A group of evangelical pastors in Cincinnati says a popular but controversial book about Thomas Jefferson rewrites history and excuses the founding father for owning slaves.

By Bob Allen

A group of Cincinnati pastors and church leaders is boycotting Thomas Nelson Publishers over David Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies, saying it glosses over the third president’s racism and justifies his ownership of slaves.

Black and white pastors announced their boycott Aug. 1 in a press conference at Cincinnati’s New Jerusalem Baptist Church. Unlike most of the critics of Barton, an evangelical minister and author frequently accused of historical revisionism by the left, the Cincinnati ministers all serve in evangelical churches.

“David Barton falsely claims that Thomas Jefferson was unable to free his slaves,” Damon Lynch, pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church, said in a press release. “In fact, Jefferson was allowed to free his slaves under Virginia law, but failed to do it. The Jefferson Lies glosses over Jefferson’s real record on slaveholding, and minimizes Jefferson’s racist views.”

The Jefferson Lies, which claims to correct what Barton calls revisionist history, has been challenged from the left for claims that the founding father was a devout Christian and believed the separation of church and state was only to protect churches from intrusion by the government.

The Cincinnati pastors, however, said they are concerned that the book glosses over Jefferson’s heretical views about Jesus Christ and excuses him for owning slaves.

“We are protesting as concerned believers in the evangelical Christian community, who believe that many are being misled by David Barton’s teachings,” said Chris Beard, lead pastor at First Christian Assembly of God in Cincinnati and an organizer of the boycott.

Beard said the faith leaders issued the boycott after contacting Thomas Nelson privately to ask for a meeting before the book’s release. Jon Fea, a history professor at Messiah College, said Thomas Nelson should follow the example of Intervarsity Press, which pulled a book on the history of the Reformation after it was found to be riddled with errors.

Barton is founder of WallBuilders, a Texas-based organization that advocates the view that the separation of church and state is a myth. His writings are popular among many conservative evangelicals, and he is at the center of ongoing controversy over textbook standards for public schools in Texas.

Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College and frequent Barton critic, said the controversial author can no longer complain that his critics are all liberals and secularists, because all the Cincinnati ministers are evangelicals.

“You can’t be serious about racial unity in the church while holding up Jefferson as a hero and champion of freedom,” said Ray McMillan, pastor of Faith Christian Center in Cincinnati.