical historian remains key ally of right, POLITICO Sept 8, 2013
  13. ^ a b 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America, Time
  14. ^ Kayla Webley (2010-07-07). "Perusing the Glenn Beck University Curriculum Guide". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  15. ^ The Foundations of American Freedom, Christian Broadcasting Network
  16. ^ a b The Turnaround in Education, David Barton
  17. ^ The Turnaround in Education, David Barton, Oral Roberts University
  18. ^ "Aledo Christian School". Education.com. 2011-06-22. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  19. ^ "Aledo Christian School history" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  20. ^ "Brief Amicus Curiae of Specialty Research Associates, Inc." (PDF). 2002-05-03. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  21. ^ "Westside Community Bd. of Ed. v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990)". Justia.com. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  22. ^ "Wallbuilders Overview". Wallbuilders. 2001-09-11. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  23. ^ Barton, David. "The Separation of Church and State". Wall Builders. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  24. ^ Patel, Eboo. "The Faith Divide: Christian Right's attack on rights - On Faith at washingtonpost.com". The Washington Post. 
  25. ^ History of the Republican Party of Texas at the Wayback Machine (archived April 24, 2009)
  26. ^ The Dobson way, Dan Gilgoff, U.S. News & World Report, 1/9/05
  27. ^ http://www.politico.com/story/2013/11/texas-tea-party-david-barton-ted-cruz-99278.html
  28. ^ Kopan, Tal. "David Barton won’t run against John Cornyn". Politico. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  29. ^ "NCBCPS Board of Directors and Advisors". National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schoolz. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  30. ^ The Revised Curriculum of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, Mark A. Chancey, Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University, October 2005
  31. ^ Providence Foundation Mission statement at the Wayback Machine (archived July 15, 2011)
  32. ^ In Contempt of Courts, Max Blumenthal, The Nation, April 11, 2005
  33. ^ Don S. Wilkey, Jr. (April 2002). "A Christian Looks at the Religious Right: Responding to David Barton". Retrieved 2012-01-21. 
  34. ^ Luckett, Bill (1997-06-20). "Speaker Accused of Racist Ties: Christian Coalition denies Barton's links to white supremacists". Casper Star-Tribune. Retrieved 3 May 2012.  Also http://www.tfn.org/images/content/pagebuilder/Barton_Lawsuit_CST_2.22.97.jpg
  35. ^ "David Barton – Extremist 'Historian' for the Christian Right". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 2012-07-19. 
  36. ^ Boston, Rob (June 1996). "David Barton – Master of myth and misinformation". Public Eye (Institute for First Amendment Studies). Retrieved August 17, 2012. 
  37. ^ Christin Coyne (2011-09-14). "WallBuilders files libel suit against three". Weatherford Democrat. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  38. ^ "Beck University". Retrieved July 8, 2010. 
  39. ^ "Angel Awards 2007 Winners". Excellence in Media. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  40. ^ "The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America". Time Magazine. 2005-02-07. Retrieved 2012-11-23. 
  41. ^ "American Heritage Series". Trinity Broadcast Network. Retrieved 2012-11-23. 
  42. ^ "David Barton on the 700 Club". Christian Broadcasting Network. Retrieved 2012-11-23. 
  43. ^ "David Barton". The Daily Show. 2012-05-01. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  44. ^ http://www.salon.com/2013/11/04/potential_senate_candidate_david_barton_explains_how_abortion_caused_climate_change/
  45. ^ http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/10/31/possible-senate-candidate-david-barton-climate-change-is-gods-judgement-for-abortion/
  46. ^ http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/barton-explains-global-warming
  47. ^ Vaughn, Chris (May 22, 2005). "A man with a message; Self-taught historian's work on church-state issues rouses GOP". Baylor University. Archived from the original on September 20, 2006. Retrieved April 13, 2013.  Originally published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, page 1A.
  48. ^ [1] A Critique of David Barton's Views on Church and State by J. Brent Walker, April 1, 2005
  49. ^ Texas Textbook Massacre Architect Backing Grayson Opponent by Ryan Grim, The Huffington Post, August 26, 2010
  50. ^ Boston Theological Institute Newsletter Volume XXXIV, No. 17, January 25, 2005
  51. ^ Cantor, David (1994). Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance and Pluralism in America. Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. ISBN 978-99946-746-9-5. 
  52. ^ Warren Throckmorton, an evangelical professor of psychology at Grove City College, a conservative Christian school in Pennsylvania. "If that's what people are passing off as Christian scholarship, there are claims in there that are easily proved false." Rodda, Chris (2011-05-05). "Do Well By Doing Good". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2011-05-20. 
  53. ^ Fea, John (2011). Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. p. xxvi. ISBN 0-664-23504-2. 
  54. ^ "Blogging David Barton's Appearance on Jon Stewart". The Way of Improvement Leads Home. 2001-05-20. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  55. ^ Hankins, Barry (2002). Uneasy in Babylon. University: University of Alabama Press. p. 128. ISBN 0-8173-1142-4. 
  56. ^ Throckmorton, Warren; Coulter, Michael. Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President [Kindle Edition]. Amazon Digital Services, 2012. 
  57. ^ a b Kidd, Thomas (August 7, 2012). "The David Barton controversy". World (God's World Publications, World News Group). Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  58. ^ David Barton, Southern Poverty Law Center
  59. ^ Epps, Garrett (August 10, 2012). "Genuine Christian Scholars Smack Down an Unruly Colleague: The phony evangelical 'historian' David Barton meets his match at last.". The Atlantic magazine.
  60. ^ Hagerty, Barbara Bradley (August 8, 2012). "The Most Influential Evangelist You've Never Heard Of". NPR.
  61. ^ Kidd, Thomas (August 9, 2012). "Lost confidence", World, web extra.
  62. ^ Bob Smietana (August 10, 2012). "Thomas Nelson drops 'Jefferson Lies' book over historical errors". The Tennessean. 
  63. ^ Kellogg, Carolyn (2012-08-21). "Glenn Beck to bring back recalled Thomas Jefferson history". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-08-04. 
  64. ^ Garrett, Lynn (2012-08-17). "Jefferson Lies Author Negotiating New Edition with Glenn Beck’s Mercury Ink". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2013-08-04. 
  65. ^ a b Barton, David. "Unconfirmed Quotations". WallBuilders website. 
  66. ^ Boston, Rob (July–August 1996). "Consumer Alert: Wallbuilders Shoddy Workmanship". Church & State (Americans United for Separation of Church and State) 49 (7): 11–13. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  67. ^ Thomas Jefferson (1802-01-01). "Letter to the Danbury Baptists". Retrieved 2011-09-28. 

External links[edit]