June is Pride month. This event has special resonance this year, given that Pride traces its history to a 1969 incident in New York City during which activists – many of them black members of the LGBTQ community – stood up to their oppressors.

But Pride this year is also different. Normally at this time of year, Americans United staff members would be getting ready to set up a table at Capital Pride, Washington, D.C.’s LGBTQ rights street festival. We always enjoy meeting with people, signing up new supporters and distributing AU literature and swag. (Last year, AU President and CEO Rachel Laser’s dog Teddy made an appearance at AU’s table and was a big hit.)

Unfortunately, none of that can happen this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Capital Pride has been reimagined, as the organizers have put it, and many events have been moved online.

While Americans United won’t be able to spend the day with our allies in the LGBTQ community in person, our efforts to protect their rights – and indeed the rights of all Americans – by defending separation of church and state will continue unabated.

Separation of religion and government is the linchpin of many of the rights we enjoy. Efforts to deny equality to LGBTQ Americans, take away women’s rights, end reproductive freedom, instill censorship, attack public education and compel Americans to support faith groups with taxpayer funds share a common feature: Someone is trying to force you to live under the tenets of their faith or to support it against your will. We simply won’t accept that. 

We at Americans United are appalled by the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back LGBTQ rights and its constant kowtowing to Christian nationalists. We’re fighting this mean-spirited agenda in court. We’re fighting it in Congress. We’re fighting it in state legislatures. We’re fighting it in the arena of public opinion.

Religious freedom is meant to be a shield that protects us, not a sword used to harm others. We believe that adults should have the right to love whom they choose, raise children, earn a livelihood, seek health care and government services free from discrimination, and above all, pursue happiness – despite what someone else may think the Bible or another religious text says. And we know that only a proper distance between religion and government can protect us from living under the tenets of state-imposed theology. 

The distance between religion and state isn’t just a metaphor. It is the space where your freedom rests. For the good of us all, Americans United works to maintain that distance, this month and every month. Join us!

Photo: AU staffers at the organization's Capital Pride booth in 2019