Washington, D.C.—Background: U.S. Attorney General William Barr blamed secularism in society for a series of problems including drug overdoses, violence, and mental health challenges in a speech Friday at Notre Dame Law School.
The constituency of religiously unaffiliated Americans that Barr attacked represents more than one quarter of the country, (more than 80 million people based on current Census data,) 84% of whom label themselves atheist, agnostic, or secular.
In contrast to Barr’s statement and similar ones by the President, Vice President, and other administration officials, the Democratic National Committee recently became the first major political party to court secular voters, passing a resolution that recognized “the value, ethical soundness, and importance of the religiously unaffiliated demographic.”
In response to Barr, Debbie Allen, Acting Executive Director for the Secular Coalition for America, said:
“It is completely inappropriate for the Attorney General, or any government official, to turn their public office into a pulpit. Our nation’s founders established an expressly secular government in the Constitution because they recognized it as the best guarantee of religious freedom—Bill Barr’s condescension and proselytizing is the exact type of abuse of power they sought to prevent. If left unchecked, the Trump Administration will continue to make Christian Nationalism the law of the land, marginalizing and oppressing every non-Christian American in the process.
“The fact is, Barr’s speech was a baseless attack built on myth, rhetoric, and blind hatred. Secular Americans dedicate a great deal of time to discussing, debating, and acting upon our values and ethics, which is why we are more united on today’s major moral issues—including same-sex marriage, abortion, and immigration—than any other religious group.
“While we do need to address addiction in our nation, Barr’s clear bias against nonbelievers colors his discriminatory, uninformed take on the issue and how to solve it. Secular addiction recovery programs have been on the ground for decades helping people with addiction by using self-empowering tactics that support Medication-Assisted Treatment—an option with just as much evidence of success as faith-based programs. We take no issue with personally held religious beliefs, but our government is constitutionally secular and should always look to research and evidence for how to approach challenges in society, not privilege and impose religious beliefs to fulfill a sectarian agenda.
“Anecdotes and fear-mongering will not dissuade the secular community from continuing to demand our place in the nation’s politics, culture, and values. We are the youngest, fastest-growing religious demographic in the United States and we will fight for a nation that creates policy based on research and evidence, rather than the personal beliefs of zealots like Bill Barr and his peers.”