Around 200 people filled the cushioned pews of Stuart Heights Baptist Church Friday night to hear evangelical activist and author David Barton argue the need for the American government and its citizens to better align with conservative Christian values.
Government should exist to protect people's "inalienable rights" as outlined in the Declaration of Independence, said Barton, the founder of WallBuilders, a conservative Christian advocacy organization. Those rights should be understood as rights defined in the Christian tradition, not by a secular government, he said.
"Once you know what's right and wrong, you can tell what's true and what's not true," Barton said. " This is why truth is so relevant in America today because we don't have any rights and wrongs. It's whatever you choose."
The underlying philosophy of America, which Barton said is based in Christianity, created the freedom and the eventual prosperity of the American nation, he said. Modern Americans do not recognize the role of Christianity in the country's founding and are straying into supporting immorality, he said.
When Americans center the Christian tradition in the government, citizens cannot vote to change these "unalienable rights," Barton said. For example, citizens would not be able to legalize abortion since it violates the Christian tenet to not kill, he said.
Americans need to return to the original ideas of the nation's founders, Barton said. These founding documents are not outdated, he said, drawing a parallel between laws of science discovered hundreds of years ago and social principles written by the wealthy men who founded America.
"The (U.S.) Constitution does not speak about modes of transportation," Barton said. "It does not speak about the internet. It speaks about principles and those principles, like science, do not change over time."
Americans should look to the laws of nature and the laws of God, as outlined in the Bible, for guidance, Barton said. For example, homosexuality should not exist in humans since it does not occur in nature, he said. However, recent scientific research has documented homosexual behavior in more than 450 animal species.
Historians have for years repeatedly dismissed Barton's arguments that the men who founded America created the country to be a Christian nation. Barton's books and DVDs have repeatedly been criticized for historical inaccuracies, including fabricating quotes or paraphrasing the ideas of America's founding fathers into quotes.
In 2012, the Christian book publisher Thomas Nelson stopped publication of Barton's book "The Jefferson Lies" after historians pointed out multiple inaccuracies. The publishing company said "basic truths just were not there." Among other offerings, Barton was selling "The Jefferson Lies" on Friday night in Chattanooga.
Barton's presentation was sponsored by the Chattanooga Tea Party. The vision Barton presented aligns with the Tea Party's ideals of educating people and getting them involved in government, said Brendan Jennings, Chattanooga Tea Party president.
People respond well to Barton, Jennings said, so the group wanted to bring him to Chattanooga to teach people about the history of Christianity in early America.
Contact Wyatt Massey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249. Find him on Twitter at @News4Mass.