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Attorney General Bill Barr decried attacks on religious values in a speech Friday, tying a movement of "militant secularism" to societal maladies including the opioid epidemic and "an increase in senseless violence."
Speaking to an audience at the University of Notre Dame Law School, Barr outlined a grim vision of cultural trends, saying a "moral upheaval" and decades of efforts to undermine religion had given way to growing illegitimacy rates, drug use, and "angry, alienated young males" -- a population associated recently with a spate of domestic attacks.
"The campaign to destroy the traditional moral order has coincided and I believe has brought with it immense suffering and misery. And yet the forces of secularism, ignoring these tragic results, press on with even greater militancy," Barr said.
The speech highlighted the efforts by the Justice Department to bolster faith-based organizations fighting for religious liberty in the courts.
That policy push, engineered by Barr's predecessor, Jeff Sessions, has resulted in a number of legal briefs and lawsuits from DOJ attorneys in Washington defending the rights of religious schools and businesses.
But Barr's remarks Friday afternoon appeared aimed above policy prescriptions and at detractors of religion generally, adherents to what he called a "new secular religion." And among their ranks, Barr singled out progressives.
"Among the militant secularists are many so-called progressives. But where is the progress?" Barr asked. "Those who defy the creed risk a figurative burning at the stake: social, educational and professional ostracism and exclusion waged through lawsuits and savage social media campaigns."