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Christian pseudo-historian David Barton has made a career out of twisting and distorting the words of the Founding Fathers and the Bible itself in defense of Christian nationalism, homophobia, and bigotry. Now he’s doing it again with the Constitution.

He’s such an egregious Christian liar that he claimed to have an earned Ph.D. that was later revealed to be a hoax. And he once wrote a book about Thomas Jefferson that was so full of misinformation that his Christian publishers pulled the book from the shelves, saying, “There were historical details — matters of fact, not matters of opinion, that were not supported at all.” (The book was ironically titled The Jefferson Lies.)

And yet conservative Christians and Republican politicians still cite him as an authoritative source of information. They all know the sort of people who take them seriously aren’t really interested in honesty. They just want someone to say, with total confidence, whatever they all wish was true.

A couple of weeks ago, Barton put forth a new lie. It was caught by Kyle Mantyla of Right Wing Watch, and it’s just a perfect encapsulation of how Barton operates. He makes something up. No one calls him out on it. And over time (just wait for it), it becomes gospel for the Christians who think he’s a serious historian.

The incident occurred at a pastors’ luncheon in Tennessee. Barton claimed the U.S. Constitution was only ratified after being approved by churches… something that is utterly false. The section occurs around the 29:30 mark.

“Once they got the Constitution finished, it’s not the document of the nation yet, you have to have it ratified,” Barton said. “You’ve got to send it to the 13 states and get it ratified. And so they sent it to the 13 states. If you’re going to receive a government document and have a debate over whether to ratify it, where are you going to send it? The state capitol? No, it’s not the way it happened. North Carolina, Connecticut, Massachusetts; the ratification conventions were held in churches. They sent it to churches to ratify the Constitution? Yeah.

“Then each state had to select a certain number of delegates to attend the ratification conventions,” he continued. “Forty-four of the constitutional ratification delegates were ministers of the gospel. So again, preachers were highly, highly involved.”

As Mantyla explains, the document was ratified by state legislatures, as you’d expect, and the only reason some of those events occurred in churches was because churches were often the only buildings in town that could accommodate all the people involved, including delegates, reporters, and other prominent leaders. It was a practical decision, not a religious one.

As for 44 of the delegates being primarily preachers or “ministers of the gospel”? That may be correct, but it’s a complete exaggeration to say they were “highly, highly involved” since there were more than 1750 delegates. That’s fewer than 3% of all delegates. They were involved, sure, but by no means were they more involved than other professions, much less “highly, highly involved.”

I feel like I need to reiterate why this is so problematic. It’s not just this specific instance of misinterpreting a detail or two and blowing them out of proportion. It’s that this liar has influence over wide swaths of the conservative Christian world. Until white evangelical Christian leaders start openly and loudly admitting that Barton is making it all up as he goes along, and denouncing him completely, he’s going to keep getting away with it.

No one should be treating the Constitution the way those same Christians treat the Bible, twisting and contorting the text to justify whatever they want to believe.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.