As the nation lurches closer towards being ruled by a tyrannical dictator with unwavering support from the Republican Party, the American people are ignoring an even greater threat to their waning secular democracy – rule by tyrannical theocrats.
The rise of theocrats in powerful positions of authority is particularly disconcerting because not only was America created as a secular nation with a secular Constitution, but because the theocrats running the federal government represent a very small minority of the population. And now Trump has given that vicious minority what they elected him to do in the first place; another radical Christian extremist, William Barr, in a powerful federal government position.
J. Beauregard Sessions was a legitimate threat to America’s secular government as Trump’s attorney general, but his theocratic aspirations paled in comparison to Trump’s latest theocratic cabinet member – a conservative Catholic malcontent who is unlikely to ever defend the U.S. Constitution because it is a secular document. It is noteworthy that Sessions only stated that, according to his mind, the separation of church and state in the Constitution is a concept that is unconstitutional. However, his replacement ardently believes that America’s government is duty-bound to enforce god’s laws because there is no place for secularism.
In a 1995 essay, Barr expressed the extremist Christian view that “American government should not be secular;” secularism is an abomination in Barr’s theocratic mind despite the law of the land is unmistakably secular. Furthermore, Barr contends America’s government is supposed to be imposing “a transcendent moral order with objective standards of right and wrong that flows from God’s eternal law;” eternal law best dictated by the Vatican and taught in public schools at taxpayer’s expense.
It is true that as attorney general William Barr will defend Trump’s criminality and corruption; it is one of the only reasons Trump nominated him. However, the real danger to the nation is Barr’s belief that the government’s primary function should be defending and enforcing his god’s moral edicts while ardently opposing any legislative branch effort to make secular laws according to the secular Constitution.
As noted by Michael Stone a couple of weeks ago, in addition to the racism and misogyny one expects from a radical conservative Christian, “Barr is also a bigot when it comes to non-religious people and others who respect the separation of church and state.”
Barr epitomizes the typical extremist religious fanatic by blaming everything from crime to divorce to sexually transmitted diseases on what he alleges is “the federal government’s non-stop attacks on traditional religious values.” In fact, he joins no small number of Republican evangelical extremists who demand that taxpayers fund religious instruction, specifically Catholic religious instruction, in public schools. Barr, as a matter of fact, has called for the United States government to subsidize Catholic education and categorically called for federal legislation to promote Vatican edicts to “restrain sexual immorality;” an explicit reference to his religion’s ban on homosexuality, extramarital sex, and “artificial” birth control. Don’t believe it?
In an address to “The Governor’s Conference on Juvenile Crime, Drugs and Gangs,” Barr condemned the idea of adhering to the U.S. Constitution’s mandated separation of church and state in the public education system. The theocrat said:
“This moral lobotomy of public schools has been based on extremist notions of separation of church and state or on theories of moral relativism which reject the notion that there are standards of rights or wrong to which the community can demand adherence.”
Barr also penned an article in The Catholic Lawyer where he complained vehemently about what he asserted was “the rise of secularism;” something he claims is anathema to a nation he believes should be ruled by theocrats. Barr attempted to give an answer to “the challenge of representing Catholic institutions as authorities” on what is considered right and wrong, or morally acceptable in a secular nation. In discussing what Barr termed was “The Breakdown of Traditional Morality,” the new attorney general complained thus:
“We live in an increasingly militant, secular age… As part of this philosophy, we see a growing hostility toward religion, particularly Catholicism. This form of bigotry has always been fashionable in the United States. There are, today, even greater efforts to marginalize or ‘ghettoize’ orthodox religion…”
Barr is also a bigot when it comes to people who respect the Constitution’s separation of church and state in providing equal rights for all Americans whether theocrats agree or not. Barr’s belief that government is bound to enforce Vatican dictates is what drives his assertion that, for example, equal rights laws demanding that colleges treat homosexual groups like any other student group is inherently wrong.
He claims treating LGBTQ people like everyone else is detrimental because:
“[Equality] dissolves any form of moral consensus in society. There can be no consensus based on moral views in the country, only enforced neutrality.”
It is noteworthy that what Barr considers “enforced neutrality” is what most Americans understand is the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights for all Americans. If this country was not plagued with religious extremists, bigots, misogynists, and hate-driven conservatives there would never be a need to “enforce neutrality,” or protect all Americans’ equal rights guaranteed according to secular law. There is no such thing as equality in Barr’s theocratic mind and the idea of the government not enforcing the privilege and superiority the religious right has enjoyed for too long is abominable, and now he wields federal government authority to right that abomination.
It is too bad that Barr’s religious mind incites him to believe the federal government’s job is enforcing his religion’s concept of “morality,” and that the purposely-conceived “secular” law of the land is “militant” and “hostile toward religion, particularly Catholicism.” If any American believes Barr will defend the Constitution, or equal rights, or freedom from religious imposition, they are deluded beyond belief. As the religious right’s attorney general, Barr will be the de facto enforcement arm of the evangelical extremists and aid in implementing all of the horrors a theocratic dictatorship entails – beginning with an increased government assault on women.
For an idea of how an avowed anti-choice theocrat leading the Justice Department will be the enforcement arm of the evangelical extremist cult, consider Trump’s latest evangelical edict forbidding medical professionals from giving women medical options the religious right and Vatican oppose.
Trump and Pence issued a gag order banning the term “abortion” as a woman’s option to carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. The order will certainly face lawsuits, but instead of defending a medical professional’s ability to practice medicine, or exercise their freedom of speech, the theocratic-led DOJ will defend the religious right’s assault on women and medical professionals’ free speech because such speech is opposed by evangelicals. Trump’s latest theocratic edict was, by the way, a direct result of the evangelical right’s strict adherence to Vatican dictates banning women’s bodily autonomy and self-determination regarding reproduction.
There is no good outcome going forward with an avowed theocrat serving as the nation’s top law enforcement official. This is particularly true since Barr has made no secret that he considers the secular government “militant” and “bigoted” for not promoting “god’s eternal laws” of right and wrong. The very inconvenient truth for Americans is that long after Trump and Barr are out of power, the theocratic authorities will continue unimpeded because Trump has dutifully created a hard-line conservative judiciary specifically to ensure that America as a secular nation is, for all intents and purposes, coming to an end after resisting theocracy for over two centuries.