World Magazine Gets Specific on the David Barton Controversy: Jefferson’s Religious Beliefs

World Magazine has been leading the way on reporting news about David Barton’s controversial book, The Jefferson Lies. This morning Thomas Kidd takes the coverage to one specific question raised in The Jefferson Lies: Was Jefferson an orthodox Christian believer?

The bottom line is that the experts Kidd consulted to weigh the evidence sided with the position we took in Getting Jefferson Right. What is striking about the experts is that they all have significant conservative credibility. Kidd asked Daniel Driesbach, James Stoner, and Kevin Gutzman for their assessments. They all were skeptical that Jefferson’s rejection of orthodoxy began near the end of his life as Barton claims in The Jefferson Lies.

While this is a brief article, it may help to address the concerns of some that our critique of Barton related to semantics. The issues run much deeper and I’m glad this is becoming clearer with each report.

 

  • Gus

    Jefferson was an apostate Unitarian? (sorry couldn’t resist)

  • TexasHistorian

    How can the Barton faithful keep believing him when scholars HE quotes from and those who have been guests on Barton and Beck’s shows????

  • Tracy

    Dr. Throckmorton and friends. I would like to throw up a warning sign here. I very much support the efforts all of you have made with regard to Barton’s “scholarship. However, there is something about Mr. Barton that you may not be aware of because it got very little press, even locally in Texas. A couple of years ago, a woman by the name of Rebecca Bell Metereau (an English professor at a college in Texas, ran for a seat on the now famous Texas State Board of Education, which is an elected political position in Texas. I actually know Rebecca some through e-mail exchanges with her and her daughter. During the political campaign, Rebecca ran some sort of election advertisement that somehow included David Barton in it. As you know, Barton is a high-profile figure in Texas Republican politics and we all know that he is a celebrity in the true legal sense of that term. After the election, David Barton filed a lawsuit against Rebecca for defamation of character, liable, or some such stripe of thing. Best I could tell, and I do not recall the details, whatever Rebecca did in that ad was like almost nothing compared to what we see as normal barbs in most elections—like saying that your mom wears army boots maybe. That case is apparently going to court and is still an active, live, pending case at this time.

    Rebecca did almost nothing to Barton. Fea, Coulter, and Throckmorton have utterly devastated David Barton and his organization. It looks like Pride Rock after Scar had ruled it for 1000 years. My best guess, and it is a really good one, is that Barton will soon be coming back after all three of you in a court of law soon. If he could go after a sweet person like Rebecca in so minor an incident, I shudder to think how he might use his millions to go after you three guys. The man has nothing to lose now because he has already lost so much—and he still has millions of dollars to burn. My best bet is that he will try to restore his reputation by thowing dice at the possibility that he can mount a court case against you guys that would fool a 12-person jury just as easily as he has fooled everyone else in the past—as a play to be exonerated. Walk away line: “See!!! A jury in a duly constituted court of law decided that I was right all along.” I really do sincerely believe that you guys need to hire lawyers and start formulating a legal strategy to defend yourselves.

    Which brings me to Pat Robertson in the 1980s. I saw a 700 Club episode one night where Pat put forth a strategy as to how Christians should start defending themselves. Basically, the message was no more Mr. Nice Guy. He was advocating that Christians, especially wealthy ones like him, could start fighting their opposition by taking them to court. For example, if someone says that you are a bigot against gay people, have your lawyer take them to court and prove it. Force them into having to spend tons of money they do not have and cannot afford just to defend themselves. He said that if enough active Christians would just start doing it, their oppostion would become so intimidated and fearful of lawsuits that they would just cease the battle for whatever their position might be and walk away. He never did it. Neither did anyone else. My money is that Barton will try it out of desperation.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    He wouldn’t win, but that’s not the objective. With Beck financing him…. it’s a possible scenario. I think it unlikely. The FRC, NOM and other backers don’t have the dough, they need that to advertise and keep the rubes sending them the money.

    Though they might use it as a campaign tool for their own purposes.”Send money to keep free speech alive, and stop the war on religion”. They’ve done it before.

    It might even earn a profit for them – not Barton though.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    It depends a lot on the jurisdiction.

    See

    http://www.texastribune.org/texas-legislature/82nd-legislative-session/defamation-suit-tests-texas-anti-slapp-statute-/

    I see Barton also filed a suit against W.S.Smith of The Examiner.

    OK, I take it back, it’s not unlikely at all, especially if he can get the right venue in Texas. There’s a lot of Judges there who are both radically right and radically religious. It might have to go through several appeals, costing a lot of money.

  • Lynn David

    If anyone has been trying to defame anyone, it has been the language that Barton and his folk concerning his purely academic opposition which has been defamitory.

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    I doubt a lawsuit would be in the works for a variety of reasons. First .. this is about a recent book .. not something 20 years past as the one link above showed. Secondly .. he would have to prove he was slandered or defamed .. which would require an actual analysis of his book. Thirdly .. all the slanderous comments coming from his associates that he cheerfully links on his facebook page could lead to a rather nasty counter suit. Fourthly .. in contrast to what he has been doing the challenge of Getting Jefferson Right is an academic challenge .. not a personal attack .. a lawsuit over such a thing would be totally out of bounds in the world of academia. And finally .. such an attack would be detrimental to the ‘protect free speech’ rhetoric that they constantly put out.

  • TxHistoryProf

    slander n. oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed.

    Libel: b (1) : a statement or representation published without just cause and tending to expose another to public contempt (2) : defamation of a person by written or representational means (3) : the publication of blasphemous, treasonable, seditious, or obscene writings or pictures (4) : the act, tort, or crime of publishing such a libel.

    Based on these two definitions, an academic critique of a work of non-fiction backed up by an academic work that rebuts claims made by Barton.

    Claiming Barton is unqualified is also not grounds either as he holds no academic credentials in American History. He doesn’t want a further critique of his book in a courtroom because he knows that greater historic minds than his own will be called in as TRUE expert witnesses. He knows it will not hold up to that kind of scrutiny and his spin will not hold up in a court room either.

    I find it ironic that this champion of free speech likes to silence those for exercising their right to free speech. It reminds me of the quote from Dr. Samuel Johnson in England in 1775 when discussing the Americans’ desire for freedom for all men while owning slaves who said “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”. Barton is just as hypocritical. He doesn’t want his dirty laundry aired in open court.

  • Tracy

    I appreciate all of your answers to the issue I rasied about the possibility of legal proceedings. However, the issue still remains that he sued Rebecca Bell Metereau over what appeared to me to be almost nothing. I think most people I knew in Texas were shocked that a suit was filed, and they too thought that Barton would get hammered in court and eventual drop the case before it could go to trial. However, last I heard, the rumble is still on, and the case is heading to court. Speculation among some was that Barton filed the case against a known weak enemy—someone judged unlikely to defend themselves well, as a warning sign saying, “Don’t criticize my work, or look what will happen to you.” If that was the case, it had to be one of the biggest miscalculations and backfires in American history.

    Oh. I just found some background on that law suit for you guys:

    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/09/top_social_conservative_reportedly_files_libel_sui.php

    http://www.tfn.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6603

  • ken

    Tracy says:

    August 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    “However, the issue still remains that he sued Rebecca Bell Metereau over what appeared to me to be almost nothing.”

    The case against Metereau was because she “insinuated” Barton was a white supremist. If Barton tries to sue Warren and Michael over the book (or any other issue Warren has raised), it means the facts get put on trial as well. And more importantly, Barton would probably have to take the stand and answer questions about his book and the issues. I doubt he would be willing to do that. Esp. since his typical method of using ad hominem attacks to avoid addressing the issues would likely get him a contempt citation.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    You don’t get it. That Warren would eventually win in such a suit isn’t in question.

    With the right Judge, the suit wouldn’t be stopped at the first hurdle. That means a cost to fight it. Again, with the right Judge, he’d lose initially regardless of the facts, and it would have to go to appeal. A cost of around $250k.

    This judge, for example would be unlikely to rule against Barton under any circumstances:

    http://www.sfgate.com/news/houston-texas/article/Texas-official-warns-of-Obama-civil-war-3807672.php

  • ken

    Zoe Brain says:

    August 25, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    “You don’t get it.”

    I do get it Zoe. I am familiar with the american legal system.

    1st, as I said, Barton is unlikely to file any such suit because I doubt he wants to take the stand.

    2nd, the case would be decided by a jury not a judge, unless both sides agree to a bench trial.

    finally, when Barton loses, HE would get stuck with the legal costs. And I don’t think it would be hard for Warren to find a lawyer willing to take the case and defer the legal fees.

  • stephen

    Oh, good God, who cares?

  • TxHistoryProf

    I am sure the ACLU would take this case on a pro bono basis.

  • Erp

    It would not normally be within the ACLU’s bailiwick to deal with a libel case between two private individuals since it doesn’t seem to involve the government or a person acting as a government official. Now if the government tried to suppress either book (e.g., some local government banned their library system from buying Throckmorton’s book), then the ACLU could get involved.

  • TxHistoryProf

    Good point.


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