It’s been reported that Donald Trump has nominated William P. Barr, the former attorney general under George H.W. Bush, to return to his old role. There are plenty of questions senators should be asking before confirming him, including why Trump would want someone like Barr in that position of power. (What’s in it for Trump?)
But while a lot of the criticism has focused on Barr’s statements about the Mueller investigation, his involvement with the elder Bush’s pardons, etc., there are also a number of church/state separation matters worth exploring.
More than 25 years ago, for example, when he was the attorney general, Barr claimed that America was in moral decline in large part due to “secularists” who were ruining everything. This is what he said at a conference for conservative Roman Catholics:
… Barr said legalized abortion and the deterioration of the traditional family were among the most obvious signs of pervasive moral collapse.
“The secularists of today are clearly fanatics,” he said. Their debunking of the “Judeo-Christian moral tradition” has produced “soaring juvenile crime, widespread drug addiction, skyrocketing rates of venereal disease, 1.5 million children aborted each year,” he said.
Riiiiiiight. And that was in 1992, when “Nones” were a mere 7% of the population (compared to 20% now, according to Gallup) and long before atheists came out of the closet en masse. Conservative Christians have been blaming atheists for society’s problems long before we were a blip on the demographic radar. (Incidentally, there’s been a decline in abortion rates due to (among other things) freely available contraception and comprehensive sex education.)
Americans United for Separation of Church and State went even further in their commentary on the same event. Check out this report from a 1992 issue of the group’s magazine, quoting Barr at length during his rant against non-religious Americans:
Addressing a Washington conference sponsored by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Barr insisted that the Judeo-Christian tradition is threatened in the United States and that our country faces a moral crisis. The solution, he argued, is the reassertion of a “moral consensus” based on natural law, a philosophical concept touted by Catholic theologians who say that Catholic moral principles — such as the ban on abortion — can be arrived at through secular reasoning.
“Natural law — those rules of right and wrong which make up traditional morality and which modern secularists dismiss as otherworldly superstitions — are in fact, the ultimate practical utilitarian rules for human conduct,” the attorney general said. “Because human nature is fallen, we will not automatically conform ourselves to God’s law, but because we can know what is good… we are not doomed to be slaves to our passions and wants. To the extent that a society’s moral culture is based on God’s law, it will guide men toward the best possible life.“
This is a man who has never respected church/state separation because he always believes Church Knows Best and that the government should acquiesce to faith-based thinking. If there’s ever a conflict between the Establishment Clause and so-called “religious freedom,” there’s no question which side he would be on. The First Amendment doesn’t hold a candle to the Ten Commandments.
There are many reasons the Senate shouldn’t confirm Barr to head up the Justice Department, but his complete refusal to accept church/state separation as a foundation for our system of laws ought to be more than enough. At the very least, senators should ask him about these comments during his confirmation hearings. His responses should be public knowledge.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Rob for the link)