David Barton & the 'Myth' of Church-State Separation

The Bush campaign has hired a controversial activist who calls the U.S. a 'Christian nation'

Continued from page 2

According to Barton's reading of the law, it is legal for a pastor to stand up in the pulpit and say, "'Now look, I'm going to tell you something--and the church didn't vote on this and the elder board hasn't gotten together on it--but I'm telling you, John Kerry is not fit to be president.' He can do that, that's fine. The pastor has the right of free speech, but he cannot bring the corporate machinery to bear."

Meanwhile, says Barton, a pastor can talk about any issue he wants to. If he wants to preach against same-sex marriage or abortion, he can. And he can talk about the voting records of individuals or groups on those matters.

Of course, how a minister describes the issues is what makes the situation tricky. "It's very clear in the party platforms that one party does support traditional marriage and opposes abortion and supports school prayer--and the other opposes that," Barton says. And that makes Republican candidates the obvious choices. "This is your logical home if you're concerned about Biblical issues," Barton says.

In a 1996

critique of Barton's documentary


, "America's Godly Heritage," the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs said of Barton: "His presentation has just enough ring of truth to make him credible to many people. It is, however, laced with exaggerations, half-truths, and misstatements of fact."

Barton has said that God influenced his sense of mission. In

America: To Pray Or Not To Pray?

Barton writes: "In July 1987, God impressed me to do two things. First, I was to search the library and find the date that prayer had been prohibited in public schools. Second, I was to obtain a record of national SAT scores (the academic test given to prospective college-bound high school students) spanning several decades. I didn't know why, but I somehow knew that these two pieces of information would be very important."

As a result, Barton writes that he learned America has declined because of the 1962 and '63 Supreme Court rulings banning school-sponsored prayer. He believes God is angry at the country and has retaliated.

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Deborah Caldwell
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