The historian John Fea argues that “[b]y defending Thomas Jefferson, David Barton has dishonored their [the founders of the American Bible Society’s] memory.”
“Ironically, the same Thomas Jefferson that admired the Enlightenment views of Voltaire, Hume, Gibbon, and Paine, and served as the primary target for the men who built the American Bible Society, is now celebrated by David Barton, the nation’s most influential Christian nationalist. Barton is a GOP political activist who uses the past to advance his conservative agenda in the present.”
Source: History News Network | Still Misleading America About Thomas Jefferson
The fake historian David Barton is at it again. He asserts, “The Bible says if you engage in homosexuality, your body will do things that penalize you…So if you can have a vaccine for AIDS, then you’re keeping your body from penalizing you. I don’t think they’ll ever find a vaccine for AIDS.”
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Source: Anti-gay ‘historian’ leading pro-Ted Cruz PAC says Bible forbids finding an AIDS vaccine
Warren Throckmorton, author of Getting Jefferson Right, calls out the Christian Right for supporting David Barton when they know that his work is not credible.
“The awareness of Barton’s systematic distortion of the nation’s founding is well known at the highest levels of the Christian political right and yet many such groups continue to promote Barton as an exemplary historian. Because the Christian right is aware of the problems but continues to feature Barton as an historian, the ‘great confrontation of 2012’ has turned into the ‘great cover-up of the present.’”
In Thomas Jefferson: Roots of Religious Freedom, John Harding Peach claims that Thomas Jefferson was a Protestant Christian whose vision of religious liberty was grounded in his passionate desire to protect religion. Peach can perhaps defend this misleading portrayal of Jefferson under the guise that it is “a biographical novel,” but given that he also insists that “all historical events and places were provided as they factually occurred” (xii) this excuse is not credible. He may wish Jefferson was the person that he presents in his “novel” but he cannot honestly claim that Jefferson was that person. Unfortunately, his followers, who, no doubt, also want to believe that Jefferson was the Christian in Peach’s narrative, will uncritically accept his version of events. These distortions of history are not innocent ventures; they are part of a larger movement intent on re-writing history to support their claim that the United States is a Christian nation.
The wannabe historian David Barton has been at the forefront of this movement. His book (The Jefferson Lies) is the latest in a series of books dedicated to the goal of making this a Christian nation. But Jefferson’s well-known “infidelism” doesn’t fit this narrative, so rather than ignore the writer of the Declaration of Independence Barton and others have decided to remake Jefferson into a devout Christian. This is not an easy task and the only way to achieve it is through deception, dishonesty, and willful ignorance. In fact, Barton’s book is so egregiously dishonest that it was discontinued by his publisher after a group of conservative historians exposed it as misleading and “unsupportable.”1 Unlike Barton, Peach may not have gone as far as Barton, but it is still a dishonest and misleading portrayal of Jefferson. In his desire to see Jefferson as an upstanding Christian, Peach has cherry-picked, distorted, and misinterpreted the evidence.
Peach’s “novel” begins with Jefferson’s education with his childhood teacher the Rev. James Maury, who Peach claims “lit his fire,” (1) and ends with Jefferson’s death in 1826. The book highlights events in Jefferson’s life, large and small, which serve to present Jefferson as “practice[ing] his core conviction of basic Protestantism.” (xiii) This book review will challenge Peach’s portrayal of Jefferson. This post will be dedicated to Jefferson’s religious beliefs in general before turning to the Declaration of Independence and Jefferson’s views on religious liberty in future posts.