David Barton and Wallbuilders Double Down on The Jefferson Lies Accusations

In his new edition of The Jefferson Lies, David Barton claimed that I recruited Jay Richards to find Christian historians who would engage in a campaign against him. That charge is still false.
I denied the charge in a post here and in a review on The Jefferson Lies Amazon page.
Today someone at Barton’s organization, Wallbuilders, replied to my review with an accusation that I told one story in the review and another story to some undisclosed persons. See below:
WBAmazonComment
 
I then replied:
WTAmazonCom
 
 
At one point in November 2013, Barton claimed that “secular guys” recruited Christian professors to attack Barton. At the time, I wrote:

Barton claims his Christian critics were recruited by “secular guys.” Of course, this is flatly false, at least in my case and anyone I know. No one recruited Michael Coulter and me to critique Barton’s book. Furthermore, there are dozens of Christian professors who have critiqued Barton’s work simply because it is the right and honest thing to do.

Jay Richards is a Fellow at the Discovery Institute who recruited 10 scholars to read our book and The Jefferson Lies. None of these scholars were recruited by secular people to critique Barton.

Even the Family Research Council recognized flaws in Barton’s presentations and pulled his Capitol Tour video from view. Also, Focus on the Family edited Barton’s talks to remove two major historical errors. Perhaps Barton is going to include FRC and Focus on the Family among those recruited by the unnamed “secular guys.”

I don’t know if Barton, Wallbuilders or WND will ever admit it, but it is undeniable that numerous conservative Christians have come forward with major academic critiques of the claims presented by Wallbuilders.

To support his claim that I recruited Richards, Barton wrote this footnote in the new edition of The Jefferson Lies.

The publisher of another of my works, The Founders Bible, released after The Jefferson Lies, reported to me some unexpected and unsolicited contacts he had with Warren Throckmorton, explaining: “About a month ago, I started to get hounded by Throckmorton via email and on our website. He even called my former publishing partner and ended up issuing a warning and a threat. Warren ‘warned’ that he had assembled a coalition of people, supposed conservative Christians, who were mounting a campaign against David. If we intended to publish The Founders’ Bible, anyone associated with Barton was likely to suffer financially, because they were going to come against him. Sort of hit me blindside.” I received this email from the publisher of The Founders Bible on August 16, 2012.
Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 4669-4675). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

On July 3, 2012, I wrote to a friend who once was involved with the publisher of The Founders Bible with a heads up about the issues relating to The Jefferson Lies. The email was not a threat but rather a concerned personal alert to a friend. As I understand it, that email was forwarded to the publisher of The Founders Bible. I also made attempts to contact the publisher directly for comment about various aspects of the Founders Bible (for instance, I wondered if The Founders Bible was really going to include a favorable reference to a defender of Southern slavery). In my contacts with my friend and with the publisher I recollect describing the emergence of critiques from Christian conservatives.

Jay Richards contacted me in May 2012. He told me he had been commissioned to contact Christian historians to explore fact claims in The Jefferson Lies. While I was happy to hear that Richards was involved, I did not recruit him. Later, I made contacts with my friend and the publisher of The Founders Bible in July 2012, months after Richards first contacted me.

I have yet to hear from Wallbuilders about their claims but will update this post if I do.

With David Barton as Principal Officer, Non-Profit Mercury One Gave $100k to Barton's Wallbuilders

Sometime in 2013, Mercury One, a non-profit founded by Glenn Beck but run by principal officer David Barton, gave $100,000 to Barton’s Wallbuilders, also a non-profit run by Barton. Such gifts appear to be questionable under IRS guidelines addressing gifts which benefit insiders.
Barton founded and is head of Wallbuilders, and was recently tapped to run the Keep the Promise group of Super PACs with over $38 million to spend supporting Ted Cruz.
On Mercury One’s 2013 990 form, Barton is listed in box F as the principal officer:
MercuryOne9902013
 
 
The IRS describes the principal officer (page 9):

For purposes of this item, “principal officer” means an officer of the organization who, regardless of title, has ultimate responsibility for implementing the decisions of the organization’s governing body, or for supervising the management, administration, or operation of the organization.

Thus, if Mercury One filed the 990 properly, Barton has ultimate responsibility for operating the non-profit. Without examining anything else, that is a noteworthy finding.
Barton is also listed as officer along with only two other board members, Glenn Beck’s wife and his longtime attorney and researcher, Joseph Kerry.
MercuryOne9902013board
Certainly by the standards of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, this is an unacceptable composition for a board. None of these people are independent and it seems improper for Kerry to assume three positions. As principal officer, Barton only needs one other person to vote with him to do anything.
Later, the 990 reports that Wallbuilders received $100, 000. This gift accounts for about 7.5% of the income Wallbuilders received in gifts and grants in 2013.
MercuryOne9902013WBGrant
 
 
According to the IRS, non-profits are for the public interest and not private interest.

Private Benefit and Inurement
A public charity is prohibited from allowing more than an insubstantial accrual of private benefit to individuals or organizations. This restriction is to ensure that a tax-exempt organization serves a public interest, not a private one. If a private benefit is more than incidental, it could jeopardize the organization’s tax-exempt status.
No part of an organization’s net earnings may inure to the benefit of an insider. An insider is a person who has a personal or private interest in the activities of the organization such as an officer, director, or a key employee. This means that an organization is prohibited from allowing its income or assets to accrue to insiders. An example of prohibited inurement would include payment of unreasonable compensation to an insider. Any amount of inurement may be grounds for loss of tax-exempt status.
If a public charity provides an economic benefit to any person who is in a position to exercise substantial influence over its affairs (that exceeds the value of any goods or services provided in consideration), the organization has engaged in an excess benefit transaction. A public charity that engages in such a transaction must report it to the IRS. Excise taxes are imposed on any person who engages in an excess benefit transaction with a public charity, and on any organization manager who knowingly approves such a transaction. (See Reporting Excess Benefit Transactions on page 12).

Only the IRS can make a final determination but this transaction looks like it is worth exploring. Barton certainly is an insider at Mercury One and, via Wallbuilders, he benefited from the gift. The $100,000 is almost as much as Barton reported as compensation in 2013.
 

How David Barton Speaks to 400 Groups per Year

David Barton frequently claims that he speaks to over 400 groups per year. Once he said he spoke to over 600 different groups per year. Given the number of days in a year and his other activities, this seems like a fantastic claim. After reading a document from his defamation lawsuit, I now think I know how he gets to this number.
In 2012, Barton sued two candidates for the Texas Board of Education for defamation, Judy Jennings, and Rebecca Bell-Metereau. The case was settled out of court in late 2014. Jennings and Bell-Metereau said in a campaign video Barton was known for speaking to white supremacist groups. In fact, Barton only spoke to two such groups early in his career and he said he didn’t know about their views at the time. He settled out of court gaining an apology from the defendants.
In Barton’s affidavit, he claimed that the accusations of Jennings and Bell-Metereau hurt his business. To prove it, he called on one of his employees, Tracy Geron, to provide financial information from years 2009-2011. I will deal with Barton’s claims of harm in a future post. For now, I want to focus on the claim of presentations before 400 groups per year.
In the affidavit provided by Geron, a numerical summary of Barton’s activities for years 2009-2011 was provided. See all three years of presentations below:
Barton presentations
Notice that the largest single category of presentations is “Radio.” Barton does a taped radio show (ironically called Wallbuilder’s Live) each week day. He appears on most of them. It appears that he is counting his daily show as a group presentation. Doing so pushes the number of “groups” he addresses to over 400. Looking at these lists of presentations, it does not appear that he addresses 400 different groups per year. In this list, Barton even includes the articles he writes as a presentation. By this logic, I spoke to at least 590 groups in 2014 (blog posts), and that doesn’t include my columns in the Daily Beast and elsewhere. If my college lectures and other speaking opportunities are included, I do twice as many presentations as Barton. Does that mean I speak to twice as many groups?
I would really like to know what falls under “other.”
From these data, it doesn’t appear that the 2010 allegations about white supremacy hurt Barton much. He only had two fewer presentations in 2011. As you will see from the pdf of this financial statement, his financials remained strong in 2011 despite his claims to have suffered harm. More on that in a future post.

For the Sake of James Naismith, David Barton Should Come Clean About His Basketball Claims

During the NCAA tournament, David Barton’s son Tim did a tribute to James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. Watch:
[youtube]https://youtu.be/NLsz__v2of4[/youtube]
The information is largely accurate. Naismith was a ministerial candidate (along with other occupations) who believed he could reach more people via sports than the pulpit. He invented basketball to give young men something to do indoors when the weather was cold outside. It caught on.
I couldn’t escape the irony that Barton’s organization made a link to the NCAA basketball tournament not long after Barton claimed to play for Oral Roberts University’s record setting Division One team. According to ORU, Barton did not play for the team, nor did he accurately describe how the team practiced. I doubt James Naismith would approve.
James_Naismith_with_a_basketballYesterday, Barton claimed to be a translator for the Russian National Gymnastics Team in 1976. I will have more information on that claim in a separate post. At this post, I can say that there are several good reasons to be skeptical.
 

David Barton Plagiarizes Eric Metaxas' WSJ Article on a Fine-Tuned Universe

Without any mention of Eric Metaxas or the Wall Street Journal, David Barton, on his Wallbuilders program today, described the exact illustrations and arguments used by Metaxas in his WSJ article “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” Barton referred to Carl Sagan’s two criteria for planets capable of sustaining life and then he said scientists have discovered that 200 perfect conditions must be met for a planet to have life. Barton refers to the Friday segment as “good news Friday.” In this case, the good news according to Barton and crew is that scientists are now leaning toward intelligent design.
Here is the link to the episode. The discussion of Metaxas’ article comes within the first 10 minutes.

Other than Barton’s embellishments, this is a description of the WSJ article. For instance, at 5:36 Barton tells his co-hosts:

BARTON: Now that they know that there are 200, they’re getting this movement in the scientific community  toward what we call intelligent design. As a matter of fact, the guy who coined the term ‘Big Bang’, are you ready for this? Fred Hoyle, and he’s the astronomer who coined the term ‘Big Bang’ said that his atheism was quote ‘greatly shaken’ unquote at the new developments.
GREEN: Wow!
BARTON: He later wrote that quote ‘a common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with the chemistry and biology.  The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming to put this conclusion almost beyond question.’ That’s atheist astronomer.

Metaxas wrote in his WSJ article:

Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

Barton focused on two main points: one, scientists have discovered that no planets (“bubkis”) are in the habitable zone and two, that there are 200 criteria necessary for earth-like life. Both of these points are disputable. As I noted in a prior post, NASA has identified eight planets in the habitable zone, and Metaxas has not provided a source for his contention about 200 parameters. The one source I know Metaxas pointed to, a research brief by Jay Richards for the Discovery Institute, identified only 22 parameters.


In fact, Richards cautions against identifying a broad number of parameters.

In discussing fine-tuned parameters, one can take either a maximal or a minimal approach.
Those who take the maximal approach seek to create as long a list as possible. For instance, one popular Christian apologist listed thirty-four different parameters in one of his early books, and maintains a growing list, which currently has ninety parameters. He also attaches exact probabilities to various “local” factors.
While a long (and growing) list sporting exact probabilities has rhetorical force, it also has a serious downside: many of the parameters in these lists are probably derived from other, more fundamental parameters, so they’re not really independent. The rate of supernova explosions, for 290 instance, may simply be a function of some basic laws of nature, and not be a separate instance of fine-tuning. If you’re going to legitimately multiply the various parameters to get a low probability, you want to make sure you’re not “double booking,” that is, listing the same factor twice under different descriptions. Otherwise, the resulting probability will be inaccurate. Moreover, in many cases, we simply don’t know the exact probabilities.

“Rhetorical force” is a good description of what Metaxas used in his WSJ article.
This rhetoric made an impression on David Barton who liked it so much, he appropriated it as his own and added some rhetorical force of his own.

Scott Lively on Wallbuilders Live

You read that right. Scott Lively, author of The Pink Swastika, was on David Barton’s radio show today complaining about me. If you want to listen, go to the August 21 show and click on the link.

Barton, Green and Lively would love to make the controversy over The Jefferson Lies about me. Lively’s presence on the show can only serve as an attempt to change the subject from Barton’s work to something, anything else. Green and Lively doubled down on the accusation that Christian scholars are using tactics of Alinsky to attack Barton. The Chuck Colson Center is using Alinsky tactics? Jay Richards of the Discovery Center is channeling Alinsky?

For those who want to examine the historical issues relating to The Pink Swastika, see this link.

In any case, the issues being raised now by numerous Christian scholars and observers are not about me or my views on unrelated matters. I call on Mr. Barton and Green to stick to the historical issues and cease the ad hominem attacks.

The Point on The Jefferson Lies: We don’t need to change the facts

John Stonestreet, speaking on The Point, a radio minute affiliated with The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, came out in a negative manner toward The Jefferson Lies last week.  Here is the brief segment:

The facts are always important — even when we don’t like them. For the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

A few weeks ago, David Barton of Wall Builders and frequent guest of the Glenn Beck Show, published a book called “The Jefferson Lies: Exposing Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson.” But many historians think that it’s Barton’s book that is full of myths and inaccuracies about our third president.

In fact, Dr. Jay Richards, a recent guest with me on BreakPoint This Week, asked ten Christian historians to assess Barton’s work. Their responses were pretty negative. And now Barton’s publisher has taken the book out of print and apologized.

We may be eager to portray the founding fathers — and especially Jefferson — as orthodox, evangelical Christians and gloss over any evidence to the contrary. But as Dr. Richards argues in World and Os Guinness presents in his new book A Free People’s Suicide, the American experiment was exceptional enough that we don’t need to change the facts to prove it. Come to ThePointRadio.org to hear my interview with Os Guinness about this new book. For the Point, I’m John Stonestreet.

Last week, I noted that the Institute for Religion and Democracy had posted a column pointing out the “unfortunate, unnecessary exaggerations” in Barton’s work. Now another conservative Christian organization comes forward with recognition of the serious critique offered by Christian scholars.

Wallbuilders leaders David Barton and Rick Green continue to paint those who fact check Barton’s work as liberals and worse. The Point’s broadcast is another crack in that wall. About The Point:

In association with BreakPoint.org and the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, The Point’s primary mission is to “engage real life in real time from a Christian worldview.” But we won’t just tell you how to think. By tackling the tough questions of our time on a daily basis, we plan to start discussion here that will translate directly to your home, workplace and church. We’re challenging Christians from all walks of life to reject the boundaries between secular and sacred and to realize that the world and everything in it is under God’s jurisdiction.

 

Wallbuilders #2 Man Compares David Barton’s Critics to Hitler and Alinsky

Rick Green, David Barton’s right hand man at Wallbuilders, uses some creative and colorful language to address those who have examined David Barton’s claims about Thomas Jefferson.

Question: What do elitist professors have in common with Adolf Hitler & Saul Alinsky?

Answer: They masterfully use the powerful art of innuendo to falsely defame those with which they disagree.

Definition of Innuendo: A derogatory hint or reference to a person or thing.

The internet is abuzz today with leftwing bloggers, elitist professors, and downright jealous peers licking their chops and rubbing their hands in excitement as they repeat the juicy quotes about David Barton books being full of “embarrassing factual errors, suspiciously selective quotes, and highly misleading claims.”

Yet not a single article can point to a single factual error, quote out of context, or misleading claim.

How ‘bout that.

It is one thing to defend your boss or friend, it is another thing to accuse someone of using the tactics of Hitler. I thought everybody knew the first rule of arguing: the first one to invoke Hitler loses the argument. Since he did it first, he loses.

More seriously, this is an outrageously irresponsible reaction. Those looking to Wallbuilders for thoughtful reactions to their recent crisis should be more than disappointed. They should be astonished and shocked that someone who claims to run a pro-family ministry would respond in this manner. Many conservative Christian scholars have raised substantial, documented issues with The Jefferson Lies in various places.  Instead of taking these matters seriously, Wallbuilders resorts to hyperbolic name calling.

It is beyond belief that Green claims that “not a single article can point to a single factual error, quote out of context, or misleading claim.” Just go search for hot-pressed Bible, Kaskaskia Indians, Gnadenhutten, Jefferson Bible, manumission and/or Thomas Jefferson on this blog to get numerous posts outlining in detail factual errors, out of context quotes and misleading claims.  Anyone doing 5 minutes worth of searching will find many more elsewhere.

This is a classic example of trying to change the subject. However, the truth is that the critics are bringing the specifics. Right now, it is Wallbuilders that is using the innuendo and defamation as their chief argument.

Did Thomas Jefferson found the Virginia Bible Society?

David Barton says he did. Watch this clip from the American Heritage series. Barton is speaking to Matthew and Laurie Crouch.

About the Virginia Bible Society, Barton says

You get back here and you find the Virginia Bible Society. Now what makes that one particularly interesting is Thomas Jefferson was one of the founders of the Virginia Bible Society. Oh no, not Jefferson! He’s secular, he wanted…you see Jefferson founded the Bible Society, he gave large contributions to get the Bible out to every American.

Did Jefferson found the Virginia Bible Society?

According to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Jefferson donated money to the society but was not a founder. The founding managers are listed there:

The Bible Society of Virginia was founded in 1813 in Richmond as … “[a] Society for the distribution of the Holy Scriptures to the poor of our country.” Thirteen men were designated to serve as the inaugural managers in 1813: Reverend John Buchanan (president), Reverend John D. Blair (vice-president), Reverend Jacob Grigg (vice-president), Reverend Jacob H. Rice (corresponding secretary), William Munford (recording secretary), Samuel Greenhow (treasurer), Archibald Blair, William Mayo, Robert Quarles, George Watt, Reverend John Bryce, William Fenwick, and Alexander M’Rae.

Jefferson did not seem to be aware that such a society was needed when he wrote to society treasurer, Samuel Greenhow, providing a gift of $50. In this letter, it seems clear that Jefferson was in the dark about the aims of the society and hoped that the group would not send Bibles to other nations.

TO SAMUEL GREENHOW.

Monticello, January 31, 1814. Sir,—Your letter on the subject of the Bible Society arrived here while I was on a journey to Bedford, which occasioned a long absence from home. Since my return, it has lain, with a mass of others accumulated during my absence, till I could answer them. I presume the views of the society are confined to our own country, for with the religion of other countries my own forbids intermeddling. I had not supposed there was a family in this State not possessing a Bible, and wishing without having the means to procure one. When, in earlier life, I was intimate with every class, I think I never was in a house where that was the case. However, circumstances may have changed, and the society, I presume, have evidence of the fact. I therefore enclose you cheerfully, an order on Messrs. Gibson & Jefferson for fifty dollars, for the purposes of the society, sincerely agreeing with you that there never was a more pure and sublime system of morality delivered to man than is to be found in the four evangelists. Accept the assurance of my esteem and respect.

It seems unlikely that Jefferson was a founder given that he did not know the objectives of the group. His donation was apparently a one-time contribution and which would be worth just over $500.00 today, if this calculator is to be trusted. I can find no evidence that Jefferson founded the Virginia Bible Society. If Barton has evidence that is not generally available, he should produce it. If such evidence is offered, then I will retract this post. I seriously doubt that is going to happen.

On point, Jefferson did not seem to think very highly of bible societies when it came to evangelizing outside the United States. John Adams also had a dim view of them. He wrote to Jefferson on November 4, 1816 and complained:

We have now, it seems a National Bible Society, to propagate King James Bible, through all Nations. Would it not be better, to apply these pious Subscriptions, to purify Christendom from the corruptions of Christianity; than to propagate those Corruptions in Europe, Asia, Africa and America! (p. 493-494)*

Both Adams and Jefferson agreed that the New Testament was riddled with corruptions and falsehoods. Jefferson’s attempt to edit the New Testament was driven by his desire to get back to the basic moral teachings of Jesus, sans miracles.

Jefferson wrote back to Adams in response, complaining about the value of the “bible-societies.” Describing those who took the Bibles to Asia, Jefferson wrote to Adams on November 25, 1816:

These Incendiaries, finding that the days of fire and faggot are over in the Atlantic hemispheres, are now preparing to put the torch to the Asiatic regions. What would they say were the Pope to send annually to this country, colonies of Jesuit priests with cargoes of their Missal and translations of their Vulgate, to be put gratis into the hands of every one who would accept them? and to act thus nationally on us as a nation? (p. 496)*

Whereas Adams dismisses the whole enterprise, Jefferson wonders how the Protestants in America would like it if the Vatican made a special effort to bring in the Vulgate and give it away.

In the video above, Barton discusses the Jefferson Bible and makes the claim that the Bible was designed to evangelize the Indians. He also says that Jefferson just included the red letter parts – i.e., the words of Christ. I addressed the Jefferson Bible as an evangelistic tool here (it wasn’t) and in a future post, I will demonstrate that Jefferson left out many red letters and did indeed seek to purge those aspects of the Gospels with which he disagreed.

*The Adams-Jefferson Letters, Edited by Lester Cappon. Published by The University of North Carolina Press, 1959.