Commentary

The Idiocy of Texas and the Threat of David Barton

David BartonEver since Governor Rick Perry’s (R-TX) appointment of Gail Lowe as chair of the worst and most dangerous state Board of Education ever, and the almost inevitable choice of Christian nationalist history revisionist David Barton as an “expert” to review the state’s social studies curriculum, I’ve been getting a stream of emails from people who know me as the arch-rival of Barton, wondering why I haven’t written anything on the subject.

Well, I’ve desperately been trying to find the time to get something out on this, but have just been up to my eyeballs in work for my job with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a job that, ironically, I ended up in two years ago because of the discovery of a David Barton essay on the “myth” of separation between church and state in the Junior ROTC core curriculum American history textbook. Then, Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, deluged with media requests since the Ensign and Sanford sex scandals exposed the Family’s “C Street” cabal to a wider audience, asked MRFF president Mikey Weinstein if he could borrow me to help with some further research on certain members of the Family, the full results of which will be breaking soon. So, I’ve just been busy as hell, and hearing and reading about the Texas BOE lunacy and the appointment of Barton, but not being able to find any time to write about it, has put me at serious risk of my head exploding.

I still don’t have much time to spend on this, but I do want to make a few things clear about David Barton.

First of all, very little of what I’ve been reading about the Texas BOE seems to convey just how dangerous Barton really is. His agenda for the teaching of American history is not merely a somewhat more religious “interpretation” of history, as some are describing it — it’s an all out, lie packed, completely revised, Christian nationalist version of history, designed to muster support for a very clear political agenda.

Second, I’ve read much about Barton’s utter lack of credentials to be in any way involved in the development of new textbooks — textbooks that, as Barton has been gloating about on his radio show for months now, will not only be used in Texas, but, because of the economic realities of the textbook publishing business, will find their way into the public schools of all the states. (California, with the largest state population, has always been the other state, along with Texas, the second most populous state, to steer the content of new textbooks, but, because of its current economic crisis, California is out of the picture this time around, leaving the Texas board of wackaloons as the only voice in what will and won’t appear in the next wave of textbooks.)

Now, getting back to Barton’s credentials, or lack thereof, many people have been pointing out that he has no degree in history. His educational credentials consist of a B.A. in religious education from Oral Roberts University, and an honorary doctorate from Pensacola Christian College. But, what bothers me far more than his lack of a history degree is his pumped-up bio, in which he claims to have been been involved in the development of the history/social studies standards not just for Texas, but also for California and other states. Well, like most of his historical claims, this claim isn’t quite true. In reality, Barton’s “involvement” in developing curriculum standards for any other state besides Texas has consisted of nothing more than being enlisted by some conservative member of that state’s standards commission or legislature — someone who shares Barton’s agenda — as an “expert” for their side. It does not mean that he was appointed by that state, and, thankfully, he hasn’t actually been able to succeed in screwing up any textbooks — at least not yet.

In the latest issue of Church & State, the magazine of Americans United (AU), Rob Boston explained Barton’s California claim:

In 1998, a conservative member of the California Academic Standards Commission appointed Barton to an advisory position, asking the Texan to critique proposed social studies/history standards. From that perch, Barton attacked the portion of the standards that discussed the development of religious freedom, trying to remove every reference to separation of church and state.

He almost pulled it off. Commission members, unfamiliar with Barton’s agenda, seemed open to adopting his suggestions. They changed course only after intervention by Americans United’s Sacramento Chapter, AU’s national office and others.

Another example of Barton’s grossly exaggerated role in a state’s curriculum development involves everyone’s favorite nut of a congresswoman, Michele Bachmann. Back in September, when Barton had Bachmann on his radio show — introducing her as “a rock solid lady,” and a “real class act” — he brought up his previous encounters with her, including this:

As a matter of fact, I worked with her on history standards up in Minnesota — doing some history legislation, and making sure that they could not censor religious references from history books.

So, what was Barton referring to here? Well, back in 2005, when Bachmann was still a senator in the Minnesota legislature, she and some of her fellow legislative wingnuts had bought — hook, line, and sinker — the wildly distorted story and propaganda about California banning the Declaration of Independence in public schools because it mentioned a creator. So, although existing Minnesota history standards already contained the use of the Declaration and other historical documents with religious content, Bachmann co-sponsored a completely unnecessary piece of legislation to “permit” these same documents that were already being used in the state’s schools to be used in the state’s schools, actually citing the bogus story about California banning the Declaration of Independence as a reason her unnecessary legislation was of the utmost importance. Barton’s big role in all this? Well, he appeared before the Minnesota Senate Education Committee in support of Bachmann’s legislation. Similar legislation had already been introduced by Minnesota state representative Mark Olson in 2001, and Olson, during a House Education Policy Committee hearing on his bill, had also brought in David Barton.

Of course, without the real explanations of the circumstances surrounding Barton’s role in these state history education related proceedings, and relying only on the deceptive way in which Barton describes his involvement, anyone unfamiliar with him would think he sounds like somebody who has lots of legitimate experience in developing history curriculums and is sought out by other states for this expertise.

But, the biggest problem with Barton meddling with our country’s textbooks is not his lack of qualifications. It’s the fact that he’s a big fat liar who will distort, misrepresent, and even fabricate historical events to further his Christian nationalist agenda and political ideology.

I’ve written so much on the subject of Barton’s historical revisionism, and debunked so many of his lies, that there’s no need for me to get into any particular lies here. If anyone wants to see just how bad this guy really is, and why those of us who already know how bad he is are so concerned about his appointment, I urge you to read a few of the things I’ve written and get a little taste of just what our country’s history textbooks may end up looking like.

One is the series I wrote last year when Rep. Randy Forbes introduced H. Res. 888, a resolution for an annual religious heritage week. This resolution, reintroduced in the current congress as H. Res. 397, is packed with a seventy-five “Whereas” clause litany of Christian nationalist historical revisionism. This is what David Barton would like to see taught in our public schools. In fact, Forbes got much of the material for this resolution straight from his pal Barton.

The other is a series I wrote a few years ago about the history revisionism in the National Council On Bible Curriculum In Public Schools (NCBCPS) curriculum. This curriculum, already being taught in thousands of our public schools, has David Barton on its Advisory Board, and contains many of the lies from his books. Unbelievably, it even contains fabricated quotes that Barton himself, after being busted on them, started advising his minions not to use. But this didn’t stop him from knowingly reviving these fabricated quotes in this public school curriculum.

For those who don’t have the time or inclination to do a lot of reading, I also made a little video about Barton and his lies after he trashed me on his radio show earlier this year.

For those who do have the time and inclination to do a lot of reading, there are links to a bunch of other articles about Barton, as well as several free chapters of my book, Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History, on my website.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this report mistakenly said that Gov. Perry appointed members to the Texas Board of Education. Board members are elected not appointed. Gov. Perry is responsible, however, for appointing the board’s chairperson. We thank reader Alexa for alerting us to the error.

Chris Rodda is the Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and the author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History.

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22 Responses for “The Idiocy of Texas and the Threat of David Barton”

  1. Alexa says:

    The Texas State Board of Education is not appointed. They’re elected.

  2. George Flynn says:

    Right, Alexa, but Barton was appointed as an “expert” by the board and is not an elected member of it. But further, any fool can get elected to the low-profile BOE through stealth candidacy. The media — and the public — should pay more attention to prevents nutcakes from being elected.
    –Geo.

  3. Chris Rodda says:

    A correction is being made. Perry did appoint the chair of the board, creationist Gail Lowe, but Alexa is correct that the board itself is elected. It didn’t used to be. The whole board did used to be appointed by the governor, but now it is elected. I should have checked that. But, this doesn’t change the problem. Board members like Cynthia Dunbar, who Barton helped get elected to the board, are now in a position to appoint pseudo-scholars like Barton as “experts.”

  4. Milton Means says:

    I find it totaly imposible to believe that you, claiming to be an educated man would have the guts to say this about a man that makes you look like a fool. Dr. David Barton does have documented proof of everything he says and writes. You on the other hand use lies and distorted facts to share your satan loving trash. You need to find Jesus yourself and I as a christian will pray for you on your behalf,as difficult as I find that to be. I hope that you never use the word patriot in or on any thing you say or write. May god show mercy on you for you know not what you do. Thank You Milt

  5. Shelley Jones says:

    Chris, get a life and a real job……………or try reading the federalist papers – anything other than the trash you obviously read and produce. Ditto what Milt said

  6. XI Thou Shall Not Remain Ignorant

    Ignoring the facts that you don’t like again?

    How many Texans are like Moses?

    I am not speaking of the Moses portrayed by Charlton Heston.

    How long before Oklahoma gets renamed Canaan on Texas maps?

    How long before a Cowboy Hat wearing Moses…

    …drives out or kills everyone in Oklahoma/Canaan?

    People don’t change, that is the real warning that history teaches.

    Never Again

  7. Paul Blake says:

    Greetings. First I am not sure why you need to use such prose as you do. Please just state facts, of which in this article are none. They are just your unfounded opinions. There is no need to besmirch or to rant on someones character needlessly. If you differ on your opinions than someone, just state them and why you feel that way with facts and firm sources, again of which there are none here. This is irresponsible reporting at best.

  8. Deanna Jacobs says:

    I do not see you citing any facts. You simply attack his qualifications. Our founding fathers did not have Phds. 28 of them had seminary degrees! You don’t say anything about that! When you toss about the word liar, you are relaying how scared you are of hearing the truth–at least that what you are saying to me. Dr. Barton certainly offers up many papers that we can refer to for the truth. Yet, you do not. Hmmmmm…..

  9. Chris Rodda says:

    Deanna …

    I did not mention that 28 of them had seminary degrees simply because that’s a lie — one of the many of Barton’s lies that I’ve debunked over the years. Obviously, you’re just one of the many people who have heard this lie and believed it. Barton cleverly uses the word “seminary” to dupe his followers into thinking that these 28 signers of the Declaration of Independence had theology degrees and were ministers, when in reality the word “seminary” just means college, although its use today is almost always to refer to a theological seminary. The truth is that only 3 of the 56 signers of the Declaration went to college to study theology, and only one, John Witherspoon, stuck with it and became a minister. Of the other two, one became a lawyer and the other became a merchant.

    As for me only attacking Barton’s qualifications, I said in this article that it is unnecessary to get into any of his historical lies here because I’ve written about them elsewhere at length. I then provided links to two series of articles where you can go and read my debunkings of dozens of his lies. Did you miss that part?

  10. Jhughes says:

    You are a sad sad person and all the LIES you spew will one day bite you on the rump. If David Barton said the sky was purple I would be more inclined to believe him than any of the filth you spit out of your God hating mouth. Mr Barton has historical proof on the things he teaches and while he may miss quote someone every now and then, let me say He who is with out sin cast the first stone.

    Nov 2nd will be a eye opening for liberals that WE THE PEOPLE are taking our country back from the liberal idiots who think they are so much smarter than everyone else.

  11. G. Holt says:

    After reading your revisionists writings, I was reminded that anyone can publish their bigoted, narrow minded, historically inaccurate, filtered through the prism of hate opinions on the Internet and claim them to be factual. I would suggest that you employee an independent editor to review your writings and separate opinion from historical facts before publication. Of course that would require critical thinking, and I failed to see any examples of that practice in your writings. You should send your resume to the New York Times, they employee a lot of writers with your same beliefs, opinions and values.

  12. COMALite J says:

    Mr. Rodda, on May 8th, you replied to Deanna Jacobs that you had posted links to your two series where you go into detail debunking Barton’s lies. You close with asking her, “Did you miss that part?”

    In her defense, I must point out that due to the ill-designed CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) of this website, hyperlinks in body text are not readily visible to anyone not specifically looking for them. It’s traditional to have them either be underlined, and/or in some contrasting shade of color from the body text (usually, but not always, blue), and to have them change color and/or underlining when the mouse hovers over them. But even without mouse hover, they should either be underlined or in a contrasting color so that people know that they’re there even without having to mouse over every single word in the body text of the article.

    The CSS here does do a mouse-over underline and color change (in a reddish shade), and does have a SUBTLE color difference when not hovered over, but it’s very subtle and there is no underline without the mouseover. This makes it very hard for someone whose eyesight isn.t the best and/or whose monitor’s color accuracy isn’t perfect (most cheap LCD monitors can only display thousands, not millions, of distinct shades of color, and nearly all home and small office PC or Mac monitors of any type are either uncalibrated or miscalibrated — only graphics artists tend to fork over the money for color-calibrated monitors and the special calibrating sensors and software needed to keep them that way over time).

    I didn’t see the links myself until I hovered over most of the body text.

    So, to answer your question: yes, she very likely DID miss that part, through NO fault of her own.

    That said, thank you for keeping up the good fight against Barton and his ilk!

  13. Tom Hudson says:

    Chris:
    Keep up the fight against this ignorance. It is ironic that the ignoramuses come to you complaining about the lack of documentation. Your book is one of the most meticulously-documented exposes I have ever read. That certainly contrasts with Barton’s outright fraud and fabrications. You have a gift for detail. Thank you for your hard work, but as the writers above show, it will be an uphill battle.

    Tom Hudson

  14. bil says:

    That Barton is one sick individual. Is he for real? Are there actually folks that agree with this trash talk? What truth? This man spreads hate. That is not what god wants. Has this country’s people come to this way of thinking? The way the world is heading, this trash talking individual is an example why. Anyone that likes this radicals book and writings have too much hate in them. They are sick sheeple. If this barton is a good man he would not preach this trash. Yes he has his right to freedom of speech. I have mine. These are my views of such trash talk. He probably makes a good living getting support from the religious right nut cases.

  15. Pegs says:

    Sadly Chris Rodda claims he is the ARCH RIVAL of D. Barton, wow what a sad commentary. That’s like claiming to be the Evil Twin of Obama, Hitler, Marx and any other anti God, Anti American that ever lived. Wow, pride cometh before the fall Chris and ignorance, which is unknowing and stupid is choosing to be clueless is a sad legacy. The only ignorance here is sticking your head in the sand and being willing to drink the kool-aid. Thank God for Bachman, for Barton, for people who have some character and integrity instead of the left wing haters of anything moral and true.

  16. Curt Malizzi says:

    You Know…people like this should just go READ HIS TORY! You cannot read HISTORY without seeing what GOD has done in AMERICA. Go read about the GREAT AWAKENING in the 1700′s and the second GREAT AWAKENING in the 1800′s and the PENTECOSTAL Awakening in the 1900″s and the CHARISMATIC Awakening in the 1950′s. YOU HAVE TO BE PRETTY DUMB TO CALL YOURSELF A HISTORY BUFF AND NOT READ HISTORY. AMERICA HAS BEEN DUMBED DOWN. DAVID BARTON IS RIGHT ON AND GIVING US A TRUE PICTURE OF HISTORY.

  17. Chris Rhodda is another left-wing nut media lackey who seeks to demonize Christian Nationalism, and propagate a Secular Humanist revisionist history upon the USA & other historically Christian nations. One of Rhodda’s problems is that Christian Nationalism is as old as the first Christian nation — Armenia, Georgia, or Ethiopia by various reckonings — and the last 250 years of of the Roman Empire. America’s history BEGINS with Christian Nationalism, as the stated goal of both the VA Charter & Mayflower Compact.

    But who really are the people who so vilified by Rhodda and his leftest cronies? The vast majority of the American People are the “duped masses” Rhodda seeks to convert to his twisted world view. Providentially, Americans may put Rhodda into shock, if they elect a Perry or Bachmann in 2012. A similar event serves as a healthy precedent, the election of Christian Nationalist Ronald Reagan in 1980.

    + Perry/Bachmann 2012….God SAVE The USA!

  18. Wow. There really are a lot of uneducated, America-hating, Freedom & Liberty-loathing, Christian Taliban scumbags hanging around, waiting to drool their hate-filled garbage in these comments. By the way…it’s BARTON that is the “revisionist,” you idiots. It is BARTON who claims to know “better” than EVERY HISTORIAN ON THE PLANET. He is no better than a Holocaust Denier. Of course, any of you would know this…if you had actually gone to college…or read history books…or anything other than beating up homosexuals and shooting abortion doctors.

    “Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself, than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid, or produces only atheists and fanatics.” — Thomas Paine (Founding Father)

    Sincerely,

    Bryon Morrigan, (…who has an MA in History, and is therefore 1000% more qualified to speak on the subject than David Barton…)

  19. Brandy Lopez says:

    Wow Bryon, you have a very strong opinion about Barton. I am glad it is just an opinion. I personally believe that he is correct when he says that the textbooks focus on Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin when they were just two men out of many who helped to form our Declaration and Constitution. If you were not so biased about Christianity or God rather, you would see that humans are capable of lying and lying in print as well. It is up to our colleges to buy the texts and then they sell it to their students. I think it should be against the law to sell things as fact when they are not. He has the documentation and I think you know it and it just eats away at your very core that God may be real and that you have someone to be accountable to for your sins. Just remember though, Jesus paid the way, so you do not need to be mad.

  20. JOHN KRATZER says:

    Chris…do you disagree with the claims and content of Barton”s “America’s
    Godly Heritage”? IF SO, WILL YOU KINDLY ADDRESS YOUR OPINION
    FOR THE “PUBLIC iNTEREST”. THANK YOU.
    I believe his presentation was superbly educational, informative, and
    downright scary. EVERY AMERICAN CITIZEN AND VOTER SHOULD
    VIEW THIS PRESENTATION.

  21. Chris, keep up the good work. This just in from the Christian Post for those who support Barton. Please keep in mind that this man has no credentials in history: http://www.christianpost.com/news/publisher-pulls-david-bartons-book-on-jefferson-79782/

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