Crackpot, Dishonest “Historian” Distorts History at the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast

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There’s nothing wrong with a little prayer, but there is something wrong with a collection of public officials sitting down at a prayer breakfast with a fraud and liar who wants to promote an ahistorical and dishonest version of American history to promote his agenda of pushing his religious values into public schools and government.

According to a local newspaper, David Barton, a self-described “historian,” offered the keynote speech at the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast, offering some of the dishonest claims that he has been peddling for decades:

The first Bible in English in America was printed by none other than the United States government itself, Barton said.

By 1815, Congress had made more than 1,400 official prayer proclamations, and religion was a keystone of pubic schooling.

These linked claims, that Congress printed the first Bible in the United States, and that it was intended for the schools, have been thoroughly debunked, repeatedly.

The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that Barton is an extremist who believes in Christian domination of the nation, opposes legal quality for LGBT persons, calls for regulating Islam and homosexuality, and argues that minimum wage provisions violate God’s law.

That Barton would use this opportunity to spread his disinformation is entirely unsurprising. The Atlantic describes Barton’s work as well as anyone:

For at least the past 20 years, Barton has been a tireless producer of books and pamphlets designed to demonstrate that America was founded by Christians and should be governed by Christians, that the separation of church and state is a myth, and that Protestant Christianity should be a part of government. In that time, he has come to occupy a position of influence within the Republican Party. His success is appalling, first because he is not a historian of any kind (his sole degree is from Oral Roberts University in religious education), and second because, even by the standards of today’s right wing, he is an obvious crackpot.

Barton’s dishonest research and claims became so bad that his own publisher, a Christian publishing house, pulled one of his books in 2012:

Casey Francis Harrell, Thomas Nelson’s director of corporate communications, told me the publishing house “was contacted by a number of people expressing concerns about [The Jefferson Lies].” The company began to evaluate the criticisms, Harrell said, and “in the course of our review learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported. Because of these deficiencies we decided that it was in the best interest of our readers to stop the publication and distribution.”

Barton wants to impose his Christianist vision on American schools and public institutions. Instead of manufacturing quotes from Thomas Jefferson he should consider reading him. Instead of accommodating someone who doesn’t respect equal rights for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation and/or religious beliefs, Montana’s political leaders should have just stayed home.

Update/Clarification: To be clear, despite the name, the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast is not an official event sponsored or endorsed by the governor. Governor Bullock, to his credit, did not attend the event.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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Craig Moore
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Craig Moore

Much wrong with his claims but it begs the question just what role did religion play in the beginning of public schools. Look up the Philadelphia Bible Riots. http://www.aoh61.com/history/bible/phila_bible_riots.htm In 1844, the complaint by Catholics that their children were required to read from the King James Bible each morning in the Public Schools led to a series of riots in the city of Philadelphia over the issue. The King James Bible was required reading in all Pennsylvania public schools, in part because of the efforts of James Buchanan, the future president. Buchanan was a Pennsylvania legislator for many years, and… Read more »

The Polish Wolf
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The Polish Wolf

That’s a good summary of why religious instruction in public schools is so foolish. Even among universally Christian students, it presents problems.

johnny ramone
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johnny ramone

Spot on, PW. Part of the reason why Thomas Jefferson wanted The University of Virginia to be a secular institution was to avoid the ridiculous, and often violent, confrontations that could be caused by sectarian differences.

Moorcat
Guest

As you well know, Craig, there have been multiple attempts of various Christian groups to take over the US government. You link to one such attempt. Other gave us things like adding “In god we trust” to our currency, the line “under god” to the Pledge of Alliegence etc. In no way does that change the fact that America was NEVER intended to be a Christian Nation and there is no evidence to support that our founding fathers considered the United States to be a Christian Nation – in fact, there is plenty of evidence to support that they fought… Read more »

draftmama
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draftmama

Even being familiar with what a dreadful publication the IR has become, I was appalled to read about this prayer breakfast at Carroll College and that the speaker was such a hack as David Barton. It was unclear as to whether the Governor was actually in attendance, but just the fact of this flagrant disregard for the Constitutional requirement for separation of church and state should make our community very uneasy.

Fabric8r
Guest
Fabric8r

Draftmama, could you please point me to where in the Constitution it says there is a separation of church and state?
Thank You!

johnny ramone
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johnny ramone

Maybe draftmama has better things to do than respond to such glaringly obtuse questions (and really, don’t we all?), but I’ll bite.

Here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Establishment_Clause

A very simple wikipedia link that should impart all the wisdom you need concerning the first amendment and the establishment clause, one of the cornerstones of our great secular democracy. Now mind you, there’s much more written on this topic, but that’s up to you to find. I’ve done my civic duty.

Have a nice day.

draftmama
Guest
draftmama

Thank you Johnny!

James Conner
Guest

The folks who invited this crackpot to the breakfast ought to be on their knees praying for forgiveness.

For more on Barton, I recommend “The Annointed” (http://www.amazon.com/The-Anointed-Evangelical-Truth-Secular/dp/0674048180/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362425467&sr=8-1&keywords=the+annointed).

Outstanding post, Don.

Rev. Timothy Gordish
Guest

Wow, you guys are really hard on this constitutionally protected meeting of your fellow citizens. Were they plotting a revolution or something? The criticisms of his claims seem quite petty as the documentation provided by those who disprove a few statements the press makes about him also obviously proves his general point: Religion was discussed openly in the public square by our founders. The writer of this article quotes from a newspaper, which is not quoting directly the source, but Don places these in quotations and attributes them directly to Barton. “The first Bible in English in America was printed… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

YOU are the type of sicko fanatic that the Founders feared, revrearend goofish! Just who the hell do you THINK you are to attempt to foist your beliefs on others? I for one don’t want you morons anywhere NEAR my government, for you’re ALL full of crap! And you know it!

Now, little fella, run along and pretend to know something about the holy spaghetti monster in the sky!

The Polish Wolf
Guest
The Polish Wolf

You’re not showing yourself to be exactly a paragon of religious tolerance, anonymous (aka Larry, if the capitalization is any hint).

johnny ramone
Guest
johnny ramone

Rev. Gordish, The reason for our concern is that this man, David Barton, is an obvious fraud. He doesn’t hold any credentials confirming him as an actual historian, yet he publishes books that he insists are factual historical analyses. Further, as you can see from the multiple links Don has provided in his article, his arguments have been thoroughly disproven by actual scholars and his book “The Jefferson Lies” has been pulled by his publishing house for being wildly inaccurate. Evangelical christians — people who one would think would be this man’s natural allies — have come out against his… Read more »

Rev. Timothy Gordish
Guest

In my own field of Theology, crackpots write all kinds of bold faced lies and confuse lots of people, and use their degrees to ad legitimacy to their baloney. It happens all the time, but there books do not get pulled by their publishers. I suspect that the field of historical inquiry is filled with the same faddish revisionist history, also by academics without scruples. Because of this lack of academic honesty, it is hard for me to throw out Barton’s thesis because a couple of academics find it to be revisionist. I haven’t read his book, but I have… Read more »

johnny ramone
Guest
johnny ramone

You’re exactly right about hack academics, Reverend. I think it was Michael Shermer who said, “”Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.” While I can respect every individual’s right to entertain the ideas put forth by Mr. Barton, I am puzzled, and very concerned, by the fact that he’s being taken seriously by people in power when his theories have been so firmly disproven. And, yes, they have been unequivocally disproven and branded as “wildly inaccurate” not just by academics but by religious people such as yourself. You can… Read more »

Rev. Timothy Gordish
Guest

There was an ongoing debate in the Christian periodical “World” which was pretty in-depth. Here are the links: http://www.worldmag.com/2013/01/david_barton_is_wrong http://www.worldmag.com/2013/01/no_i_m_not_wrong http://www.worldmag.com/2013/02/jefferson_and_christianity The critics of Barton last rebuttal states that they object to this about the book: “David Barton’s fundamental claim in chapter 7 of The Jefferson Lies is that Jefferson was orthodox for the first 70 years of his life and only rejected the fundamental doctrines of Christianity in the final 15 years of his life.” I think that they are offering a reasonable objection and make their case well, but the point they object to isn’t until chapter 7… Read more »

lizard19
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lizard19

“their books” not “there books”.

Rev. Timothy Gordish
Guest

Thanks for the correction.

I hope that you will not thrust aside everything I say because I have had trouble spelling “their” all my life. “Its” and “it’s” is getting better though.

lizard19
Guest
lizard19

of course I wouldn’t thrust aside your comments on just those grounds 😉

from what I’ve seen of your commenting, Rev, you treat people with much more respect and consideration than you receive from “Anonymous” people who REALLY can’t seem to HELP themselves.

mtcreels
Guest
mtcreels

Since righteous indignation isn’t specifically forbidden by the ten comandments, that makes it ok?

Rev. Timothy Gordish
Guest

indignation
Definition
in·dig·na·tion[ ìndig náysh’n ]
NOUN
1. anger at unfairness: anger because something seems unfair or unreasonable

Yup. Pretty much. Not only not forbidden, but a good thing to do. Isn’t that what you guys have been expressing in this article and responses?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Hey, Revrearend Goofish, still believe in creationism, dude?? Huh? Huh? Huh?
You see, Rev, you are the WORST kind of charlatan, the religeeous kind! Sorry, Goofish, but you don’t know any more than anyone ELSE about religion! And it shows.

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