AG William Barr denounces progressives' push toward tyranny, driving religion out of public square

Attorney General William Barr speaks to National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tenn. Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. | NRB

NASHVILLE — Attorney General William Barr said Christian media is essential to the preservation of Christianity in the public square as the United States continues to experience a “steady erosion of religion and its benevolent influence.”

“We live at a time when religion – long an essential pillar of our society – is being driven from the public square,” Barr told those gathered at the National Religious Broadcasters Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, last week. “Thank God we have the National Religious Broadcasters to counter that effort.”

“Your members courageously affirm that entertainment and moral education are not mutually exclusive,” he continued. “You have boldly shown that media can serve higher ends: the safeguarding of faith as well as the cultivation of the classical virtues of the mind and heart that maintain our republican experiment in self-governance. As such, NRB’s members offer an alternative and essential platform for believers and nonbelievers alike.”

The reason politics is "omnipresent" today, Barr said, is partly because progressives are moving away from the liberal democracy envisioned by the founding fathers.

"That has played a major role in our politics becoming less like a disagreement within a family, and more like a blood feud between two different clans," he explained. "They want able-bodied citizens to become more dependent."

"The tacit goal of this project is to convert all of us into 25-year-olds living in the government's basement, focusing our energies on obtaining the larger allowance, rather than getting a job and moving out and taking responsibility for ourselves."

The attorney general stressed that historically, the U.S. has relied on religion, a decentralization of power and the freedom of the press to help prevent a slide toward tyranny. 

Barr quoted founding father John Adams, who wrote, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”

“How does religion protect against majoritarian tyranny? In the first place, it allows us to limit the role of government by cultivating internal moral values in the people that are powerful enough to restrain individual rapacity without resort to the state’s coercive power,” Barr contended.

“Experience teaches that to be strong enough to control willful human beings, moral values must be based on authority independent of man’s will. In other words, they must flow from a transcendent Supreme Being. Men are far likelier to obey rules that come from God than to abide by the abstract outcome of an ad hoc utilitarian calculus.”

Barr lamented that religion — “this vital moderating force in our society” — has “declined over the past several decades.”

“In recent years, we have seen the steady erosion of religion and its benevolent influence,” he said. “While most everyone agrees that we must have separation of Church and State, this does not require that we drive religion from the public square and affirmatively use government power to promote a culture of disbelief.”

Concerning the decentralization of power, he argued that the Framers intended that individuals be subject to two sovereigns: the national government and their state government. 

Because the Framers believed “matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest competent authority that was closest to the people,” the federal government was supposed to handle foreign relations and national defense as well as “integrating economic affairs across the states so we could have a single national economy.”

Instead, today the federal government believes in a “one size fits all” approach and is “directly governing the country as one monolithic entity with over 300 million people,” Barr said.

“The Framers would have seen a one-size-fits-all government for hundreds of millions of diverse citizens as being utterly unworkable and a straight road to tyranny,” he said.

Addressing freedom of the press, he criticized the modern media for being “massively consolidated” and argued that “an increasing number of journalists see themselves less as objective reporters of fact and more as agents of change.”

The key to restoring the press in its vital role, he said, is to “cultivate a greater diversity of voices in the media.”

“That is where you come in,” Barr told attendees. “You are one of the last holdouts in the consolidation of organs and viewpoints of the press. It is, therefore, essential that you continue your work and continue to supply the people with diverse, divergent perspectives on the news of the day.  And in this secular age, it is especially vital that your religious perspective is voiced.”

The United States’ greatest days lie ahead, Barr declared, “but only if we can alter our course and pay heed to the lessons of the past.”

“It’s not too late to stem the tide, but we need to get to work. We need to get back to that. We need to support local journalism and local voices, and each of you needs to continue the great work you are doing.”

NRB 2020 Christian Media Convention was held Feb. 25-28 in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to Barr, keynote speakers included U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice.

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