Taking On The Critics

As an example of the kind of misportrayals and mischaracterizations that David
Barton is subjected to by critics, we have provided the following excerpt from
an article written by Barry Hankins, an associate director of Baylor University’s
JM Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies. Hankins’ article was entitled Separation
Of Church And State Is Not Just For Liberals
, and is typical of works by
secularism advocates in that while it purports to discuss the “history”
of church-state separation, it fails to use historical sources but instead overwhelmingly
relies on works from current sources rather than primary or original sources.
(David Barton’s response is provided below the article excerpt.)
Separation Of Church And State Is Not Just For Liberals excerpt:

Close observers of this phenomenon will know that arguably the most prolific
and effective proponent of the antiseparationist view is David Barton, the
former math teacher and high school principal who founded Wall Builders, headquartered
in Aledo, Texas. Barton barnstorms the country with high tech slide-show presentations
purporting to prove that the founders intended to establish a nation that
gave preference to Christianity. He has written the aptly titled The Myth
of Separation
. In all his books, tapes, and public addresses, Barton relies
heavily on selected quotations from America’s founders. Recently Robert Alley,
professor emeritus at Richmond University and an expert on James Madison,
questioned a Barton quote attributed to Madison. When Alley’s research revealed
that Madison had probably never uttered the remark in question, Barton retracted
it. In an astounding move, Barton also issued a published retraction of 11
other quotes, listing 10 as questionable and two, including the Madison quote,
as false.[7] However, the flap does not seem to have slowed Barton’s juggernaut.

David Barton’s response:

August 30, 2003
Barry Hankins
J. M. Dawson Institute
Baylor University
Waco, TX 76798

Mr. Hankins:

I recently was given an article you had authored, “Separation of Church
and State is not Just for Liberals.” The copy I received was undated; perhaps
it is an older article; nevertheless, since I was a subject of your pen (and
since you never took the time to consult me either to confirm or deny what you
alleged about me), I thought I would present you with a few facts concerning
the misrepresentations you made about me on page 1 of that article:

1. To my knowledge, the only time I have acknowledged or read anything that
Robert Alley has written was his attack on me for speaking at Gov. George
Allen’s Inauguration in January 1994. It may come as a complete surprise to
you to learn that I neither read nor follow anything Robert Alley may or may
not say about me, nor have I read any article by him about Madison or his
writings.

2. Since I do not read Alley’s materials nor do I concern myself with his
writings, he clearly had no influence on our publication of the “Questionable
Quotes” list. Consider: we listed over a dozen questionable quotes but
Alley apparently mentioned only the Madison quote; and you assert that was
the reason we issued our much more extensive list? Ridiculous! In fact, to
our knowledge, my article about the uncertainty of the Madison quote predated
his; we did not change our position in response to anything he wrote; rather,
I publicly announced that I would no longer use the Madison quote (and others)
not because it was inaccurate but rather because I had determined to raise
the scholarship of the debate from an academic level to the higher level of
legal documentation known as “best evidence” – a level of documentation
that most of those in your camp have yet to embrace. (For example, In Search
of Christian America
, written by three PhDs from your viewpoint, purports
to search the Founding Era (1760-1805) for evidences of official acknowledgments
of Christianity and concludes that there is a lack of such evidence. However,
of the hundreds of sources cited to reach that conclusion, some 80 percent
were taken from sources published after 1950 – more than a century-and-a-half
after the period they purport to investigate! Such disparate and dissimilar
sources would be unacceptable in a court of law.)

3. Alley can neither claim that Madison “never” uttered the “quote
in question” about the Ten Commandments nor that it was “false.”
As you yourself know, Madison’s “Detached Memoranda” (surely one
of your favorite documents) was not “discovered” until 1946. More
Madison letters previously unknown are found regularly, often in the estates
of recently deceased individuals who held private collections or inherited
family heirlooms received directly from Madison’s hand. Furthermore, much
of what is known about Madison and his diverse and often changing viewpoints
frequently comes from Madison’s contemporaries rather than from his own writings.
For example, more of Madison’s succinct statements against slavery are available
through his personal interviews with Harriet Martineau (published in the early
1800s) than from his own writings. Alley can no more claim that the Madison
quote does not exist than I can claim that it does. However, I can show that
the Madison “quote in question” has been in circulation for generations,
and I can document it (as I did) to non-modern works and works by credentialed
historians. Quite simply, neither I nor Alley can say whether or not the Madison
quote is false; however, I simply decided that I would no longer quote academics,
historians, or doctorates of history to establish what the Founders said (as
you regularly do) but instead I would cite only primary source documentation
that meets a legal standard of evidence. (I continue to challenge your side
to meet the same standard.)

4. Your claim that “The flap does not seem to have slowed Barton’s juggernaut”
is baseless and irrelevant simply because there was no flap other than what
you attempted to concoct. Furthermore, the specific work you so recklessly
demean (The Myth of Separation) provided over 750 footnoted citations.
Therefore, for us to drop a dozen quotes from that work represented a trivially
small percentage and no historical conclusion was changed. For example, rather
than continuing to use the uncertain James Madison quote on the Ten Commandments,
I replaced it with irrefutably-documented statements by other Founders on
the same subject – such as the Ten Commandments quote by John Adams (by the
way, Adams – unlike Madison – actually signed the Bill of Rights and is an
equally competent legal authority on the subject). As a result of my decision
to elevate the level of documentation, we replaced The Myth of Separation
with Original
Intent
– a work with over 1,400 footnotes (rather than the 750 in
Myth), and a work that not only meets legal standards of scrutiny but
that also arrives at the identical historical conclusions reached in The
Myth of Separation
.

5. On the other hand, I notice that in books from those of your perspective,
few footnotes are presented. For example, in The Godless Constitution
– an allegedly “scholarly” university text written by two prominent
PhDs – no footnotes are provided. As they openly concede, “we have dispensed
with the usual scholarly apparatus of footnotes.” While a work such as
this with no footnotes is probably acceptable to you simply because of its
conclusions, it would not pass legal muster for best evidence; yet my work
which does pass the standards of legal scrutiny is completely unacceptable
to you. Ironically you frequently embrace and laud the types of works that
fail to meet the legal standard of “best evidence” while attacking
and demeaning the ones that do.

I recognize that there can be honest differences of opinions between well-intentioned
individuals; and I whole-heartedly support your right to free speech —
including your right to make uninformed statements, present incomplete and inaccurate
information, and offer complete mischaracterizations and misportrayals —
as you have done in the part of your article addressing me. Regrettably, the
section of your article about me neither meets the standards of basic journalism
(where an individual attacked in an article is called and asked to respond to
charges) nor of academic scholarship (where footnotes and documentation are
provided). In your defense, I did note that you provided one footnote to document
my “false” quotes; however, the source of that documentation was actually
an attack piece written against me by one of your closest allies — not
quite an unbiased objective source! However, objective truth was probably never
the goal of your article.

An old lawyers’ adage admonishes: “When you have the facts on your side,
argue the facts. When you have the law on your side, argue the law. When neither
is on your side, change the subject and question the motives of the opposition.”
You seem to have chosen the latter course of action.

David Barton

 

[For more information on this issue please see Unconfirmed
Quotations
”]

By | 2017-03-27T16:30:28+00:00 December 31st, 2016|Categories: Issues and Articles|0 Comments