By Barbara Forrest

UPDATE 7.10.09: Readers can see Barton’s “expert” review of the Texas social studies standards, as well as those of the other reviewers, here. Barton does not believe that scientist Carl Sagan was of sufficient scientific stature to be included among the scientists about whom Texas students should learn:

In Grade 5 (b)(24)(A), there are certainly many more notable scientists than Carl Sagan – such as Wernher von Braun, Matthew Maury, Joseph Henry, Maria Mitchell, David Rittenhouse, etc.

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Supporters of science education both in Louisiana and around the country have scratched their heads in perplexity, trying to figure out how Gov. Bobby Jindal, who earned an undergraduate degree in biology at Brown University, one of the country’s finest Ivy League schools, could sign the creationist Louisiana Science Education Act [pdf]. They wonder how he can support the teaching of intelligent design, a form of creationism which has been thoroughly discredited by competent scientists and scholars. Only the governor can definitively answer this question. But if there is any truth in the old adage, “You are judged by the company you keep,” knowing something about the people with whom the governor keeps company offers at least partial insight into why he signed Louisiana’s creationism bill last year. David Barton is one of those people. Who is David Barton?

Barton is a friend of Gov. Jindal. According to Rev. Gene Mills, executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), also a Jindal ally, Barton was Jindal’s guest at a January 14, 2008, inaugural prayer breakfast for Jindal in which the LFF  participated. Mills announced the event in his January 3, 2008, “End of Week” e-newsletter, and the announcement was also carried in the January 8, 2008, LFF’s Family Facts newsletter:

Louisiana Family Forum will take part in an Inaugural Prayer Breakfast on Monday, January 14th.  . . .

The event will feature Special Guest, Governor-Elect Bobby Jindal, who will be accompanied by Historian David Barton, Texas’ Governor Rick Perry and Dr. Laurence White.

Note that Mills calls Barton a historian. Keep this in mind . . . and keep reading.

Gov. Jindal also appeared twice on Barton’s Wallbuilders Live radio program on October 18 & 19, 2006, during which he praised Barton’s knowledge of the history of America’s founding. This was one week after Jindal’s tour of North Louisiana churches during his gubernatorial campaign — a tour on which he was accompanied by Barton. Jindal’s church tour with Barton was reported at the time by Frederick Clarkson, a veteran journalist who has documented the development of the Religious Right for many years.

Barton poses as a historian with expertise in the history of the Founding Fathers. Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State has been writing about him for years. Boston’s latest piece about him, “Texas Tall Tale,” is the cover story of the current issue of Church & State, AU’s monthly magazine. According to Boston, Barton is “a Religious Right propagandist who for years has pushed a fundamentalist ‘Christian nation’ view of American history.”

From his base in Aledo, a town of about 2,000 just west of Fort Worth, Barton runs an outfit called WallBuilders that issues a steady stream of books, videos, DVDs, pamphlets and other materials designed to ‘prove’ that the United States was founded to be a Christian nation. Barton argues that American law should be based on the Bible (or, more accurately, his fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible) and says church-state separation was never intended by our Founders.

According to his Wallbuilders.com website, Barton leads private “Spiritual Heritage” tours of the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, exclusively for “pastors and ministry leaders,” arranging “exclusive briefing sessions with some of the top Christian Senators and Representatives now serving in Congress.” He also promotes creationism on his website. But he has no credentials in either history or science, as Boston points out.

His official bio on the WallBuilders Web site says nothing about Barton’s educational background, probably for good reason: It’s not relevant to what he’s doing. Barton earned a bachelor’s degree in ‘Christian Education’ from Oral Roberts University in 1976 and later taught math and science at a fundamentalist Christian school founded by his father, pastor of Aledo Christian Center.

The Texas Freedom Network echoes Boston’s assessment of Barton’s academic “credentials”:

Barton’s college degree is in religious education, not history or another field in the social sciences. He works for no institution of higher education. He’s simply a smooth-talking political hack who distorts history in the service of an ideological agenda.

The really bad news is that Barton is targeting public schools with his propaganda:

Barton is also busy trying to slip his perspective into public schools in other ways. He is active in the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, a North Carolina group that works to persuade public schools to adopt a fundamentalist-oriented Bible curriculum under the guise of teaching ‘about’ religion. Barton serves on the organization’s advisory board, alongside several other Religious Right figures.

[Note: Darrell White of the Louisiana Family Forum also serves on the NCBCPS board.]

But it gets worse — Barton himself is among the most extreme members of the Religious Right. He is on the Board of Directors of the Providence Foundation, which, Boston says, “poses as a benign group dedicated to promoting a ‘biblical worldview.’ In fact, the organization seems to be aligned with Christian Reconstructionism, an ultra-fundamentalist theology that seeks to scrap democracy and impose a harsh Old Testament regime on modern-day America.” Christian Reconstructionists seek to impose a strict “biblical worldview” on all aspects of American life — whether their fellow Americans like or it not. (See Frederick Clarkson’s articles about Christian Reconstructionism for PublicEye.org.)

Barton also sells books, CDs, DVDs, etc., from his online store. But accuracy has never been his concern. Boston himself analyzed historical claims that Barton made in a videotape entitled “America’s Godly Heritage,” which “summarized Barton’s arguments as outlined in his self-published 1989 book The Myth of Separation.” The book’s title reflects Barton’s false contention that the separation of church and state is a myth and that it was never intended by the Founding Fathers. Boston catalogues Barton’s errors and distortions in two articles entitled “Sects, Lies and Videotape: David Barton’s Distorted History” and “David Barton: Master of Myth and Misinformation.

But now the story gets much worse — Barton has been appointed by his supporters on the Texas Board of Education to serve on a panel of expert reviewers charged with reviewing the Texas social studies standards. Boston reports on this in “Texas Tall Tale“:

When the Texas State Board of Education issued a list of proposed ‘experts’ to sit on a social studies curriculum panel, one name immediately leaped out to defenders of church-state separation: David Barton.

The panel is supposed to consist of academics and others with specialized knowledge to assist the board in drafting new social studies standards for public schools across the state. The selection of Barton, a Religious Right propagandist who for years has pushed a fundamentalist ‘Christian nation’ view of American history, is a sure sign that trouble lurks ahead.

Concerned pro-science activists will recognize the Texas BOE’s appointment of Barton to the panel of reviewers for the social studies standards as a replay of the board’s appointment of three creationists to the panel of experts charged with reviewing the state’s science standards earlier this year. (See the press release by the excellent Texas Freedom Network. See TFN’s postings about Barton here and here.) One of those creationists was Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute’s creationist Center for Science and Culture. As chronicled on this website, the Discovery Institute played a major role in the drafting and passage of the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act [pdf], which allows public school science teachers to use supplemental materials that undermine “evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

Apparently, Barton also has his finger in the anti-global warming pie, as Boston reports:

Amazingly, it looks like Barton is branching out into other fields – areas where, like history, he has no legitimate credentials. On June 7, 2007, Barton testified before the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, criticizing global warming and posing as an expert on how evangelicals view that issue.

Interested readers can read Barton’s committee testimony, where he also managed to take a swipe at evolution. Note Barton’s use of scare quotes around “science”:

For more than a century, scientists have asserted unaided materialistic evolution — that God had no part in the appearance of man. Yet, despite a century of this aggressive ‘scientific’ indoctrination, today only 12-18 percent of the nation accepts that position; some eighty percent do not believe what ‘science’ avows on this issue.

Interested readers can read all of Boston’s fine article for themselves. They can also google David Barton for additional information about this self-styled — but phony — “expert” . . . who is now in a position to get nonsense inserted into the Texas social standards as creationists managed to do in the science standards.

The fundamental question here is why Gov. Jindal would hobnob with someone like Barton. Someone should ask him.