It has been an interesting week for me here at Americans United.
This morning, my cell phone started buzzing about ten minutes before my alarm was set to go off. Groggy-eyed, I reached over and snatched it from my night stand. While usually I'm rather irritated by the idea of waking up even a moment too soon, I couldn't help but smile when I read the text message sent by one of my favorite friends.
Plain and simple it read: Happy Constitution Day!!
Recently, the Fox News Channel rang up the Rev. Barry Lynn, AU's executive director, to discuss what he thinks about reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.
Since they asked, he answered.
"The Pledge of Allegiance creates a constitutional problem," he said. "You have to tell students they can opt out."
For some reason, this statement has generated some controversy – as if it is so reprehensible to want to educate students about their rights!
I've always been skeptical of psychics, palm-readers and other prognosticators who claim to see the future, but today I'm going to gaze into my crystal ball and deliver a message to officials in Baker, La.: You are going to be sued very soon.
Furthermore, you are going to lose.
When I was growing up, "melting pot" was one of the terms we learned in our social studies class.
My textbook told me that America was the perfect example of a "melting pot," which is defined as "a place where a variety of races, cultures, or individuals assimilate into a cohesive whole."
The book explained that in the United States, we are all welcome to practice our own faiths and retain our own cultural beliefs. Diversity is what makes America a better, more interesting place.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial page takes a potshot at Americans United and Barry Lynn today.
That's not surprising. The Journal's news department is staffed by lots of skilled and professional reporters who have done some crackerjack reporting on the Religious Right over the years. Fortunately, there's a wall of separation between those folks and the editorial page staff.
The latter is, as the saying goes, to the right of Attila the Hun.
Just about six months ago, my colleague Sandhya Bathija posted about one man's trek from Mountain City, Tenn., to the nation's capital. Walking through the rain and snow with the hopes of convincing national lawmakers to "keep the Ten Commandments in our public buildings," Scott Teague arrived in Washington, D.C., on March 4.
It is hardly a secret that the Religious Right helped elect President George W. Bush and exercised extraordinary influence with his administration. But if we need more evidence, it's just been put on the table.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government (CREW) has just released a report tallying visits to the Bush White House by major Religious Right players. CREW filed a request for visitor records that coughed up the information.
Every September, we brace ourselves here at Americans United because we know the new school year will spark a fresh round of squabbles about the proper role of religion in public education.
Indeed, we're seeing some already. Two recent stories – one from Kentucky and one from Iowa – showcase two very different ways of dealing with this contentious topic.
In Breckinridge County, Ky., parent Michelle Ammons is angry because a football coach took 20 players to a revival meeting where a number of them were baptized, without parental permission. Ammons' son was among them.
A few months ago, it seemed Focus on the Family may have been coming around to – dare I say it? – a refreshingly moderate outlook.
Jim Daly recently took over president and chief executive responsibilities from James Dobson, the founder of the Religious Right outfit.
Back in June, while visiting Washington to participate in President Barack Obama's White House initiative on fatherhood, Daly praised Obama for his family values.