Shocker: David Barton Caught Lying. Again.

Shocker: David Barton Caught Lying. Again. November 28, 2014

Yeah, I know, David Barton being caught lying is very much a “water is wet” story, but it’s still worth documenting just how brazenly he lies and how secure he feels in doing so because he knows that his ignorant and deluded followers will neither catch him at or care if they did. Here’s the latest lie from a talk he gave at a church:

“We look at Christian schools today,” Barton said, “and we think that’s alternative education. No, no, no. Christians schools is mainstream education. Secular education is brand new in America. We never had that before. That’s the new thing … In 1844, the U.S. Supreme Court had case called Vidal v. Girard’s Executors and what you had was a government-operated school that was not going to teach the Bible and the Supreme Court came back with an unanimous 8-0 decision and the Supreme Court said well, if you don’t want to teach the Bible, you don’t have to teach the Bible but you do have to become a private school. We’re not going to fund any public school that won’t teach the Bible.

The case involved a wealthy man who left a large sum of money to the city of Philadelphia to established a school for orphans, on the condition that no religious leader could ever hold a position at the school. When that condition was challenged, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that this restriction was in no way a violation of either Pennsylvania law or the Constitution, precisely the opposite of what Barton claimed:

All that we can gather from his language is that he desired to exclude sectarians and sectarianism from the college, leaving the instructors and officers free to teach the purest morality, the love of truth, sobriety, and industry, by all appropriate means, and of course including the best, the surest, and the most impressive. The objection, then, in this view, goes to this — either that the testator has totally omitted to provide for religious instruction in his scheme of education (which, from what has been already said, is an inadmissible interpretation), or that it includes but partial and imperfect instruction in those truths. In either view can it be truly said that it contravenes the known law of Pennsylvania upon the subject of charities, or is not allowable under the article of the bill of rights already cited? Is an omission to provide for instruction in Christianity in any scheme of school or college education a fatal defect, which avoids it according to the law of Pennsylvania? If the instruction provided for is incomplete and imperfect, is it equally fatal? These questions are propounded because we are not aware that anything exists in the Constitution or laws of Pennsylvania or the judicial decisions of its tribunals which would justify us in pronouncing that such defects would be so fatal. Let us take the case of a charitable donation to teach poor orphans reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and navigation, and excluding all other studies and instruction; would the donation be void, as a charity in Pennsylvania, as being deemed derogatory to Christianity? Hitherto it has been supposed that a charity for the instruction of the poor might be good and valid in England even if it did not go beyond the establishment of a grammar school. And in America, it has been thought, in the absence of any express legal prohibitions, that the donor might select the studies, as well as the classes of persons, who were to receive his bounty without being compellable to make religious instruction a necessary part of those studies. It has hitherto been thought sufficient, if he does not require anything to be taught inconsistent with Christianity.

Looking to the objection therefore in a mere juridical view, which is the only one in which we are at liberty to consider it, we are satisfied that there is nothing in the devise establishing the college, or in the regulations and restrictions contained therein, which are inconsistent with the Christian religion or are opposed to any known policy of the State of Pennsylvania.

This view of the whole matter renders it unnecessary for us to examine the other and remaining question, to whom, if the devise were void, the property would belong, whether it would fall into the residue of the estate devised to the city, or become a resulting trust for the heirs at law.

Upon the whole, it is the unanimous opinion of the Court that the decree of the Circuit Court of Pennsylvania dismissing the bill, ought to be affirmed, and it is accordingly.

David Barton is simply one of the most shameless liars in this country.

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  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    You’re right that the decision doesn’t say what Barton says it does, but still, I’m not totally comfortable with the Court’s implication that it would be problematic to teach anything “inconsistent with the Christian religion”. That’s certainly not based on anything in the Constitution.

  • raven

    David Barton is simply one of the most shameless liars in this country.

    Xians prove every day that xianity is Fake. Their leaders are the worst of the lot.

    If xianity was true, they wouldn’t have to lie all the time.

  • sbh

    David Barton has been misrepresenting this case since at least The Myth of Separation.

    Stephen Girard was the wealthiest man in America of his time (he underwrote US expenses during the 1812 war) and when he died in 1831 he left most of his wealth to charitable causes in cities he had lived in. Relatives challenged various bequests in several court cases. In this particular case they were challenging the validity of the bequest to a school for orphans on the grounds that Christianity would not be taught in it. Daniel Webster represented them on this point; he claimed (IIRC) that as charity was a uniquely christian virtue, no charitable bequest could be valid if it excluded christianity.

    The judge (Joseph Story, who wrote the commentary on the constitution Barton likes to quote) actually sidestepped that issue; he noted that it would be interesting to consider whether a deist (say) might leave funds for the city of Philadelphia to operate a school with the provision that his particular religious tenets be taught, but that that wasn’t relevant here. The will did not in fact forbid religious instruction, only that ministers and the like be excluded from the grounds. There was nothing to stop laymen from giving such instruction. Since the premise was faulty, there was no need to enter into that particular line of argument.

    Barton quote-mines that section of the argument, claiming that the school went to court over leaving religion out of its curriculum, and the judge didn’t allow it; but that wasn’t the issue and that wasn’t the result. And Daniel Webster did not win that case, as often claimed; he was in fact on the losing side.

  • hunter

    I think Barton must be taking lessons from Tony Perkins and Bryan Fischer.

  • John Pieret

    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne @ 1:

    I’m not totally comfortable with the Court’s implication that it would be problematic to teach anything “inconsistent with the Christian religion”. That’s certainly not based on anything in the Constitution.

    You have to remember that the Establishment clause was deemed at the time to only apply to the Federal government, not to the states. That argument in the case was based on Pennsylvania law at the time.

  • vereverum


    The same year the upright citizens of Philadelphia were murdering people over which version of the bible to read in the schools.

  • Mobius

    On the atheist thread on the forum Topix, I have frequently crossed words with a big fan of Barton. When I confront him with Barton’s lies, he offers proof that Barton doesn’t lie. His proof? “Barton says he’s not lying.”

  • kantalope

    @7 Mobius: “Barton says he’s not lying.”

    How Biblical of him.

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