David Barton (author)
Barton in 2016
|Born||January 28, 1954|
Aledo, Texas, U.S.
|Residence||Aledo, Texas, U.S.|
|Alma mater||B.A., Oral Roberts University|
|Occupation||Author, political activist|
David Barton (born January 28, 1954) is an evangelical Christian political activist and author. He is the founder of WallBuilders, LLC, a Texas-based organization that promotes unorthodox theories about the religious basis of the United States.
He has been described as a Christian nationalist; his work is devoted to advancing the idea that the United States was founded as an explicitly Christian nation and rejecting the consensus view that the United States Constitution calls for separation of church and state. Scholars of history and law have described his research as highly flawed, "pseudoscholarship" and spreading "outright falsehoods".
Barton is the 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 2016 presidential campaign of US senator Ted Cruz.
Barton is a lifelong resident of Aledo, Texas, a suburb of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. He graduated from Aledo High School in 1972. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University in 1976.
After graduating from college, Barton served as a church youth director. 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.
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.
Barton is the founder (1988) and president of the Aledo-based group WallBuilders. 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. Barton has argued that the religion clauses of the First Amendment were intended only for monotheistic religions, and perhaps solely Christianity. 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." 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". 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.
Barton was from 1997 to 2006 the 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. There was a Tea Party movement to get him to run against Senator John Cornyn in the 2014 Senate election from Texas. However, Barton announced on November 6, 2013, that he would not run for the seat. 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. Cruz failed to receive the Republican nomination.
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.
Accuracy of his work challenged
Barton's official biography describes him as "an expert in historical and constitutional issues". 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". 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." 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. The book's publisher, 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."
Barton serves on the Board of Advisors of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. 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.
Barton serves on the board of advisors of the Providence Foundation. 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."
In his book The Myth of Separation, Barton argues that Christians were the ones who were intended to hold public office and that Jews and members of other sects were not. 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. Barton's assistant Kit Marshall said in 1993 that Barton was previously unaware of the anti-Semitic and racist views of these groups. 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".
Barton appeared on The 700 Club, and The Daily Show. In 2013 Barton appeared on Kenneth Copeland's "Believer's Voice of Victory" where he made statements linking abortion and climate change.
Reception of Barton's work
He has received criticism from others, including J. Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Gordon College History professor Stephen Phillips, Senator Arlen Specter, The Anti-Defamation League, Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation Chris Rodda, Messiah College history professor John Fea Baylor University historian Barry Hankins, and Grove City College professors Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter.
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." The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Barton's work as "anti-gay" "historical revisionism", noting that Barton has no formal training in history. A number of writers have called Barton's work "pseudohistory", though this designation has been disputed by Robert Knight of the evangelical Coral Ridge Ministries.
In 1995, in response to criticism by historian Robert Alley, Barton conceded, in an online article titled "Unconfirmed Quotations", 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.) 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". 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.
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:
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 withdrawn from publication
In 2012, Barton's New York Times bestseller The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (published April 10, 2012) was voted "the least credible history book in print" by the users of the History News Network website. A group of ten conservative Christian professors reviewed the work and reported negatively on its claims, saying that Barton misstated facts about Jefferson.
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." Glenn Beck, who wrote the foreword, announced that his Mercury Ink imprint would issue a new edition of the book once the 17,000 remaining copies that Barton bought of the Thomas Nelson edition had been sold.
Barton is married and has three grown children, including a daughter who performs minority outreach for the Republican Party of Texas. He has lived in Aledo, Texas, since his childhood, which is also the site of the WallBuilders Library.
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