Fact Checking Barton Part IV: “I Never Had To Retract A Single Thing”

David Barton tells Jon Stewart that he never took President John Adams’ ideas on the relationship of church and state out of context. First Barton lies about Adams’ faith, positing that he was a ‘Trinitarian Unitarian.’ Unitarianism, however, is based on the rejection of the Trinity and noted Unitarian thinker James Freeman Clarke writes that “Unitarians, strictly speaking, are those Christians who reject the Church doctrine of the Trinity, and do not believe that Jesus is God the Son, equal with the Father, or that he is the Supreme Being.”

After misrepresenting Unitarian beliefs, Barton defends his use of Adams’ quote. As People For the American Way details in the report, Barton’s Bunk, David Barton absolutely cherry picked from Adams’s remarks:

One of the most damning fact-checks concerns a letter from John Adams to Benjamin Rush from 1809. Barton cites a long section of the letter in which Adams says, in part, “There is no authority, civil or religious –there can be no legitimate government – but what is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it – all without it is rebellion and perdition, or, in more orthodox words, damnation.” But Barton does not include the sentence which immediately follows, which is “Although this is all Artifice and Cunning in the secret original in the heart, yet they all believe it so sincerely that they would lay down their Lives under the Ax or the fiery Fagot for it. Alas the poor weak ignorant Dupe human Nature.” In other words, Adams was mocking the very point that Barton claims he was making.

Later, the beginning of the third part of the interview, Barton told Stewart that he “never had to retract a single thing.”

Oh really? As noted in Barton’s Bunk, Barton “edited and renamed one book (The Myth of Separation became Original Intent) after critics pointed out false material.”

Here are just a few erroneous quotes of the Founding Fathers used by Barton in his books and documentaries that he later admitted were questionable:

We have staked the whole future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments. – Falsely attributed to James Madison

The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: It connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity. – Falsely attributed to John Quincy Adams

It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. – Falsely attributed to George Washington

I have always said and always will say that the studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make us better citizens. – Falsely attributed to Thomas Jefferson

It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. – Falsely attributed to Patrick Henry

It appears now that David Barton has to mislead others to cover-up his own falsehoods.

He also dismisses historians who disagree with him simply as secularists. But many of his major critics are indeed Christian historians, such as J. Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee, John Fea of Messiah College and Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College. Barton may be an expert in dodging questions, but he has holds little respect for the study of history.