Speaker Paul Ryan apparently has a penchant for the work of the notorious “historian” and Christian nationalist David Barton. Once again illustrating just how rotten Ryan’s judgment can be.
Barton has long been one of the gaudy grifters of the right wing. His much-debunked 2012 book on Thomas Jefferson—ironically titled The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson—was so filled with inaccuracies that its Christian publisher had to remove it from its catalog after various historians, including some Christian conservatives, picked it apart. Barton is such a liar that he claimed Simon & Schuster had selected the withdrawn book and would publish it on its own. Four years later and it has no such plans.
For the past few years, religious right leaders have gotten together in April with some members of Congress in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall for "Washington: A Man of Prayer." Ryan was on hand to offer opening remarks for this year's event. Among other things, the wackos who put this annual event together say the murderous attacks of 9/11 were God’s punishment of America. Jehovah and Osama bin Laden were pals? Who knew? The group also says God is going to punish us for legalizing the marriage of partners of the same sex and because of abortion.
The group views separation of church and state with disgust and says the United States was founded by Christian men on Christian principles. One of its goals is to get the 1954 Johnson Amendment repealed. That legislation forbade tax-exempt organizations (including religious organizations) from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Founder and organizer Dan Cummins has argued that the amendment laid the groundwork for the 1963 Supreme Court ruling that he blames “for prayer and Bible reading being taken out of schools.” The ruling, in fact, didn’t do that, but rather forbade public school teachers and administrators from organizing or leading such prayers and readings. Cummins counts Ryan as one of his allies in the effort to repeal the amendment.
On Thursday, as noted by Right Wing Watch, Cummins wrote:
“Speaker Ryan is an avid fan of historian David Barton. "I listen to him all the time, even in my car while driving," he said.
That’s the sort of listening that can force an actual historian—amateur or professional—to drive into a ditch.
Barton’s book on Jefferson wasn’t the first of his baloney to catch the attention of debunkers. But its publication practically sparked a cottage industry challenging his claims. One of the debunkers, Chris Rodda, Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has written the first two of what she says will be seven short books taking apart Barton’s partisan “scholarship” in the Jefferson book.
Among the ridiculous claims Barton sets forth in one of his chapters: “Lie #3: Thomas Jefferson Wrote His Own Bible and Edited Out the Things He Didn’t Agree With.” Jefferson did exactly that. Such is not Barton’s only version of trash history.
NPR’s Barbara Bradley Hagerty wrote four years ago:
"You look at Article 3, Section 1, the treason clause," he told James Robison on Trinity Broadcast Network. "Direct quote out of the Bible. You look at Article 2, the quote on the president has to be a native born? That is Deuteronomy 17:15, verbatim. I mean, it drives the secularists nuts because the Bible's all over it! Now we as Christians don't tend to recognize that. We think it's a secular document; we've bought into their lies. It's not."
We looked up every citation Barton said was from the Bible, but not one of them checked out. Moreover, the Constitution as written in 1787 has no mention of God or religion except to prohibit a religious test for office. The First Amendment does address religion.
Given his support for Barton’s ahistorical claims, it’s hardly a surprise Ryan also participates in that camp of liars called climate-change deniers or that he stands in the corner of Donald Trump, a serial liar of considerably more consequence than Barton. No surprise, but pathetic that this is what passes for Republican leadership in the 21st Century.