Attorney General William Barr claimed that, “other than slavery,” national lockdown orders amid the coronavirus pandemic were “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties.”

Barr spoke Wednesday as part of an annual Hillsdale College event recognizing Constitution Day in Washington, D.C., making several comments about the constitutional implications of coronavirus-related lockdowns along with Ronald J. Pestritto of the college.

“You know, putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders, is like house arrest,” Barr explained. “Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.”


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Barr also accused state and local leaders, many of whom had imposed such lockdowns (and continue to abuse this arbitrary power), of treating their citizens like children who were incapable of making informed decisions for themselves. Hillsdale College faced fierce criticism from Michigan Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer for holding the country’s first in-person graduation ceremony during the coronavirus pandemic, as previously reported by 100% FED Up.

“Most of the governors do what bureaucrats always do, which is they … defy common sense. They treat free citizens as babies that can’t take responsibility for themselves and others,” Barr continued, adding, “We have to give business people an opportunity, tell them what the rules are … and then let them try to adapt their business to that and you’ll have ingenuity and people will at least have the freedom to try to earn a living.”

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Barr received strong support and enthusiasm with several other comments from that same event, criticizing prosecutors for “political headhunting” and arguing that protesters used Black Americans shot by police as props to push an agenda. “The notion that line prosecutors should make the final decisions at the Department of Justice is completely crazy,” Barr said.

At one point, he likened junior prosecutors to children in preschool:

Later, in arguing for more “detachment” from his prosecutors, Barr referenced lines from C.S. Lewis, who frequently wrote about religious themes: “‘It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies,'” Barr said. “‘The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth.'” Through the classical liberal arts education, Hillsdale College strives to teach its students the importance of self-governance requiring core classes in Western Heritage, American Heritage, Constitution 101, and courses in the Great Books.

The comments drew reaction from former Justice officials, including President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, and onetime civil division chief Jody Hunt, who left his post as assistant attorney general earlier this year.

During a question-and-answer period after his formal remarks, Barr reiterated his concerns about voting by mail in the November presidential race to a supportive audience of Hillsdale College students and friends of the college.

Later, he addressed the Black Lives Matter movement. “They’re not interested in Black lives. They’re interested in props, a small number of Blacks who are killed by police during conflicts with police — usually less than a dozen a year — who they can use as props to achieve a much broader political agenda.”

This story was written by a Hillsdale College student.

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