When Will David Barton Stop Using the George Washington Praying at Valley Forge Story?

David Barton

He did it again at the Montana Governor’s Prayer Breakfast. This story is fiction. I cover it extensively in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.

Here is a taste of an article at the Helena Independent Record:

The speaker at the Montana Governor’s Prayer Breakfast on Saturday has a big name in conservative circles for his assertions regarding the role of Scripture and prayer among America’s Founding Fathers, but many of his claims have been challenged and a major Christian book publisher pulled his recent book from its catalog.

David Barton is the leader of WallBuilders, a Texas-based group that claims that early American leaders were far more religious than many modern historians say, and that they never intended removal of religious teaching from public schools or similar contemporary separations of church and state.

But other scholars say many of Barton’s key findings, including those in his recent book, “The Jefferson Lies,” are inaccurate, out of context or just plain made up, designed to bolster a modern conservative ideology.

Barton told a group of about 200 people Saturday, including elected officials and civic leaders, that Congress, far from decrying the mix of government and religion, published the first English-language Bible in the United States. He also said George Washington prayed intensely and frequently, including at the battle of Valley Forge.

Warren Throckmorton, a professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, has challenged claims like those in his book, “Getting Jefferson Right: Fact-Checking Claims about Our Third President,” which largely counters Barton’s best-seller.

“Much of what was reported as fact in the Independent Record has been debunked by academics and historians,” Throckmorton said by email Sunday. “The story of Washington praying at Valley Forge is mostly legend and the Congress did not print the first English Bible in the United States.”

John Fea, a professor of American History and chair of the History Department at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., wrote that while Washington probably prayed while with the Army in the winter of 1777-1778, the famed image of Washington kneeling and praying in the snow depicts only legend, and was originated by someone who wasn’t there.

Read the rest here.  By the way, Montana Governor Steve Bullock chose not to attend his own prayer breakfast when he learned that Barton would be the speaker.