Commentary: Conservative begin to doubt David Barton's revisionist Christian history

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramAugust 12, 2012 

Four years ago, Christian history writer David Barton was a Republican kingmaker lobbying to leverage then-unknown Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin onto the presidential ticket.

Now the prolific author of America's Godly Heritage has been dumped by his publisher over "lost confidence" and faces mounting criticism from conservatives for unscholarly and unreliable work.

The jolt was delivered Thursday in North Carolina-based WORLD Magazine, an evangelical biweekly that quoted the Discovery Institute's Jay W. Richards on Barton's "embarrassing" errors and "misleading" claims.

By day's end, Barton, 58, a Parker County resident and the former state Republican vice chairman, had been rejected by Tennessee-based Christian publishing house Thomas Nelson. The company stopped selling his bestselling The Jefferson Lies.

An NPR All Things Considered report on Wednesday quoted conservative historians doubting Barton's revisionist portrayal of Jefferson as a Bible-believing evangelical.

On his website at WallBuilders.com -- "rebuilding" America's foundation -- Barton accused "elitist professors" of jealousy and defended his "personal religious beliefs."

Barton, the son of an Aledo pastor at what was originally an Assemblies of God church, has an education degree from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.

He co-starred at video host Glenn Beck's recent promotions and sits on the board of Beck's tax-exempt Mercury One charity.

Glenn A. Moots, chairman of political science at Northwood University in Michigan, called the Jefferson book "overreach."

"It's not just a concern about David's ministry -- it's a concern for the truth and good scholarship," Moots said.

"When I was younger, I read his work because he was telling a story I wanted to hear. ... But you begin to ask, 'Can I trust this?'"

History department Chairman Glenn Sunshine of Central Connecticut State University wrote by e-mail that Barton "goes overboard" portraying Jefferson and the Founding Fathers as devout and America as having a "godly foundation."

"Unfortunately," he wrote, "Barton's shoddy work is going to be used to discredit those of us who do see an important Christian influence."

Barton has always argued against a generation of educators who revised religion out of American history.

But he's more preacher than teacher.

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