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What's Good for the Goose is NOT Good for the Christian Nationalist Pseudo-Historians

11/03/2011 11:51 am ET | Updated Jan 03, 2012
  • Chris Rodda Senior Research Director, Military Religious Freedom Foundation; Author, 'Liars For Jesus'

Headline today on David Barton's Wallbuilders website: "Atheist Group Takes Down Billboard With Inaccurate Anti-Christian Jefferson Quote."

The headline links to an article on The Blaze, the news website of Barton's cohort Glenn Beck, which begins:

"An Orange County group of skeptics, 'with a heavy atheist 'bent,' have become tongue-tied in their campaign for secularism. California-based Backyard Skeptics head Bruce Gleason used $4,000 in anonymous donations to put up billboards with an anti-Christian Thomas Jefferson quote he had discovered.

"Gleason, however, is now apologizing to the secular community after news broke that  The Jefferson Library Collection at Monticello could not find any such quote from the third U.S. president in their records. Gleason now insists that he may have misquoted Jefferson, but did not misrepresent his ideas, and put the billboard up in 'good faith.'"

Wait a minute! Isn't that remarkably similar to what David Barton said of the quotes on his "Unconfirmed Quotations" list? That list of quotes that Barton tells his readers to "refrain from using ... until such time that an original primary source may be found?"

For the first quote on his list, an unconfirmed Patrick Henry quote that Barton was using, he began his excuse: "Few could dispute that this quotation is consistent with Henry's life and character."

For the infamous James Madison Ten Commandments quote -- the one that caused him the most trouble -- Barton begins his excuse: "While these words have been the most controversial of all unconfirmed quotes, they are consistent with Madison's thoughts on religion and government."

And, for his unconfirmed Noah Webster quote, Barton writes: "These words are entirely consistent with the life and character of Noah Webster."

In fact, Barton's excuses for using just about every quote on his "Unconfirmed Quotations" list include, in one way or another, something to the effect of, 'Well, they did say stuff like that.'

So, while the group that put up the Jefferson billboard was really stupid not to verify the source of the Jefferson quote it used, I hardly think David Barton is in any position to say anything about the group's statement that they "did not misrepresent his ideas," given that this is exactly what he says himself when caught using fake quotes.

And Glenn Beck is hardly in a position to criticize either. Besides incessantly promoting his BFF Barton's lies about American history, Beck embarrassed himself last year by going after the Huffington Post for mocking an attendee at his Restoring Honor rally who was wearing a t-shirt sporting a George Washington quote. The problem? It was a fake Washington quote! In fact, it's the #2 quote on Barton's "Unconfirmed Quotations" list -- a quote that Barton himself instructs his followers not to use!

2011-11-02-FakeGWtshirt300x218.jpg

Of course, despite what he says on his website, David Barton clearly doesn't really want his followers to stop using the misquotes on his list, as evidenced by the fact that six of these misquotes were included in the National Council On Bible Curriculum in Public Schools curriculum, a curriculum whose advisory board includes ... um ... David Barton.