Fact Checking Barton Part II: Constitution Explicitly References Religion

In the second part of the televised interview on The Daily Show, David Barton claims that the Constitution contains “four references to God” in Article VII. Article VII reads: “The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.”

That’s it.

Barton is presumably referring to the following line: “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.” As noted in People For the American Way’s Barton’s Bunk, “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 dodges Stewart’s question about presidential oaths. As Stewart rightly claims, the oath outlined in the US Constitution does not specify the use of the Bible. Moreover, Article II even allows Presidents to make an “Affirmation” rather than an Oath: “Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: — ‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’” In fact, Franklin Pierce decided to affirm rather than swear during his inauguration, John Quincy Adams “took the oath upon a volume of law,” and Teddy Roosevelt didn’t use a Bible in his rushed inauguration.

Barton has also repeatedly asserted, including in Wednesday’s WallBuilders Live radio program, that the Bible was used as the basis for republican form of government (Exodus 18:21), the separation of powers (Jeremiah 17:9), and the three branches of government (Isaiah 33:22).

So let’s check his citations:

Exodus 18:21 You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. (Barton: Republican government)

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse — who can understand it? (Barton: Separation of powers)

Isaiah 33:22 For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler, the Lord is our king; he will save us. (Barton: Three branches of government)

Now, if the Bible was the foundation for republican government, where the citizenry and not a monarch occupy the power of government, then what does Barton have to say about all the prominent monarchies in the Bible, like King David and King Solomon?

In addition, where in Federalist Numbers 47 and 51, which many historians point to as the basis for the separation of powers and the three branches of government, does James Madison cite Jeremiah or Isaiah, let alone any Biblical passage? In Federalist No. 47, Madison frequently cites Montesquieu, but not the Bible; Madison also doesn’t use the Bible or any theological explanation in Federalist No. 51.

While Barton can find passages in the Bible that may reflect a similar opinion or sentiment of the Founding Fathers, he is consistently unable to demonstrate how the Founders specifically used the Bible or “Biblical principles” to develop the Constitution.