Many legitimate concerns have been raised concerning the possible appointment of William P. Barr as U.S. Attorney General under Donald J. Trump. But, one concern that has not received enough attention is definitely no joke.
On April 1, 1992, then Attorney General Barr under George H.W. Bush righteously asserted public schools had been “morally lobotomized” by the “extremist notion” of the separation of church and state. Another self-declared “strict constitutionalist” felt obliged to label Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation” between church and state as “extremist.”
Jefferson’s barrier inspired the First Amendment, which specifies “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
What truly is extreme is the far-right’s ideological insistence this wall be disregarded because our nation was created as a Judeo-Christian system that flows from “God’s eternal law.” Such thinking may be consistent with a theocracy, but not with our democracy. It is also at odds with Article Six of the Constitution, which specifies “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
Families, places of worship, and public schools can all help teach our children the importance of honesty, respect for properly established authority, and the value of delaying gratification — just as Barr wishes. But, we need not run roughshod over the Constitution in the process.