Faux historian David Barton, a “Christian nation” advocate who made a name for himself by peddling pseudo history to gullible Religious Right audiences, has come under fire of late for distorting the truth or flat out making things up. So what’s a bogus scholar to do? In this case, correct some old errors.
Back in 2007, Barton headlined a tour of the U.S. Capitol on behalf of Religious Right advocacy group the Family Research Council (FRC). FRC made a video of that tour, in which Barton made numerous false and misleading claims about the Founding Fathers and the supposed “Christian origins” of the United States.
The video received over 4 million views on YouTube, but that high visibility may have backfired on Barton and the FRC. So outrageous were some of Barton’s claims, that 34 Christian historians and social scientists asked FRC to pull the video from YouTube, said Warren Throckmorton, a professor at Grove City College, a conservative Christian institution in Pennsylvania.
Throckmorton said FRC admitted Barton’s errors, and made the video private. Barton then corrected some of his previous comments by placing new audio in the old video, Throckmorton added.
Barton posted the updated video on his WallBuilders website this week, and because Throckmorton has made it something of a mission to debunk Barton, he compared Barton’s 2007 statements with his newer ones. He concluded that the pseudo scholar has made progress toward the truth, but quite a bit of distortion still remains in Barton’s version of history.
- Barton claimed in 2007 that 29 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence had degrees from Bible schools or seminaries. In the updated video, Barton said 29 signers were educated at schools founded to train ministers.
Throckmorton’s take: “This narrative is more accurate and is a significant admission concerning a claim for which Barton has frequently been scrutinized.”
- In the first video, Barton said: “Most people have no clue that [Thomas] Jefferson started a church in the Capitol.” In the new video, Barton said: “Jefferson helped start a church in the Capitol."
Throckmorton’s take: “Jefferson attended the Sunday meetings but there is no evidence that Jefferson had a role in starting them.”
- In 2007, Barton stated that Congress printed the first English language Bible in America for use in schools. In the new version, he says Robert Aitken printed the first English language Bible in America with congressional approval.
Throckmorton’s take: “Barton continues to say Congress intended the Bible to be used in schools; this is false. Congress had nothing to say about using the Bible in schools.”
- The first time, Barton claimed Congress wanted paintings in the Capitol that tell “the Christian history” of America. The second time, he said the paintings show “important Christian events from the history of the United States.”
Throckmorton’s take: “Other paintings in the Capitol do not have any religious significance; the common theme is the depiction of events of political importance.”
While there is still significant misinformation in the video, as Throckmorton noted, it’s progress. That’s about all you can reasonably expect from the likes of Barton.
But no matter how many times Barton tries to correct his mistakes, several damaging facts will remain. He has no training as a historian (his sole degree is a bachelor’s in Christian education from Oral Roberts University) and his gross misstatements are well documented.
Now that even Christian scholars are exposing Barton for what he is, hopefully it will only be a matter of time until his career as a phony historian is over.