Christian History Writer Under Fire for 'Inaccuracies'

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Christian history writer David Barton said he's moving on after his publisher dropped his latest book The Jefferson Lies.

Barton said he wrote the book to correct a distorted understanding of founding father Thomas Jefferson. But Christian publisher Thomas Nelson said a post-publication review shows the book has historical details that are not adequately supported.

Nelson told CBN News that they were contacted by a number of people who had concerns about the book's accuracy. The publisher said it's recalling the book from bookstores and does not plan to publish any further works by Barton.

In a phone interview Barton told CBN News he was never contacted by Nelson about their concerns.

"Thomas Nelson never contacted us to express concerns, never asked to see documentation and that's one of the things we keep on every book, every footnote, every claim, every fact-is thorough documentation," Barton said. 

Nelson acknowledged to CBN News that prior to publication it did not fact-check Barton's content.  Spokeswoman Casey Harrell said "we rely on the expertise of our authors concerning their subjects."

Barton said he's now in talks with two New York publishers "larger than Thomas Nelson" who want to pick up his book.

When CBN News asked Barton if he plans to make any corrections to the work he said that he's disproved all the major claims against it that he's aware of. 

Barton noted that attacks on his writing started in 1992 and have continued over the years as he's self-published more books. The Jefferson Lies is the first time he's worked with an outside publisher.

But more recently, conservative critics have begun charging that Barton's work is filled with falsehoods and distortions.

This spring, psychology professor Warren Throckmorton and history professor Michael Coulter at Grove City College, a Christian evangelical school in Pennsylvania, wrote their own book "Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about our Third President" in response to Barton's work.

Throckmorton told CBN News that he's very concerned about Barton's book.

"I think there are many, many distortions of fact," he said. "I think overall it's inaccurate."

"Since Mr. Barton won't submit his work to peer review or appear with historians on air, there really isn't any accountability there," Throckmorton also noted.

Another critic, Dr. John Fea, history professor at Messiah College, an evangelical school in Grantham, Pa., told CBN News "the most profound {error} is to suggest that Thomas Jefferson was at any point in his adult life an orthodox Christian."

Fea said, for instance, that Jefferson had a high regard for the Bible but never regarded it as the inspired Word of God.

In "The Jefferson Lies" Barton portrays Jefferson as an orthodox Christian for much of his life.

Dr. Glen Moots, professor and chair of the philosophy and political science department at Northwood University in Midland, Mich., reviewed the Jefferson book in June. He said he's hoping Barton's supporters will notice that many of his recent critics share Barton's worldview.

"What I'm hoping is that a lot of the attention that's been drawn to David Barton's work from people who are sympathetic to his cause will hopefully disable Mr. Barton from saying, 'I'm under attack by people who don't agree with me.'"

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Heather Sells

Heather Sells

CBN News Reporter

Heather Sells enjoys reporting on a variety of issues for CBN News. Some of her recent stories have focused on religious liberties, technology, AIDS, overseas missions, domestic trafficking, and politics.  Follow Heather on Twitter @SellsHeather and "like" her at Facebook.com/HeatherSellsCBNNews.