Jump to content

David Barton (author)

Page semi-protected
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

David Barton
Barton in 2016
Born (1954-01-28) January 28, 1954 (age 70)
Alma materOral Roberts University (BA)
Occupation(s)Author, political activist

David Barton (born January 28, 1954) is an American evangelical author and political activist for Christian nationalist causes.[1][2] He is the founder of WallBuilders, LLC, a Texas-based organization that promotes pseudohistory about the religious basis of the United States.[3][4][5]

Barton's work is devoted to advancing the discredited idea that the United States was founded as an explicitly Christian nation and rejecting the notion that the United States Constitution calls for separation of church and state.[6][7][8][9] Scholars of history and law have described his research as highly flawed, "pseudoscholarship" and spreading "outright falsehoods".[10][11][12][13]

Barton is a former vice chair of the Republican Party of Texas and served as director of Keep the Promise PAC, a political action committee that supported the unsuccessful Ted Cruz 2016 presidential campaign.[14]

Early life, education, and family

Barton is a lifelong resident of Aledo, Texas, a suburb of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. He graduated from Aledo High School in 1972.[6] He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University in 1976.[15][16]

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


After graduating from college, Barton served as a youth pastor at churches in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was employed as a teacher of math and science and eventually became principal at Aledo Christian School, a ministry of the charismatic church started by Barton's parents.[6]

In 1987, Barton formed Specialty Research Associates, Inc.,[17] a company which said it focused on historical research "relating to America's constitutional, moral, and religious heritage".[18] Specialty Research Associates submitted amicus curiae briefs in court cases.[19][20][21] In 1988, the company became WallBuilders.[18]

Barton is the founder and president of WallBuilders.[22][23] 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 Founding Fathers.[24] Barton has argued that the religion clauses of the First Amendment were intended only for monotheistic religions, and perhaps solely Christianity.[25] 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."[26] Barton has appeared on television and radio programs, including those of Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and Glenn Beck. Beck has praised Barton as "the Library of Congress in shoes".[27] In September 2013, he returned to the political arena and advised state legislators on how to fight the Common Core academic standards promoted by the Obama administration.[28]

Barton was the vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party from 1997 to 2006[29] under state chairman Susan Weddington. He has also acted as a political consultant to the Republican National Committee on outreach to evangelicals.[26][30][better source needed][31] There was a Tea Party movement to get him to run against Senator John Cornyn in the 2014 Senate election from Texas.[32] However, Barton announced on November 6, 2013, that he would not run for the seat.[33] Barton headed the Keep the Promise PAC, a political action committee supporting Ted Cruz during his campaign for election as U.S. President in 2016.[14] Cruz failed to receive the Republican nomination.[34] Barton has also advised Newt Gingrich.[29]

Barton's first non-self-published work was a 2003 article in the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy, (Volume XVII Issue No. 2, 2003, p. 399), a survey of Jefferson's writings about the First Amendment.[6]

Barton is the initial funder of Patriot Academy, a right-wing organization that says it gives participants "the physical training you need to be able to defend your family" and "intellectual ammunition to defend the Constitution."[29]


Barton has served on the board of advisors of the Providence Foundation.[35] 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."[36]

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.[37][38] Barton's assistant Kit Marshall said in 1993 that Barton was previously unaware of the anti-Semitic and racist views of these groups.[39] 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".[40]

Barton has been a guest on the television programs The 700 Club[41] and The Daily Show.[42] In 2013, Barton appeared on Kenneth Copeland's Believer's Voice of Victory program where he suggested that abortion caused climate change because God no longer protected the environment as punishment for legalized abortion.[43][44]

He has been influential in the faith and intellectual life of Speaker Mike Johnson.[45][46][47]


Barton has been praised by American conservatives, including Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann,[10] Sam Brownback,[48] and Trinity Broadcasting Network president Matt Crouch.[49] By contrast, People for the American Way wrote, "This guy is David Barton, a Republican Party activist and a fast-talking, self-promoting, self-taught, self-proclaimed historian who is miseducating millions of Americans about U.S. history and the Constitution."[50]

His work has been criticized by J. Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty,[51] Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State,[52] Gordon College history professor Stephen Phillips,[53] Senator Arlen Specter,[11] the Anti-Defamation League,[54] Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation Chris Rodda,[55] Messiah College history professor John Fea,[56] Baylor University historian Barry Hankins,[57] and Grove City College professors Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter.[58]


Barton's official biography describes him as "an expert in historical and constitutional issues".[59] 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".[11][12][13] 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."[10]

Jay W. Richards, senior fellow at the Christian conservative Discovery Institute, said in 2012 that Barton's books and videos are full of "embarrassing factual errors, suspiciously selective quotes, and highly misleading claims."[60] The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Barton's work as "anti-gay" "historical revisionism", noting that Barton has no formal training in history.[18] A number of credentialed historians have called Barton's work "pseudohistory."[47][61][46][58]

"Unconfirmed Quotations"

In 1995, in response to criticism by historian Robert Alley, Barton conceded, in an online article titled "Unconfirmed Quotations",[6] that he had not located primary sources for 11 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. (By 2007, the article listed 14 unconfirmed quotations.)[62] In 1996, Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State 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".[63] 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.[62]

In 2006, Barton told the Texas Monthly, with regard to Jefferson's famous letter to the Danbury Baptists, that he had never misquoted the letter in any of his publications. The magazine noted that this denial was contradicted by a 1990 version of Barton's video America's Godly Heritage, in which Barton said:[6]

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.

The Jefferson Lies

In 2012, Barton's New York Times bestseller[64] The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (published April 10, 2012)[65] was voted "the least credible history book in print" by the users of the History News Network website.[66] A group of ten conservative Christian professors reviewed the work and reported negatively on its claims, saying that Barton misstated facts about Jefferson.[60][67]

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."[68][69] A senior executive said that Thomas Nelson could not stand by the book because "basic truths just were not there."[28] Glenn Beck, who wrote the foreword, announced that his Mercury Ink imprint would issue a new edition of the book[70] once the 17,000 remaining copies that Barton bought of the Thomas Nelson edition had been sold.[71]

A revised edition of The Jefferson Lies was published by WND Books in January 2016.[72]


  1. ^ Shimron, Yonat (July 3, 2018). "A campaign to blitz the country with 'In God We Trust' laws takes root". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved February 16, 2023.
  2. ^ Peterson, Kurt W. (October 31, 2006). "American Idol". Christian Century. 123 (22): 20–23
  3. ^ "The Most Influential Evangelist You've Never Heard of". NPR.org.
  4. ^ "David Barton: Propaganda Masquerading as History".
  5. ^ "Huckabee Channels Rushdoony". April 8, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Blakeslee, Nate (September 2006). "King Of the Christocrats". Texas Monthly. 34 (9): 1. ISSN 0148-7736. Retrieved November 10, 2008.
  7. ^ Billy Bruce (February 18, 1992). "First Amendment specialist views church/state separation as "myth"". Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  8. ^ "NOW: God's Country". PBS. April 28, 2006. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  9. ^ Michelle Goldberg (May 14, 2006). "What Is Christian Nationalism?". HuffPost. Retrieved February 16, 2023.
  10. ^ a b c Eckholm, Erik (May 4, 2011). "Using History to Mold Ideas on the Right". The New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  11. ^ a b c Specter, Arlen (Spring 1995). "Defending the wall: Maintaining church/state separation in America". Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. 18 (2): 575–590. Archived from the original on December 30, 2013. Retrieved April 9, 2013.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ a b Boston, Rob (2007). "Dissecting the religious right's favorite Bible Curriculum". Americans United for Separation of Church and State. American Humanist Association. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  13. ^ a b Harvey, Paul (May 10, 2011). "Selling the Idea of a Christian Nation: David Barton's Alternate Intellectual Universe". Religion Dispatches. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  14. ^ a b "PAC Built by Ted Cruz Mega-Donors Gets Evangelical Leader". Bloomberg.com/politics. September 9, 2015. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  15. ^ Tulsa, John W. Kennedy in (September 3, 2008). "Healing Oral Roberts University". ChristianityToday.com.
  16. ^ Ingersoll, Julie J. (July 1, 2015). Building God's Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-939028-1 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ Stanley, Paul (March 11, 2012). "Conservative Author David Barton Says Obama Is Most Biblically Hostile US President". The Christian Post. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  18. ^ a b c "David Barton". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  19. ^ The Turnaround in Education, David Barton, Oral Roberts University
  20. ^ "Brief Amicus Curiae of Specialty Research Associates, Inc" (PDF). May 3, 2002. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  21. ^ "Westside Community Bd. of Ed. v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990)". Justia.com. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  22. ^ Ortigo, Bridget (January 24, 2020). "Marshall Prayer Force banquet to honor first responders, prayer warriors". Marshall News Messenger.
  23. ^ Kidd, Thomas. "The David Barton controversy". World. Archived from the original on June 19, 2016. Retrieved March 9, 2020.
  24. ^ Barton, David. "The Separation of Church and State". Wall Builders. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  25. ^ McGraw, Barbara. "The Faith Divide: Christian Right's attack on rights". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 24, 2011.
  26. ^ a b "David Barton - The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America". Time. February 7, 2005. Archived from the original on August 22, 2013. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  27. ^ Kayla Webley (July 7, 2010). "Perusing the Glenn Beck University Curriculum Guide". Time. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  28. ^ a b Stephanie Simon (September 8, 2013). "Evangelical historian remains key ally of right". Politico. Retrieved September 19, 2021.
  29. ^ a b c Jedeed, Laura; Bittle, Jake; Bittle, Jake; Ford, Matt; Ford, Matt; Covert, Bryce; Covert, Bryce; Duss, Matthew; Wertheim, Stephen (January 3, 2023). "My Week Inside a Right-Wing "Constitutional Defense" Training Camp". The New Republic. ISSN 0028-6583. Retrieved January 5, 2023.
  30. ^ "History of the Republican Party of Texas". Archived from the original on April 24, 2009. Retrieved March 30, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  31. ^ The Dobson way Archived October 9, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Dan Gilgoff, U.S. News & World Report, 1/9/05
  32. ^ "Texas tea party seeks Cruz 2.0". Politico. November 3, 2013. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  33. ^ Kopan, Tal (November 6, 2013). "David Barton won't run against John Cornyn". Politico. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  34. ^ Svitek, Patrick (May 17, 2016). "The Super PAC Experiment That Bankrolled Ted Cruz". The Texas Tribune.
  35. ^ "David Barton & the 'Myth' of Church-State Separation". Beliefnet. October 2004. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  36. ^ Blumenthal, Max (April 11, 2005). "In Contempt of Courts". The Nation. Archived from the original on May 20, 2006.
  37. ^ Luckett, Bill (June 20, 1997). "Speaker Accused of Racist Ties: Christian Coalition denies Barton's links to white supremacists" (PDF). Casper Star-Tribune. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 18, 2013. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
  38. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 18, 2013. Retrieved June 2, 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  39. ^ Boston, Rob (June 1996). "David Barton – Master of myth and misinformation". Public Eye. Institute for First Amendment Studies. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  40. ^ Christin Coyne (September 14, 2011). "WallBuilders files libel suit against three". Weatherford Democrat. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  41. ^ "David Barton on the 700 Club". Christian Broadcasting Network. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  42. ^ "David Barton". The Daily Show. May 1, 2012. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  43. ^ Lindsay Abrams (November 4, 2013). "Potential Senate candidate David Barton explains how abortion caused climate change". salon.com. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  44. ^ Steve Benen (November 4, 2013). "Barton explains global warming". MSNBC. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  45. ^ Mike Hexinbaugh. (October 26, 2023). "Meet the evangelical activist who's had a 'profound influence' on Speaker Mike Johnson". NBC News website Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  46. ^ a b Wehner, Peter (October 31, 2023). "The Polite Zealotry of Mike Johnson". The Atlantic. Retrieved November 2, 2023.
  47. ^ a b "'He Seems to Be Saying His Commitment Is to Minority Rule'". POLITICO. October 27, 2023. Retrieved November 2, 2023.
  48. ^ 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.
  49. ^ Crouch, Matt; Crouch, Laurie (June 14, 2019). "Faith, Freedom, and Our Christian Heritage". tbn.org. Trinity Broadcasting Network. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  50. ^ "Hack 'Historian' Hits the Big Time in Tea Party America" (PDF). files.pfaw.org.
  51. ^ "A Critique of David Barton's Views on Church and State". BJC.
  52. ^ Ryan Grim (August 26, 2010). "David Barton, Texas Textbook Massacre Architect, Backs Daniel Webster, Grayson's Opponent". HuffPost. Retrieved February 16, 2023.
  53. ^ Boston Theological Institute Newsletter Volume XXXIV, No. 17 Archived March 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, January 25, 2005
  54. ^ 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.
  55. ^ 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 (May 5, 2011). "Do Well By Doing Good". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  56. ^ Fea, John (2011). Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. p. xxvi. ISBN 978-0-664-23504-8.
  57. ^ Hankins, Barry (2002). Uneasy in Babylon. University: University of Alabama Press. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-8173-1142-1.
  58. ^ a b Throckmorton, Warren; Coulter, Michael. Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President [Kindle Edition]. Amazon Digital Services, 2012.
  59. ^ "David Barton Bio". Wallbuilders. September 11, 2001. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  60. ^ a b Kidd, Thomas (August 7, 2012). "The David Barton controversy". World. God's World Publications, World News Group. Archived from the original on September 5, 2012. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  61. ^ Stephens, Randall J.; Giberson, Karl (2011). The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age. Harvard University Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-674-04818-8. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  62. ^ a b Barton, David. "Unconfirmed Quotations". WallBuilders website. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007.
  63. ^ Boston, Rob (July–August 1996). "Consumer Alert: Wallbuilders Shoddy Workmanship". Church & State. 49 (7). Americans United for Separation of Church and State: 11–13. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  64. ^ 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.
  65. ^ Barton, David (2012). Amazon.com: The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (9781595554598): David Barton, Glenn Beck: Books. Thomas Nelson. ISBN 978-1-59555-459-8.
  66. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (July 16, 2012). "And the Worst Book of History Is ..." The New York Times. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  67. ^ Hagerty, Barbara Bradley (August 8, 2012). "The Most Influential Evangelist You've Never Heard Of". NPR.
  68. ^ Kidd, Thomas (August 9, 2012). "Lost confidence". World. Archived from the original on August 11, 2012.
  69. ^ Bob Smietana (August 10, 2012). "Thomas Nelson drops 'Jefferson Lies' book over historical errors". The Tennessean. Archived from the original on August 10, 2012.
  70. ^ Kellogg, Carolyn (August 21, 2012). "Glenn Beck to bring back recalled Thomas Jefferson history". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  71. ^ Garrett, Lynn (August 17, 2012). "Jefferson Lies Author Negotiating New Edition with Glenn Beck's Mercury Ink". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  72. ^ "Ted Cruz: Evangelical darling or 'pagan brutalist'? Why he exposes a Christian divide". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 17, 2016.

External links