As we have said time and time again, David Barton’s books, DVDs, radio programs, and presentations are so riddled with misrepresentations that just about any factual claim he makes needs to be checked for accuracy.
And Barton once again demonstrated the need for such fact-checking when he recently delivered a presentation at Glen Medows Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas where he made an utterly laughable claim about the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Abington Township v. Schempp which declared that school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools was unconstitutional.
In Barton’s telling, the Court struck down the practice because reading the Bible was going to give students brain damage:
The Supreme Court, when it took the Bible out of public schools, said that this is without precedent; there is no precedent in our history for taking the Bible out of schools but this is the time to do it.
Now, if there is no historical precedent, why would they say the Bible has to go out of schools? I mean, everything we have in history says just the opposite, so why? They quoted Dr. Solomon Grayzel on the reason that we need to get the Bible out of schools … In the Supreme Court decision, this is what the Court said why the Bible has to come out of schools; the Court says this:
If portions of the New Testament were read without explanation, they could be, and had been, psychologically harmful to the child.
Time out. Let me see if I get this: if we keep reading the Bible in schools, our kids are going to suffer from brain damage? Yeah, that was the reason given by the Court for the removal of the Bible out of the classroom back in 62-63.
Of course, if you actually read the ruling in the case, you will find that this citation of Dr. Grayzel appeared at the beginning of the decision when the Supreme Court was merely describing the road the case had taken through the court system, noting that Grayzel’s testimony had been heard during the initial trial.
On top of that, Barton also utterly misrepresented the point of Grayzel’s testimony, which was to note that forced Bible reading from a Christian perspective in public schools was potentially damaging to Jewish students:
Expert testimony was introduced by both appellants and appellees at the first trial, which testimony was summarized by the trial court as follows:
Dr. Solomon Grayzel testified that there were marked differences between the Jewish Holy Scriptures and the Christian Holy Bible, the most obvious of which was the absence of the New Testament in the Jewish Holy Scriptures. Dr. Grayzel testified that portions of the New Testament were offensive to Jewish tradition, and that, from the standpoint of Jewish faith, the concept of Jesus Christ as the Son of God was “practically blasphemous.” He cited instances in the New Testament which, assertedly, were not only sectarian in nature but tended to bring the Jews into ridicule or scorn. Dr. Grayzel gave as his expert opinion that such material from the New Testament could be explained to Jewish children in such a way as to do no harm to them. But if portions of the New Testament were read without explanation, they could be, and, in his specific experience with children, Dr. Grayzel observed, had been, psychologically harmful to the child, and had caused a divisive force within the social media of the school.
Just about everything in Barton’s description of this court decision is fundamentally misleading and demonstrably false … and yet it will continue to make no difference to those on the Right who regularly cite him as an expert historian.