Right from the start, Barton argues that those who seek to eradicate religion from our heritage have essentially hijacked American history. Barton points to the Mayflower Compact, which he argues is proof that the Pilgrims desired to "propagate the Christian religion in the New World." Obviously Barton has little to no historical knowledge of what the Pilgrims -- a more correct title being Separatists -- actually desired. After all, these Separatists actually wanted to ensure that their religious communities were kept pure from heathen influences, thus the spreading of the gospel to the "savages" of America was never as big of a goal as people like Barton might think. In addition, the Mayflower Compact was NOT created to instigate the "propagation of Christianity" as Barton argues, but was created to ensure that the settlers would be free from contractual servitude. Since the Mayflower was landed in Plymouth and not Virginia -- its original destination -- those on board felt that a contractual agreement needed to be created. It was essentially a social contract that was drawn up by the colonists for survival's sake.
Following his comments on the Mayflower Compact, Barton proceeds to point out that even our national holidays, specifically Christmas, Thanksgiving and the 4th of July, serve as evidence to support America's godly heritage. While he is right to point out that Washington and Adams called for national days of thanksgiving, he forgets to mention that Jefferson unequivocally refused to do the same during his presidency. As far as Christmas is concerned, Barton is again showing his terrible lack of historical literacy. If he understood early American history at all, he would have known that Christmas was not a major holiday. In fact, early Puritan communities forbade the celebration of Christmas, since there was no reference to it in the Bible. After the establishment of the American republic, Christmas remained nothing more than a mere side note. In fact, the celebration of Christmas as we know it today has its origins in 19th century America, NOT with our founders (for more on the celebration of Christmas in colonial America click here).
As far as Barton's references to Gouverneur Morris, I think Jon Rowe's posting on Morris' character is the best source to refute Barton's assertions.
I also found it interesting when Barton stated that American universities are teaching that our founders are nothing more than "agnostics and atheists" and that "not one believed in God." While I cannot speak to the curriculums of every university in America, I am still inclined to disagree with these claims. Having attended three different college institutions -- not to mention a number of additional lectures at other colleges and universities -- I have NEVER heard this claim being made by a single professor of history. Again, I could be wrong, but I find it hard to believe that a legitimate professor of early America would make such a silly assertion as Barton suggests. But then again, I am no expert.
Barton also mentions that the founders would be appalled that we today are arguing over whether or not "In God we Trust" should be included on our money. Again, Barton's historical ignorance is shining through like a bright star on a clear night. Obviously Barton does not realize that "In God We Trust" was not conceived by our founders, but was first inspired during the Civil War (click here for more info on this topic). In fact, the only motto that our founders embraced was "e pluribus unum," which means "From many, one." A far cry from what Barton suggests.
"Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 27 had seminary degrees." This ridiculous statement by Barton YET AGAIN illustrates his lack of accurate historical knowledge. Chris Rodda, an avid Barton-debunker, effectively points out the errors in Barton's argument when she writes the following:
The use of the word "seminary" in this statement can have no other purpose than to take advantage of the fact that almost nobody today would associate the word seminary with anything other than a theological seminary, and would assume from this synonym for college that almost half the signers studied for the ministry. While it is true that all of the colleges attended by the signers of the Declaration had been founded by religious denominations, none of them were strictly theological colleges when the signers attended them. They all had schools of law and/or other sciences. Few adults, let alone children hearing the word seminary in their Bible literacy class, will realize that this word can mean any kind of school...One thing that Barton does very well is to illustrate that the overwhelming majority of the founders were NOT Deists. On this claim I am in complete agreement with Barton. However, Barton simply assumes that since the founders were not deists, they must therefore be orthodox in their Christian views. This claim is not only ridiculous but is utterly false based on the evidence that Barton himself presents. Though Barton effectively points to a very small number of orthodox Christians -- Sam Adams, John Jay and Charles Carroll for example -- this does not prove the orthodoxy of the rest.
David Barton points out that of the fifty-six men, definitely twenty-four, possibly twenty-seven, had seminary degrees.
All this means, of course, is that twenty-seven of the signers of the Declaration went to college -- twenty at a total of five different American colleges, and seven in Europe. Twenty-four definitely received degrees; three don't appear to have graduated. Almost all of the twenty-seven studied either law or business, and one studied medicine.
Another ridiculous point that Barton attempts to make is when he points to Franklin's admonition that Congress pray before beginning the business of the day. While he is right in citing Franklin's petition for prayer, Barton forgets to mention the fact that the other founders present at this particular meeting rejected Franklin's suggestion. Again, this is another example of Barton's propensity to only promote half-truths.
Another example of Barton's half-truths is when he suggests that the founders never advocated a separation of church and state. He supports this argument simply by stating that the church/state phrase is not present in the Constitution itself. However, Barton obviously forgets the fact that Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance, Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, and George Mason's Declaration of Rights all petition for a separation of church and state
In the end, David Barton is a very effective public speaker and preacher of religion, but he is a lousy historian. His distortions of historical fact are staggering to say the least. What is even scarier than Barton's obvious falsehoods is the fact that a large number of people believe him and take his work to be absolute doctrine, and at the same time are willing to disregard the legitimate scholarly work of the overwhelming majority of historians across this nation. Who exactly is the hypocrite?