Folding, spindeling, and mutilating lauguage for fun since Aug, 2004
Saturday, 13 December 2008

“You Can Run, But You Cannot Hide” claims that it is not unconstitutional for them to come into the schools with their Christianized political propaganda.  Even though it is unabashedly political and religious, even though they have spoken out against Catholics, gays, and have handed out Bible tracts.

Here's some local coverage of their activities.

Here's my impression of them from a recent encounter with some of the people from this group.

Given that they were able to make me mildly uncomfortable during an exchange I could walk away from at our local grocery store,  I can’t imagine what it does to kids who have to attend mandatory school assemblies where these people are teaching things that most parents (yes, Christian parents too) would never agree to.  The attitude of these people is quite intimidating, maybe not for a middle-aged martial arts teacher, but I can certainly see why it would be inappropriate to require teenagers to be subjected to it at the public expense, using public resources, and the authority of the school and government behind it.

They can’t even get the majority of the Republican party to take the tone they take…even though a majority of them agree with the politics.   It is wrong to use the authority of the schools to make the students think that this reflects the best values of our society.

Their assertion is that it is perfectly constitutional to spend our tax dollars to force students to sit through a mandatory assembly where Christianized political propaganda is blared at ear-shattering levels.

The arguments against separation of Church and State have come largely from one guy.  One very prolific guy.

David Barton is a very important evangelical operative.  I have yet to hear an argument against separation of church and state that isn’t fundamentally reliant on his work.  He has been re-writing the history of America since the 1980’s.  And his historical revisionism has been very successful in religious schools and the homeschooling arena.

Some say that he is a Christian Reconstructionist whose ultimate goal is to institute a Biblical Christian form of Shari’a Law on the nation.  Maybe, maybe not.  It’s sort of difficult to pin people down about what they mean by “Biblical Law.”  It seems to mean different things to different people, from instituting the Ten Commandments into the law code, to reviving Leviticus.  Anyway, whatever the ultimate goal is, people should not be fooled by poor scholarship.


I find it more likely that he just finally found something that he could be wildly successful at…and doesn’t want to give it up.

I love this page, because it shows the sort of company that David Barton keeps.


The Wikipedia page on David Barton.

Article where David Barton admits that there are no primary sources for some of his most widely referenced, and most popular “quotes” from the founding fathers.  He also claims that he is applying a “higher academic standard” in calling them unconfirmed.  I don’t know about you, but I if I had EVER quoted from a founding father or anyone else in a history class in college, and was unable to cite the original source…it would have been an epic fail.  Especially if said quotes contradicted the overwhelming amount of source material that we have on the founders in their originals.

In case you think he is an unimportant flake, here’s the entry Time Magazine did about him when they named him one of America’s 25 most influential evangelicals.  He may be a flake, but he is not unimportant.

Here’s what J. Brent Walker, Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee said about Barton’s “Scholarship” in 2005.

This article has a pretty good treatment of David Barton’s poor historical and legal scholarship.  It is by Rob Boston, for “Church and State” a publication of the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.  It has many of the same arguments as J. Brent Walkers, but also builds on it.

Nevertheless, Conservative puditry is rife with reference to David Barton.  A friend recently sent me a “civics” quiz that nobody would pass unless they had heavy exposure to David Barton’s work, and bought into his ideas of what the founding of America was like…

…work that was conducted by someone who is most generously described as a “self-educated historian”, and which contradicts both the vast scholarly bodies of work in history and law.

Nothing against autodidacts, but anyone who wishes to be an autodidact should be careful to find out what the pitfalls and standards of a discipline are before they try to master it.  Conservatives scoff at the idea of peer review, but then, when peer review shows some weakness in the scholarship of an expert here or there, it is that very act of discovery that they use to undermine the idea of the value of “expertise”.

And they accuse credentialed experts of hubris and arrogance when they point out the short-comings of scholarship in those who are not credentialed.  In fact, while it is possible for an autodidact to achieve a very high level of expertise and respectability, conservatives seem to assume that such respectability should simply be granted without a need to vigorously defend ones ideas.

And no wonder, because it is that very peer review that exposed David Barton, and forced him to admit that he had no original citations for many of his quotes and assertions about the founding fathers.  Likewise, his claim to greater scholarly rigor can be contradicted by the experience of any History undergraduate.

But that doesn’t matter in the end.  His mistakes and “errors where the truth is concerned” will continue to be repeated and promoted by people who find them useful for a very, very long time.  In fact, they seem to be gaining acceptance rather than losing it.

More on David Barton:

Saturday, 13 December 2008 20:12:12 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [3] | #
Saturday, 13 December 2008 21:09:46 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
The problem isn't the message it 's how it's conveyed. Free speech means different opinions should be heard and students should be exposed to controversial material. But a concert, masquarading as entertainment at a school assembly is not appropriate. Studnets need a proper environment to be able to think about the message, respond and challange and truly make up their own minds. The medium oft he message it what makes it propaganda. That's why Plato was for the censorship of the arts.
A small penguin
Saturday, 13 December 2008 21:11:38 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
this should be a bumper sticker:

He may be a flake, but he is not unimportant.
A small penguin
Sunday, 14 December 2008 01:44:04 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
In high schools, there is also the question of the material being age-appropriate, and the question of parental input into what they think is appropriate for their child.

If they think that their child is not prepared to see the results of an abortion, for instance...then they should be informed that the material is going to be presented, and given the option to opt out...and I imagine that there are a fair number of pro-life parents who would be in that camp.

Different opinions should be heard, but some are not age-appropriate. Some subjects are difficult to approach such that the material is instructive for the age group, and should be addressed by professionals who know what is generally appropriate for children of a given age-group.

My objections are primarily that:

1) Administrators (and thus parents and students)are mis-lead about the content, so meaningful consent is impossible.
2) the venue is coercive, as the assemblies are manditory (unless parents withold consent)
3) some of the content is not age-appropriate.
4) there have been complaints that the decible level of the presentation is high enough to be damadging. While it is true enough that many kids expose themselves to that hazard on their own, the school should not be doing it for them.
5) Our tax dollars combined with the authority of the schools should not be used to defame a religion, nor to promote one as the only solution to problems. (which, even if they only defame the Pope at their free concerts, is still a grey area, because they make their money from the schools, and the fact that they advertize their involvement with schools lends them credibility in the eyes of some parents.)
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