William Barr is the Attorney General of the United States. He is also an unabashed defender of religious freedom. His recent remarks on the subject at the University of Notre Dame Law School were a tour de force presentation on the origins of our nation’s “First Freedom,” why it’s important, and what has happened in recent years that has placed that freedom in jeopardy.
He pointed to the weakening of religious morals and the rise of secularism and progressivism as the primary causes for the deterioration of the family, and the rise of big government.
Barr insists that the country is descending into moral chaos, and that while typically moral societies bounce back and the pendulum swings back the other way, it may not happen this time.
“But today we face something different that may mean that we cannot count on the pendulum swinging back,” Barr said. “First is the force, fervor, and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion we are experiencing today. This is not decay; it is organized destruction. Secularists, and their allies among the ‘progressives,’ have marshalled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”
Rarely does a speech about religious freedom stir up the Left’s ire as much as this one has. The media immediately set out to prove Barr’s thesis.
MSNBC host Joy Reid interpreted Barr’s speech as racist and anti-LGBT and anti-women. “It’s about curtailing the freedom of religion of women, of LGBT people. He seems to be saying, ‘I’m going to do that.’”
One of Reid’s panelists, MSNBC legal analyst Cynthia Alksne chimed in, “It’s not about religious freedom. It’s about everybody should adhere to what he thinks, and by the way they (religious schools) should all get a tax break.”
Co-panelist Colonel Curtis Wilkerson: “When I was watching Barr I was thinking of Torquemada (the Inquisition’s Grand Inquisitor) in a business suit.” He went on to rail against Christian chaplains in the military having the nerve to preach Christ to “vulnerable” service personnel.
Paul Krugman, New York Times: “William Barr – again, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, responsible for defending the Constitution – is sounding remarkably like America’s most unhinged religious zealots, the kind of people who insist that we keep experiencing mass murder because schools teach the theory of evolution. Guns don’t kill people – Darwin kills people!”
“This appeared to be a tacit endorsement of theocracy,” complained Catherine Rampell, a columnist for the Washington Post.
That’s quite the condemnation for a history lesson and analysis delivered by Barr in his trademark monotone voice.
Barr’s speech also highlighted the changing nature of our system of government because of the breakdown in morality.
“In the past, when societies are threatened by moral chaos, the overall social costs of licentiousness and irresponsible personal conduct becomes so high that society ultimately recoils and reevaluates the path they are on,” the Attorney General said. “But today—in the face of all the increasing pathologies—instead of addressing the underlying cause, we have the State in the role of Alleviator of Bad Consequences. We call on the State to mitigate the social costs of personal misconduct and irresponsibility.”
Barr listed a few items to prove his point:
“So the reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility, but abortion.”
“The reaction to drug addiction is safe injection sites.”
“The solution to the breakdown of the family is for the State to set itself up as the ersatz husband for single mothers and the ersatz father to their children.”
What results from this trend? Barr was clear: “The call comes for more and more social programs to deal with the wreckage. While we think we are solving problems, we are underwriting them.”
The Attorney General also explained the rise of a different morality that comes with the increasing secularization of government. “It can be called the system of ‘macro-morality,’ he intoned. “It is in some ways an inversion of Christian morality. Christianity teaches a ‘micro-morality. We transform the world by focusing on our own personal morality and transformation,” he said.
“The new secular religion teaches macro-morality,” he continued. One’s morality is not gauged by their private conduct, but rather on their commitment to political causes and collective action to address social problems.”
It was refreshing (and sobering) to read and listen to the Attorney General’s complete remarks. If you ever doubted the centrality of religious liberty in America, surely this address should convince you otherwise.
Barr ended on a positive note, as he challenged the law students (and us) to “ensure that we are putting our principles into practice in our own personal private lives.”
“We understand that only by transforming ourselves can we transform the world beyond ourselves.”
Photo from WSJ video