Glenn Beck’s and David Barton’s Mercury One at the Heart of Lincoln Museum History Scandal

In June 2018, Glenn Beck borrowed the Gettysburg Address from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. One of only five handwritten copies of the address from the time period, the document is valued at $20-million. In hindsight, the transaction, for which Beck paid $50,000, has become a political scandal in Illinois and triggered the firing of the executive director of the Lincoln museum. The Chief Operating Officer of the Lincoln museum was allowed to resign and eventually ended up working for Beck’s charity Mercury One. The IG report also contains an unflattering assessment of David Barton as a historian.

The incident, which Beck celebrated live in 2018, was investigated by the Illinois Office of Executive Inspector General due to a tip from an anonymous consumer. The report found that allegations of wrongdoing were sound and based in fact. The report states that the museum should never have let Mercury One have the Gettysburg Address given the slipshod arrangements and David Barton’s reputation as a historian.

Read the Inspector General’s Report

In the quotes below, the players are Alan Lowe, former executive director of the Lincoln museum, Carla Smith, registrar of the Lincoln museum, Samuel Wheeler, historian with the state of Illinois, Nadine O’Leary, museum chief of staff, and Michael Little, Chief Operating Officer of the Lincoln museum (and now Mercury One). Other than Beck and David Barton, Courtney Mayden is also mentioned. She is an employee of Mercury One with some unspecified training in handling historical documents.

The Hasty Gettysburg Address Loan

On June 8, Beck’s charity Mercury One and the Executive Director of the Lincoln museum Alan Lowe initiated negotiations to bring the Gettysburg Address to Beck’s Right and Responsibilities exhibit in Dallas. After only 8 days, the document was shipped to Texas. Beck displayed the document to just over 2300 people who attended the exhibit.

The complaint alleged that Lowe mismanaged the loan process. According to the IG report, that allegation was accurate. From the IG report:

Mr. Lowe made the decision to loan the Gettysburg Address and other artifacts to Mercury One in violation of the HPA Board’s 2013 Resolution, contrary to HPA loan policies, and without following standard museum practices, much less providing the heightened level of care that would seem prudent for the rare and extremely valuable artifact Mr. Lowe described as a linchpin of the ALPLM’s collection. The allegation that Mr. Lowe mismanaged the ALPLM by loaning the Gettysburg Address and other artifacts to Mercury One, without following the HPA Board’s 2013 Resolution, HPA policies, or standard museum loan practices, is FOUNDED.

Earlier this year, Lowe was fired from his position by Governor J.B. Pritzker, although he did not say why. Two other players in the drama continue to have a connection to Mercury One.

The first one I will mention is Michael Little. The IG report documents over 50 contacts with Mercury One he had prior to being permitted to resign over this snafu. As a part of leaving state employment, employees are required to divulge contacts with new employers. Little said he didn’t have any with Mercury One other than his interview. However, the IG found over 50 emails between Little and staff at Mercury One. Little was subsequently hired as the Chief Operating Officer at Mercury One. So the current COO at Mercury One misled the state of Illinois just prior to taking his job.

An Instant No

That brings me to David Barton. For fun, I will quote what the IG report has to say about Barton.

According to an online Texas arts calendar, visitors to Mercury One’s Rights & Responsibilities exhibition in June 2018 could expect to see items Mercury One was sharing from its own collection, including an exploding rat from World War II, whose designer inspired the James Bond character Q; as well as a facsimile engraving of a draft Declaration of Independence; Mary Todd Lincoln’s dress; and Lincoln’s collar. The calendar indicated that Mercury One charged $20 for adult general admission, $750 for private VIP tours with Mr. Beck, $350 for private tours with David Barton, and $250 for private tours with other Mercury One staff. According to the calendar, during the private tours Mr. Beck, Mr. Barton, and the other staff were to provide their “own unique perspective on our rights and responsibilities.”

The Lincoln museum staff didn’t know anything about Barton until after the fact. However, as the passage below shows, they did a little late homework.

Ms. Smith and Dr. Wheeler told investigators that at the time of the loan, they did not know what else was going to be displayed at Mercury One’s exhibition. Ms. Smith said that information is relevant to the consideration of whether it is appropriate for the ALPLM’s artifacts to be displayed or interpreted alongside the other items in the exhibit. Dr. Wheeler said that it is a “betrayal of public trust” to not have known what the Mercury One exhibit was about, what other pieces would be displayed alongside the ALPLM and Foundation artifacts, or how the exhibit would be presented.

The museum registrar (Smith) and Illinois state historian (Wheeler) were bothered after the fact that Executive Director Lowe had let the Gettysburg Address be displayed along with artifacts of questionable reputation. But then they got to Barton’s reputation and they were really troubled.

In addition, Ms. Smith and Dr. Wheeler said they later learned concerning information about David Barton’s reputation. In 2012, Christian publisher Thomas Nelson recalled all copies and ceased publication of Mr. Barton’s book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson, after it learned that “there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported.” The book was voted the “least credible history book in print” in a 2012 reader poll by the History News Network, a George Washington University online publication “created to give historians the opportunity to reach a national audience on issues of public concern.” Dr. Wheeler said that based on what he later learned about Mr. Barton, he believed that “under no circumstances” should the ALPLM be associated with him. Ms. Smith said that if she had known what she later learned about Mr. Barton’s reputation, the 2018 loan would have been an “instant no.”

No to the Emancipation Proclamation

Earlier this year, Beck wanted to borrow the Emancipation Proclamation with Barton listed as Curator of the exhibit. The museum, partly for that reason, turned Mercury One down.

Ms. Smith told investigators that after she received the letter of request and facility report, she convened the ALPLM collections staff, and the staff unanimously recommended to deny the loan request. She stated that she sent Mr. Lowe and Ms. O’Leary a detailed list of reasons why staff recommended not doing the loan. The listed reasons included that some of the information provided in the Standard Facility Report was incomplete or required clarification; concerns about Mr. Barton being listed as a Curator who would be interpreting ALPLM artifacts, given his reputation as a historian; and concerns about Mr. Little being listed as the Registrar or Collections Manager, given his lack of qualifications for handling artifacts. Ms. Smith said that Mr. Little’s history of mishandling artifacts at the ALPLM was also of concern.

In the end, the museum did not loan the Emancipation Proclamation to Beck’s project, 12 Score and 3 Years Ago. That didn’t stop Barton and Beck from promoting the event as if the Emancipation Proclamation was going to be there. Here is Barton claiming those in attendance would see it.

On Beck’s Mercury One website, the nonprofit still lists the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum as a partner. However, this does not appear to be accurate. Not only was Lowe fired, current Mercury One COO Michael Little is not allowed to ever work for the state of Illinois. Given the results of this report, it is hard to see the two organizations ever working together again. It is deceptive for Barton and Mercury One to tout a relationship that not only isn’t true but is the subject of a scathing report by the Illinois Inspector General.

 

Illinois Times columnist Bruce Rushton has been on this story from the beginning and deserves credit for being on top of it.

Rick Joyner: Everything in the Constitution Comes from the Bible

For years, David Barton has promoted the false notion that everything in the Constitution comes from the Bible. Two summers ago, I read James Madison’s entire notes on the Constitutional Convention looking for the elusive biblical roots of the Constitution only to come up empty.

Now self-appointed prophet Rick Joyner has taken up this message. Watch:

He says everything in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is linked to a Scripture verse. Joyner adds to this falsehood by saying the Federalist papers further explains the links.

I have examined this claim on several occasions when made by David Barton (see the links in the first paragraph above). As noted, I read through the notes on the entire Constitutional Convention looking for the biblical influences on the Constitution. Surely, if the framers meant for the Bible to be the foundation of the Constitution, they would have cited it in their debates. Even if they didn’t use chapter and verse, there would have to be some reference to phrases from the Bible for these claims to be true. In fact, there were few references to the Bible or Christianity. There were far more references to Greek and Roman democracies, prior governments, British law and common sense. For the hearty souls who wish to take that same journey, I humbly recommend the series and the endeavor to read Madison’s notes on the 1787 convention.

Regarding Joyner’s remarks about the Federalist papers, he must be thinking about the Antifederalists.  In a study of citations by Donald Lutz frequently misused by David Barton and Christian nationalists, Lutz found that Federalists cited many influences but didn’t cite the Bible. See Lutz’s assessment of the writings of the Federalists and Antifederalists below: By the way, the Smithsonian has 156 million items, 145 million of which are scientific artifacts.

 

Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.

John Fea Watched Jim Bakker and David Barton So You Don’t Have To; About That Founders Bible

I watched the whole thing because I study this stuff, but John Fea did his readers a favor by summarizing a truly bizarre segment of the Jim Bakker Show (and that is saying something) with David Barton and Brad Cummings as guests. You should go read it.

I really can’t improve on Fea’s piece, but I want to highlight a few things. It is being reported around social media that David Barton predicted that a second civil war might happen if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Barton believes “liberal states” like California will secede. He believes that might trigger a war.

First, I seriously doubt this prophecy. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion regulation will return to the states and California will keep it legal while Alabama will outlaw it — at least for now. I believe there will be strong feelings and some might call for drastic actions, but I believe a return of regulation to the states has been anticipated for many years by both sides of the issue.

The second thing I want to notice here is the crew which cooked up this religious stew. According to Barton and Cummings (co-publisher of The Shack), they got together with Mormon Glenn Beck, seven mountain dominionist Lance Wallnau, and Rick Joyner to discuss where America is heading. I wonder which person’s god gave Joyner “the dream.”

Cummings then said that Joyner had a dream of America’s timeline from heaven’s perspective (because of course America is central in God’s mind). The bottom line is that Joyner said the time line ended with a second American civil war which this time will be “successful” in achieving equality. Let me quote what Fea had to say about this segment of the video:

Barton then affirms Joyner’s vision, and in doing so he says some accurate things about the failure of the founders to deliver on matters of racial equality.  This is a huge step for Barton. It led me to wonder where he was going this.  Where was the culture-war hook?

And then it happened.  At about the 4:50 mark Barton adds an additional layer to his interpretation of Joyner’s dream.  Rather than continuing with his mini-lecture on America’s failure in matters of race, he suggests that Joyner’s vision about a “Second American Revolution and Civil War” was actually about Roe v. Wade.  Barton says that we should expect a Civil War “over the abortion issue.”  If Roe v. Wade is overturned, California and other pro-choice states will secede from the Union and it will end in violence.

Eating this gnostic stew could be dangerous. Barton said he had to be careful how he said it, but there is no careful way to say that it may be God’s will to go to war over abortion. This is lunacy and every sane person should reject it publicly.

As I noted above, the issue will be decided by the states if Roe is overturned. However, even if states do attempt to secede, it is unthinkable to have a war where people die for a pro-life cause.

These people are so far removed from war that they don’t know what they are doing or who they are radicalizing. To them (especially Bakker and his end time food buckets), these sensationalized shows are ways to move products. Cummings and Barton are making the rounds right now to sell The Founders Bible as if it is a new thing. Rather, Barton and Cummings brought that out in 2012 after the failure of The Jefferson Lies.

About That Founders Bible

Barton and Cummings should do some soul searching on their messaging regarding slavery. In the first edition of The Founders Bible, they called slave holder and slavery advocate James Hammond of SC an American leader because he was an advocate of America as a Christian nation (see also here and here). Hammond was just alright then.

For more on historical errors in The Founders Bible, click here.

Teflon David Barton

In the real world, if you fake your credentials or tell stories about your accomplishments, there can be consequences. In today’s evangelical subculture, Christian celebrities often avoid the fullness of these consequences. I could talk about Ravi Zacharias who passed off honorary doctorates as earned doctorates for many years and said he was a professor at Oxford when he wasn’t. He had to fess up and took a little heat over the matter, although arguably it hasn’t slowed him down much.

Today, I will examine a claim from David Barton. He seems even more immune from consequences than Zacharias. First, I want to note some cases similar to Barton’s which resulted in real consequences for people and then ask why Barton is above it all.

The Fake Statistician

Amy Apodaca was a statistician for the Army until it was learned that she faked both masters and doctorate degrees. Apodaca told the Army she had degrees from major universities including Yale. However, she only had a BA in sociology from U of TX in Austin. In 2014, Apodaca was forced to resign her job.

The Fake Professor

In 2014, David Broxterman was a popular professor at Polk State College in Lakeland, FL until officials discovered his doctorate was fraudulent. He claimed to have a doctorate from University of South Florida but did not. He was arrested and charged with stealing his salary since it was garnered until false pretenses.

Luggage C.E.O. Had to Pack His Bags

In 2018, Ramesh Tainwala was forced to resign as CEO at Samsonite because he referred to himself as “Dr.” when in fact he did not have an earned doctorate. Tainwala actually attended classes at the Union Institute in Cincinnati but did not complete the degree. He rarely used the Dr. designation and the company bio did not refer to a doctorate. Even so, the company took the allegations seriously and said in a statement that the resignation was in the best interest of the company and shareholders.

The Principal Busted by the School Paper

In 2017, Amy Robertson was going to be principal at Pittsburg (KS) High School. That is, she was until the school newspaper staff discovered her graduate degrees came from a diploma mill. Once this became known and accepted by the administration and school board, Ms. Robertson resigned.

I could discuss many more: The college president booted from an accreditation board for getting his PhD from a diploma mill, or a CEO who falsely claimed an MBA degree.

You know where I am going with this.

On September 7 2016, self-styled historian and Project Blitz promoter David Barton placed a video on his Facebook and YouTube accounts proclaiming that he had an earned doctorate. He said he had chosen not to talk about it before, but he claimed he was now showing it to his audience. After I disclosed that the degree came from Life Christian University (which gives degrees to people without ever attending their diploma mill), Barton, the next day, removed the video from both accounts. Here is the video claim:

Barton began by chastising progressives for doubting his claim that he had a doctorate. He said he has two honorary doctorates and then for reasons that became clear later, he pointed to what he called his “earned doctorate,” but he didn’t say where he got it. He hid it behind another diploma. At the time, that seemed strange since there is no reason to hide an earned degree unless one has something to hide.

As it turned out, the diploma was given to him by Douglas Wingate, president of Life Christian University. Barton didn’t take any courses or go to any classes. Wingate’s diploma factory just gave it to him. In Missouri, a doctorate from Life Christian University issued like this can’t be called “earned” according to state authorities. Joyce Meyer had to remove the phrase “earned doctorate” from her website in connection to the piece of paper given to her by Wingate’s “school.”

Barton ended his bragging video with this sentence:

So for all of you critics, sorry to pop your balloon but I do have an earned doctorate.

However, the piece of paper that he kept partially hidden isn’t an earned doctorate. He appeared to know that because he hid it and took the video down as soon as it became known. Now what?

To my knowledge, Barton has never addressed this matter publicly. Only one Christian media outlet – UK’s Christian Today (not Christianity Today) wrote about it. Many people in Christian leadership know about this and about the compromised material in Barton’s speeches and books. And yet, Barton continues to show up in large evangelical churches like Gateway Church, on conservative talk shows like Ben Shapiro’s, and in major evangelical political initiatives like Project Blitz.

Barton also claimed to play Division One basketball while in college (his college said he was not on the team) and to translate for the Russian Olympic gymnastics team (they had their own translators). However, no significant Christian media investigation took place after those claims came to light. Nor did any of the Christian organizations which claim high standards of integrity take any action or require any answers.

Even without the media coverage, I am aware that many leaders in organizations like Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, American Family Association, etc. know the issues. And let’s not forget the fact that Barton’s book on Thomas Jefferson was pulled by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson. They have been made aware by their ideological fellows, and yet they continue to use Wallbuilders materials and feature Barton’s work. I don’t know if evangelicals on a large scale will ever figure out how they have been misled.

Apodaca, Broxterman, Tainwala, Robertson and Barton. One of these names is not like the others. Maybe four of them should have chosen evangelical Christianity as their area of endeavor. They might still be in business.

 

Additional note: Maybe the reason Barton hasn’t said anything about this is because in Texas it is illegal to claim a fictitious or substandard degree.

Sec. 32.52. FRAUDULENT, SUBSTANDARD, OR FICTITIOUS DEGREE. (a) In this section, “fraudulent or substandard degree” has the meaning assigned by Section 61.302, Education Code.

(b) A person commits an offense if the person:

(1) uses or claims to hold a postsecondary degree that the person knows:

(A) is a fraudulent or substandard degree;

(B) is fictitious or has otherwise not been granted to the person; or

(C) has been revoked; and

(2) uses or claims to hold that degree:

(A) in a written or oral advertisement or other promotion of a business; or

(B) with the intent to:

(i) obtain employment;

(ii) obtain a license or certificate to practice a trade, profession, or occupation;

(iii) obtain a promotion, a compensation or other benefit, or an increase in compensation or other benefit, in employment or in the practice of a trade, profession, or occupation;

(iv) obtain admission to an educational program in this state; or

(v) gain a position in government with authority over another person, regardless of whether the actor receives compensation for the position.

(c) An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.

(d) If conduct that constitutes an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under any other law, the actor may be prosecuted under this section or the other law.

David Barton Misleads Ben Shapiro on the Jefferson Bible

David Barton spent an hour or so with Ben Shapiro on The Daily Wire recently and one of the topics was The Jefferson Bible. As Barton likes to say dramatically, Jefferson edited the gospels twice in his life. One of those versions we have today which is often called the Jefferson Bible. However, as Jefferson made clear in his correspondence, the two efforts were part of lifelong process to find what Jefferson considered to be the true teachings of Jesus. He made two efforts, one hastily done in the White House, and one more carefully later in life.

In any case, at 32:28 below Barton starts his narrative about The Jefferson Bible. Watch:

Barton told Shapiro nearly the same false story he told Eric Metaxas when he appeared on Metaxas’ show in 2016. I did a debunking of that story then with links to additional debunkings. You should go check it out.

Did Jefferson’s 1804 Version Include Just The Red Letters?

Let’s just take one claim. Barton told Shapiro that in his 1804 version of The Jefferson Bible, Jefferson cut out all of the words of Jesus — “the red letters” and included them in the compilation. This is false. First, we can’t be 100% sure what was in the final bound version because no copy has survived to this day. Only the version done sometime after 1820 has survived. When Barton asks people if they have ever read either version, he knows they can’t have read the 1804 effort because a copy doesn’t exist.

The reason we have some confidence about what was in it is because Jefferson’s outline for what he wanted to include has survived as have the Bibles he used to cut out those verses from the Gospels. Thus, Jefferson’s extracted Gospel can be reconstructed. The most rigorous reconstruction has been done by Dickinson Adams and published in Jefferson’s Extracts from the GospelsBarton is aware of this work and knows about Jefferson’s tables. He knows that Jefferson did not intend to include the red letters of John 3:16, John 14:6 or the resurrection of Christ. There is no feeding of the 5,000. Jesus doesn’t walk on water in Jefferson’s version. His red lettered exhortation to “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” is not to be found in Jefferson’s extraction. Jefferson’s 1804 version ends with John 19:30:

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished.’ and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.

There is no resurrection or Great Commission in either of Jefferson’s extractions.

I covered Barton’s claims about The Jefferson Bible in my book with Michael Coulter, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President and included the tables Jefferson constructed to guide his extractions. I have included links to the three images here. If a verse is listed, Jefferson intended to extract it for use in his version of the Gospels.

Page One, Page Two, Page Three

As anyone can see, these passages leave out almost all of the miracles of Jesus and many of His words. Barton is simply wrong to say that Jefferson took all of “the red letters” and compiled them in a volume. In several letters to friends, Jefferson described his project and said he could discern the actual teachings of Jesus from those added by his followers. He said picking the actual words and teaching was as simple as “plucking diamonds from a dunghill.” This he said to John Adams in 1813 about that 1804 version:

I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging, the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an 8 vo. of 46. pages of pure and unsophisticated doctrines, such as were professed and acted on by the unlettered apostles, the Apostolic fathers, and the Christians of the 1st. century.

I have covered the other claims elsewhere but I hope this is enough to show that Barton is making things up in direct contrast to the evidence. He has been doing this since at least 2011.

In addition, the claim that Jefferson was inspired by a sermon to give this compilation to Indians is false as well. The sermon says nothing about giving just the words of Jesus to native people. Even one of Barton’s own collaborators, Mark Belilies, admitted that to me. Nonetheless, Barton continues telling the same stories.

 

David Barton Goes Full Anti-Vax

Yesterday on Wallbuilders Live, David Barton doubled down on his claim that parts of aborted fetuses are in vaccines. He made that claim last week and after I wrote to refute it, he devoted a whole show to the topic today.

His guest for the program was anti-vax biologist Theresa Deisher. Deisher has a PhD in microbiology from Stanford and at one time was a mainstream scientist. Several years ago, she converted to anti-vax ideology and has focused on the theory that vaccines cause autism via the introduction of fetal DNA into a vaccinated child.

The most shocking false claim that the Barton’s (father and son) make on the program is that body parts are taken from live babies for use in vaccines in use today. This of course would be illegal. Despite what Barton and Deisher say, there is no legal process where children who are alive can be dismembered in this manner. Of course, anyone would be opposed to that.

Federal law (Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002) protects infants who survive abortion. Any baby who survives an abortion must be treated as a live person. I don’t know that this law is always followed but it is the law. Deisher nor Barton offered any proof that babies are being killed in this manner.

Dr. Deisher’s work has been thoroughly debunked.

She predicts that where MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine is widely used, autism will spike. However, this has been debunked, most recently in a large population scale study by our old friend Morten Frisch and colleagues in Denmark. Here are selected aspects of their paper:

Participants: 657,461 children born in Denmark from 1999 through 31 December 2010, with follow-up from 1 year of age and through 31 August 2013.

Results: During 5,025,754 person-years of follow-up, 6517 children were diagnosed with autism (incidence rate, 129.7 per 100 000 person-years). Comparing MMR-vaccinated with MMR-unvaccinated children yielded a fully adjusted autism hazard ratio of 0.93 (95% CI, 0.85 to 1.02). Similarly, no increased risk for autism after MMR vaccination was consistently observed in subgroups of children defined according to sibling history of autism, autism risk factors (based on a disease risk score) or other childhood vaccinations, or during specified time periods after vaccination.

Barton has moved into dangerous territory here. He is trying to scare people away from vaccines with these false claims and as a result may be partly responsible for people deciding not to immunize their children. I would not want that on my conscience. Even the Catholic Church advises members that they may use vaccines due to the greater good of preventing sickness and death.

David Barton Triggers Protest in East Idaho

Founder of Wallbuilders and GOP operative David Barton is slated to speak at a Lincoln Day Dinner in Idaho Falls, ID on April 13. Some local officials aren’t very happy about it.

To protest Barton’s visit, Idaho Falls City Councilman John Radford and Bonneville County Democrats Committee Chairwoman Miranda Marquit have organized a community rally focusing on inclusion.  The group plans to meet on the same day at a nearby park.

The group’s Facebook page says:

Unfortunately, David Barton has been invited to share his brand of exclusion and “wall building” with our community. We’d like to host an event where we discuss the beauty and strength inclusion can bring to our community. we want to present An alternative to the David Barton approach, which focuses on exclusion and exceptionalism around race, religion, and sexuality.

On the Facebook page, a link to a NPR article on Barton’s distorted history can be found and the news article mentions Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies which was pulled from publication due to historical errors.

In today’s GOP, pretending to have an earned doctorate, being an anti-vaxxer, denying climate change and distorting history isn’t a big problem. However, it is good to see others make the public aware of these issues and challenge Barton’s claim to be an expert.

No, David Barton, Vaccines Don’t Contain Parts of Aborted Fetuses

David Barton (left); Eric Metaxas (right)

In addition to history, David Barton often tries his hand at distorting other subjects as well. On his Wallbuilders Live program (which is taped) yesterday, Barton said the following about vaccines:

This is a big fight that’s going on now with the vaccinations. There’s a whole bunch of people that do not like their kids participating in vaccinations for several reasons. One is that so many vaccinations now contain parts of aborted fetuses. So, just as a matter of conscience, “I don’t want that in my kid.”

That’s The Government Getting Involved

David:

And then there’s so many bad things happening from the newer vaccinations. We think we have to have a vaccination for everything now. If somebody gets sick, we’ve got to create a vaccination. And that’s just not accurate. That’s the government getting involved and it’s having bad consequences.

Apparently, Barton is a big fan of people getting sick and opposes medical progress. The only bad consequences come from people listening to nonsense like this and failing to immunize their children. Currently, measles cases are on the rise with more cases reported this year already than all of last year.

Pro-Life = Anti-Vax?

Associating the anti-vax propaganda with a pro-life position would be a ideological win for anti-vaxxers. That is why Barton’s distortion of the facts requires a response. If pro-life people think that actual fetal parts from abortions are in vaccines, some might refuse vaccinations on that basis.  What is the real situation?

In fact, vaccine methods were developed from cells derived from fetuses secured via therapeutic abortions before abortion was legal. The two cell lines in use today came from two subsequent abortions outside the U.S. Fetal cells allow the development of vaccine production indefinitely. As far as I can determine, the abortions were not conducted for the purpose of making vaccines, and no new abortions have taken place to create new vaccines. In other words, vaccines don’t encourage abortion, nor do vaccines use parts of a fetus in the vaccine (see this helpful summary for more information).

If vaccine use was a moral concern for a pro-life position, one would expect the Catholic Church to forbid vaccines. However, the conservative National Catholic Bioethics Center allows the use of vaccines developed from aborted fetuses.

Are there any vaccines for which there are no alternatives?

Unfortunately, at present there are no alternative vaccines available in the United States against rubella (German measles), varicella (chickenpox), and hepatitis A. All of these are grown in the cell lines WI-38 and/or MRC-5. (See note #7 of the statement of the Pontifical Academy for Life for a listing of vaccines and their source).

What do I do if there is no alternative to a vaccine produced from these cell lines?

One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.

The NCBC reasons that the risk to the life and health of one’s own children as well as other people’s children make vaccination the greater good. The NCBC also acknowledges that there are no parts of aborted fetuses in the vaccines.

What does it mean when we say that these products are made in “descendent cells”?

Descendent cells are the medium in which these vaccines are prepared. The cell lines under consideration were begun using cells taken from one or more fetuses aborted almost 40 years ago. Since that time the cell lines have grown independently. It is important to note that descendent cells are not the cells of the aborted child. They never, themselves, formed a part of the victim’s body.

How does one know when a particular vaccine has an association with abortion?

The cell lines WI-38, MRC-5 and Walvax-2 are derived from tissue from aborted fetuses. Any product grown in these cell lines, therefore, has a distant association with abortion. The cells in these lines have gone through multiple divisions before they are used in vaccine manufacture. After manufacture, the vaccines are removed from the cell lines and purified. One cannot accurately say that the vaccines contain any of the cells from the original abortion.

Leaving aside the reasons for the original abortions (they may have been to safeguard the health of the mother), any current cells from these cell lines were never a part of the aborted fetus. There are no parts of a fetus in a vaccine.

I don’t know if Barton’s words were ignorance or a deliberate attempt to distort the facts in order to discourage vaccinations. However, it would be a very dangerous development if anti-vax propaganda became aligned with a  standard pro-life position. He should retract what he said.

Hat tip to RWW for pointing this out. 

Is Confronting Fake History Worth It?

After fighting a few of these battles, I still believe it is worth it.

I thought about this question again while watching Princeton historian Kevin Kruse take on Dinesh D’Souza. Kruse created a thread of over 120 historians who either debunked or expressed criticism of D’Souza’s historical writings. For his part, D’Souza seems to thrive on Kruse’s attention and shows no awareness of the significant rebuke by historians of many ideological stripes (left, center, right). D’Souza had this to say in response:

It is obvious that D’Souza will refuse any expert correction. If anything this emboldens his efforts to cast himself as smarter than the academy.

D’Souza’s response, while more brazen and rude, is similar to how other historical revisionists respond to public correction. For many years, David Barton was effectively and accurately debunked by Rob Boston, Chris Rodda, and others. However, Barton and his followers dismissed them as unbelievers who attacked him because he was a Christian. When the criticism started coming relentlessly from within the church, things changed. Eventually, Barton’s book on Jefferson was pulled from publication and he was stung by the scrutiny from once friendly sources.

Those who follow this blog know that Barton made a come back. He eventually published a second edition of The Jefferson Lies with World Net Daily. Barton, pal Glenn Beck, WND claimed that political correctness at Christian publisher Thomas Nelson doomed The Jefferson Lies. However, the evidence contradicted that claim.

Before and after Barton’s book was pulled, numerous Christian historians weighed in against Barton’s writing. Along the way, over 40 Christian historians, some of them quite conservative politically, expressed publicly their criticisms of Barton’s historical claims. It is simply impossible to make a case that the criticism of Barton is based in ideological difference.

Has it made a difference?  I don’t think there is a good way to know for sure.  One can never erase the unprecedented removal of a book from publication. I feel certain Christian history professors are more aware of the issues than ever before. It appears to me that more are speaking out and engaging the public on questions of religious influences during the founding era. I also see fewer instances of false stories such as Congress printed the first English Bible and Jefferson gave his Bible to the Indians as indications that America is a Christian nation.

So what has Barton done? With so many academic Christian historians calling him out, he attacked them back by questioning their Christianity and their expertise. He even attacked Christian colleges and universities. He warned parents to think twice before sending students there. He came up with his approved list of schools where the history departments apparently approve of him. Barton shows no signs of stopping his work recruiting legislators to his brand of Christian nationalism.

Here is a sign of progress. That list was very small with about 10 schools mentioned. Many were small Bible schools. One, Ecclesia College in Arkansas, became embroiled in a fraud and kickback scandal leading to the jailing of the president.

Back to Kruse and D’Souza: Now that Kruse has compiled this list, people who need a quick response to D’Souza defenders have a resource. While an insufficient answer to D’Souza’s overall message, it is a response to D’Souza’s claim that his work is historically sound. Like Barton, D’Souza may yet find a few professors who are willing to put their reputation on the line to support him. If so, the issues will continue to be exposed to more people which will further discredit D’Souza in the long run.

I have watched Kruse and D’Souza for months now and the pattern is that D’Souza makes a claim, Kruse answers, and D’Souza goes silent or responds with an insult. Now that Kruse has confronted several of D’Souza’s claims, this pattern has become clear. That alone has made the effort worth it.

Before Dinesh D’Souza, There Was David Barton

Eric Metaxas (Right), David Barton (Left)

David Barton hasn’t gone anywhere but D’Souza is currently associated with the claim that progressive historians have kept the racist past of the Democratic party out of our education system. In 2004, Barton publihed a book called Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White in which he emphasized the Democratic failings and the Republican history of civil rights advocacy. However, he fails to account for the shift in the Democratic party during the last 50+ years. Typical of Barton, the book is missing important events such as Barry Goldwater’s failure to support the Civil Rights Act. I critiqued the book in a 2012 post.

Currently, Princeton historian Kevin Kruse is documenting on Twitter the many historians who have found D’Souza’s work to be lacking (over 100 at this writing). I was reminded that D’Souza’s spin on the Democratic party isn’t new with him by this tweet from Bruce Wilson:

I don’t know how long D’Souza has been promoting the Democratic party is still the racist party line but he sounds a lot like Barton when he does it. Is it possible that D’Souza lifted it from Barton?

D’Souza claims history teachers obscure the fact that Democrats favored slavery and Jim Crow laws. That certainly isn’t true in our local school system and as Kevin Kruse regularly points out, historians teach the facts — all of them. It is D’Souza and Barton who leave out the facts they don’t like.

Kruse’s thread with the line up of historians is here: