Liberal group files ethics complaint against Attorney General Barr

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Attorney General William Barr testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 1, 2019. (RNS/AP/Andrew Harnik)

Attorney General William Barr’s advocacy of loving God with one’s whole heart, and of loving one’s neighbor as oneself, is being called out by a liberal religious group as “toxic Christian nationalism.”

The group Faithful America also filed an Oct. 24 ethics complaint against the attorney general with the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

The group said Barr violated his oath about defending religious liberty for all Americans in a recent speech at Notre Dame University’s law school. They objected to Barr’s statement during a talk at the invitation-only event that religion “gives us the right rules to live by” and that the founders of the United States were Christians who “believed that the Judeo-Christian moral system corresponds to the true nature of man.”

The attorney general added, “Those moral precepts start with the two great commandments — to love God with your whole heart, soul and mind; and to love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Officials at Faithful America criticized Barr’s speech as disproportionately favorable to Christianity. After Barr’s remarks, an online petition launched by the group to “investigate William Barr’s toxic Christian nationalism” was signed by nearly 14,000 people.

Like so many liberal outcries, it traces inevitably back to President Donald Trump.

Faithful America said that Barr displayed a disregard for religious minorities, suggesting the speech may have been “coordinated” with Trump’s re-election bid. “He cited perceived attacks on conservative Christianity as evidence of ‘secular’ and ‘progressive’ attacks on religious liberty,” the complaint noted, “but did not mention any other religions, despite numerous recent attacks on American Muslims and Jews from supporters of the (Trump) administration.”

The group also pointed to Barr’s attack on “militant secularists,” as well as his assertion that “no secular creed has emerged capable of performing the role of religion,” which it argued amounted to “an inappropriate favoritism to religion over nonreligion.”

“The Attorney General specifically lifted up Judeo-Christian values as ‘the ultimate utilitarian rules for human conduct,'” the complaint read. “While this was one of five references to ‘Judeo-Christian’ values and moral systems, Mr. Barr also made numerous positive references to Christianity alone, but no mentions of Judaism alone.”

A representative for Faithful America said the group has not heard back from the Department of Justice about the complaint, and the agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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