by Edd Doerr
Glenn Beck calls him "the most important man in America" and puts him on his Fox News show. Mike Huckabee says he wishes that "all Americans would be forced -- forced at gunpoint no less -- to listen to every David Barton message". Newt Gingrich regards him as an important adviser. Michelle Bachmann calls him "a treasure for our nation". Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has said that Barton's "research" "provides the philosophical underpinning for a lot of the Republican effort in the country today -- bringing God back into the public square". The retro Texas State Board of Education has used him as a textbook adviser. The New York Times gave him a write-up on May 4.
So who is David Barton? A 57-year-old Texan with a BA from Oral Roberts University and -- drum roll, please -- an "honorary doctorate" from Pensacola Christian College., a publisher of textbooks for use by fundamentalist Christian schools, exposed in Albert Menendez' book Visions of Reality: What Fundamentalist Schools Teach (Prometheus Books, 1993). Barton heads an outfit called Wallbuilders, which is dedicated to tearing down the wall of separation between church and state erected by the First Amendment. He is an indefatigable speaker at fundamentalist and Republican events, He was vice-chair of the Texas Republican Party from 1997 to 2006 and a pal of Texas governor Rick ("Gov Goodhair") Perry.
Barton has no credibility wharever among professional historians and scholars. Among his critics are Professor Derek Davis of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty executive director J. Brent Walker, and Indiana State University historian Richard V. Pierard. On May 6 People For the American Way published an 11-page docement about him that is available on line.
Probably the most comprehensive antidote for Barton's faux history preachments is Leo Pfeffer's majesterial book Church, State and Freedom (Beacon Press, 1968). Shorter and more readily available antidotes are my long section on "The Founding Fathers" [Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Paine] in S.T. Joshi's book Icons of Unbelief (Greenwood Press, 2008), Humanist historian Robert S. Alley's Public Education and the Public Good (Americans for Religious Liberty, 1996), and Forrest Church's The Separation of Church and State (Beacon Press, 2004). The Menendez, Alley, Church, and my "Founding Fathers" reprint are all available from me (PO Box 6656, Silver Spring, MD 20916) for $10 each.