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May 2nd, 2012
11:19 AM ET

Who is David Barton, #1 trending topic on Google?

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

A longtime star on the conservative Christian circuit, controversial evangelical historian David Barton is today the No. 1 trending topic on Google.

The online surge comes on the heels of Barton’s appearance on The Daily Show on Tuesday night.

Barton argues that religion – and Christianity in particular – played a huge role in the founding and history of the United States, and that that role has been largely scrubbed from the history books by modern secular elites.

The Texas-based Barton runs a group called WallBuilders, which is "dedicated to presenting America's forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built – a foundation which, in recent years, has been seriously attacked and undermined," according to its website.

In his new book, “The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson,” Barton attempts to dispel the popular notion that Thomas Jefferson was a secular politician who pioneered the idea of strict church-state separation.

Barton wears a variety of hats in Republican and conservative circles. He’s a former top official in the Texas GOP and a sometimes consultant with the Republican National Committee; a behind-the-scenes political operative who advises presidential candidates and coordinates trips to Israel for the likes of Glenn Beck; and a prolific author, speaker and Washington tour guide on the evangelical circuit.

Barton and his work are featured prominently in former "Growing Pains" star Kirk Cameron’s new movie “Monumental,” about the role of religion in American history.

Barton's work has drawn many critics, including Warren Throckmorton, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College who has fact-checked some of Barton's work. “That’s just not what happened,” Throckmorton frequently says of Barton's version of historical events.

Do you have an opinion of David Barton? Ever read his work or see him speak? Share your views and stories in comments.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • History

soundoff (402 Responses)
  1. Hector Victorious

    The only thing that really bothered me about his appearance on the daily show last night was when he started giving examples of children being yelled at for praying in schools as an "attack on christianity" and it floored me that John Stewart didn't point out that the same problems christian kids have with praying in schools is the same for jews, muslims and hindus and other religions. This guy got all uppity because he used instances where christians were being "attacked" but it was only a public policy level (unlike christians urging their members to PHYSICIALLY attack LGBT kids) and most of the policy stuff is aimed at ALL religion, not just christianity. That's where this guys reasoning is just horrifically flawed.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • just sayin

      Its called self imposed delusions of the World vs Christian Taliban.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  2. mandarax

    Do you remember when the Taliban destroyed the Buddhist statues carved into the mountains because they wanted to rewrite the history of Afghanistan to reflect only their religion? That is exactly what David Barton, Kirk Cameron, previous members of the Texas Board of Education, and all their right-wing Christian allies are trying to do here in the U.S. The Taliban gave us a perfect example of why we should be so wary of the Christian Right and their attempts to rewrite our history by destroying the historical reality of the founding of our country.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • mandarax

      Sorry – that was horribly written!

      May 2, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • just sayin

      The Christian Taliban and its leaders such as Barton are in fact an enemy of Freedom and Rights of others who do not follow the Christian Taliban's God.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  3. just sayin

    So do the Christians want to change all of our laws to Christian Law in the bible? Based upon some of the Founding Fathers being Christian????? There is no freedom under the biblical law, which contradicts our basic human rights.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • just sayin

      The Bible or its Sky God has no authority over our matters. It only has authority over the "personal" lives of its followers. Christian moral issues have no bearing on the rights of others.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  4. Weatherthestorm

    History is always written from the author's perspective. Unfortunately, in Mr. Barton's case, he has a particularly strong political and religious agenda that is coloring, if not distorting, the truth. Also, unfortunately, his listeners and readers are probably unwilling to do their own investigation of the source materials. But, it ultimately gets back to the decline in the public's understanding of the American Revolution, its leaders, the culture of their times, and their motivations.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Michael

      Article. VI. ... but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
      The meaning here is clear and unambiguous.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Michael

      There's more context to the reference above, but apparently it's being moderated. I can't think why.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  5. KC

    Had someone told me the WallBuilders website was a comedic parody would have believe it. Sadly people actually do believe this stuff to be real. To those who do I can only hope they pay a little more attention to the words of their Savior about judgement and castng stones. Or else follow the advise of Marilyn Manson and not be "a slave to a God that dosen't exist".

    May 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  6. Rational Libertarian

    Calling David Barton a historian is akin to calling Miley Cyrus a virtuoso musician.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  7. Maliguana

    Yes, without doubt, the Christians did play a "huge role in the founding and history of the United States." They deserve full credit for slavery, indentured servitude, genocide of natives, oppression of women and children, and war mongering. The sanctimonious Mr. Barton should chain himself to a cotton patch and wrap a smallpox-contaminated blanket around his head to get a good whiff of real Christian-American history.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • momoya

      An added note, here.. You won't find this fact in any history book, but the smallpox epidemic among the Natives was h.e.llishly painful.. The amount of suffering is nearly inconceivable.. But, you know, they didn't have souls and couldn't really be "saved," so who cares?

      May 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • question

      Yet if they didn't start the country, you would not be here today with the opportunity to say what you can on this forum.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      So walking in and forcing the Natives from their land equates to a huge role? Only if you're a cult of criminals!

      May 2, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • question

      You also forget the minor fact that it was Christians that ended slavery in Britian and America. Oh MLK was Christian also... Slavery and the issues that you mention are not Christian issues, they're human issues.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • WASP

      @question: so the ends justifies the means, huh? really? i would say my ancestory would think otherwise. we were a proud people that took in sa.va.ges and showed them how to live with nature as we had for thousands of years. how were we thanked? the chirstians tried to exterminate us! so i hold no joy in my heart when people say "well if my ancestors didn't try to wipe you off the face of the world you would be able to do............." i would take my polytheistic peaceful people over your hell driven cults anyday.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • lolwut

      Doesn't the bible have some interesting tips on slave ownership in Deuteronomy?

      May 2, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • momoya

      @Question

      I wouldn't be here except for about a trillion trillion trillion happenings that made it possible for me to be here.. To say that I (or anyone) wouldn't be here except for horrible past events is amazingly short-sighted and isn't really an argument for anything except maybe determinist philosophy.

      Also, Christian pastors all over the South used the bible and christian theology as an argument FOR KEEPING sla.very legal.. Since the bible NEVER says that sla.very is wrong in any form (except you shouldn't beat them to death–just close to death was ok) then you can't base abolition on the bible at all–ever–it can't be done.. Even the dynamic of god and heaven itself is one of master/sla.ve mentality and servitude and worship to a powerful "king.".

      May 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Primewonk

      @ question – you wrote, " You also forget the minor fact that it was Christians that ended slavery in Britian and America."

      Perhaps you could explain to us why the SBC was formed?

      I'm also interested if can identify this quote, "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

      May 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  8. Merlin1828

    He quotes original writings and speeches of the founders, the Supreme Court, and other prominent figures in US history to back up his stance. You may not agree with what is said by the founders, but the writings and speeches of the founders speak for themselves. He is simply pointing out what they themselves have written and spoken when founding this nation. That is bringing the truth to light, not perjury and not lying.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Merlin

      Have you read them? Many of us have.

      This "Christianization" of America was fortold by the forefathers who went to GREAT lengths to prevent this type of behavior.

      We have signed treaties and ratified those same treaties, To wit

      Art. 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 [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muslim] 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.

      In his ratification, the President was absolute

      Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed, and performed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all other citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfill the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof.

      Now this yahoo wants to rewrite history? I don't think so!

      May 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • momoya

      @Merlin

      Do you recognize that a compiler of data can stack facts in a dishonest and disingenuous manner?. I don't know for sure, but I would bet that Barton does this with how he presents his quotations of Jefferson and others; furthermore, it seems that he has fabricated some of what he lists as "fact.".

      If this a.ssessment turns out to be correct, what should the "christian response" be to this text? (In your opinion) and why?

      May 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • sam

      @Merlin – all he's done is cherrypick from those docs the same way he does the bible. Takes real skill, huh?

      May 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • vangrungy

      first of all, the Government is not the Nation

      second.. You are quoting the Barlowe FRAUD

      look it up.. btw, the Treaty of Tripoli was abrogated by the Barbary Wars..

      got History?

      May 2, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • William Demuth

      vangrungy

      First of all the government IS the nation, as expressed by our law.

      Secondly, you are a liar, an idiot, or both (I suspect liar alone)

      The treaty was Ex Post Facto, and remains in place today.

      You Jeebus clowns can not rewrite history on my watch.

      May 3, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  9. CSParish

    Wow, way to harsh on the responses. I'm not a practicing Christian, I just believe we should all treat our fellow human beings with compassion, honesty, and dignity. And if you object to that, you have a giant sized chip on your shoulder you should consider removing.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • William Demuth

      We ARE treating him with honesty.

      We are calling him a liar, a bigot and a con man.

      Ya can't get more honest than that!

      May 2, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Chad

      And William, I'm being honest and calling you a bigot and judgmental twit. You don't know any more about this guy than this article has told you. Get off your high horse and evaluate your own life.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Chad

      Now I am a bigot? You claim a special relationship with a divine power that was fabricated from whole cloth, and wish to use said imaginary God as a weapon against modernity and rationality.

      Traditional Christian propoganda!

      May 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Chad

      William,

      "Frankly, if I believed Christ was anything more than a fabrication produced by greedy men, I suppose I would want this man’s head on the end of my sword." - your post

      Wow. I now realize you are off your bleepin' rocker. Never mind. I won't argue anymore with you, lest I want to end up as a human scuba suit on your imaginary yacht.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Chad, do honestly think this is our first rodeo?

      Some of us have been battling the lies put forth by Barton and his fellow ignorant fundiots for more than a decade.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  10. WASP

    ok seriously, who the frack is this guy? i've never heard of him before now...............so another quack just making noise, got it. 🙂

    May 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  11. God's Oldest Dreamer

    Filtrated passively considered nuances are better than directed indignations of palpatations whineries!

    May 2, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Is that gibberish or stream of consciousness?

      May 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  12. alcourts

    http://www.Hear-The-Truth.com

    May 2, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  13. Chad

    The funny thing is that those who so viciously attack Christians like Barton for being "ignorant" and "judgmental" are no smarter and certainly not more accepting than those they attack. Here's a tip: saying stuff like "that's so typical of THESE PEOPLE" and throwing ad hominem attacks at a guy for simply stating his opinion on current historiography (a fairly mundane topic) speaks more about the viciousness and intolerance in your heart than it does about your target.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Nonesense.

      Lies are to be refuted.

      He knows he is making it up, we know he is making it up, it's only him feeding the simpleton class red meat.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • chubby rain

      If by simply stating his opinion you mean distorting facts to match his worldview and then arguing in court using his trumped up facts to support laws infringing on the rights of others, then yeah no big deal. Why are people up in arms about something so minor...

      May 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Chad

      William, are you an equal opportunity truth revealer? If your favorite politician or celebrity is quick to say something that may not be accurate, are you quick to jump on a blog and "refute their lies?" Something tells me you don't.

      Also, how do you know he's lying? Have you done the research he has? What makes you an expert? I've got my masters in History, and though I haven't read Barton's book yet, I do know through my own research into presidential history that his thesis (summarized in the article) is true in that Jefferson is not quite the secularist modern critics have painted him to be.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Chad

      Chubby, your commentary is exactly what I'm talking about. This self-righteous chatter from some self-appointed savior of American values. You act as if you're saving us all from the "evils" of Mr. Barton with your blog post, though you probably know as much about the guy as the Internet or this article tells you (which, of course, is all truth). You're no different than this guy, except you haven't built up any influence. Maybe that's what you're angry about, that he has a say with bigger people than you do.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • question

      How about this lie William? "Religion cannot be mentioned, let alone taught, in public schools."

      Well, if you want to know the truth, read the first american textbooks:
      The New England Primer
      Noah Webster's Blue Back Speller (The American Speller Book)

      May 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Chad

      I do not prefer one set of lies to another. As for myself, I call them as I see them, and feel many on both sides are liars.

      Frankly, the evangelical community attracts them, because Fundies are easier to defraud.

      As for my research, you post often enough to know that yes, I have done the research, and have been doing so for half a century.

      You Christians would be well served to admit the presence of charlatans in your cult, so that when they are revealed (as they so often are) you might maintain a shred of credibility.

      Frankly, if I believed Christ was anything more than a fabrication produced by greedy men, I suppose I would want this man’s head on the end of my sword.

      He is using YOUR saviors name for profit and power, not mine.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • William Demuth

      question

      Who's lie is it? Certainly not mine! I know the power that throngs of the ignorant can wield, and that why I do what I do.

      I am terrified that it will be taught, we have a tendency to teach nonesense here and always have!

      We are just a few steps past the Taliban here, and we are losing that advantage every day.

      I will say that before I let that happen, I shall be at the door of the school, quite prepared to murder anyone who approaches my children.

      If you have the same convition, I look forward to the fight.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • just sayin

      "You Christians would be well served to admit the presence of charlatans in your cult, so that when they are revealed (as they so often are) you might maintain a shred of credibility." Willaim D
      .
      Credibility is something that any religion and their God lacks. This is why they must have faith.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  14. question

    "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

    It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?" George Washington Farewell Address 1796

    The indespensible supports that George Washington states as the foundation of free government is no longer there. Religion and morality are no longer in today's government. Is there even any question why we have the problems today?

    Additionally, as one of the key founding fathers (possibly the most important), if one of his core doctrine consisted of religion and morality as the basis for free goverment, then you can conclude that he used this as an element to build our goverment. And if religion is a key element of the goverment that Washington built, which religion would be most influential? Without a doubt, it would be the most prevalent religion among the 200+ people that started this country, which is Christianity.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      question,,,,,,,,,,,, ,

      George as in his being the 1st Commander-in-Chief goes without blemish! His farethewell address does parlor to one's amalgums of base playered egoisms! Should men and their citizenries stall in consternations of revolted endocrin alabasterings foamations, then Time will forshorten the risen who shall see their falling trees of socialness regards!

      May 2, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  15. Jeff B

    Deosn't he look kinda like Kenneth from 30 Rock?

    May 2, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • momoya

      Hilarious.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  16. Rational

    Man, if only Hitch was still here :

    May 2, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  17. lolwut

    I loved Stewart's interview with Mr. Barton. I think I laughed way more at this discussion than any time Stewart has interviewed actual comedians.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Qwerty Elemeno

      I just saw those, and they are indeed hilarious. David Barton is a real tangler of phony interpretations.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  18. JuveGT

    I may think the guy is wacko, but I do really respect the guy for having the courage to go on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart has worked many people over, and most people are scared to go on his show.. or if they do, completely bow over and agree with Jon Stewart's viewpoint, and drop their own. He's been on the Daily Show before. I didn't think he got worked over, he held his own.. and JS is usually very prepared for guys like him. I don't agree with one iota of what he thinks, but do respect that he has an opinion, and he's willing to defend it. Unlike Huckabee, who goes on there.. and laughs like a moron whenever JS challenges his opinions.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  19. jms58

    Just another liar like the other bible thumpers.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  20. Qwerty Elemeno

    That is perjury, which is only one small part of the universe of lying. For example, what David Barton is doing is definitely lying, but he is not bearing false witness against anybody.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • MikeAinFL

      How about against Thomas Jefferson?

      May 2, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Chad

      Qwerty, have you ever had any formal education? Perjury is knowingly lying under oath. When exactly has Barton done this? Second, what makes you the expert of American history? I don't even know now why I'm wasting time on your asinine comment.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.