This unusual interpretation of American history, which the movement embraces completely, comes from David Barton. Barton has spent the past three and a half decades publishing books that claim to prove that the Founding Fathers were deeply religious; that the bible directly inspired both the Constitution and Declaration of Independence; and that the separation of church and state is a pernicious and ahistorical myth. His book The Jefferson Lies, which portrayed Deist and slave owner Thomas Jefferson as a religious civil rights pioneer, caused such outcry from historians that the publisher pulled the book from shelves.
Johnson’s affiliation with this movement is no secret. He appeared on Barton’s “Wallbuilders” podcast last May to decry the “weaponization” of the FBI to go after pro-life protesters who block access to abortion clinics. In 2021, Johnson spoke at Barton’s ProFamily Legislator’s Conference, where he talked about the impact of Barton’s teachings on his life. “I was introduced to David and his ministry a quarter century ago, and it has had such a profound influence on me, and my work and my life, and everything I do,” Johnson told the crowd. “Thanks to all of you for being willing to serve in this critical time for the country.”
“This man has a biblical worldview. I’m in tears,” Patriot Academy founder Rick Green, who like Johnson and most COSA supporters is a longtime Barton acolyte, said during a livestream on Rumble just after Johnson accepted the gavel. “We’ve been praying for leaders that have a fear of God, that we know have a foundation of biblical truth.”
“We’ve already been talking to [Johnson] about staff,” Barton said the next day on “Wallbuilders.” “The members that are helping him are all good guys. They’re all God guys. They’re all conservative guys.”
Green and Barton are much more vocal than Johnson about their support for the Convention of States movement. Green was a delegate to COSA’s first simulated convention back in 2016, and he co-hosts an eight-week “Biblical Citizenship” course with Meckler to spread the gospel of America’s evangelical founding. The cross-promotion works: When I attended Patriot Academy’s five-day handgun training course last year, many of my classmates actively supported COSA. Barton and Green both spoke at COSA’s Reclaiming Liberty summit in October 2022. Neither man sets aside their convictions regarding America’s religious roots when endorsing the Convention of States. Rather, they present the Convention of States as a core solution for America’s irreligiosity. The two issues, for them, are the same.
“The reason we teamed up with COS is so that you can host biblical citizenship classes in your community, where you will be planting the seeds of liberty,” Green told his Reclaiming Liberty audience last year. “It gives them hope, and it builds your team for Convention of States right there in your community.”
“You’ll find the more secular the nation becomes, the more progressive it becomes, the more anti-constitution it becomes,” Barton told the same crowd a few hours later. “It’s a bad direction for us to move.”
In recent years, COSA has become increasingly entrenched in the conservative firmament. Mark Meckler appeared on the CPAC stage in 2022 and was a guest on Tucker Carlson’s Fox show earlier this year. The COSA website lists 51 high-profile endorsements that include Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Jeb Bush. The Heritage Foundation reversed its longtime opposition to an Article V convention to specifically endorse Meckler and COSA two days after Johnson became speaker. John Malcolm, who penned the group’s opposition to the idea in 2016, offered a simple explanation for the change: “The situation on the ground at the moment is favorable to conservatives.”