Tomorrow, William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next attorney general, will face questions before the Senate Judiciary Committee. We’ve asked members of the committee to question Barr about his troubling writings and speeches on matters related to the separation of church and state.
As our nation’s top law enforcement officer and head of the Justice Department, Barr would have the responsibility of enforcing federal law, including the civil and constitutional rights that protect all Americans. Whether he understands the ultimate source of law in this country is the Constitution and not the Bible, however, is not completely clear.
Barr has said that our nation was created as a Judeo-Christian system that flows from “God’s eternal law,” and he has lamented what he calls a “steady and mounting assault on traditional values” that started in the 1960s and that has led us to “an increasingly militant, secular age.” Barr longs for the 1950s, when public schools sponsored prayers without consequence, women faced hurdles in acquiring a divorce, couples could be denied housing because they were unmarried, and our laws “restrain[ed] sexual immorality.”
Barr sees secularism as the root of most every society ill, including “venereal disease,” poverty, drug addiction, juvenile and violent crime, and even anti-Semitism. The solution? “Reinvigorate the strong religious and moral tradition in this country,” including funding religious education through private school vouchers.
These views are not just antiquated, but wrong as a matter of law. Our founding documents created a secular government. Our Constitution ensures the religion will not be used as the basis for our laws and that the government cannot impose religion on the people.
Confirming an attorney general who fails to recognize the separation of church and state could have real consequences for people who most need the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment and nondiscrimination laws, including LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities and the nonreligious.
Here are just a few of the questions we would like to see Barr answer:
- You called the Supreme Court decision in Lee v. Weisman, which held the Constitution prohibits public schools from sponsoring prayers at graduation, a “very disappointing setback.” Do you believe that public schools can and should sponsor prayers at graduations and other school events?
- In a recent op-ed you co-authored in The Washington Post, you praised former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty” memorandum, which is a blueprint for using religion to discriminate. Do you believe that religion can be used to trump laws and policies that protect LGBTQ people and religious minorities from discrimination?
- Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker indicated that he doesn’t think non-Christians are qualified to be federal judges. Do you share this troubling view that federal judges must pass a religious test?
Stay tuned to AU’s twitter feed tomorrow. We’ll be watching the confirmation hearing and reporting on questions or statements that highlight Barr’s position on religion and government.
(PHOTO: Attorney General nominee William Barr, speaking in 2005. Credit: Screenshot from C-SPAN.)