Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this


Part II of our special investigative report on the East County Mayors Prayer Breakfast speaker.

View Part I here.


By Miriam Raftery

May 4, 2017 (El Cajon) – On Monday, an East County Magazine special report  revealed objections raised by some local residents to the controversial “Christian nation” advocate David Barton chosen to speak at the annual East County Mayors prayer luncheon this Thursday, May 4th at the Crystal Palace in El Cajon.  

Now the controversy has intensified, with a First Amendment watchdog group sending a letter to mayors of  El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Santee objecting to their participation and asking them to disassociate themselves from the event. The letter was signed by Andrew Seidel , staff attorney with the Freedom from Religion Foundation. At least two of those mayors have since cancelled their plans to attend the prayer luncheon.

 In addition,  local residents are asking why alternate versions of the flyer were circulated to religious and secular groups – the latter omitting all mention of Barton and presenting the event as "progressive" oriented.

Barton’s controversial views

Barton has openly advocated against separation of church and state,  distorted founding father’s views and the Constitution, had his book on Thomas Jefferson pulled by its publisher for falsehoods, and advocated racist views including deleting Martin Luther King  Jr. and Cesar Chavez from textbooks.  He has claimed AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality and criticized non-Christians for exercising constitutional rights. He is listed as an extremist on a Southern Poverty Law Center watch list and the accuracy of his works have been debunked by conservative Christian scholars. (Find links and details here.)

Freedom From Religion letter hints at legal action

Freedom From Religion’s letter notes that the officials lent their public titles as mayor to this “private religious event” that encourages participants to meet the mayors from four local cities.

“As mayors you represent a diverse population that consists of not only Christians but also atheists and agnostics,” the letter notes, adding that 23% of Americans identify as nonreligious. (Unstated but also true is that East County also includes many residents with religions that are not Christian, including Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and more.)    

The letter claims that “federal and state constitutions dictate that you as mayor may not bless such events or allow your title as mayor to be used for any purely religious event such as this…It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that the government cannot in any way promote, advance, or otherwise endorse religions. It can neither promote one religion over another, nor religion over nonreligion.”

In 2002, a federal court in Georgia enjoined a city and mayor against organizing, advertising promoting or endorsing a prayer breakfast,  the letter notes.  (See Newman v. City of East Point) However that ruling also held that officials from the city could participate provided no city funds or employees were used to promote it and no appearance was presented that it was endorsed by the city, its mayor or other officials. However Seidel adds, “Even if no government resources have yet been involved in the planning and execution of this prayer lunch, simply appearing in your official capacity as Mayor presents constitutional problems.  FFRP won an injunction against the mayor of Denver, Colorado, over his promotion, endorsement, and sponsorship of a `Day of  Prayer...’” Officials can participate personally in prayer or religions events, Seidel added, but he contends it is illegal “to lend the event the prestige of a mayoral title..”

He further objects specifically to Barton because of facts listed above and because “Barton regularly impugns religious minorities, including Muslims and nonbelievers.”  The letter further notes that Barton is not a historian,  does not have a “real PhD”, nor any training in history or the law, two of his favorite topics, and has been accused of “academic fraud” by historians. Even the pro-creationism Discovery Institute has noted Barton’s work is filled with “embarrassing factual errors” and “misleading claims.”

The letter concludes, “The Mayor’s Office cannot allow a secular, public title to be used as part of this event, nor can it organize or promote the event. Moreover, no leader interested in serving all his or her citizens should lend their presence and legitimacy to Barton. Please inform us in writing of the steps your office will take to rectify this situation.”

Deceptive flyers with alternate facts

Local residents are also raising questions, asking why were two different flyers on tomorrow’s East County Mayors’ prayer luncheon circulated  to religious and non-religious groups? 

A flyer disseminated by the Interfaith Council matches what’s on the event webpage,  listing David Barton prominently at the top center as speaker, also proclaiming the phrases Government, business, church” “Meeting needs together” and United we stand.” (Photo, right)

But an alternate flyer disseminated at  Communities Against Substance Abuse (CASA), which has  some progressive activists as members, by contrast, makes no mention of Barton and instead shows photos of the four East County  mayors only.  (photo, left)   It’s message reads, “Partner with progressive leaders in grassroots efforts to elevate the culture of our communities. Mobilize your talents and passions into action.”

One such activist was appalled to learn that Barton was the featured speaker.  He forwarded it to ECM with an email stating, “You'd never guess what awaits you from this flyer!”  He called the alternate flyer “creepy and misleading.”

Lemon Grove and La Mesa Mayors cancel attendance

Mayor Racquel Vasquez of Lemon Grove has sent regrets and will now not be attending the luncheon, Councilmember  Jennifer Mendoza informed ECM today.  Mendoza has also cancelled her attendance at the lunch due to Barton's participation. 

Mayor Mark Arapostathis of  La Mesa has also reportedly cancelled his appearance but did not state a reason:

Organizers of event remain shrouded

Which organization or individual invited Barton, and where the money collected from attendees will go, remains shrouded in secrecy.  There is no organizational name listed on either of the flyers circulated. The Chamber of Commerce, which listed the event on its website, has disavowed involvement. An RSVP number goes to an individual at a local car dealership.  

Sources have told ECM that one or more local churches are involved in organizing the annual event, along with possibly a local mayor, however no evidence has been brought forward to confirm just who is backing the event that has now come under scrutiny both for its constitutionality and the choice of a speaker voicing support for a government with policies officially intolerant of  anyone who is not an Evangelical Christian, as well as remarks offensive to African-Americans, gays, Latinos,  atheists and religious minorities.


Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.



The Freedom from Religion Foundation? Are there that many people with nothing useful to do?

Wall Builders Official Response - 6

Claim: Virulent Anti-Gay and Anti-Islamic. David Barton openly supports natural marriage, which he defines as the union of one man and one woman . He is also an unequivocal and unabashed supporter of religious liberties. religious toleration, and the rights of religious conscience and therefore opposes Sharia law, which is intolerant of other religious views and practices. Barton's position on both of these issues is the same held by the majority of Americans.

much ado about nothing, don't

much ado about nothing, don't like him, don't go, read his books, or go to his web site. he is NOT an elected or appointed official.

also it is NOT unconstitutional for elected officials to attend such an event. time for new tin foil for those who think it is

Wall Builders Official Response - 3 & 4

Claim: Christian Nation advocate. Hundreds of courts at the state and federal level (including the US Supreme Court on multiple occasions) have declared America to be a Christian nation over the course of the past two centuries, but they defined it as a nation in which Christian principles influenced and shaped the culture. Barton agrees with this definition. Historically, it is very easy to show that Christian values and principles shaped many American institutions. Hundreds of courts have arrived at the same conclusion. Critics today have redefined "Christian nation" to mean something it never historically meant. Claim: Claim: Separation of church and state. The position Barton takes is the same expressed in numerous court cases, including by former US Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist (who describe it as "a metaphor based on bad history" which "should be frankly and explicitly abandoned), a unanimous Sixth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals who called it a tiresome extraconstitutional phrase, and scores of other courts. Barton takes the same position held by Professor Phillip Hamburger of Columbia University School of Law and Professor Daniel Driesbach of American University, who have both written books on the subject. There is a proper historic separation of church and state but it is not the modern one that keeps an individual from expressing his faith in a public setting.

Dispatch from an ex-WallBuilder

And lastly an article that debunks all of Barton's "Jeffersons Lies" Chapter by Chapter for those that don't subscribe to revisionist Historians located at the bottom of article, with free Fifth chapter, in PDF format.

Wall Builders Official Response - 5

Claim: Throckmorton. The last half of the article about Throckmorton is filled with falsehoods. In fact, the re-release of The Jefferson Lies by the second national publisher contains all the footnoted and documented facts showing that it was Throckmorton's claims that were errant. Throckmorton is a Psychology Professor writing his first book about history; Barton has one of the largest collections in America of Founding Era materials, with over 100,000 originals, or copies of original documents pre-dating 1812, and has written dozen of historical books from these primary source materials. Barton is a recognized historical expert in both federal and state courts, and is regularly consulted by legislators, governors, and state boards of education on historical issues and standards.

Wall Builders Official Response - 2

Claim: "The Jefferson Lies was pulled off the shelves." The Jefferson Lies, after it was pulled by one cowardly publisher, was re-released by another national publisher and it continues to be a best-seller. The second release added additional chapters that destroyed the attacks of the half-dozen critics. The book is heavily documented (almost a thousand footnotes) to original sources), and the critics have now gone largely silent after their initial criticism of the original book. Media continues to revert to the old reports, not the new ones, ignoring that the work is still nationally-distributed, continues to have strong sales, and had very high published reader ratings.

Wall Builders Official Response - 1

Claim: "Many conservative Christian scholars exposed many falsehoods in Barton's books." Nonsense. There are nearly 1.5 million college faculty in America today, and only six apparently Christian scholars attacked it; and it is abundantly clear that not all of them were conservatives. Significantly, dozens of professors in both the secular and Christian arena have praised the book and highly commended it. It is even currently used as a student textbook at the university level.

Comment by East County Mayor in Attendance

Interesting that Prayranger has read a point by point rebutall by David Burton to the accusations that have been made about him but Prayranger neither shares it nor tells us where to find it, take it on Faith? The poster also quotes Psalms with a scripture about living peacefully with your enimies yet one of the two Mayors said, while addressing those in attendance, about the concerns raised by a group of non-Christians that feel it important to maintain the separation of Church and State "Before I came here today there were about 28,000 people that tried to keep me from coming here and I'm not going to let the Antichrist get into my life."

I didn't find anything that Barton said offensive at the Prayer Luncheon I attended yesterday like I found on some of the YouTube video's of him I've seen. He stuck pretty much to the orgins of Presidents and Day's of Prayer and constantly telling and reminding us of old documents that WallBuilders has in their possession. To me it appears he and others are heavy on the Old Testament and light on the New or another way to put it, Hell, Damnation, and Fear vs Grace, love of your fellow man, and Peace. I certainly don't care much for a Mayor, at an event as a Mayor, that espouses people who don't believe as he does as the AntiChrist, especially when part of his duties are to represent all those in his City equally. Felt more like pandering to a particular portion of his base in attendance to me.

Should Faith Based Organization and Local Government civilly partner to help solve problems in communities? I absolutely believe that is a great and effective way to solve problems. Just keep the pulpit and the politicking and particularly polarizing figures with extreme views separate.

Can't wait to see those point by points Prayranger!

This chap has been selling this for quite a long time! Wondering what his Net Worth is.

East County Mayors Luncheon

After reading your article raising concerns about the invited speaker to the East County Mayors Lunch, I was concerned that this great annual event was being politicized. I believe the reputation of the East County Mayors Lunch is being tarnished by concerns stemming from a longstanding disagreement between local leaders in El Cajon. Since the article contained serious accusations against the speaker, David Barton, I felt apprehensive as to what would happen at the event. Then I received a point by point rebuttal prepared by David Barton demonstrating all of the accusations were false. I have to ask the question; “What is behind your article that seeks to discredit and stir up controversy about an event thats only goal is to do good and advocates volunteerism to support the mayors and help them with the concerns of their city?” Did you verify the accuracy of the accusations made against David Barton before publishing them? Some local leaders may have decided not to attend this event based on the opinions expressed in your article and they missed out. The event was attended by over 500 of the top community leaders in the East County. Everyone was supportive of the mayors concerns and at the end of the lunch, attendees were given opportunity to engage their passions by addressing those concerns to improve their city. There was not a political agenda expressed by any of the speakers. David Barton did present historical information about founding fathers of our nation but he also presented original source documentation meticulously organized to support every statement he made. Yes, sadly the concerns raised in your article did stir up some controversy and may have influence some to stay away. But, there is wisdom in the words of the psalmist that states, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.” When a people set their hearts to do good and to cultivate faithfulness, eventually even their enemies will live peacefully with them.

Mayor's Prayer Luncheon

Today's Mayor's Prayer Luncheon at the Crystal Ballroom in El Cajon was not in any way secretive, exclusive, or offensive. It was beautiful. Too bad folks are so easily swayed by incorrect and slanderous information about David Barton. He’s a good man. Anyway, at one point in the program, Dr. David Miyashiro of the Cajon Valley Union School District called for dozens of local Pastor’s to gather around Bill Wells - Mayor of El Cajon, John Minto - Mayor of Santee, Guy McWhirter - Vice Mayor of La Mesa, and a representative from the City of Lemon Grove, to pray for and ask God’s blessings upon them, their families, and their respective cities. By the way, what was done today in El Cajon was in compliance to Congressional Legislation and signed by President Reagan in 1988 declaring the first Thursday of every May as a National Day of Prayer. In President Reagan’s own words, “Let us join together, Americans all, throughout our land. Let us join together, in factories and farms, in homes and offices, in places of governance and places of worship, and in outposts everywhere that service men and women defend us. Let us, young and old, join together, as did the First Continental Congress, in the first step -- humble, heartfelt prayer. Let us do so for the love of God and His great goodness, in search of His guidance and the grace of repentance, in seeking His blessings, His peace, and the resting of His kind and holy hands on ourselves, our Nation, our friends in the defense of freedom, and all mankind, now and always.” [Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 11:21 a.m., February 4, 1988]

David Barton is a Christian

David Barton is a Christian Dominionist. He does not believe in freedom of religion, instead, he believes that are laws should be based upon his own personal religion. This goes against the Constitution. You may consider him to be a "good man", but many of us see him as a danger to our religious liberty.

More Misinformation - and that's a shame

The luncheon may not have been secretive or exclusive, but it was definitely deceptive (two separate promotional flyers with very different stories) and that - to many people - is offensive. As for President Reagan, by the time he spoke those words National Prayer Day had already been observed for 36 years, the Joint Resolution (not legislation, big difference) of Congress having been signed by President Truman as the Cold War hit the five-year mark in 1952. Before rushing to the defense of a discredited pseudo-historian, perhaps it would be wise to spend a moment to get the story straight? Maybe start with the National Prayer Day Task Force. Good hunting.

Thank You Mr. Mc Ivor

During the Truman Administration, the National Day of Prayer was enacted to be observed one day a year. During the Reagan Administration of 1988, that date was officially determined to be the first Thursday in May. (Thanks Mr. Mc Ivor for clarifying Legislation/Resolution).

Alternate Event Flyer

Just to be very clear, CASA did not create this flyer, it was given out at a meeting of regional business leaders. I never saw the flyer put out by United We Stand until yesterday afternoon. I have attempted to find out where the flyer I received originated and why it omitted the critical information about such a controversial featured speaker. I sent it, unaware of Barton's role, to a small circle of community members we had invited to sit with us to "Meet the Mayor/Meet the Need." To be clear, CASA does not support David Barton and does not espouse his rhetoric. We are a progressive organization that values all community members, we strive to empower residents to create safe and healthy neighborhoods.

Thank you, Dana, for clarifying that.

I would like to know who organized this and why it's so secretive.  Shouldn't people know when they pay for tickets where the money goes, and who the organizer of the event is?


The reason it is so secretive

The reason it is so secretive is that they know they are doing something wrong. It is unconstitutional to have leaders that supposedly represent all the people in the United States at a prayer breakfast with a speaker so clearly represents ideas that go against the Constitution. No prayer breakfast or activity should ever be supported by taxpayer dollars, pure and simple. It's reassuring to know that there are people out there watching, and reporting on this deception. Unfortunately, we will see more of this to come, as there are many people now brazenly promoting one religion in government.