By Alex Marketos
First, the bad news. Over the past few weeks, the Supreme Court has failed to protect church-state separation in a number of cases. The high court has made it easier for public money to be diverted to private, religious schools, and it has given these schools greater leeway to fire teachers on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, age and other factors. The court also said that employers and universities can refuse to provide birth control access to their workers and students on religious grounds.
The good news is that there are ways for us all to both be more well-versed in issues of church-state separation and take action to protect it.
- Report violations of religious freedom: Many cases of religious discrimination and other violations of religious freedom go unheard and never reach the attention of the public, let alone the Supreme Court. If you know about a violation of the separation of church and state, report it here on the AU website and our legal team will review it.
- Join AU! If you’re not a member of AU, please join and support our efforts. If you want to get up to speed on current church-state issues, check out our daily blog and monthly Church & State magazine. Are you a member of the clergy? Awesome! We’d love to have you join our network of faith leaders.
- Sign up for AU’s emails & contact your lawmakers: You can also sign up to get our emails, which will let you know when you can take action by contacting state and federal lawmakers – such as urging them to reject President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ agenda to divert taxpayer money to private, religious schools (particularly important in light of the court’s Espinoza decision and the Trump/DeVos effort to exploit the coronavirus pandemic to fund private schools). You can also urge your members of Congress to support the Do No Harm Act and the No Ban Act. This is a great way to tell lawmakers not only that you care about these issues, but that they should too.
- Start the conversation with your networks: Activism and allyship can extend beyond these actions as well. Together, we can educate ourselves and our friends on how others have misused religious freedom historically to bar people of color, women and LGBTQ people from being employed and receiving health care. We can have intentional conversations with our friends about how, while they have the right to practice their religion or no religion at all, no one should be able to use their beliefs to deny someone else their rights and dignity. These conversations can continue on social media as well – be sure to follow and share AU’s content on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
In light of the recent Supreme Court rulings and the Trump administration's continued attacks on real religious freedom, it’s important to recognize that the fight for separation of religion and government is far from over. American United’s fight persists. More work needs to be done to guarantee that all Americans can live as they wish without fear of religious discrimination. Fortunately, we all can and need to do our part to keep religion and government separate.
Editor's Note: Alex Marketos is a summer 2020 Communications Intern with Americans United.