Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you for joining us at this important summit, as I now have the privilege of introducing the Attorney General of the United States, William Barr.
I suspect most of us here today are aware that Attorney General Barr has had a distinguished career in private practice and in government — including time as head of the Office of Legal Counsel, and as Deputy Attorney General — as well as his role as the general counsel of a major corporation. And I am confident that nearly everyone knows he served previously as the 77th Attorney General, and now again as 85th Attorney General of the United States.
But what many may not know is that when Bill Barr was previously Attorney General, he was in May 1992 honored by Agudath Israel of America with its Humanitarian Award.
His commitment to using the power of the federal government to ensure the free practice of religion, and to fight those who traffic in vile anti-Semitic acts is not new.
Indeed, in his confirmation hearings nearly three decades ago, he emphasized that invidious discrimination “strikes at the very nature and fiber of what this country stands for.” And then as Attorney General he pledged “the Department of Justice’s unyielding commitment to eliminating anti-Semitism and other forms of religious bigotry."
Good to his word, as Attorney General the first time he aggressively pursued antisemitic hate crimes. Under his leadership, the Department successfully convicted eight members of hate groups for desecrating a synagogue in Nashville, Tennessee; five individuals for conspiracy to interfere with the rights of a holocaust survivor in San Diego through a vicious campaign of anti-semitic harassment; numerous skinheads around the country for a variety of anti-semitic crimes; and convicted the neo-Nazis responsible for the murder of the prominent radio host Alan Berg in Denver, Colorado. He also fought against anti-Semitic zoning discrimination in Airmont, New York.
Unfortunately, fighting anti-Semitism — perhaps the world’s oldest hatred — requires unyielding vigilance. According to the FBI, hate crimes based on religion have steadily grown in the United States since 2014, and anti-Jewish hate crimes have consistently been more than half of the totals each year. More recently, horrific murders at Jewish synagogues in Pittsburgh and San Diego have alerted us again that this is not just a problem in Europe, South America, and the Mideast. We must confront those responsible for hateful acts wherever and whenever they are found: in our cities, on our college campuses, in our workplaces, online, and particularly as to those who intimidate, terrorize, or cause harm to others.
I have known Attorney General Barr for a long time, so knew of his strong views about both the protection of religious freedom and about fighting against intolerance and crimes against religious communities. As he told the Senate at his most recent confirmation, “we can only survive and thrive as a nation if we are mutually tolerant of each others’ differences…Each of us treasures our own freedom, but that freedom is most secure when we respect everyone else’s freedom. And yet we see some people violently attacking others simply because of their differences. We must have zero tolerance for such crimes.”
These words guide us, both today and going forward, as we punish hate crimes and as we protect religious liberty. So, with this short introduction of his long record of combatting anti-Semitism, it is my great privilege to welcome Attorney General William Barr.