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.
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.