The city of Las Vegas Mayor’s Faith Initiative and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department sponsored a “Citywide Unity Prayer” with keynote speaker David Barton, who is listed as a “radical-right” extremist on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s watch list.
The flyer for the event describes Barton as “Founder and President of WallBuilders, an organization dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes” and as someone who “encourages Christian Citizens to be actively involved in the work necessary to rebuild our nation.”
WallBuilders is a nationally syndicated conservative radio program that broadcasts anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, and xenophobic views. Barton has battled against marriage equality and campaigned for state restrictions on legal equality for LGBT people and women’s right to chose.
In an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network, Barton said Christian Evangelicals had a Biblical “duty” to vote for candidates who will support anti-abortion judges and who oppose equal rights for LGBTQ individuals. “It’s not your vote. It’s God’s vote,” he stated. In another interview, Barton claimed people cannot “vote on whether abortion is right or wrong or whether homosexuality is right or wrong” because it is a fixed moral wrong.
Barton also believes the government should regulate homosexuality, falsely claiming in one of his radio shows in 2010 that “homosexuals die decades earlier than heterosexuals” and that “nearly one-third admit to a thousand or more sex partners in a lifetime.”
“I mean, you go through all this stuff, sounds to me like that’s not very healthy,” Barton said. “Why don’t we regulate homosexuality?”
Barton has also claimed AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality and blamed the LGBT community for high health care costs, as recently as last year.
On his radio show, Barton said the military’s move to lift its ban on transgender service members would allow child molesters to serve in the military without repercussion. He falsely claimed that the government now recognizes and protects 82 different “gender identities,” including pedophilia and bestiality as “gender identities.”
In 2010, Barton also joined the battle to re-design the Texas state social studies curriculum, which included calling the United States a republic instead of a democracy and removing Martin Luther King Jr. and labor activist Cesar Chavez from textbooks. As reported by Washington Monthly, Barton said King shouldn’t be given credit for advancing the rights of minorities because “only majorities can expand political rights in America’s constitutional society.”
Barton self-identifies as a historian and writes books, perhaps most famously The Jefferson Lies, which argues, among other things, that Thomas Jefferson was against the separation between church and state. In 2012, History News Network listed Barton’s work as “the least credible history book in print.”
The Citywide Unity Prayer Celebration is described as an event to “promote peace and unity throughout the Las Vegas community” by bringing together law enforcement, faith leaders, non-profit organizations and residents.
Both the City of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Metro Police Department (LVMPD) were listed as sponsors of the event.
While the LVMPD has been involved in the Mayor’s Faith Initiative for a long time through their Office of Community Engagement, they were not a part of selecting Barton as a speaker and were not aware of who the speaker was, said a Metro spokesperson.
A spokesperson for the City of Las Vegas said Barton spoke about the history of prayer in America at the Saturday event and additional speakers provided “messages of faith and community-wide unity through peace.”
The event was organized by local Pastor Michael Hatch, senior pastor with the Balm of Gilead Global Ministries, who was responsible for the agenda, the speakers and their fees, of all Citywide Unity Prayer Celebrations. The city paid $1,113.33 for refreshments and linen rentals for the event, according to the spokesperson.
“The city of Las Vegas has earned a perfect score three years in a row in the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, which demonstrates the ways the city supports diversity, equality and inclusion and does not endorse or condone any messages related to Xenophobia, Homophobia, Racism and Islamophobia,” wrote the spokesperson in an email.
Updated with a comment from the Las Vegas Metro Police Department and total cost of the event.