It’s bad enough that David Barton has promoted mythical quotations of the nation’s Founders and other famous Americans that continue to be recycled by far-right politicians and activists. Now we see that Barton, head of Texas-based WallBuilders and pal of folks like Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich, is recycling right-wing myths that President Obama favors Islam over Christianity.
On Wednesday Barton posted a long essay calling Obama “America’s most Biblically hostile U.S. president.” The essay is essentially a long recitation of right-wing lies, distortions and myths that Barton claims demonstrate President Obama’s “hostility” toward “people of Biblical faith” and “Biblical values” and a “preferentialism for Islam.” You’ve no doubt seen many of these ridiculous claims repeated by right-wing commentators, on blogs and in spam email screeds over the past several years. So here’s just a sampling of the zombie lies Barton is promoting in his essay:
Barton says: “November 2011 – Unlike previous presidents, Obama studiously avoids any religious references in his Thanksgiving message.”
Barton is referring to the president’s Internet address about Thanksgiving. Considering that a public Internet didn’t exist until the 1990s, most previous presidents haven’t given such addresses. They have, however, issued proclamations — and so has President Obama. His Thanksgiving proclamation issued on November 16, 2011, explicitly mentions God and providence numerous times, including here:
“As we gather in our communities and in our homes, around the table or near the hearth, we give thanks to each other and to God for the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives.”
In addition, the president’s Internet address no less than four times notes the “blessings” for which Americans are grateful. One of the most common definitions of “blessing”: “a favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness.”
Barton also neglects to tell his readers that, as ABC News noted: “Three of the Republican presidential candidates – Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum – issued Thanksgiving statements that omitted any references to God. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Rick Perry mentioned God in their statements.”
Barton says: “April 2009 – When speaking at Georgetown University, Obama orders that a monogram symbolizing Jesus’ name be covered when he is making his speech.”
A Georgetown University official at the time patiently explained to reporters what really happened:
“The White House wanted a simple backdrop of flags and pipe and drape for the speech, consistent with what they’ve done for other policy speeches…Frankly, the pipe and drape wasn’t high enough by itself to fully cover the IHS and cross above the GU seal and it seemed most respectful to have them covered so as not to be seen out of context.”
Barton says: “November 2011 – The Air Force Academy pays $80,000 to add a Stonehenge-like worship center for pagans, druids, witches and Wiccans.”
Air Force Academy officials were simply providing equal treatment to people who practice non-Christian religions. The Los Angeles Times talked to Chaplain Maj. Darren Duncan of the Academy:
“We’re here to accommodate all religions, period,” Duncan says. The building of the Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle on the hilltop, he says, is no different from the past conversion of chapel rooms into worship spaces that serve this year’s 11 Muslim, 16 Buddhist and 10 Hindu cadets. There are also 43 self-identified atheist cadets whose beliefs, or lack of them, Duncan says are also to be respected.
Barton says: “August 2010 – The Obama administration cuts funding for 176 abstinence education programs.”
Actually, federal funding continues for abstinence-only programs. But more to the point, why would refusing to spend tax dollars on a policy that doesn’t work somehow demonstrate “hostility toward Biblical values”?
Barton says: “September 2011 – The Pentagon directs that military chaplains may perform same-sex marriages at military facilities in violation of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.”
As reported by CNN, this is what the policy actually establishes:
“A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law,” a memo released Friday says. “Further a chaplain is not required to participate in or officiate a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion.”
Barton says: “May 2009 – While Obama does not host any National Day of Prayer event at the White House, he does host White House Iftar dinners in honor of Ramadan.”
Barton is right that President Obama has hosted dinners celebrating the Muslim observance of Ramadan. What he neglects to say is that such events continue a tradition started by President George W. Bush, who held eight such dinners.
As previous presidents have done, President Obama has also commemorated the National Day of Prayer with proclamations and private prayer without official ceremonies. President George W. Bush did host such ceremonies, but there were only two other such events hosted by presidents previous to that administration: in 1989 and in 1982. In fact, the organizers of the National Day of Prayer themselves know this, as U.S. News and World Report noted back in 2009:
“National Day of Prayer Task Force Vice Chairman Brian Toon recently acknowledged that there weren’t regular White House events to mark the day until the Bush years, telling the Religion News Service: “There was no East Room event until George W.”
Today, however, the task force E-mailed me to say it had uncovered evidence for two White House events in pre-Bush administrations: a 1989 breakfast event in the State Dining Room hosted by George H. W. Bush and a 1982 Rose Garden event with Reagan. Not exactly evidence that annual National Day of Prayer events were a well-established tradition in the pre-Bush years, but the task force is clearly upset.”
President Obama continues to speak at the separate National Prayer Breakfast, however. From his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 2 of this year:
“This is my third year coming to this prayer breakfast as President. As Jeff mentioned, before that, I came as senator…. But it’s always been an opportunity that I’ve cherished. And it’s a chance to step back for a moment, for us to come together as brothers and sisters and seek God’s face together. At a time when it’s easy to lose ourselves in the rush and clamor of our own lives, or get caught up in the noise and rancor that too often passes as politics today, these moments of prayer slow us down. They humble us. They remind us that no matter how much responsibility we have, how fancy our titles, how much power we think we hold, we are imperfect vessels. We can all benefit from turning to our Creator, listening to Him. Avoiding phony religiosity, listening to Him.”
Barton says: “August 2010 – Obama speaks with great praise of Islam and condescendingly of Christianity.”
Barton, who claims to be an expert “historian,” reveals a lot about himself with this claim. What does he list as his source? An essay by actor Chuck Norris on the right-wing website Townhall.com.
In repeating these zombie lies and distortions about President Obama, David Barton simply shows once again that he is a master propaganda artist — which is to say, he is an exceptionally experienced liar.