David Barton appeared on “The Daily Show” on May 4th and I sighed. David Barton is a SELF-TAUGHT historian and favorite of the cheap labor religious right conservatives. He has been involved in re-writing history text books in the Texas state school system, and testifying to state legislatures and Congress. Luckily “The Daily Show” had a real scholar on the other night to counter Barton’s false view of history.
The main problem with David Barton is his history seems to stop in 1860. The most ridiculous claim he makes is that the Bill of Rights don’t apply to the states since they didn’t when the Constitution came into force in 1791. He ignores or dismisses the 14th Amendment that explicitly applied the Bill of Rights to the states.
Here is the first segment of Barton’s interview on May 4th
There are so many falsehoods that Barton communicates in the interview that the People for the American Way has detailed pages specific to the Daily Show interview. For example:
5. The Treaty of Tripoli
In discussing the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli and its clear declaration that “America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,” Barton told Stewart first that the language in the treaty’s Article 11 did not mean what it clearly states, and second that the U.S. State Department says there really is no Article 11 in the Treaty. Here is the full text of Article 11:
“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
Barton argues unconvincingly that the Article was only meant to imply that American Christianity is different than European Christianity. His assertion that Article 11 is not in the treaty is simply wrong; it was unquestionably included in the treaty that was ratified unanimously by the Senate and approved by John Adams.
Then on Wednesday May 18th, The Daily Show interviewed University of Pennsylvania historian Richard Beeman. Unlike David Barton, Beeman has a degree in history and works as a historian.
Beeman said on the show:
“The Constitution is federally devoid of any mention of religion except for one provision which says there shall be no test for public office or any position of public trust, so the only mention of religion is keep religion out of our government,” Beeman says, and “the debate in the [constitutional] Convention is virtually devoid” of religious references.
Here is part 1 of Richard Beeman’s extended unedited interview where he takes Barton to task for ignoring the 14th Amendment.
As the Religious Right Watch wrote:
During part II of the interview with Beeman, Stewart noted that while Barton told him that he was OK with Sharia law in the US, he would likely make the opposite case to his conservative supporters.
In fact, that is exactly what happened, as Barton dedicated an entire radio program to denying what he plainly told Stewart about Sharia.
Such dishonest actions reflect the fact that Barton is a political activist, not a historian — he even was paid by the Republican National Committee to mobilize church groups to support President Bush’s reelection and Republican candidates. As Kyle notes, even his documentary on African American history is brazenly partisan.
The goal of people like Barton – besides trying to institute Christian Dominionism – is to focus their religious right agenda on the local and state level as way to outflank national policies and laws that protect our religious freedom.
David Barton is a flim-flam man who has no real expertise in history and he should be kept FAR FAR FAR away from our government and our children.