The public school system’s attack on religion and traditional values threatens the basic foundations of a free society, says former U.S. attorney general William Barr.
“Our whole civilization is based on the Judeo-Christian tradition. And that tradition is under sustained attack by increasingly militant secular forces,” Barr said in a speech Saturday at the “Making the Case” conference in Chicago, hosted by radio and podcast talk show “Issues, Etc.”
Proponents of this militant secularism often claim they are trying to keep religion out of politics. Barr counters that by saying their tactics violate the fundamental right of Americans to freely practice their beliefs.
“What we’re living through is not a situation where religion is intruding into the government’s rightful arena,” Barr said. “It’s exactly the opposite. It’s that government and politics is usurping the role of religion.”
An ‘atheist theocracy’ or ‘atheocracy’
Barr said that over the years, public schools have gradually demonstrated increased hostility toward traditional religion.
“You can’t pretend what’s being taught in schools is compatible with traditional religion, nor can you pretend schools are neutral anymore,” he said.
By opposing traditional religion, Barr asserted, these schools undermine the precepts that underpin the U.S. system of self-government.
Barr defined self-government as “the capacity of each individual to restrain and govern themselves” in a 2019 speech at Notre Dame University.
“In the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people – a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the state and man-made law and who had the discipline to control themselves according to those enduring principles,” he said back then.
Militant secularists are trying to replace that idea of a transcendent moral order, Barr said, with what he calls an “atheist theocracy” or “atheocracy.”
“The threat today is not that religious people are about to establish a theocracy in the United States, it is that militant secularists are trying to establish an atheocracy,” he said.
By removing Christianity from education, Barr argues, the schools are taking over the role of shaping their students’ moral values, thus changing the whole of society.
“Personal and civic moral systems don’t just sort of hover in the air,” he said. “They have to rest on an explanatory foundation, a metaphysical foundation. … So the extent to which an education seeks to contribute to a student’s moral formation, it necessarily invades the space of religion when explaining what the moral values are and how they should be inherited.”
Ending the government monopoly
Barr said school choice can help resolve the current crisis where the U.S. government has a monopoly over providing education. Ironically, he noted, government schools ostensibly began as a method to help unite the nation.
“Public education was established as a melting pot that would establish a common American identity,” Barr said.
Since its inception, however, the public schools have failed in that basic premise by denying the Christian faith and philosophical foundations of America’s Founders.
“The curriculum is now attacking the fundamental legitimacy of our form of government and our founding documents,” Barr said. “That’s no way to bring us together as a nation.”