David Barton on CBN today; Confuses Everson v. Board of Education with Something Else

David Barton will be on the 700 Club today and although the video is not yet available, a summary of his appearance is on the 700 Club website. He is supposed to talk about Jefferson and says falsely that Jefferson was an active member of the Virginia Bible Society, that he financed a Bible edition in 1798, and that he demonstrated interest in bringing Christianity to Indians. He will apparently also discuss the Jefferson Bible.

Under the church and state section, the narrative refers to the 1947 Emerson v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that applied the Establishment Clause to the states. Barton has an interesting reading of the case:

In 1947 in Emerson v Board of Education (sic), the Supreme Court announced it would reverse this historic meaning and ruled that a school in Illinois had made the mistake of allowing voluntary religious activities by students, a practice that had characterized American education for the previous three centuries.

In fairness, perhaps the narrative was written by someone else who got the name of the case and the state wrong.  Everson actually upheld a New Jersey public school board’s policy of providing transportation to Catholic schools for children in their district. You can read that decision here.

Probably Illinois came  into the picture due to Barton’s criticism of McCollum vs. Board of Education decided in 1948. That case was in Illinois and related to religious instruction being offered in the public school. You can read that case here.

A prime finding of that decision was:

This utilization of the State’s tax supported public school system and its machinery for compulsory public school attendance to enable sectarian groups to give religious instruction to public school pupils in public school buildings violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Even though the classes were voluntary, the school organized the religion classes to the degree that the court believed religion was being established. Barton says that these decisions reversed all prior practice. Not quite. See this case for a much earlier state case where the schools were not permitted to include mandatory Bible readings.