Attorney General William Barr Wages War on Secularism

Attorney General William Barr Wages War on Secularism December 12, 2019

Editor’s Note: This is a very timely, but utterly depressing post for all Americans who value the separation between church and state. It’s especially depressing – and maddening – in my opinion, for anyone who is (or was, like me) a Roman Catholic.  The Church has enough problems with pedophile priests.  It doesn’t need a wacky US Attorney General who happens to be Catholic criticizing one of our basic rights and “sacred” tenets – separation of church and State. What’s gone wrong with him? I was taught, in both catechism and public grade school, that freedom of religion was guaranteed in the US Constitution. Now some old white guy, who is given authority by another old white guy, thinks he can tear it all down.  /Linda LaScola, Editor


By Bruce Gerencser

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 [at The Notre Dame University Law School and the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame]

“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, in a recent NY Times column.

“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.

**Editor’s Questions** 1) How would YOU define the pendulum swinging back toward sanity? 2) What do you think has come over William Barr?


Bio: Bruce Gerencser lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have 6 grown children and 12 grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. He left the ministry in 2005 and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. He is also one of the original members of The Clergy Project, which began in 2011. He blogs at The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser, where the above post originally appears.  It is reposted with permission.

>>>Photo Credits:  By The United States Department of Justice –, Public Domain,  ; “Donald Trump September 3 2015” by Michael Vadon – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via ; <a href=”″>Prayer Vigil ahead of Synod on the Family with Pope Francis</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a>

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  • Michael Neville

    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

    If organized religion in this country didn’t have a well-deserved reputation as haters and child molesters then maybe people wouldn’t be trying to “dial back the role”.

  • Geoff Benson

    This is a symptom of the Trump presidency. Someone like Barr probably wouldn’t be appointed under a ‘proper’ president, such as Obama, but even if he had been because of his brilliance (doesn’t apply to Barr!), he’d realise that he must be much more circumspect in his views. With Trump it’s open season. One has to hope desperately that he doesn’t get a second term.

  • Raging Bee

    It may also be a symptom of Trump’s appointees getting ready for President Pence.

  • ephemerol

    If he gets a second term, odds are, the only way he’ll ever leave office is in a coffin. Our democracy might already have been a sham, since research shows big business interests tend to get their policies enacted while voters tend not to, but at least we weren’t a full blown Banana Republic. Every day he’s in office is a day we’re less free than we were the day before.

  • Tawreos

    Barr was the first Bush’s Attorney General

  • carolyntclark

    “…. “moral renaissance” to restore Judeo-Christian values in American life.” , is code for SCOTUS to overturn Roe v. Wade.
    The political and religious stance have merged into one cause with the LIFE movement getting more extreme protecting the civil / legal rights even for a zygote.
    I’m puzzled if Barr sincerely believes his position or if it’s a convenient ready-made throng of support for whatever his ultimate goal is.

  • mason

    The endless truth of Hollywood movies endures; Crooked Mayor appoints Crooked Sheriff, and autocracy blossoms.

  • carolyntclark

    Remember the opposition to having Catholic JFK in the White House ? Now we have the President, Cabinet, Congress, Courts working with Evangelicals imposing Christian dogma on us.

  • Linda LaScola

    I’d say both

  • Jim Jones

    > “Barr has believed for a long time that the country would benefit from more authoritarianism. It would inject a stronger moral note into government,”

    A Catholic who is pro-dictator. Where have we seen that before?

    > 2) What do you think has come over William Barr?

    He thinks it’s safe for him to out himself now.

  • Jim Jones

    We atheists & skeptics aren’t having much impact on theism. But theists are wrecking it like a rave at an AirBNB.

  • smrnda

    The idea that secularism is causing massive dysfunction doesn’t really seem to fit the facts. People who are doing the worst tend to be hostile to or at best indifferent towards recent shifts in values. Those most in favor are usually doing alright.

    Where is the progress? The rights that I enjoy today despite bigots like him opposing them.

  • Anri

    “But where is the progress?”

    Ask some LGBT people, sometime. Things are a long way from perfect, but a long way from as bad as they were; too.