AU’s Intern Erica Monical: My Experience Working To Promote Church-State Separation

I decided to intern at Americans United because I wanted to learn more about communications and I wanted to be involved in a cause that I am passionate about. Separation of church and state is an important issue to me and I wanted to be able to promote it while growing professionally.

The Trump administration ensured that I had plenty of learning opportunities. From the push to expand private-school vouchers to attempts to weaken or repeal the Johnson Amendment, there have been a lot of attacks on religious freedom in just a few short months. The good news is that people are paying attention, and I am grateful that I got the opportunity to be involved in the crucial fight to preserve this fundamental American value.

When I started at AU in January, I was amazed there was still so much work to do to protect a right that’s been enshrined in our Constitution since the nation’s founding. There are continuing threats in our local, state and federal governments to chip away at the wall of separation between church and state. Americans United is doing amazing work to make sure people have the freedom to believe in the faith of their choice – or to choose no faith – without the threat of government interference or discrimination.

I learned a lot about a variety of religious freedom issues through the blog posts that I wrote. I especially enjoyed writing for the Protect Thy Neighbor blog, on which I was able to write about legislation proposed around the country that would use religion as an excuse to harm others.

The most difficult blogs to write were about a bill in South Dakota. Senate Bill 149 – which, sadly, was signed into law by Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) – allows taxpayer-funded adoption and child-welfare agencies to discriminate against children and families by citing religious beliefs as justification to refuse to provide services.  I struggled to see how lawmakers could be so cruel to our most vulnerable children and the families who want to help them. While it was a difficult subject, I’m glad I got the chance to inform the public about this dangerous law.

Young people, like those on AU's Youth Advisory Council, need to advocate for religious freedom.

Other subjects I wrote about included:

  • An anti-transgender bus tour was sponsored by socially conservative groups who want to allow religious beliefs to be used as an excuse to discriminate against transgender people.
  • Members of our Youth Advisory Council spoke about the need for young people to be active in advocating for religious freedom.

The work that AU does is incredibly important and my journey fighting for religious freedom is not coming to an end with this internship. I plan to stay involved with the Youth Advisory Council at Americans United.

My time at AU has furthered my dedication to this crucial issue and having the opportunity to work with so many driven and passionate people has given me hope for the future of separation of church and state.