David Barton: America’s Greatest Historian

I mentioned the return of the Texas Restoration Project a few months ago and then promptly forgot about it. Fortunately, the folks at Talk 2 Action have a better memory than I do and actually attended the event and provide an inside report.  

Back when he was running in the GOP primary, Mike Hucakbee praised right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton as perhaps "the greatest living historian on the spiritual nature of America's early days."  But it seems that, since dropping out, his opinion of Barton has only increased because he is now calling him the "single best historian in America today": 

According to candidate Mike Huckabee, history revisionist David Barton is the best historian our country has to offer the nation. Barton's best seller, The Myth of Separation of Church and State, violates the basic tenets of the Baptist faith Huckabee was ordained into and is still a member. This view by Huckabee about Barton was uttered at the Texas Restoration Project meeting in Austin, Texas, October 9-10th. Helping to host and speak at the event were Barton, Huckabee and Governor Perry - the state GOP official. On a first-to-call basis, the pastors of the state's churches, as well as their wives, were invited to come and stay free of charge in a $250/night Hilton Hotel room. Over 1,000 showed up, and it was announced that several hundred more wanted to attend, but could not because there was no room for them. Perry sits atop a state platform that wants to pull the nation out of the U.N., abolish the U.S. Department of Education, appeal minimum wage and do away with Social Security. Not to mention the platform affirms giving state money to religious schools and wants to dispel the myth of separation of church and state.

Huckabee and good buddy David Barton were up next, and between sessions provided photo opts for admiring pastors. Huckabee said this was a spiritual, not a political meeting, and he preached to the crowd. In spite of the get out the vote drive and lamenting of the false concept of separation of church and state, the mixture of pulpit and ballot continued … Huckabee introduced his friend David Barton as a man God raised up for the moment. Mike knew of no other man in the country having such a great impact on the land.

Next, Barton did his Christian-nation thing and stated the Bible had something to say about minimum wage and estate taxes. Evidently, that meant the text was against them both. A common religious right position in voter guides is that minimum wage is immoral. Barton told several stories of heroic Revolutionary War pastors who left the pulpit and led the men of the church into killing English troops. He lamented that this is what is needed today to restore the nation: That is, motivated and active pastors who lead out. Barton then said that separation of church and state, which he stated - is not in the Constitution - and only applies to the state interference in the church - a common religious right position.

Voter guides from Barton's organization were placed at the tables where we sat. There was a sign-up sheet to list name, email and church information. Morning speakers reminded us that the glory of God has been lost in the nation, and the Bible and prayer have been expelled from schools. The key question was what the church would do about these things. Barton proceeded to defend his position that the two key issues of the election centered around abortion and gay rights. He said the Bible taught that these were the key priority issues and poverty, environment, justice, civil rights and the prospect of an unjust war all sat as minor ethical issues compared to the other two. He explained that in the past few elections, laws have been enacted by Christians to limit abortions. That was - he admitted - until the 2006 elections. He conceded pro-life forces lost ground. His conclusion was that a get out the vote effort in 2008 could reverse this. David stated that what a person believed about abortion defined how one would vote regarding all other legislative issues. Barton reminded the group that judicial appointments will define our culture. He then explained to the pastors that for the past 50 years government has told pastors what to say in the pulpit. The Texan then complained that the government did a terribly inefficient job of helping the poor. It would better for the churches to hand out this money and do drug and prison rehab. He restated, "The church has got to be involved in the election." 

We weren’t there so obviously we don’t know exactly what Barton’s presentation was like, but if you want to get a sense of how Barton typically uses his biased history of America to promote the Religious Right’s political and electoral agenda, you can watch him do so here.