Barton’s Inane Argument on the Christian Origin of the Constitution

It is often said that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but only David Barton could turn the absence of evidence into positive evidence for the conclusion he wants people to believe. He says the lack of mention of God in the Constitution only proves that it’s a Christian document.

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Religious Right psuedo-historian David Barton spent a good portion of his “WallBuilders Live” radio program today insisting that the absence of any mention of God in the U.S. Constitution is proof that it is not a secular document.

“People say, ‘Well, the word “God” isn’t in the Constitution,’” Barton said. “There’s a reason for that and it doesn’t mean it’s secular, it means just the opposite.”

As Barton sees it, there are four mentions of God in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is really nothing more than “part two of the Declaration,” so the Founding Fathers didn’t need to bother mentioning it again.

“They didn’t feel like they had to say anything in the Constitution because they’ve already said it really strongly in the Declaration,” Barton claimed. “Why repeat it? Because this is just the completion of the Declaration, if you will.”

It’s just such a terrible argument. Even if he’s right about the Declaration — and I’m one who believes that the DoI does help us determine the proper interpretation of the Constitution in regard to the general principles of limited government — it would not support the conclusion he’s trying to draw from it. The DoI speaks in the most general terms about the “creator” and “nature’s God,” deistic language that Christians could be on board with too.

The DoI, like the Constitution, was a product of enormous compromise in an attempt to get disparate groups to agree on broad and general language, in this case between the more orthodox Christians among the founders and those of a more deistic or theistic rationalist bent. Barton absurdly claims that such broad language means that the Constitution was based on the Bible and that the Bible therefore defines the limits of liberty. He takes the one position that you simply cannot justify, which is that the Constitution intended to create a theocracy.

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