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Notre Dame – center of the 2020 debate

| Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Notre Dame has been selected to be the site of the first debate in 2020. Outside observers, including the debate participants, would be well-advised to consider Notre Dame’s arrangement of recent presentations as the best way to anticipate the atmosphere at the debate at Notre Dame next year.

Where earlier speakers invited to Notre Dame once spoke in the open, Notre Dame invited Bill Barr to speak in October behind closed doors. Where speakers’ subjects were once announced to the student body and to the public at large, Barr’s October speech was not announced to the student body at large or to the public in advance. This arrangement may have dampened the risk of protest or disagreement with what Barr had to say, at least in advance.

Whatever the motivation for secrecy here, not all of what Barr had to say at Notre Dame was made available to the public even when he finished his prepared remarks. At the end of his speech, Barr did not take questions from reporters. Rather, reporters were led out of the room while Barr began discussing other topics with the friendly audience that remained.

During his remarks prepared for a selected Notre Dame audience, Barr claimed that religion is under attack from “secularists” and “so-called progressives.”

“This is not decay,” he said. “This is organized destruction.”

Mr. Barr also reported in his speech that he detected a “monstrous invasion of religious liberty” by these same people. Because of what these people have done and continued to do, Barr said, Americans face the “consequences of moral chaos.”

While preparing his remarks for Notre Dame, Attorney General Barr apparently did not detect the occurrence of such things as taking babies from their parents or losing children after the United States government took custody of them or proposing to revise regulations so that people in desperate need of Food Stamps have a harder time getting food to eat. Those and similar subjects might have been of interest at a University dedicated to a Catholic doctrine that the meek are blessed, the homeless should be sheltered and the hungry should be fed. The Attorney General of the United States took the time, however, to speak against people he called “secularists” and “so-called progressives,” people he further described as trying to enforce laws as a “battering ram to establish moral relativism.”

As more than an afterthought, it seems, Barr also addressed the lawsuit that a teacher filed against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis after they fired him. You might have thought this would escape the notice of the Attorney General of the United States, but no. Barr noticed it. Until Barr brought it up, you may have thought that Notre Dame is not anywhere near Indianapolis, at least geographically.

A brief recap of the lawsuit may be in order here, especially because Barr apparently did not look at the facts alleged by the teacher. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis allegedly ordered a teacher fired for one reason and one reason only: the teacher’s same-sex marriage. The teacher was not fired because he disrupted the workplace with talk about his marriage; in fact, all sides seem to agree that the teacher actually kept his marriage out of his workplace in that he did not bring it up either with his colleagues or with the students. The Archdiocese nevertheless took it upon itself to ignore the admonition “who am I to judge?” The Archdiocese fired the teacher. The teacher then sued them for firing him.

Based on these facts, here is Barr’s conclusion: “The lawsuit clearly infringes on the First Amendment rights of the Archdiocese by interfering both with its expressive association and with its Church autonomy.”

This lawsuit is simply intolerable in Barr’s eyes. As he told his audience at Notre Dame, “The Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in the state court making these points and we hope that the state court will soon dismiss this case.”

Many people, including Progressives and Democrats but by no means limited to them, wonder what kind of atmosphere the first 2020 debate will be subjected to at Notre Dame. Perhaps the most likely predictions will be based on current evidence.

Dennis Wall 

Class of 1973

Oct. 29

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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