Texas Activist David Barton Gains Influence in Christian Nationalist Movement
Barton has long been recognized as a prominent figure in the Texas Christian conservative movement, advocating for policies that critics argue undermine the separation of church and state. Recently, he has achieved a significant victory, as he now has unprecedented access to power on the national stage. Following the election of Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson as the new House speaker, Barton revealed that he and Johnson were discussing staffing arrangements. Johnson, a staunch ally of Barton’s, has previously worked for Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that seeks to promote Christianity in public schools and government institutions.
The rise of Johnson and his close association with Barton mark a triumph for the growing Christian nationalist movement, which asserts that the United States was divinely ordained and should therefore prioritize their brand of Christianity in its laws and institutions. David Brockman, a scholar in religion and public policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, explains that Barton and his fellow Christian nationalists now possess unparalleled access to power both in Texas and at the national level.
Barton, a resident of Aledo, Texas, has dedicated his life to advancing his views on the relationship between church and state. He has played a pivotal role in supporting politicians and testifying in favor of bills that critics argue erode the separation between religion and government. His organization, WallBuilders, was established in 1988 with the aim of influencing government, education, and families by promoting the biblical foundation of the country. Barton’s influence stems from his belief that the establishment clause of the First Amendment has been misconstrued and that the Founding Fathers intended Christianity to be the dominant religion in the United States.
According to Barton, the separation of church and state was meant to be a one-way wall, protecting religion from government interference but not the other way around. He argues that the nation’s abandonment of Judeo-Christian values has resulted in societal problems such as school shootings, low test scores, and drug use. While his views have garnered criticism from scholars and historians, who question his lack of formal training and selective use of quotes, Barton remains a prominent figure in conservative Christian circles and Republican Party politics.
Barton’s influence extends beyond Texas, as he has played a pivotal role in national political campaigns. He served as the vice chair of the Republican Party of Texas for nearly a decade and was involved in President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign as a clergy outreach coordinator. His endorsement was crucial to Senator Ted Cruz’s unexpected victory in 2012, and he ran a super PAC that played a significant role in Cruz’s reelection bid in 2016.
In Texas, Barton’s influence is particularly evident among GOP politicians who share his views. He has collaborated closely with Rick Green, a former state representative and leader of Patriot Academy, an organization that trains individuals in how to influence government policy from a biblical perspective. Barton has also been a vocal opponent of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt groups, including churches, from engaging in direct political advocacy. He frequently supports legislation that seeks to integrate Christianity more prominently into public life, including public schools.
The growing mainstream acceptance of Barton’s views coincides with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have allowed for a greater infusion of Christianity into the public sphere. Moreover, the movement has gained momentum under the leadership of former President Donald Trump, who appealed to white evangelicals by promising to prioritize Christianity. As Barton continues to wield influence in the Christian nationalist movement, the debate over the separation of church and state is likely to persist as a fundamental issue in American politics.