Former Attorney General Bill Barr crawled out from under his proverbial rock Friday to give his first speech since departing the Trump Administration two weeks before the Capitol insurrection.
But Barr's remarks to the right-wing Alliance Defending Freedom didn't mention "Trump" among its 2,586 words. Nor was there any reference to corruption. Devin Nunes, fake investigations, spying on reporters, just to mention a few news stories of the past month or so.
This speech was pure red-meat for the culture war, fed to members of a group that has supported -- among other stances -- imprisonment of LGBTQ people for consensual sex and the forced sterilization of transgender Europeans. That according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which officially labels ADJ as a "hate group."
So what better place to change the subject from anything in Barr's past? And, of course, to unveil a somewhat reconstructed Bill Barr:
"I want to speak with you about the greatest threat to religious liberty in America today: the increasingly militant and extreme secular-progressive climate of our state-run education system. Over the past 12 tumultuous months, there has been a great deal of discussion about the radical ideology being promoted in our schools, and what it means for national unity, public safety, and the health of our politics.
"Much less has been said about an issue of perhaps even greater long-term consequence: what this indoctrination in public schools means for the rights of people of faith.
"We are rapidly approaching the point—if we have not already reached the point—at which the heavy-handed enforcement of secular-progressive orthodoxy through government-run schools is totally incompatible with traditional Christianity and other major religious traditions in our country.
"In light of this development, we must confront the reality that it may no longer be fair, practical, or even Constitutional to provide publicly-funded education solely through the vehicle of state-operated schools."
It goes downhill from there as a full-throated demand to end the separation of church and state as far as education is concerned. Here are some excerpts:
"The notion that we can hermetically seal off religion from education is a relatively novel idea—and it is an idea that the experience of the past half century has refuted in rather spectacular fashion. For a time, a culturally homogeneous American society was able to finesse it—but today, the situation as it stands is clearly untenable."
Up until the 1970's, or so, the instruction received in the public school system openly embraced Judeo-Christian beliefs and values, and most certainly was not hostile to, nor fundamentally in conflict with, traditional religious beliefs. In short, religion and the public school system were compatible because the school system embraced a generally acceptable form of Christianity."
Yet even as the schools were forcibly secularized, the notion of moral instruction did not simply go away. The rich Judeo-Christian tradition was replaced with trite talk of liberal values—be a good person, be caring. But there was no underpinning for these values. What passed for morality had no metaphysical foundation. It is hard to teach that someone ought to behave in a certain way unless you can explain why."
"Values" in public schools became really nothing more than mere sentimentality, still drawing on the vapor trails of Christianity. They are a vain attempt to retain familiar sounding ethics and mores, but without God. When you take away religion, you have left a moral vacuum."
"Now we see the affirmative indoctrination of children with a secular belief system and worldview that is a substitute for religion and is antithetical to the beliefs and values of traditional God-centered religion."
A common theme in Barr's tirade against secularism was right in the wheelhouse of his homophobic audience. Note the binary choice in the following passage-- you can support LGBTQ rights OR you can be religious:
"As of this school year, about one fifth of Americans live in a state that mandates an LGBTQ curriculum in public schools. In the absence of a statewide mandate, curricula are also frequently adopted in particular school districts. These new laws often lack any opt-out for religious families."
Of course, no right-wing speech on education would be complete without a reference to Critical Race Theory and how it portends the end of civilization as we know it. In this case, however, Barr reached back about a half century for his bogeyman:
"CRT is nothing more than the materialist philosophy of Marxism substituting racial antagonism for class antagonism. It posits a of view of man and his relation to society and to other individuals that is antithetical to the Christian view."
Barr proceeds to claim that "the progressive-secular culture" has itself become a religion "indoctrinating" the children into all manner of evils, of which living one's life as an LGBTQ person is regarded as one. And he called for private-school vouchers as an alternative to "government-run schools."
You can read the entire text of Barr's speech here.