|The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State|
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In 1995 I wrote a critique of "America's Godly Heritage,"
a video by David Barton. At that time, Barton's views were little-known beyond his native Texas. I prepared my critique in response to occasional inquiries from friends of the BJC who rightly questioned Barton's claim that America is "a Christian nation."
Since then Barton's reputation and influence have steadily grown. He has written several books, founded an organization to advance his ideas and become a central figure in some religious circles, as well as an operative of the Republican Party. He has served as the Vice Chair of the Texas GOP and was named one of the nation's "25 Most Influential Evangelicals" by Time magazine in 2005.
While the avenues for his message have multiplied, the themes of Barton's work are the same today as they were in 1995. Barton peddles the proposition that America is a Christian nation, legally and historically. He asserts that the principle of church-state separation, while not in the Constitution, has systematically been used to rule religion out of the public arena, particularly the public school system. His presentation has just enough ring of truth to make him credible to many people. His work, however, is laced with exaggerations, half-truths and misstatements of fact.
As more individuals, congregations and elected officials are influenced by Barton's claims, the threat of his campaign becomes more real. In an effort to counter Barton's misguided mission, and still using "America's Godly Heritage" as an outline, I have updated and revised my critique of some of Barton's most prominent and problematic claims.
J. Brent Walker, Executive Director, Baptist Joint Committee, April 2005