The Limitations and Failures of Secularism

Attorney General William P. Bar was invited to speak at the University of Notre Dame School of Law and the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture. He chose as his subject Religious Liberty in the United States.

I urge you all to read the whole address.

The response has been predictable:

William Barr’s Wild Misreading of the First Amendment

A recent speech by Attorney General William Barr portrays religious people in the United States as beset by a hostile band of “secularists,” in order to press for a right-wing political agenda.

By Jeffrey Toobin, the New Yorker

William P. Barr just gave the worst speech by an Attorney General of the United States in modern history. Speaking at the University of Notre Dame last Friday, Barr took “religious liberty” as his subject, and he portrayed his fellow-believers as a beleaguered and oppressed minority. He was addressing, he said, “the force, fervor, and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion we are experiencing today. This is not decay; this is organized destruction.”

Historically illiterate, morally obtuse, and willfully misleading, the speech portrays religious people in the United States as beset by a hostile band of “secularists.” …

As one might expect from a priest of the secularists, has has the shoes of his criticism on the wrong feet.

Several authors here at Wizbang have been documenting the one sided war of the secularists vs. the faithful for years.  Nor am I alone in my opinion…

William Barr’s right about left’s designs on religious freedom

By Charles Hurt, the Washington Times

As the Caribbean saying goes, “I chucked a rock in the pen and a pig squealed.”

This explains all the frenzied squealing and indignant grunting we heard in response to the speech Attorney General William Barr gave last week to law students at the University of Notre Dame about the increasing hostility toward religious liberty in America.

Mr. Barr raised alarm over “the force, fervor and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion we are experiencing today.”

For anyone thinking this is some random force or natural course of history, he jolted a harsh warning.

“This is not decay. It is organized destruction,” he said.

It is indeed both organized and destructive.  And Attorney General Barr made his case quite convincingly.

The imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.

In his renowned 1785 pamphlet, “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” James Madison described religious liberty as “a right towards men” but “a duty towards the Creator,” and a “duty….precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.”

The challenge we face is precisely what the Founding Fathers foresaw would be our supreme test as a free society.

They never thought the main danger to the republic came from external foes. The central question was whether, over the long haul, we could handle freedom. The question was whether the citizens in such a free society could maintain the moral discipline and virtue necessary for the survival of free institutions.

By and large, the Founding generation’s view of human nature was drawn from the classical Christian tradition.

These practical statesmen understood that individuals, while having the potential for great good, also had the capacity for great evil.

Men are subject to powerful passions and appetites, and, if unrestrained, are capable of ruthlessly riding roughshod over their neighbors and the community at large.

No society can exist without some means for restraining individual rapacity.

Indeed, Republics fall from within, not to outside threats.  Our Republic’s greatest enemy are those of our neighbors determined to make us all “better” and more like themselves by any means and at any price.

The Answer is not Government.



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