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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

David Barton (born 1954) is a best-selling author, former teacher, ordained minister,[1] and political activist. He is the author of several books criticizing the current interpretation of separation of church and state in the United States. He was described in a 2005 Time magazine article entitled The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals as "a major voice in the debate over church-state separation."[2] Barton has been described, by Arlen Specter (a former attorney and, at the time, a Republican, later Democratic), United States Senator, among others, as being a pseudohistorian,[3][4][5] and his work has been criticised by historians including Richard V. Pierard.[2][6][7]

Contents

Biography

Barton graduated in 1972 from Aledo High School in Aledo, Texas.[1] He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University in 1976 but has no academic qualifications in history.[8][9]

After graduating, Barton served as a church youth director.[10] He taught math and science, and eventually became principal at Aledo Christian School, which (in 1981) grew out of Aledo Christian Center, a church started by his parents.[1][11][12]

In 1987 Barton formed Specialty Research Associates, which "focuses on the historical research of issues relating to America’s constitutional, moral, and religious heritage." Specialty Research Associates has submitted amicus curiae briefs in a number of court cases.[9][13][14]

Barton is the founder and president of the Aledo-based group WallBuilders, an organization which presents "America's forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built."[15] WallBuilders publishes and sells most of Barton's books and videos, which include Barton's position that the modern view of separation of church and state is not consistent with the views of the Founders.

Barton is married and has three grown children, including a daughter who does minority outreach for the Republican Party of Texas.[1]

Affiliations

Barton is a former Vice Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. Barton has also acted as a political consultant to the Republican National Committee on outreach to evangelicals.[2][16][17][18]

Barton serves on the Board of Advisors of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, publisher of a controversial Bible curriculum for use in public schools.[19] This curriculum contains a number of direct quotations from Barton's books, as well as recommending the resources published by WallBuilders, and advocates showing that group's video, Foundations of American Government, at the beginning of the course.[20]

Barton serves on the Board of Advisors of the Providence Foundation.[21] In an article discussing Barton, The Nation described the Providence Foundation as "a Christian Reconstructionist group that promotes the idea that biblical law should be instituted in America."[22]

Media

Barton received two Angel Awards (awarded to "people in any form of the media who have successfully contributed to the advancement of quality in life without the unnecessary need for violence, profanity and sexual content to sell to their audience"[23]) from the group "Excellence in Media."[24] In 2005, he was named in a Time Magazine cover story as one of the 25 most influential Evangelical leaders in America.[2] In addition to appearing on Trinity Broadcasting Network and The 700 Club, Barton has been a guest on Fox News Channel, ABC, and National Public Radio.

Reception of Barton's work

Barton's work has received wide popular acclaim, but little academic acceptance:

Many historians dismiss his thinking, but Barton's advocacy organization, WallBuilders, and his relentless stream of publications, court amicus briefs and books like The Myth of Separation, have made him a hero to millions—including some powerful politicians.

25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America, Time Magazine, [2]

Senator Sam Brownback praised Barton’s work for providing "the philosophical underpinning for a lot of the Republican effort in the country today—bringing God back into the public square."[25]

Richard V. Pierard, Stephen Phillips Professor of History at Gordon College describes Barton's work as follows:

Moreover, American history is rewritten to become “Christian history,” the story of a people chosen by God and who honored him in the past. David Barton and a host of other evangelicals have produced books and videos setting forth a “holy history” of America—an idyllic past to which we must return if the nation is to be saved from destruction at the hands of secularists.[6]

Writing in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Republican Senator Arlen Specter states:

Probably the best refutation of Barton's argument simply is to quote his own exegesis of the First Amendment: "Today," Barton says, "we would best understand the actual context of the First Amendment by saying, 'Congress shall make no law establishing one Christian denomination as the national denomination.' " In keeping with Barton's restated First Amendment, Congress could presumably make a law establishing all Christian denominations as the national religion, and each state could pass a law establishing a particular Christian church as its official religion.

All of this pseudoscholarship would hardly be worth discussing, let alone disproving, were it not for the fact that it is taken so very seriously by so many people.

Arlen Specter, Defending the wall: Maintaining church/state separation in America, [3]

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Unconfirmed quotations

In an article titled Unconfirmed Quotations, Barton admitted he has not located primary sources for eleven of the alleged quotes from James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, but maintained that this was not important to his central thesis because the quotes were consistent with the views of the Founders.[26] This drew heavy criticism from Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who accused Barton of "shoddy workmanship", and said that despite these and other corrections, Barton's work "remains rife with distortions of history and court rulings".[7] WallBuilders responded to its critics by saying that Barton followed "common practice in the academic community" in citing secondary sources, and that in publishing Unconfirmed Quotations, Barton's intent was to raise the academic bar in historical debates pertinent to public policy.[26]

The Texas Monthly noted[1] that Barton has denied saying that in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists[27] "Jefferson referred to the wall of separation between church and state as 'one-directional'—that is, it was meant to restrain government from infringing on the church's domain but not the other way around. There is no such language in the letter." The article goes on to note that this denial is contradicted by a 1990 version of Barton's video America's Godly Heritage in which Barton states:

On January 1, 1802, Jefferson wrote to that group of Danbury Baptists, and in this letter, he assured them—he said the First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between church and state, he said, but that wall is a one-directional wall. It keeps the government from running the church, but it makes sure that Christian principles will always stay in government.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Blakeslee, Nate (2006-09). "King Of the Christocrats". Texas Monthly 34 (9): 1. ISSN 01487736. http://www.texasmonthly.com/mag/issues/2006-09-01/feature5.php. Retrieved 2008-11-10.  
  2. ^ a b c d e 25 Most Influential Evangelical in America, Time
  3. ^ a b Specter, Arlen (Spring 1995). "Defending the wall: Maintaining church/state separation in America". Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 18 (2): 575–590. http://connection.ebscohost.com/content/article/1027400469.html.  
  4. ^ David Barton - Propaganda Masquerading as History, People for the American Way
  5. ^ Dissecting the religious right's favorite Bible Curriculum, Rob Boston, Americans United for Separation of Church and State
  6. ^ a b Boston Theological Institute Newsletter Volume XXXIV, No. 17, Richard V. Pierard, January 25, 2005
  7. ^ a b "Wallbuilders Shoddy Workmanship". Church & State (Americans United for Separation of Church and State) 49 (7): 11–13. July/August 1996. http://www.members.tripod.com/candst/boston2.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-06.  
  8. ^ The Foundations of American Freedom, Christian Broadcasting Network
  9. ^ a b The Turnaround in Education, David Barton
  10. ^ The Turnaround in Education, David Barton, Oral Roberts University
  11. ^ Aledo Christian School history
  12. ^ Aledo Christian School
  13. ^ Amicus Curiae Brief
  14. ^ WESTSIDE COMMUNITY BD. OF ED. v. MERGENS, 496 U.S. 226 (1990)
  15. ^ Wallbuilders Overview
  16. ^ History of the Republican Party of Texas
  17. ^ The Dobson way, Dan Gilgoff U.S. News & World Report, 1/9/05
  18. ^ David Barton & the 'Myth' of Church-State Separation, Deborah Caldwell, Beliefnet
  19. ^ NCBCPS Board of Directors and Advisors
  20. ^ The Revised Curriculum of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, Mark A. Chancey, Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University, October 2005
  21. ^ Providence Foundation Mission statement
  22. ^ In Contempt of Courts, Max Blumenthal, The Nation, April 11, 2005
  23. ^ Angel Awards History
  24. ^ Angel Awards 2007 Winners
  25. ^ A man with a message; Self-taught historian's work on church-state issues rouses GOP, Chris Vaughn, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 22, 2005
  26. ^ a b Barton, David. "Unconfirmed Quotations". WallBuilders website. http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=126.  
  27. ^ Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists

External links

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