Many Americans know Notre Dame as the place where Knute Rockne once coached the football team and George Gipp — played by Ronald Reagan in the movie — was his legendary halfback.
It should now also be noted as the place where Attorney General William P. Barr delivered one of the most important speeches any Cabinet official has given in recent times.
Imagine your team is backed up on its own 1-yard line. On first down, the quarterback hands the ball off to the fullback in a play cautiously designed to put another few yards between the line of scrimmage and the goal line.
The fullback smashes through a defensive tackle, runs over a linebacker, straight-arms a safety straight into the ground and ends up running 99 yards for a touchdown.
Humbly, he does not even spike the ball.
Bill Barr was that fullback last Friday while speaking at Notre Dame Law School.
In one sense, Barr simply explained what President John Adams meant by a statement he made in 1798 letter. He then showed the significance of that statement to American life today.
"We have no Government armed with Power which is capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by ... morality and religion," Barr quoted from Adams' letter. "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other."
Within this context, Barr accurately described the cultural war raging in America today.
"The challenge we face is precisely what the founding fathers foresaw would be the supreme test of a free society," Barr told the Notre Dame law students.
"They never thought that the main danger to the republic would come from an external foe," he said. "The question was whether the citizens in such a free society could maintain the moral discipline and virtue necessary for the survival of free institutions."
"And this is really what they meant by self-government," said Barr. "It did not mean primarily the mechanics by which we select a representative legislature. It referred to the capacity of each individual to restrain and govern themselves."
"But what was the source of this internal controlling power?" Barr asked. "In a free republic, those restraints could not be handed down from above by philosopher kings. Instead, social order must flow up from the people themselves freely obeying the dictates of inwardly possessed and commonly shared moral values."
"And to control willful human beings with an infinite capacity to rationalize, those moral values must rest on an authority independent of men's wills," he said. "They must flow from the transcendent Supreme Being. In short, in the framers' view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people, a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the state and to manmade laws and had the discipline to control themselves according to those enduring principles."
Yes, that is exactly why John Adams said: "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious People."
Barr argued that "secularists" are now attacking the moral order that is the foundation our liberty and threatening religious freedom in pursuit of their cause.
"First is the force, fervor and comprehensiveness of the assault on organized religion we are experiencing today," said Barr. "This is not decay. This is organized destruction. Secularists and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry and academia, in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values."
The threat is not that the government will establish a state religion; the threat is that the state will attack people for conscientiously practicing their own.
"The problem is not that religion is being forced on others," Barr said. "The problem is that irreligion is being forced; secular values are being forced on people of faith."
One example he cites is the crusade the Obama administration fought all the way to the Supreme Court to force Americans — including the Little Sisters of the Poor — to act against their conscience by mandating that they buy insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices.
But Barr recognizes that the ultimate battle is for the hearts and minds of America's children.
"Ground zero for these attacks on religion are the schools," he said.
He cited as one example an opinion issued by the Orange County Board of Education in California that said, "Parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation may not excuse their children from this instruction."
In other words, if you cannot afford to liberate your child from the government school, you must allow that government agency to teach your child that a boy can become a girl.
Barr has a different vision for American children.
"Education is not vocational training," he said as he neared the goal line at Notre Dame.
"It is leading our children to the recognition that there is truth and helping them develop the facilities to discern and love the truth and the discipline to live by it," he said.
"We cannot have a moral renaissance," he concluded, "unless we succeed in passing to the next generation our faith and values in full vigor."
Score: Barr 7, secularists 0.
Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of CNSnews.com. To find out more about him, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.