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Quote of the Day: Attorney General William Barr Wages War on Secularism

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen

He [U.S. Attorney General William Barr] is a devoted Catholic who has said he believes the nation needs a “moral renaissance” to restore Judeo-Christian values in American life. He has been unafraid to use his platform as the nation’s top law enforcement officer to fight the cultural changes they believe are making the country more inhospitable and unrecognizable, like rising immigration and secularism or new legal protections for L.G.B.T. people.


A series of assertive public appearances in recent weeks, laced with biting sarcasm aimed at adversaries on the left, have brought a sharper focus on Mr. Barr’s style and worldview, both of which share aspects with the president’s.


He [Barr] has painted a picture of a country divided into camps of “secularists” — those who, he said recently, “seem to take a delight in compelling people to violate their conscience” — and people of faith. The depiction echoes Mr. Trump’s worldview, with the “us versus them” divisions that the president often stokes when he tells crowds at his rallies that Democrats “don’t like you.”

His politicization of the office is unorthodox and a departure from previous attorneys general in a way that feels uncomfortably close to authoritarianism, critics said.

“Barr has believed for a long time that the country would benefit from more authoritarianism. It would inject a stronger moral note into government,” said Stuart M. Gerson, who worked in the Bush Justice Department under Mr. Barr and is a member of Checks & Balances, a legal group that is among the attorney general’s leading conservative detractors. “I disagree with his analysis of power. We would be less free in the end.”


He’s [Barr’s] offering a fairly unabashed, crisp and candid assessment of the nature of our culture right now,” said Leonard A. Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist Society and a prominent advocate for socially conservative causes. “There’s certainly a movement in our country to dial back the role that religion plays in civil society and public life. It’s been going on for some time,” Mr. Leo added. “That’s not an observation that public officials make very often, so it is refreshing.”

Mr. Barr helped make the case for conservatives to shift to war footing against the left during a speech at Notre Dame Law School in October that was strikingly partisan. He accused “the forces of secularism” of orchestrating the “organized destruction” of religion. He mocked progressives, asking sardonically, “But where is the progress?”

And while other members of the Catholic Church and Pope Francis have acknowledged that the sexual abuse crisis has devastated the moral authority of the church in the United States and is in part to blame for decreasing attendance, Mr. Barr outlined what he saw as a larger plot by the left and others. He said they “have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”

At one point, he compared the denial of religious liberty protections for people of faith to Roman emperors who forced their Christian subjects to engage in pagan sacrifices. “We cannot sit back and just hope the pendulum is going to swing back toward sanity,” Mr. Barr warned.

— Jeremy W. Peters and Katie Benner, New York Times, Barr Dives Into the Culture Wars, and Social Conservatives Rejoice, December 8, 2019


  1. Avatar

    Remember back in the day when Hillary Clinton was excoriated for talking about a “vast right-wing conspiracy”? It sounds like Barr thinks there’s a left-wing conspiracy.

    What’s disturbing is that someone charged with upholding the US Constitution doesn’t even understand what it means not to privilege a religion.

  2. Avatar
    Barbara L. Jackson

    This is simply a power grab. He knows he is right and everyone who disagrees with him is wrong,
    I do not see this as any different from the Chinese who are putting Islamic people in concentration camps because they do not “believe” the Chinese communist party will make the best world possible. The ISIS group is like this also. They want Islam their way and nobody else has an choice but to obey.

  3. Avatar
    dale m.

    Barr wants the “religious right” on a war footing? Really? They’ve been on a “war footing “ for as long as I can remember (late 1940s). It does remind me of my time in Moscow in the early 1980s, in my hotel bar, watching a Soviet military general on the late news rant and rave about soviet society needing to be put on a “war footing” because that’s really all they knew. They believed that imperialist powers were surrounding them and about to put their final plans in operation. They were becoming paranoid. Paranoid about change. They believed they were being threatened from all sides. The Soviets were extremely “right wing” conservatives. They spread disinformation everywhere they could. They portrayed themselves as “left wing liberals” out to protect the workers of the world. Does anybody remember the fall of the Berlin Wall? Do U remember the State that fell? It was known as the GDR (Communist East Germany … otherwise known as the German Democratic Republic). Just because someone puts a label on themselves, doesn’t mean that’s who they really were/are. They were anything BUT democratic. If we didn’t fall for that, why would we fall for the religious right’s label? They have ALWAYS had a “left wing“ agenda for as long as I can remember. The secular world is far more “right wing” than the “religious right” is. We believe in Darwinism. They don’t. So how did the two labels flip over like that??

    • Avatar
      Barbara L. Jackson

      Why does anyone have to BELIEVE in something? In my childhood, my father took a teacher exchange with a teacher in western Germany. After that, every few years we would go to Germany with my parents guiding a tour for high school age teens. They stayed for a week or so with western German families (we stayed with German friends). We also visited East Berlin which was part of the GDP, and Prague which was a part of Czechoslovakia.

      Each side believed their side was RIGHT and the others were WRONG. The details, like how this affected the population, did not seem to matter very much. Capitalism and Socialism are very broad theories which can seem to be manipulated to do whatever the politicians want. Religion can be used the same way.

      Maybe we should find ways to TEST these theories and find the results so we do not have to BELIEVE in them.

      Thank you

  4. Avatar
    dale m.

    Going to throw a couple more labels at U guys. Barr is essentially attempting to protect the “Old World Order” or MAGA. He views the secular world as the “New World Order”. But this is curious. In his position, he should know that the Bible always supports a New World Order to take us all back to the Old World Order. That under authoritarianism, we R all really FREE (that is, those who believe as they do). The Bible has always nurtured the idea that a One World Gov’t, under a single authoritarian leader [Jesus Christ with his senators (angels)] is the way to Utopia. No more Free Enterprise competition. No more need for it. You ain’t going anywhere anyways. It will be instead “Each according to his/her needs”. Ring a bell? Conservative Socialists is what they really are. The Rapture itself is a way to de-cloak these rats from wrapping themselves in the American flag. We all know that when an alien force from the heavens arrives to lay waste to our world, these assholes will be the first to abandon America to “aid” this enemy and lay waste to the U. S. A. and it’s Constitution. And they call us “Un American”. Still. No one takes this 5th column to task on their socialist agenda. No one challenges them. No one ever will.

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    Julia M. Traver

    Dale M., I remember it well….. My cousin has a nice size piece of the Berlin Wall in her house and I still have relatives who live in the former GDR. It took them years to get a way to visit us. I was studying German in Salzburg until just a week and a half before the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia; and, I was an USAF Lieutenant in South Korea in 1976 when the “cessation” of hostilities almost rocketed off again. ….. Since the 4th century CE the cult of Christianity has sought to create a tyranny of religion of a certain sort. I am not normally hostile to religion — but I am to Christianity. No other religion forced itself down the throats of people with threats of death (and actual death) and the actual erasure of civilizations. It is Marxism/Leninism/Maoism on a world-wide scale. This was created by humans in all their hubris and greed.

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Bruce Gerencser