Part of my job here at Americans United is to correspond with the general public. Frequently I find myself engaged in answering the most basic of questions. I'm often explaining the significance of Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists wherein he coined the phrase "wall of separation between church and state."
Do you celebrate Christmas? If so, how do you celebrate it – as a religious or a secular holiday? Maybe you do a little bit of both. Perhaps you celebrate the Solstice. Maybe you celebrate another holiday or do nothing at all.
I'm glad we have the choice about what to do at the time of year. But I'm troubled by the fact some people don't want us to have that choice.
Some years ago, I attended a press conference held by notorious anti-abortion zealot Randall Terry. There weren't many people at the event, and afterward Terry asked me where I was from.
When I told him I worked at Americans United, he replied, "You and Barry Lynn had better watch it – you're going to hell!"
I rolled my eyes and shrugged it off. I expect that sort of thing from a guy like Terry, so it was no big deal. In his view, pretty much everyone is going to hell.
But I wouldn't expect such a comment – and I wouldn't tolerate it – from a government official.
"We could do today what we couldn't do yesterday," stated George Daley, a researcher at Children's Hospital in Boston, in response to yesterday's clearance from the Obama administration for scientists to begin using new lines of human embryonic stem cells in federally funded experiments.
It's always fun to report on church-state victories, and yesterday, we had a big one.
The District of Columbia Council voted 11-2 to permit same-sex couples to marry in the nation's capital. And despite threats from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, the council refused to unduly broaden the measure's religious exemption, which already adequately protected religious freedom.
Religious Right leaders love to invoke Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King engaged in civil disobedience to oppose Jim Crow laws in the South, they argue, and so can we to fight abortion or same-sex marriage.
Here's some news you might have missed in the holiday shuffle last week: Wiley Drake, pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., and former vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has issued a press release calling for the end to an "imprecatory prayer" for President Barack Obama's death.
No, Drake was not overcome with the holiday spirit. Instead, he has received some "spiritual guidance" that made him realize Obama is worth more alive.
It's the day after Thanksgiving, and you know what that means. Yes, the malls will be crowded, but this time of year also means an escalation in the battles over how public schools and government deal with Christmas.
Some disputes have already erupted. In Chambersburg, Pa., the borough council voted unanimously to ban most displays from a public square rather than accommodate an atheist who wanted access to the space.
Note: This post is a re-publication of one that originally appeared on Thanksgiving Day 2007. Enjoy the holiday!
When you sit down to your Thanksgiving dinner today, do you plan to say grace?
If so, what religious tradition will the prayer come from? Will it be a blessing from the Jewish, Muslim or Hindu faiths? Will it be Catholic, Mormon or one of the infinite varieties of Protestant denominations?
Maybe you won't offer a prayer at all, instead simply thanking the cook for the bounteous meal set before you rather than a deity of any sort.
Some members of the clergy in Washington, D.C., are angry because the city council will no longer automatically do what they want.
As The Washington Post reports today, clergy in the nation's capital are used to having their calls returned promptly; they expect the council to be responsive to their demands.