“Opus Dei, Anyone?”: Laurence Tribe Raises Barr’s Religious Beliefs In Latest Diatribe [Updated]

Many of us criticized statements attributed to Attorney General Bill Barr this week calling for the use of sedition laws against rioters. However, instead of raising constitutional or statutory objections, Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe instead raised Barr’s Catholic faith in a completely unwarranted and unfounded tweet. The response to the reference was total silence. Not a single professor at Harvard or elsewhere chastised the use of a person’s religion in such commentary. This is not the first profane or prejudiced statement by Tribe.

Attorney General William Barr reportedly told federal prosecutors to move aggressively against rioters. That is nothing new. However, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported that Barr urged prosecutors to seek federal charges that included sedition laws designed for those who conspire to overthrow the U.S. government. The WSJ article stated “[Barr] encouraged the prosecutors to seek a number federal charges, including under a rarely used sedition law, even when state charges could apply, the people said.” (A U.S. Attorney has come out against allegations in the NYT article, including the allegation that Barr wanted the Seattle mayor criminally charged).

I have handled cases raising sedition or treason allegations as criminal defense counsel. It is entirely inappropriate and abusive to treat such protests as a form of sedition. It would not only fail in most such cases but it would return the Justice Department to a dark period of the use of such laws against forms of political dissent. There are ample criminal laws to address rioters. There is no reason to use sedition laws to combat rioting. I also believe that Barr’s escalating rhetoric is undermining the role of the Justice Department in addressing both the protests and the upcoming election.

Tribe however was not content with calling out Barr on a legal basis. He introduced his presumed religious beliefs: “It’s way beyond monarchical. It’s paranoid and dictatorial. Opus Dei, anyone?” It is like someone disagreeing with Alan Dershowitz and noting that he is a Jew or incorrectly referring to Kabbalah.


We have often discussed how conservatives have faced national condemnations and campaigns to be fired for dissenting views, often being labeled as “racists” for questioning aspects of the current protests or underlying claims. However, there is a conspicuous silence in the media when liberal academics engage in false or outrageous comments.

The level of intolerance in Tribe’s remarks is breathtaking.  Making this even more outrageous is that Barr is not Opus Dei, as discussed last weekend in the Washington Post. He is a deeply religious Catholic.  As Tom Hamburger wrote in the Post, Barr has shown tolerance for opposing values, including supporting a friend’s same-sex marriage.

None of that matters, of course.  Raising the religion of Barr is an exercise of raw religious intolerance and prejudice.  Yet, no one called out Tribe because such concerns are rarely acknowledged when the targets are on the right.

This type of personal assault has become a type of signature for Tribe, who regularly engaged in juvenile and vulgar attacks on those who hold opposing legal views. Yet, the media ignores these unhinged attacks and continues to cite Tribe in his continual criticism of Trump.  Tribe has called Trump a “terrorist” and supported a long litany of highly dubious criminal theories. Tribe called Senator Mitch McConnell a “flagrant dickhead!” and loves to use Trump-like insults like “McTurtle” to refer to the Senator. Tribe thrills his followers by referring to Trump as a “Dick” or “dickhead in chief.” (I have also been the subject of such vulgar attacks for holding legal views different from Tribe’s). Such slurs and invectives are all ignored. Indeed, the only time Tribe generated a modicum of criticism from the left was when he referred to the selection of an African Americans like Kamala Harris for Vice President as a merely “cosmetic” choice.  Rather than being the target of a petition campaign like so many conservative professors, Tribe simply moved on by renewing his personal attacks on anyone with views that might support Trump.

I could not find a single liberal commentator or professor who objected to Tribe attacking Barr for his wrongly presumed religious views.  Professors lined up to (legitimately) criticize Trump for references to the Muslim faith of critics. Yet, there is no apparent problem in raising a Catholic’s faith in a put down.

The reason for the reference in this tweet is obvious and obnoxious. Calling Barr Opus Dei is like calling a Muslim lawyer a “Wahhabi” with a connotation of dangerous extremism.  Putting aside that Barr is not Opus Dei, his following the movement would have nothing at all to do with using Sedition Law. Tribe’s religious intolerance is only matched by his religious ignorance. Opus Dei followers are not inherently supportive of authoritarianism. Followers believe in more strict adherence to church teachings like more conservative groups in other major religions. The use of “Opus Dei” as a type of sinister cult reference is a stereotype that circulates on the Internet, often on anti-Catholic sites.

Over the years, I have praised Tribe and even did so when raising an honest concern over his growing intolerant and hateful attacks. At a time of rising intolerance and violence, academics have an added responsibility in reinforcing basic values of civility and decency in our debates. It is possible to hold opposing views of constitutional principles without engaging in personal, let alone prejudicial, attacks. It is the abandonment of the core principles of academic discourse, dispensing with substantive dialogue in favor of profane or prejudiced diatribes.



204 thoughts on ““Opus Dei, Anyone?”: Laurence Tribe Raises Barr’s Religious Beliefs In Latest Diatribe [Updated]”

  1. Schools like Harvard are heavily subjective and don’t deal in resourced verified Facts when a nearby juicy propaganda hit piece is available.

  2. ‘“He Is Our Property”: The D.C. Establishment Awaits Assange With A Glee And Grudge’

    April 2019



    Shame on Bill Barr. Shame on America. And shame on Leon Panetta, who appeared to be full of ‘glee’ in a recent interview.

    “Former CIA director Leon Panetta: We are prosecuting Assange to intimidate others”

    By Oscar Grenfell
    18 September 2020


    1. ‘Panetta laughing as he discusses the prosecution of Assange (Screenshot “Wikileaks – USA against Julian Assange”)’


      “The comments were aired this week in a documentary produced by German public broadcaster ARD, entitled “Wikileaks – USA against Julian Assange.” The program was a compelling and objective account of the ten year US persecution of Assange and featured strong interviews with his father John Shipton, his partner Stella Moris, WikiLeaks’ lawyers, United Nations Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer and famous National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.”

      1. ‘The program concluded with a powerful remark from Snowden: “We are setting a precedent, right now, that we are going to live with for the next hundred years. No matter what you feel about Julian Assange, the methods that WikiLeaks and everyone connected to it pioneered have changed the way journalism is done. If we cannot recognise that, and we are not willing to protect it, I think the saddest part of this whole story is that we probably don’t deserve it, and as a result we will no longer have it when we need it the most.”’

  3. https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/1306224179407192064

    ‘WikiLeaks @wikileaks
    Watch: @joerogan speaking to @Snowden on #Assange: “The US govt is trying to extradite #Assange & put him in prison for the rest of his life..for work that won awards in every country..This could all be made to go away if AG William Barr dropped the charges – & he should”‘


    Jonathan: Why don’t you have a chat with your friend, Bill. Listen to Snowden (refer to the aforementioned tweet), and if you don’t feel compelled to talk to Bill Barr, well, there’s no hope.

    This is why our choices matter. Barr should never have been confirmed, given his history.

  4. Jonathan Turley: “Making this even more outrageous is that Barr is not Opus Dei, as discussed last weekend in the Washington Post. He is a deeply religious Catholic.”



    After stepping down from Verizon in 2008 — the year he turned 58 — he entered a long, restless semiretirement [sic], in which he did some consulting and was counsel in the Washington office of the law firm Kirkland & Ellis. He also served on the board of the Catholic Information Center, a downtown gathering spot and place of worship that has featured priests from the ultraconservative Opus Dei wing of Catholicism. During his first term as attorney general, Barr had hired as a speechwriter John Paul Wauck, who later became an Opus Dei priest and has kept in periodic touch with him. So many people have assumed that Barr is a member of Opus Dei that the secretive organization issued a statement saying he is not.

    In those years, he would periodically meet Turley for long lunches at a favorite Italian restaurant, Assaggi Osteria in McLean, Va., where he lives. They’d linger long after the plates were cleared, gnawing over large and minuscule points in law. Afterward, it wasn’t uncommon for Barr to send Turley lengthy memos — just because. Barr wanted someone to listen to him.

    In June 2018, Barr sent an unsolicited 19-page memo to the Justice Department, the White House counsel and others. In it he, argued that, even though he was “in the dark about many facts,” he wanted to share his conclusion that the investigation by his longtime friend, special counsel Robert Mueller, seemed to be a “misbegotten effort to ‘disempower’ ” Trump. The president had “illimitable” powers to hire and fire his then FBI director, James Comey, who’d investigated Russian interference, Barr wrote. Once again, he’d pushed his objective of building a muscular presidency. But this time, there was a president in office who was more than eager to go along.

    -Washington Post

    Interesting article, interesting comments.

    Again, from the article:

    “So many people have assumed that Barr is a member of Opus Dei that the secretive organization issued a statement saying he is not.”

    I still don’t like the guy.

  5. As a Jew, ethnically whether or not religiously, Tribe should know better than to sling around references to shadowy religious conspiracies.

  6. Jonathan: Coming to the defense of your good friend Bill Barr is nothing new. So when Lawrence Dia-Tribe criticized Barr for calling for the use of sedition laws against protesters (which you call “rioters) and then adds “Opus Dei, anyone?” you immediately label the comments “false or outrageous comments” that reflects a “level of intolerance” that is “breathtaking”. So why did Professor Tribe add the “Opus Dei” comment and was it really so “outrageous”?

    The National Catholic Reporter, not a secular publication, calls Barr a “culture warrior Catholic” because of his “connections to a tight-knit Catholic culture where fraternal organizations, think-tanks and conservative clergy, understand faith as a bulwark against perceived attacks on traditional morality, the family and church”. To prove the point the Reporter pointed to a speech Barr made last fall at Notre Dame University where the AG railed against “militant secularists” and blamed them for “virtually every measure of social pathology”. The Reporter also mentioned Barr’s support of federal funding for parochial schools, the right of religious institutions to terminate employees who don’t follow ordained policy and the right of a Colorado baker to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. These coincidentally are also views espoused by Opus Dei. Of course, Barr’s commitment to “religious freedom” does not extend to Muslims, Sikhs or other non-Christian religious communities. In Barr’s view this is a “Christian” nation and why he supports Trump’s Muslim travel ban. Cathleen Kaveny, a professor at Boston College and writer on religion, describes Barr as having “a kind of authoritarian Catholic thought and an elitist vision that is not particularly comfortable with the give and take of a democracy” Mildly put. Kaveny also said that Barr’s often culture-war language “almost looks like an Opus Dei influence because its a notion of sin that is primarily personal and about self-control. That’s not an entirely Catholic view of sin and leaves out Catholic social teaching about social sin”.

    But there are other “stubborn facts”, as John Adams famously said, about AG Barr that should also be placed in evidence. For example, from 2014 to 2017 Barr served on the board of the Catholic Information Center, an Opus Dei-affiliated bookstore and chapel. This is not a mom and pop store. The Center’s members and leaders have an outsize impact on policy and politics in the corridors of power in Washington. Now proving members of the Center are actually card carrying Opus Dei is impossible because “Supernumeraries” and “Cooperators”, as they call themselves, keep their identities secret. It’s a secret society!

    Now to return to Professor Tribe’s “Opus Dei” comment. You say “Barr is not Opus Dei”. I defy you to prove the negative. In your many lunches together have you ever asked Barr whether he was Opus Dei? Even if he were Barr would never admit it–unless, of course, you were also a member. You say “Opus Dei followers are not inherently supportive of authoritarianism”. How do you know? Since we know so little about this secret society that won’t divulge the names of its adherents what inside information do you possess? In any case I don’t think Professor Tribe was accusing Barr of being Opus Dei. I think the professor was simply trying to point out that Trump and Barr share the same view of presidential power unfettered by any constitutional restraints–basically “authoritarianism”.

    Barr proved Tribe’s point again yesterday when the AG attacked federal line prosecutors (he wants to make all decisions on who to prosecute) and compared coronavirus lock downs to slavery. Barr called COVID-19 pandemic restrictions “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history”. Professor Tribe immediately tweeted: “Bill Barr says temporary stay-at-home orders, all of which just require a good reason to be out during a COVID-spike, are the most severe intrusion into civil liberties ever–‘except maybe slavery’. What an obscene comparison. Only an evil fool could talk that way”. Gee, Jonathan, we can’t wait to see how you react to Tribe’s latest “outrageous” comments about your good friend!

    1. It’s not a secret society. Those are prohibited in Catholicism. Freemasonry for example is forbidden because, among other reasons, they swear a secret blood oath which is inherently sinful.

      I know Opus members, they are good guys. If you want to read the book, by one of the organizers, here it is


      it’s a great book. but i am not an Opus member. I can’t even take communion anymore, I m barred from it due to my own choices. But people who see a sinister plot any time they hear Opus Dei have been reading too much Dan Brown fiction. If you think they’re all flogging themselves over whacking off or something nutty like that, you’re naive.

      If you really want a somewhat secretive and occasionally sinister Catholic group try the Jesuits. Who have been banned for mischief more than once. & rightfully so

      1. Are you a Roman Catholic? What do the Jesuits have to do with any of this? I will assume you are familiar with the history of the Jesuits?

    2. Dennis. You just admitted that you know nothing about Opus Dei.

      So why are you condemning Opus Dei?

      You also just admitted that you don’t know if Barr is in Opus Dei.

      So why are you condemning Barr as if he is Opus Dei?

      Very Stasi-like of you. I’m sure you would have made a great informant for them back in the day.

  7. Over the years, I have praised Tribe and even did so when raising an honest concern over his growing intolerant and hateful attacks. ”

    Professor, what do you expect from Tribe. He is a devout evangelical leftist more in line with the Mulsim that believes in Sharia Law. In neither case is there a separtaion of political ideology from religious ideology. Evangelical Christians generally recognize that separation.

  8. Leaked 2016 Call Reveals Joe Biden Risked National Security To Sabotage Trump

    …A recently leaked phone call between then-Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko directly after the 2016 presidential election shows that Biden sought to sabotage the incoming Trump administration before Donald Trump even took office, and much worse….

    Biden then told Poroshenko, “I don’t plan on going away. As a private citizen, I plan on staying deeply engaged in the endeavor that you have begun and we have begun.” In a matter of moments, Biden undermined the incoming administration, branded them as not knowing anything about Ukraine, and attempted to set up a foreign policy backchannel for himself after he left office as a private citizen, which could violate the Logan Act….

    To fortify his position and to make Poroshenko more confident that he should continue to deal with Biden once he left office, in the call Biden also intimated that there is a problem with the incoming administration: “The reason I bother to tell you that is I have been somewhat limited on what I am able to tell their team about Ukraine.” …


  9. Tribe is an Eastern European who came to the United States by way of China. He’s the last person in the world who should be teaching the Constitution. His roots are not in America, they’re in Europe and Asia.

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