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Meet the Religious Right Charlatan Who Teaches Tea Party America The Totally Pretend History They Want to Hear

David Barton is 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.

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Barton’s work is not just an academic exercise. It is meant to have a political impact. For Barton, “documenting” the divine origins of his interpretations of the Constitution gives him and his political allies a potent weapon. Barton promotes a false reality in which anyone who opposes any element of his political agenda stands in opposition to both the Founding Fathers and to God. He believes that everything in our society -- government, the judiciary, the economy, the family -- should be governed according to the Bible, and he promotes a view of the Bible and Jesus that many Christians would not recognize. Opponents, even Christians, who disagree with Barton about tax policy or the powers of Congress are not only wrong, they are un-American and anti-religious, enemies of America and of God.

President Obama is a particularly frequent target of Barton’s. In January, one of his WallBuilders Live radio shows was titled “Why is Obama Trying to Remove God from the United States?” In March, right-wing “news” service WND quoted Barton accusing Obama ( falsely of course) of being “engaged in a pattern of ‘willfully, deliberately’ repudiating America's Christian heritage.”

Those are the kind of accusations long favored by the Religious Right, and they are destructive. Claims that political opponents are evil and are actively trying to destroy Americans’ freedoms poison the public arena, make constructive civic discourse nearly impossible, and have the potential to incite acts of violence.

Elected officials who endorse Barton give his claims credibility they do not deserve. He in turn gives cover and a veneer of legitimacy to right-wing politicians interested in putting their notions of a nation created by and for Christians into public policy. Both Barton and his backers are undermining understanding of, and respect for, vital American values and constitutional principles like separation of church and state and equal treatment under the law.

Barton 101

Barton is a largely self-educated historian whose academic credentials are a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oral Roberts University and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Pensacola Christian College. His WallBuilders enterprise, through which he publishes books and videos and travels the country to promote his ideas and campaign for Republican officials, includes both nonprofit and for-profit arms.

WallBuilders, which promotes the belief that the Founding Fathers were Christians who wanted the country ruled according to biblical precepts, organizes religious leaders to get involved in politics, and pushes to enact education policies and laws that reflect Religious Right values and priorities. WallBuilders describes its mission as: “(1) educating the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country; (2) providing information to federal, state, and local officials as they develop public policies which reflect Biblical values; and (3) encouraging Christians to be involved in the civic arena.” A 2005 profile of Barton in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram concisely summarized his goals this way: “Barton is working toward an America where students invoke the name of Jesus in morning prayers, where the Ten Commandments occupy a place on state Capitol grounds, where so-called activist judges are impeached for their decisions.”

Barton says the Christian America he wants to create is not a theocracy, but it would clearly be an America in which religious minorities would have to settle for schools and other governmental institutions promoting Barton’s version of Christianity in every realm of life. As Barton has told Focus on the Family:

The Bible clearly teaches that the way people view their own history affects the way they behave. God wants us to know our history and learn its lessons. At WallBuilders, we present American history, and we do so with a Providential perspective. In short, history not only shows God’s workings and plans but it also demonstrates the effectiveness of biblical principles when applied to church, education, government, economics, family, entertainment, military or any other aspect of life.

 
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