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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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Good Timing for Bad History

Barton’s long years of promoting a vision of a non-secular American government created by and for Christians prepared him well for the current political moment, in which right-wing pundits, leaders of the Tea Party movement, and increasingly, the Republican Party, are turning the idea of a divinely ordained “American exceptionalism” into a political weapon against President Barack Obama, the Democratic Party, and liberals in general.

In the hands of Barton and his ideological compatriots, American exceptionalism is more than the idea that America plays a unique role in the world. They insist on a version of American exceptionalism that is grounded in divine inspiration of the founders and a divine blessing on the country. Barton says America’s unique commitment to individual rights is grounded in colonial pastors’ belief in individual salvation. If it weren’t for that divine origin, America would be more collectivist, like France, he argues

Barton also insists that the U.S. Constitution was not meant to be a secular document. The First Amendment prohibits an establishment of religion and the Constitution includes an explicit ban on religious tests for public office, and its authors did not include any assertion of divine origin or blessing, but Barton has a theory. At the end of the text of the Constitution, its authors write that the Constitution’s crafting was “Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth.” Barton claims that this passing reference to the Declaration of Independence incorporates that document and its reference to rights endowed by a Creator into the U.S. Constitution, making the Constitution a religious document that reflects and requires a national acknowledgment of God’s hand in our founding, history, and prosperity.

Barton’s Bible = Tea Party Platform

Barton is one of many Religious Right figures who are challenging socially libertarian strains within the Tea Party movement and arguing that one cannot legitimately be an economic conservative without also being a social conservative. And he is working hard to give the Tea Party movement, its view of the Constitution, and its anti-tax and anti-welfare economic policies a divine stamp of approval.

On a conference call with pastors in the wake of the November 2010 elections, Barton asserted that the Bible “absolutely” condemns the estate tax as “most immoral,” and said Jesus taught against the capital gains tax and opposed the minimum wage. Barton went even further, declaring that taxation is theft and in particular that the Bible condemns progressive taxation, which he insists is “inherently un-biblical and unfair.” He echoed those themes during a three-part broadcast on limited government in January 2011, saying “Money does not belong to the government, it belongs to individuals, and to steal money from individuals through whatever government spending program is taking private property and you’re not supposed to do that.”

In Making the Constitution Obsolete: Understanding What is Happening to America’s Economic and Cultural Heritage, a DVD marketed by the American Family Association, Barton repeats his claims for biblical opposition to progressive taxes. “ Biblically, Jesus says the sun shines on the just, the unjust, the rain falls on the wicked, the righteous, God treats everybody exactly the same, whether you’re rich or poor you pay a ten percent tithe…everyone’s treated the same, so you don’t have any kind of a class warfare, you have equality under the law.” Says Barton, “The concept of justice goes out with the progressive income tax which is why the Bible is opposed to it.”

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