Former Attorney General Bill Barr warned about the state of America’s public education during a speech earlier this month, highlighting how the "increasingly militant and extreme secular-progressive climate in our state-run educational system" is the "greatest threat to religious liberty in America."
Barr issued the speech while he was presented with the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Edwin Meese III Award for Originalism and Religious Liberty on May 20, 2021.
Barr’s speech focused on the removal of religious teachings from school, to which he said, "Education and religion were combined, they were integral to one another. Education started off as a religious project. They’re inherently bound together and I think the whole idea of being able to separate them is actually a fallacy because education is more than just balancing your checkbook or vocational training, it’s really about at the end of the day, it’s really about the big questions."
In what Barr called phase three of public school’s relationship with religion, he said we’re now seeing an "affirmative indoctrination 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."
"Now, in many places, in our country, the state of our public schools is becoming an absurdity that is scarcely to be believed," said Barr, speaking on the current state of the school system."While an astonishing number of public schools fail to produce students proficient in basic reading and math, they spare no effort or expense in their drive to instill a radical secular belief system that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago."
He spoke of one example in an Iowa where a school taught transgenderism and homosexuality to students of all ages. In preschool, they distributed coloring books that let the children choose their own gender, "and no one else gets to choose for them."
"Telling children that they get to choose their gender and no one else has anything to say about it doesn’t just contradict particular religious teachings on gender and the authority of parents," said Barr. "It is a broadside attack on the very idea of natural law, which is integral to the moral doctrines of a number of traditional religions."
Barr slammed the spread of critical race theory for being "nothing more than the materialist philosophy of Marxism, substituting racial antagonism for class antagonism, that’s all it is. It posits all the same things as traditional Marxism, that there are meta-historical forces at work, that social pathologies are the result of societal conventions and power structures that have to be torn down."
"Now, it seems to me that for the government to get into the business through public school indoctrination of students and secular belief systems that are directly contrary to religion of the students, the beliefs for the students, and the families raises fundamental constitutional problems," said Barr, who talked about the incompatibility of Marxist views with Christianity. "It certainly raises a free exercise problem."
"As the Supreme Court has recognized, there’s nothing more fundamental as a part of religious liberty and a part of our basic liberties, than the right of parents to pass along religion to their children, and it’s monstrous, for the state to interfere with that by indoctrinating students into altered alternative belief systems," Barr continued. "So it seems to me that if a school is going to propose to teach a child that they get the pick their gender, and no one else has anything to say about it, that’s infringing on the free exercise of religion."