The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/blogs/feed en An Important Win For Gavin Grimm – And Transgender Rights – In Virginia https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/an-important-win-for-gavin-grimm-and-transgender-rights-in-virginia <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">An Important Win For Gavin Grimm – And Transgender Rights – In Virginia</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 05/23/2018 - 12:05</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/liz-hayes" hreflang="und">Liz Hayes</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/Gavin%20grimm.jpg?h=0f38ce9f&amp;itok=7PYp23_y" width="1700" height="525" alt="Gavin Grimm" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p><a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/gavin-grimm/?rq=gavin%20grimm">Gavin Grimm</a>, the transgender teenager challenging his Virginia high school’s discriminatory bathroom policy, received a bittersweet victory on Tuesday when a federal court said the school’s policy violated his constitutional rights.</p> <p>Though it meant another win for him and transgender students, it came a year after Grimm, now 19 and living in California, graduated from Gloucester High School.</p> <p>“Grimm said he broke down in tears when he received a text message alerting him to the ruling, feeling vindicated – and saddened that it came too late to help him,” <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/court-sides-with-transgender-student-in-his-fight-to-use-the-boys-bathroom/2018/05/22/96417800-5e03-11e8-9ee3-49d6d4814c4c_story.html?utm_term=.8d1c37ed238d">wrote Moriah Balingit in <em>The Washington Post.</em></a></p> <p>“I came to understand a very long time ago that this was not going to affect me in a way that positively impacted my ability to function in school. … The issue is for all the kids out there who were waiting for something like this,” said Grimm, who told <em>The Post</em> that being forced to use a separate, unisex bathroom at Gloucester contributed to his feelings of alienation in high school. “The tears were because there was a vindication of what I’ve been saying for four years.”</p> <p>Grimm’s legal battle began in 2014 when Gloucester’s school board began debating whether he and other transgender students could use the restrooms that corresponded with their gender identity. Following combative public meetings that included religion-based objections to recognizing and protecting transgender people, the school board declined to let Grimm use the boys’ restrooms and instead directed him to use one school bathroom designated as gender-neutral.</p> <p>The school’s policy violated Grimm’s dignity and his civil rights, and with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, he filed a federal lawsuit, <em>Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board</em>.</p> <p>The case has had a convoluted journey through the legal system. It was on track to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2017 – the first transgender-rights case to reach the high court. But the Trump administration threw a wrench into the works: About a month after Trump took office, his Departments of Education and Justice <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/posts/2017/2/23/trump-administration-revokes-transgender-rights-directive?rq=grimm">rescinded Obama-era guidance</a> to schools that provided that Title IX, a federal civil-rights law, prohibits schools from discriminating on the basis of gender identity and requires them to offer transgender students equal access to school amenities, including restrooms. Since the lower court’s ruling had incorporated the now-rescinded guidance, <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/thanks-to-trump-a-major-transgender-rights-case-has-been-derailed-at-the">the Supreme Court sent the case back</a> to the 4th Circuit for reconsideration.</p> <p>Grimm’s graduation from high school last spring added another wrinkle, and the case ultimately ended up at a U.S. District Court in Virginia, which <a href="https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/gg-v-gloucester-order-denying-motion-dismiss-0">ruled in his favor</a> yesterday. Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen determined the Gloucester policy amounted to sex discrimination under Title IX and dismissed the district’s argument that the policy protects other students’ privacy rights.</p> <p>“[T]here were many other ways to protect privacy interests in a non-discriminatory and more efficient manner than barring Mr. Grimm from using the boys’ restrooms,” Allen wrote. “The Board’s arguments that the policy did not discriminate against any one class of students is resoundingly unpersuasive.”</p> <p>Americans United twice filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Grimm, <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/religious-beliefs-shouldn-t-justify-discrimination-against-schoolchildren">including with the U.S. Supreme Court</a>, explaining that religious or moral beliefs cannot dictate how government enforces the law, especially when those beliefs would result in harm to others. AU also has filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting transgender rights in other cases, including in a <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/au-and-allies-support-pa-school-districts-inclusive-transgender-policy">Pennsylvania case</a> on behalf of a school district that has a bathroom policy that protects transgender students’ rights and in a <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/michigan-case-brings-victory-for-religious-freedom-and-transgender-rights">Michigan case</a> on behalf of a transgender employee fired from a funeral parlor due to the owner’s religious beliefs about gender.</p> <p>Americans United will continue to fight against attempts to use religion to harm others. You can learn more about our work through our <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/">Protect Thy Neighbor</a> campaign.</p> <p><em>(Photo credit: AP Photo/Steve Helber)</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/transgender-rights" hreflang="en">Transgender Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/schools" hreflang="en">Schools</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/virginia" hreflang="en">Virginia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/title-ix" hreflang="en">Title IX</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/protect-thy-neighbor" hreflang="en">Protect Thy Neighbor</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-lawsuits field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Lawsuits</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/lawsuit/gavin-grimm-v-gloucester-county-school-board" hreflang="en">Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 23 May 2018 16:05:11 +0000 LHayes 13942 at https://www.au.org The Do No Harm Act Protects Religious Freedom And Equal Protection Under Law https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/the-do-no-harm-act-protects-religious-freedom-and-equal-protection-under <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">The Do No Harm Act Protects Religious Freedom And Equal Protection Under Law</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 05/22/2018 - 15:47</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/maggie-garrett" hreflang="und">Maggie Garrett</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/Sad%20Patient%20with%20Doctor%20cropped_2.jpg?h=87beb390&amp;itok=rxiiGJAA" width="1700" height="525" alt="Sad patient with doctor" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) today introduced the <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/do-no-harm-act">Do No Harm Act</a> in the U.S. Senate. The bill honors two core American values: religious freedom and equal protection of the law. And it couldn’t be more important right now.</p> <p>The Do No Harm Act is simple: It’s designed to restore the <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/religious-freedom-restoration-acts/">federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)</a> to its original intent. It will preserve the law’s power to protect religious exercise, but also clarify that it may not be used to harm others.  </p> <p>Freedom of religion is a fundamental American value. It ensures we can freely practice our beliefs but also that no one can use their religion as an excuse to undermine others’ rights or cause them harm.</p> <p>RFRA, adopted in 1993, provides important, but not unlimited, protections for religious exercise. Under RFRA, if a federal law or policy substantially burdens someone’s religious exercise, the government must have a compelling interest in enforcing the law. If there’s no compelling interest, RFRA says that the person may be granted an exemption from following the law. The Do No Harm Act will ensure that any religious exemption granted under RFRA would not result in harming or discriminating against other people.</p> <p>RFRA was born of good intentions: It was designed to protect religious minorities and ensure they can exercise their faith even when the government enacts rules that may unintentionally proscribe the practice. For example, a Muslim woman recently used RFRA to <a href="https://www.aclu.org/blog/religious-liberty/free-exercise-religion/aclu-client-makes-history-first-air-force-jag-corps">ensure she has the right to wear hijab</a> while serving our country in the Air Force JAG.</p> <p>In the two decades since its passage, however, many have misconstrued and exploited RFRA in ways that would harm and deny the rights of others.</p> <p>For-profit businesses and federal contractors have attempted to exploit RFRA to ignore laws, for example, that ensure you aren’t discriminated against at your job and when you seek needed health care. The most notorious example is <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/contraception-coverage-litigation">Hobby Lobby</a>, a national craft store chain with tens of thousands of employees, which used RFRA to refuse to provide its workers insurance coverage for contraception.</p> <p>Actions by the Trump administration make the Do No Harm Act more important than ever. The administration is using RFRA as a tool in its agenda to take away people’s rights. For example, a Department of Justice <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/new-trump-administration-policies-are-a-blueprint-for-using-religion-to">guidance memo</a> uses RFRA to create a blueprint for discrimination, especially against women, LGBTQ people, and religious minorities. The memo asserts that RFRA allows taxpayer-funded organizations, corporations and individuals to use religion as a justification to discriminate, interfere with people’s access to health care and deny government-funded services to those in need.</p> <p>The Do No Harm Act will protect religious freedom of all Americans and we need it now more than ever. Our country is strongest when we are all free to believe or not, as we see fit, and to practice our faith –without hurting others.</p> <p>We need you to take action to support the Senate Do No Harm Act and its <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/do-no-harm-act-preserving-religious-freedom-and-protecting-people-from-harm">House companion bill</a>, which was introduced by Reps. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.). <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/MHefu94sREKWuFEdCOpqrA2">Please urge your Senators and Representatives to support the Do No Harm Act.</a> You can do your part to make sure our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not a sword to harm others.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/employment-discrimination" hreflang="en">Employment Discrimination</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/denials-of-service" hreflang="en">Denials of Service</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/reproductive-rights" hreflang="en">Reproductive Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/contraception" hreflang="en">Contraception</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/denials-of-health-care" hreflang="en">Denials of Health Care</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-minorities-rights" hreflang="en">Religious Minorities&#039; Rights</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/do-no-harm-act" hreflang="en">Do No Harm Act</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/congress" hreflang="en">Congress</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/rfra-0" hreflang="en">RFRA</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/protect-thy-neighbor" hreflang="en">Protect Thy Neighbor</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/patrick-leahy" hreflang="en">Patrick Leahy</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/kamala-harris" hreflang="en">Kamala Harris</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 22 May 2018 19:47:50 +0000 LHayes 13940 at https://www.au.org U.S. House Guest-Chaplain Policy Discriminates Against Nontheists https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/us-house-guest-chaplain-policy-discriminates-against-nontheists <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">U.S. House Guest-Chaplain Policy Discriminates Against Nontheists</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 05/22/2018 - 10:51</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/claire-l-hillan" hreflang="en">Claire L. Hillan</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/Capitol%20Building%20cropped.jpg?h=0a1b9437&amp;itok=LtMvlH-D" width="1700" height="525" alt="US Capitol Building" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The First Amendment protects the integrity of religion, prevents discord and preserves the freedom to participate in American life regardless of one’s beliefs. Yesterday, Americans United filed a <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2018-05/Baker%20v%20Conroy%20Amicus%20Brief%205.22.18.pdf">friend-of-the-court brief</a> urging the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold those values in our nation’s Capitol.</p> <p>In <em>Barker v. Conroy</em>, the D.C. Circuit will decide whether a policy of the Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives – requiring guest chaplains to be ordained by a recognized religious body, to currently practice that body’s faith and to address a deity in their prayers – violates the First Amendment. Dan Barker, who is an atheist, an ordained Christian minister and co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, wanted only the same opportunity that the House chaplain affords to others: the chance to address the House as a guest chaplain. But that request was denied for explicitly discriminatory reasons: Barker cannot deliver an opening invocation because he doesn’t practice the religion in which he is ordained and he doesn’t pray to a divine higher power.</p> <p>This policy is antithetical to the First Amendment for three reasons: It involves government in value assessments of religion, causes fractures in our society and degrades the status of millions of Americans.</p> <p>The policy entangles government with religion and requires federal officials to assess whether a would-be guest chaplain professes and practices the “correct” beliefs. On its face, the policy requires guest chaplains to be ordained by an accepted religious body, to practice that religion to the House chaplain’s satisfaction and to pray to a divine higher power. Religious freedom means that government has no authority to decide which beliefs are right or wrong – but the House chaplain does just that. This policy requires investigation of the personal beliefs and practices of guest-chaplain nominees and tells people who do not profess belief in God (for example, Humanists, Buddhists and many Unitarian Universalists) and groups without formal ordination (including Muslims, certain Buddhists and Quakers) that their views are less-than – indeed, that <em>they</em> are less-than.</p> <p>Moreover, the policy furthers the disharmony that inevitably accompanies the mingling of government and religion. We need look no further for an example of this discord than the House chaplaincy itself, which recently became the cause of huge conflict when House Chaplain the Rev. Patrick Conroy resigned – reportedly at the behest of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). Conroy later withdrew his resignation and remains House chaplain. But tension over the matter remains. The incident sparked accusations of anti-Catholic discrimination and even led to an <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/08/house-chaplain-shouting-match-576131">argument on the House floor that was so impassioned that some feared a fist fight</a>. Though this controversy illustrates that there are good reasons to <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-do-we-need-a-chaplain-in-congress-anyway/2018/05/01/8ca98862-4d75-11e8-b725-92c89fe3ca4c_story.html?utm_term=.40a7e2a86645">end the practice of having tax-funded, permanent Congressional chaplains altogether</a>, if such chaplains continue to exist, our constitutional tradition requires that they invite guest chaplains of all beliefs in order to reflect our pluralistic society.</p> <p>The House chaplain’s discriminatory policy also degrades our society’s equality by excluding the <a href="http://www.pewforum.org/files/2015/11/201.11.03_RLS_II_full_report.pdf">9 percent of Americans</a> who do not believe in God. Nontheists are by far the largest non-Christian belief group in the United States today. And their numbers are rising: Between 2007 and 2014, the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as nonbelievers nearly doubled. This is a <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/2007/10/15/trends-in-attitudes-toward-religion-and-social-issues-19872007/">generational trend</a> that will likely continue. And the recently <a href="https://huffman.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/reps-huffman-raskin-mcnerney-kildee-launch-congressional-freethought">founded Congressional Freethought Caucus</a> in the U.S. House proves that these widespread beliefs have a place in our representative government.</p> <p>The House Chaplain’s attorneys have argued that it’s okay to exclude nontheists from participating in legislative prayer because any prayer must inherently reflect theistic beliefs. But the U.S. Supreme Court has said that legislative prayer should “lend gravity to the occasion,” “reflect values long part of the Nation’s heritage” and “invite[ ] lawmakers to reflect upon shared ideals and common ends before they embark on the fractious business of governing.” Nothing in these guidelines requires an invocation to reference a divine higher power. And the Court has also held that governmental bodies must not discriminate against would-be chaplains on the basis of their beliefs.</p> <p>Nontheists are as capable as theists of solemnizing events by calling upon the traditional values that our nation holds dear – values like unity, tolerance and equality that are, in fact, undermined by the House chaplain’s policy.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/official-prayer" hreflang="en">Official Prayer</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/nontheists-rights" hreflang="en">Nontheists&#039; Rights</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/house-chaplain" hreflang="en">House Chaplain</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/congress" hreflang="en">Congress</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/invocations" hreflang="en">Invocations</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-lawsuits field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Lawsuits</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/lawsuit/barker-v-conroy" hreflang="en">Barker v. Conroy</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 22 May 2018 14:51:50 +0000 LHayes 13938 at https://www.au.org Islamophobia Remains A Significant Concern For American Muslims https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/islamophobia-remains-a-significant-concern-for-american-muslims <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Islamophobia Remains A Significant Concern For American Muslims </span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/67749" lang="" about="/user/67749" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">Hassanein</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 05/21/2018 - 10:41</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rokia-hassanein" hreflang="und">Rokia Hassanein</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/muslimwomenfriends.jpg?h=31b51e59&amp;itok=NCFeBNun" width="1700" height="525" alt="Muslim Women " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>A recent <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/05/15/the-u-s-is-still-harsh-to-muslims-no-matter-how-the-travel-ban-case-goes/?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.db0013510325"><em>Washington Post </em></a><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/05/15/the-u-s-is-still-harsh-to-muslims-no-matter-how-the-travel-ban-case-goes/?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.db0013510325">op-ed</a> reiterated an important issue in America today: Regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules in the <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/muslim-ban">Muslim ban</a> case, the United States still has a long way to go in combating Islamophobia.</p> <p>Huma Yasin, a Muslim attorney, wrote about her family’s experience with hate crimes, how federal agencies target Muslims with surveillance more than other religious groups and portrayals of Muslims in the media, among other issues that marginalize the Muslim community.</p> <p>“Muslims have been dehumanized and politicized since long before this executive order or this administration,” Yasin said. “It’s the natural outgrowth of a society that’s been fed a long-standing and toxic diet of Islamophobia.”</p> <p>As someone who grew up with a Muslim background, that this is true. Before, during, and, I’m sure, after the Donald Trump presidency, Islamophobia has been and will remain an issue.</p> <p>Of course, Trump’s Muslim ban is plain discrimination and a significant attack on religious freedom. That’s why Americans United and allies filed a friend-of-the-court brief before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/families-harmed-by-trumps-muslim-ban-urge-supreme-court-to-stop-the-ban">people harmed</a> by the ban, urging the high court to be on the right side of history and strike down the Muslim ban.</p> <p>But it’s also important that we remember the Muslim Ban is not the only hurdle we need to overcome to make people of all religions feel welcome in our country. In her op-ed, Yasin cited how collective action – such as the protesters and lawyers who descended on airports around the country to advocate for immigrants and refugees after the first Muslim ban was issued – can be effective in combatting hate and Islamophobia.</p> <p>“Even non-immigration attorneys like myself volunteered to keep a 24-hour legal presence in the airport until the first injunction allowed entry to visa holders hailing from the banned countries,” she wrote.</p> <p>Unity can help overshadow the ignorance of some. Just recently, <a href="https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Racist-Rant-at-Coffee-Shop-Caught-on-Tape-482620361.html">a man harassed a Muslim woman</a> wearing the niqab (a type of veil worn by some Muslim women) in a California coffee shop, telling her, “I don’t like your religion.” In this instance of harassment, customers defended the Muslim woman and employees refused to serve the man.</p> <p>We need to continue taking action when we see discrimination, Yasin emphasized.</p> <p>“When people come together and demand change, it is possible. When individuals together as a society examine conscious and unconscious biases regarding Muslims and Islam, change is possible,” Yasin wrote. “Addressing the forms of Islamophobia that exist systemically can indeed dismantle them.”</p> <p>We agree because our country is at its best when people of all religions feel welcome here. For people of all faiths and for nonbeliers – religious freedom means that the law treats everyone equally regardless of faith.</p> <p>That also means that no one should face discrimination, feel unsafe or endure harassment because of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. At Americans United, we will continue to advocate for equality for all religious and nonreligious groups. We welcome people of all faiths and none to <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">join us</a>. </p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-minorities-rights" hreflang="en">Religious Minorities&#039; Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/islamophobia" hreflang="en">Islamophobia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/muslim-ban" hreflang="en">Muslim Ban</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 21 May 2018 14:41:32 +0000 Hassanein 13936 at https://www.au.org Some Members Of Congress Are Trying To Sneak Voucher Funding Into Annual Defense Bill https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/some-members-of-congress-are-trying-to-sneak-voucher-funding-into-annual <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Some Members Of Congress Are Trying To Sneak Voucher Funding Into Annual Defense Bill</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 05/18/2018 - 10:22</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/liz-hayes" hreflang="und">Liz Hayes</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/Soldier%20reading%20to%20daughter.jpg?h=19c7da77&amp;itok=Rvt3JnUs" width="1700" height="525" alt="Soldier reading to daughter" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Despite overwhelming opposition, some members of Congress are trying to <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/private-school-vouchers-for-military-students-could-be-a-top-priority-in">sneak a federally funded voucher program</a> into a must-pass defense spending bill.</p> <p>Two amendments were proposed yesterday to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would divert critical federal funding from public schools that serve military families and funnel it to unaccountable private and religious schools.</p> <p>The first voucher amendment was proposed by U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.). The amendment mirrors the language of standalone legislation Banks introduced in the House and U.S. Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) introduced in the Senate. The legislation was inspired by the Heritage Foundation and <a href="https://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2018-04-18/betsy-devos-seeks-private-school-vouchers-for-military-families">supported by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos</a>.</p> <p>Known as the “Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act,” the proposal would divert federal funding from the Impact Aid program to create Education Savings Accounts – a type of private school voucher – for students with active duty military parents residing on military bases.</p> <p>Impact Aid is a source of funding for school districts that have lost local tax revenue due to the presence of federal tax-exempt land, such as military installations, Native American reservations or national parks. School districts rely on this funding to provide education to military-connected students and other children in these communities. Diverting Impact Aid dollars to private school vouchers would be especially detrimental.</p> <p>Groups representing military students and their families, including the <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/582f7c15f7e0ab3a3c7fb141/t/5aac24f803ce64a52c2e3d84/1521231096611/Education+Savings+Accounts+for+Military+Families+-+Senate.pdf">National Military Family Association</a>, <a href="http://www.moaa.org/Content/Take-Action/Top-Issues/Family/ESAs-for-Military-Families--Too-Good-to-Be-True.aspx">Military Officers Association of America</a>, <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/582f7c15f7e0ab3a3c7fb141/t/5ad75e546d2a73e3d0cdf109/1524063828772/MCEC_ESA+to+SAS%2BHELP+Comm+04.13.18.pdf">Military Child Education Coalition</a> and the <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/582f7c15f7e0ab3a3c7fb141/t/5aac2630f950b791b52c5587/1521231409018/NAFIS+Issue+Brief+on+Impact+Aid+ESAs.pdf">National Association for Federally Impacted Schools</a>, have opposed using Impact Aid to fund private school vouchers for military students. In addition, <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/582f7c15f7e0ab3a3c7fb141/t/5acb7abf562fa799829d4900/1523284671535/TMC+Education+Savings+Accounts+for+Military+Families+4-5-18.pdf">The Military Coalition</a>, a consortium of uniformed services and veterans associations representing more than 5.5 million current and former service members and their families, sent a letter to Congress in opposition to this voucher proposal.</p> <p>Yesterday, a source inside <a href="http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2018/05/choice_trump_devos_impact_aid.html">the Trump Administration said they would not support this proposal</a>.</p> <p>Another amendment was filed by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) that would create private school vouchers for military students with disabilities. He proposed an almost identical amendment in 2011 to the NDAA that was <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/legislative/hunter-voucher-amendment-defeated-again">voted down</a> at that time. Although this amendment does not use Impact Aid to fund the voucher program, it could reduce Impact Aid and undermine the public schools serving students with disabilities.</p> <p>Americans United and the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE), which AU co-chairs, oppose any form of private school voucher for military students for a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa5-oqMpLXE&amp;feature=youtu.be">multitude of reasons</a>: Vouchers violate the principle of religious freedom, fail to provide better educational opportunities for students and undermine our public education system. Because private voucher schools can refuse to admit students for many reasons, including a student’s religion, LGBTQ status or disability, they allow for discrimination with our taxpayer dollars and don’t give a real choice to parents or students.</p> <p>Our public dollars should fund public schools, which educate 90 percent of students, rather than supporting vouchers for only a select few students.</p> <p>A large number of Americans United supporters already have added their voices to the groundswell of opposition to creating a federally funded private school voucher scheme as part of the NDAA, but we need to make sure our objections are heard now: <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/5fwmSseMMkevxg_M7I5_Rg2?emci=3d6cce70-2c59-e811-80c3-00155da78012&amp;emdi=ea000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000001&amp;ceid=3707111&amp;fn=Erin&amp;mn=&amp;ln=Hagen&amp;em=hagen%40au.org&amp;add1=16%20E%20Mason%20Ave%20Apt%20101%20&amp;ci=Alexandria&amp;st=VA&amp;pc=22301&amp;hp=&amp;mp=6514285539&amp;wp=&amp;ep=&amp;oc=&amp;p=Ms.&amp;s=">Please tell your representative in Congress</a> that military families deserve fully funded public schools, not harmful voucher schemes.</p> <p>Both the Banks and Hunter amendments will be considered by the <a href="https://rules.house.gov/">House Rules Committee</a> on Monday before the NDAA heads to the House floor for debate and a vote.</p> <p><a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2018-05/AU%20Military%20Vouchers%20House%20Rules%20Letter%205.17.18.PDF">AU </a>and <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2018-05/NCPE%20Rules%20Committee%20Opposition%20Letter%205.17.18.pdf">NCPE </a>have written to Congress to voice our opposition to creating a private school voucher plan for military students. <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/5fwmSseMMkevxg_M7I5_Rg2?emci=3d6cce70-2c59-e811-80c3-00155da78012&amp;emdi=ea000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000001&amp;ceid=3707111&amp;fn=Erin&amp;mn=&amp;ln=Hagen&amp;em=hagen%40au.org&amp;add1=16%20E%20Mason%20Ave%20Apt%20101%20&amp;ci=Alexandria&amp;st=VA&amp;pc=22301&amp;hp=&amp;mp=6514285539&amp;wp=&amp;ep=&amp;oc=&amp;p=Ms.&amp;s=">Please join us by contacting your member of Congress now!</a></p> <p>For more information, <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/vouchers-for-militaryconnected-students-1/">visit NCPE’s webpage</a> on vouchers for military students.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/schools" hreflang="en">Schools</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/private-school-vouchers" hreflang="en">Private School Vouchers</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/rights-in-the-military" hreflang="en">Rights In The Military</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/congress" hreflang="en">Congress</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/ndaa" hreflang="en">NDAA</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 18 May 2018 14:22:42 +0000 LHayes 13934 at https://www.au.org Federal Appeals Court Considers Constitutionality Of Pensacola Cross https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/federal-appeals-court-considers-constitutionality-of-pensacola-cross <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Federal Appeals Court Considers Constitutionality Of Pensacola Cross</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 05/17/2018 - 10:49</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/liz-hayes" hreflang="und">Liz Hayes</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/Pensacola%20Cross.png?h=4486a3c3&amp;itok=BidDkqJ3" width="1700" height="525" alt="Bayview Park cross in Pensacola, Florida" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>A federal appeals court <a href="https://www.pnj.com/story/news/politics/2018/05/14/pensacola-bayview-park-cross-lawsuit-heads-appeals-court-atlanta/599416002/">heard oral argument</a> yesterday about whether a large cross on public property in Florida violates religious freedom. Americans United and allies had <a href="https://www.pnj.com/story/news/politics/2017/11/23/bayview-park-cross-14-groups-file-brief-saying-cross-needs-go/890108001/">filed a friend-of-the-court brief</a> in the case, urging the court to affirm that governmental display of the cross is unconstitutional.</p> <p>Pensacola has maintained the 34-foot cross in the city-owned Bayview Park for decades. In 2016, several residents raised objections to the city’s displaying a religious symbol in a public park because it sends the message that the city prefers one religion above all others – and that those in the community who do not share that faith are outsiders.</p> <p>When city officials refused to remove the cross, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit, <em>Kondrat’yev v. City of Pensacola</em>, on behalf of the residents, Amanda and Andreiy Kondrat’yev, Andre Ryland and David Suhor.</p> <p>The U.S. District Court in Northern Florida ruled last June that the Bayview Park cross was unconstitutional and ordered it to be removed within 30 days. But when Becket – the conservative Christian legal group representing the city – appealed the decision, the removal order was suspended.</p> <p>Although U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled in favor of church-state separation, he included some troubling remarks in his opinion – suggesting courts have misinterpreted the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom and that the Constitution’s framers would have allowed governmental displays of religion.</p> <p>That’s why AU – joined by 13 religious and civil-rights organizations – <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/january-2018-church-state/people-events/au-allies-file-brief-challenging-cross-in-fla">filed a brief in the case</a>. Not only did we want to encourage the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm the lower court’s ruling, but we wanted to set the record straight about why government neutrality when it comes to religion protects religious freedom for all.</p> <p>“[T]he architects of the First Amendment effected a separation of government and religion as the means to ensure enduring religious freedom,” <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2017-11-22%20Pensacola%20Cross%20amicus.pdf">our brief states</a>. “As our Nation has become increasingly religiously diverse, that aim is more critical than ever. The official display of the Latin cross – the preeminent symbol of Christianity – sends divisive and harmful messages that are directly contrary to this fundamental objective: It tells members of other religions, or of no religion, that they are excluded, second-class citizens.”</p> <p>AU Legal Director Richard B. Katskee <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-and-allies-urge-federal-appeals-court-to-uphold-church-state">explained</a>, “Our history and our courts have been clear: Government cannot promote one faith above all others. Doing so would divide communities along religious lines and reduce some citizens to second-class status. That’s why Pensacola’s cross cannot be squared with the Constitution.”</p> <p>We hope the 11th Circuit agrees that the cross must be removed from city-owned property. Pensacola’s public parks should be welcoming, inclusive places for all members of the community, not spaces that perpetuate divisions in society and exclude people.</p> <p><em>(Photo: Pensacola's Bayview Park cross. Credit: <a href="https://ffrf.org/uploads/legal/KondratyevvPensacola_Complaint.pdf">Exhibit from the lawsuit </a></em><a href="https://ffrf.org/uploads/legal/KondratyevvPensacola_Complaint.pdf">Kondrat’yev v. City of Pensacola</a><em>, filed by Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Humanist Association.)</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/displays" hreflang="en">Displays</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/florida" hreflang="en">Florida</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/cross-public-land" hreflang="en">cross on public land</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 17 May 2018 14:49:02 +0000 LHayes 13933 at https://www.au.org An Oregon Public School Is Accused Of Discriminating Against LGBTQ Kids And Forcing A Student To Read The Bible https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/an-oregon-public-school-is-accused-of-discriminating-against-lgbtq-kids <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">An Oregon Public School Is Accused Of Discriminating Against LGBTQ Kids And Forcing A Student To Read The Bible</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 05/16/2018 - 10:08</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/liz-hayes" hreflang="und">Liz Hayes</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/Teen%20couple.jpg?h=119335f7&amp;itok=__d29Scr" width="1700" height="525" alt="Teenage lesbian couple makes a heart with their hands" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Oregon’s Department of Education (ODE) is investigating disturbing reports of potential violations of religious freedom and LGBTQ rights at a public high school.</p> <p>For us at Americans United, the implication that North Bend High School staff may have been using their personal religious beliefs to determine how they treat LGBTQ students is particularly alarming.</p> <p>For instance, at least one student allegedly was forced to read Bible passages as a form of punishment. <a href="http://theworldlink.com/news/local/education/north-bend-school-district-faces-discrimination-claims-after-lgbtq-students/article_b864d554-9e42-5dca-b1f6-068aad239b15.html#tracking-source=home-trending"><em>The World</em>, a newspaper in nearby Coos Bay, reported</a> that the ODE heard a complaint from an LGBTQ student assigned to read from the Bible under supervision of district staff, including at least once while being “disciplined” by a school resource officer.</p> <p>Although the district denied the allegations, <em>The World</em> reported that ODE interviewed the building administrator who confirmed he required students to read the Bible as punishment. Another administrator also confirmed the practice, according to a March 6 ODE letter obtained by the newspaper.</p> <p>The letter indicated LGBTQ students were hesitant to report discrimination because they felt the religious beliefs of district staff meant they wouldn’t be taken seriously.</p> <p>“There is substantial evidence to support the allegation that the district subjected LGBTQ students to separate or different rules of behavior, sanctions, or other treatment...,” ODE’s letter stated, adding that the practice of reading from the Bible could have a “chilling effect” on LGBTQ students reporting harassment.</p> <p>ODE’s letter addressed two other incidents that helped to confirm the LGBTQ students’ fears:</p> <ul><li>A gay couple reported that another student – the child of the building administrator – had driven “very close to them” while they were holding hands and shouted an anti-gay slur at them.  The couple indicated the district didn’t investigate their complaint; instead, they were told the building administrator would discuss the incident with the child from a parent’s perspective.</li> <li>An LGBTQ student reported that a teacher told a classroom of students that same-sex couples marrying was akin to a person marrying a dog. After intervention from administrators, the teacher reportedly apologized to the student.</li> </ul><p>State education officials have scheduled a hearing with school administration on May 24 to determine whether North Bend School District is in compliance with state and federal anti-discrimination laws.</p> <p>Amidst the investigation, which apparently began last year, a school counselor who was advocating for the LGBTQ students was relocated within the district, according to <em>The World</em>. The ODE took note of actions by administrators that appeared retaliatory against the counselor.</p> <p>The counselor, who spoke to <em>The World</em> anonymously, praised the two LGBTQ students who came forward to lodge the complaints: “They had the courage to do this.”</p> <p>We’re well aware of the courage it takes for people who have been discriminated against – especially children – to speak out against abuses of power. For instance, <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/does-1-7-v-bossier-parish-school-board">Americans United represents families in Louisiana’s Bossier Parish</a> who object to the widespread promotion of Christianity by the parish’s public school system. To protect their children from further ostracism, the parents in our lawsuit are anonymous; the threatening and demeaning comments posted on social media since the case was filed in February illustrate why anonymity was necessary.</p> <p>The bottom line is that public schools should be inclusive spaces that welcome and nourish all children, regardless of their religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, race or ability. Parents should be able to put their trust in public schools to teach children the essentials like reading, math and science while letting families make their own decisions about faith.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/schools" hreflang="en">Schools</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/classroom-instruction" hreflang="en">Classroom Instruction</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/oregon" hreflang="en">Oregon</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 16 May 2018 14:08:34 +0000 LHayes 13931 at https://www.au.org Happy Birthday, 'Church & State!' AU’s Magazine Celebrates 70 Years https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/happy-birthday-church-state-aus-magazine-celebrates-70-years <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Happy Birthday, &#039;Church &amp; State!&#039; AU’s Magazine Celebrates 70 Years</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 05/15/2018 - 09:25</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/covers%20crop.jpg?h=49e66e2c&amp;itok=OnB2WLj9" width="1700" height="525" alt="magazine covers" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>In the fall of 1987, I was looking for a new job when an interesting opportunity came to my attention: a magazine about church-state relations was looking for an assistant editor.</p> <p>I’ll admit I was a bit surprised. Could you really publish a magazine every month about separation of church and state? Indeed you could, as I quickly learned after I got the job. My first story appeared in the December 1987 issue of <em>Church &amp; State</em>. It was about President Ronald W. Reagan’s decision to nominate a federal appeals court judge named Anthony M. Kennedy to the U.S. Supreme Court.</p> <p>Today we mark an important anniversary for AU’s magazine: The first issue – then called <em>Church And State Newsletter</em> – rolled off the presses on May 15, 1948.</p> <p>Technically, there might not have been a press involved. The first issue, a mere four pages long, looks like it was produced on a typewriter – remember those? That’s not surprising. Americans United had been launched in November of the previous year, and things were still coming together. One gets the feeling it was a bit of a shoestring operation back then.</p> <p>The magazine soon took on a more professional appearance. Over the years, the design changed to reflect the times, but one thing remained the same: <em>Church &amp; State</em> has continued to be the only monthly journal providing regular news and analysis of developments in the world of church-state separation – and its stands unabashedly in favor of the wall of separation between church and state.</p> <p>We’ve had no problems filling our pages. Issues such as the role of religion in public education, government attempts to give tax aid to religious institutions, controversies over the display of religious symbols on public property, the proper intersection of religion and politics and others keep us busy.</p> <p>The rise of the Religious Right in the late 1970s gave us even more things to write about. The emergence of the LGBTQ rights movement and the subsequent pushback led by theocratic groups that have attempted to use religious freedom as an instrument of discrimination have provided plenty of copy as well. Most recently, the Donald Trump-Mike Pence administration gives us regular fodder.</p> <p>We have plenty of ways to disseminate information these days. When I started here 31 years ago, the words “website” and “blog” would have made no sense because those things didn’t exist, and a tweet was something a bird did.</p> <p>I appreciate that we can communicate at lightning speed now. The range of options available – an email, a Facebook posting, a blog entry, a text message, etc. – makes us more efficient. Americans United uses all of those tools, including posting <em>Church &amp; State</em> <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state">online</a>. But at the risk of sounding old-fashioned, there’s something about a physical magazine that still appeals to me. I love the slower pace of print and the tactile experience of handling a paper journal. I like turning pages, underlining good passages and seeing photos in all of their glossy glory.</p> <p>Dues-paying members of Americans United support all of our activities – legal action, education of government officials, media outreach, grassroots activism, etc. They also get <em>Church &amp; State </em>in their mailbox every month, which I like to think of as a nice bonus. If you’re not a member, I hope you’ll consider <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">joining us</a> – and I hope you’ll read <em>Church &amp; State</em> every month.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/foundations-of-church-state-separation" hreflang="en">Foundations of Church-State Separation</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/americans-united" hreflang="en">Americans United</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/church-state-separation" hreflang="en">church-state separation</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/president-ronald-reagan" hreflang="en">President Ronald Reagan</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/anthony-kennedy" hreflang="en">Anthony Kennedy</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/president-donald-trump" hreflang="en">President Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/mike-pence-0" hreflang="en">Mike Pence</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 15 May 2018 13:25:13 +0000 boston 13930 at https://www.au.org Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin Has Signed Two Bills That Undermine Religious Freedom https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/oklahoma-gov-mary-fallin-has-signed-two-bills-that-undermine-religious <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin Has Signed Two Bills That Undermine Religious Freedom</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 05/14/2018 - 10:48</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/nik-nartowicz" hreflang="en">Nik Nartowicz</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/Sad%20kid%20on%20swing.jpg?h=69a1dd62&amp;itok=gjQf6s7x" width="1700" height="525" alt="Sad boy on swingset" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>On Friday evening, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed two bills that undermine religious freedom. The first, <a href="http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=SB1140">Senate Bill 1140</a>, allows state-funded child-placing agencies to use religion to <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/oklahoma-adoption-agencies-should-focus-on-children-and-reject">justify denying children homes and discriminating against prospective parents</a>. She also signed <a href="http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=hb2177&amp;Session=1800">House Bill 2177</a>, which authorizes every government building and public school to display the Ten Commandments.</p> <p><strong>The Adoption Bill</strong></p> <p>SB 1140 permits state-funded adoption and foster care agencies to use religion as a reason to discriminate against potential parents. These agencies can now ignore the best interest of children – the bedrock standard for placing children – and deny them loving, stable homes. Children could be denied placement in families because the parents are a same-sex couple, are interfaith, were previously divorced or are a different faith than the agency. Taxpayer-funded discrimination in the name of religion is always wrong, but adoption bills like SB 1140 are particularly troubling because children will be forced to pay the price.</p> <p><a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a3440fea9db0961249db096/t/5af995bd70a6ad26b07b2d01/1526306238131/2018-5-7+OK+SB+1140+Veto+Letter+-Adoption+FINAL.pdf">AU joined</a> a chorus of voices opposed to SB 1140. Nearly 80 Oklahoma faith leaders, congregations and organizations wrote a <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/55672ab5e4b03d7bf298564a/t/5af5b6f51ae6cf51621485dd/1526052597816/2018-05-10+-+Faith+Leaders+and+Organizations+Request+Veto+of+SB+1140.pdf">letter</a> to Fallin urging her to veto the bill. Many voices in <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/oklahoma-gov-fallin-should-listen-to-faith-leaders-advocates-who-say-put">business and the entertainment industr</a>y also encouraged Fallin to reject the bill. And members of the governor’s own party were against the bill. During debate, Republican Rep. Leslie Osborn explained, “if you are using state and federal dollars, I believe in the separation of church and state, so ... you may do whatever you want as long as you’re not receiving federal and state funds.”  </p> <p><strong>The Ten Commandments Bill</strong> HB 2177 allows the government to post the Ten Commandments in every public building in the state, including public schools. But <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a3440fea9db0961249db096/t/5af5e1b4aa4a99c18c6c831d/1526063541552/2018-5-10+OK+HB+2177+%2810+Commandments%29+FINAL.pdf">as we told</a> Fallin, such displays violate the state constitution. In 2015, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the Ten Commandments display that had been placed on the state Capitol grounds because it violated<a href="http://oklegal.onenet.net/okcon/II-5.html"> Article II, Section 5</a> of the state constitution. Under the constitution, the state government cannot use public money or property for any religious purpose, and the “<a href="http://www.oscn.net/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=476438">the Ten Commandments are obviously religious in nature</a>.”</p> <p>In response to the decision, the legislature placed a referendum on the 2016 ballot that would have stripped that section from the constitution. On election day, 57 percent of voters<a href="http://www.news-star.com/news/20161109/results-of-oklahoma-state-questions"> rejected</a> the proposed amendment, sending a clear message that they do not support government displays of the Ten Commandments.</p> <p>In addition to violating the state constitution, government-sponsored Ten Commandments displays are divisive. Many Oklahomans practice religions that do not adhere to the Ten Commandments or practice no religion at all. Everyone who uses government buildings, whether by attending a public school, attending a court hearing or using the public library, should feel welcome and part of the community. These displays in public schools and on public property send a message that those who don’t share those beliefs are outsiders.</p> <p>Unfortunately, Fallin <a href="http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/capitol_report/gov-mary-fallin-vetoes-constitutional-carry-gun-bill-signs-off/article_29892690-b034-55e5-aa37-49c913ffbb25.html">signed both bills, </a>regardless of the <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-denounces-oklahoma-gov-fallins-signing-of-sb-1140-a">many reasons she had to reject them</a>.</p> <p>We are fighting bills like these in other states – and we need your help to defeat them. Kansas <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/in-the-last-moments-of-their-legislative-sessions-kansas-and-oklahoma-put">passed a similar adoption bill</a> that would also allow publicly funded discrimination in child placements and that bill is now on Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer’s desk. If the governor signs the bill, children waiting for foster and adoptive homes will have to wait longer to find loving families. If you are from Kansas, you <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/xEYUIzMXTUC3bNlUfthlhA2">can urge</a> Colyer to veto it. The South Carolina legislature is also moving a bill with a similar adoption provision. Under that bill, agencies could cite religious beliefs to refuse to serve kids who are LGBTQ or belong to the “wrong” religion, as well discriminate against qualified prospective parents.</p> <p>If you want to learn more and join our fight against bills that use religion to discriminate, you can <a href="https://www.au.org/get-involved/updates">sign up</a> to stay updated on these and other state bills.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/denials-of-service" hreflang="en">Denials of Service</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/schools" hreflang="en">Schools</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/classroom-instruction" hreflang="en">Classroom Instruction</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/displays" hreflang="en">Displays</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/oklahoma" hreflang="en">Oklahoma</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/adoption" hreflang="en">Adoption</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/protect-thy-neighbor" hreflang="en">Protect Thy Neighbor</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/ten-commandments" hreflang="en">Ten Commandments</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 14 May 2018 14:48:56 +0000 LHayes 13928 at https://www.au.org Oklahoma Gov. Fallin Should Listen to Faith Leaders & Advocates Who Say: Put Kids First https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/oklahoma-gov-fallin-should-listen-to-faith-leaders-advocates-who-say-put <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Oklahoma Gov. Fallin Should Listen to Faith Leaders &amp; Advocates Who Say: Put Kids First</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/37797" lang="" about="/user/37797" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">ritz</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 05/11/2018 - 11:51</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/samantha-sokol" hreflang="und">Samantha Sokol</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/GettyImages-157483391.jpg?h=963a1cc3&amp;itok=bqQ-EE4o" width="1700" height="525" alt="Religious child placement agencies could turn away prospective parents who want to provide kids with a loving, stable home because they’re a same-sex couple, interfaith, previously divorced, or the “wrong religion.”" title="Religious child placement agencies could turn away prospective parents who want to provide kids with a loving, stable home because they’re a same-sex couple, interfaith, previously divorced, or the “wrong religion.”" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>As you may have heard, Oklahoma’s state legislature recently passed a bill, SB 1140, that would <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/in-the-last-moments-of-their-legislative-sessions-kansas-and-oklahoma-put">allow state-funded child-placing agencies to use religion to justify denying children homes and discriminating against prospective parents</a>. This bill allows foster care and adoption agencies to refuse to perform, assist or participate in any child placement in the name of religion. So that means religious child placement agencies could turn away prospective parents who want to provide kids with a loving, stable home because they’re a same-sex couple, interfaith, previously divorced, or the “wrong religion.”</p> <p>Now, it’s up to Governor Mary Fallin to decide whether to sign or veto this measure. Just like when<a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/posts/2016/3/18/0rtk66m5a6djcyc7it3winvhqm0fpa?rq=celebrities"> other states have attempted to pass harmful legislation like SB 1140</a> that allows religion to be used to discriminate, prominent religious leaders, businesses, advocates, and celebrities are coming out in droves to urge the governor to veto the bill.</p> <p>In particular, almost 80 Oklahoma faith leaders, congregations, and organizations have written a <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/55672ab5e4b03d7bf298564a/t/5af5b6f51ae6cf51621485dd/1526052597816/2018-05-10+-+Faith+Leaders+and+Organizations+Request+Veto+of+SB+1140.pdf">letter</a> to Fallin asking her to veto the bill. These groups are standing up for real religious freedom in Oklahoma, and they write: “To argue that religious freedom justifies the use of taxpayer dollars to discriminate against children and prospective parents is a distortion of such freedom.” They are also joined by a diverse coalition of 41 national faith-based organizations—including everyone from African American Ministers In Action-Equal Justice Task Force to YATOM: The Jewish Foster &amp; Adoption Network, Muslims for Progressive Values, and the National Coalition of American Nuns.</p> <p>And here are just a few more of the prominent voices who are speaking out against SB 1140:</p> <center> <p><a href="https://static.wixstatic.com/media/d39d49_5cfd73c50b4a4f679741eb8db171c541~mv2.png/v1/fill/w_618,h_749,al_c,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01/d39d49_5cfd73c50b4a4f679741eb8db171c541~mv2.png"><strong>Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce</strong></a></p> <p><strong>Actress Kristin Chenoweth</strong></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr" xml:lang="en">My beloved Oklahoma. Please no. <a href="https://t.co/pHIlJC1VL1">https://t.co/pHIlJC1VL1</a></p>— Kristin Chenoweth (@KChenoweth) <a href="https://twitter.com/KChenoweth/status/993050944765079553?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 6, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p><strong>Pop Star Greyson Chance</strong></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr" xml:lang="en">As a proud Oklahoman, I am so disappointed in the passing of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SB1140?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SB1140</a>. Call on .<a href="https://twitter.com/GovMaryFallin?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@GovMaryFallin</a> to veto !!! <a href="https://t.co/pMwR27tMdv">https://t.co/pMwR27tMdv</a></p>— Greyson Chance (@greysonchance) <a href="https://twitter.com/greysonchance/status/993242677813698561?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 6, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p><strong>Actress Debra Messing</strong></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr" xml:lang="en">PLEASE <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OK?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OK</a> MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD🙏🏻 <a href="https://t.co/JQdSJlC7O0">https://t.co/JQdSJlC7O0</a></p>— Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) <a href="https://twitter.com/DebraMessing/status/992883528231768070?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 5, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p><strong>Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power</strong></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr" xml:lang="en">Last month I happily tweeted that none of the 120 anti-LGBT bills intro’d in state legislatures this year had passed. Oklahoma’s <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SB1140?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SB1140</a> broke that streak. So many kids need loving homes. <a href="https://twitter.com/GovMaryFallin?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@GovMaryFallin</a> think of them &amp; use your veto <a href="https://t.co/eoK9ImBma8">https://t.co/eoK9ImBma8</a></p>— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) <a href="https://twitter.com/SamanthaJPower/status/991790978624303105?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 2, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p><strong>Actress Alfre Woodard</strong></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr" xml:lang="en">I stand with <a href="https://twitter.com/HRC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HRC</a> against Oklahoma’s dangerous anti-LGBTQ bill <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SB1140?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SB1140</a>. Take action today to stand will all families and urge <a href="https://twitter.com/GovMaryFallin?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@GovMaryFallin</a> to put families over politics. <a href="https://t.co/eajfnY4gaY">https://t.co/eajfnY4gaY</a></p>— Alfre Woodard (@AlfreWoodard) <a href="https://twitter.com/AlfreWoodard/status/993660138996224000?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 8, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p><strong>Actress &amp; Activist Sara Ramirez</strong></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr" xml:lang="en">Help me urge <a href="https://twitter.com/GovMaryFallin?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@GovMaryFallin</a> to veto <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SB1140?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SB1140</a>. This dangerous bill would allow publicly funded adoption orgs to discriminate against <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LGBTQ?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LGBTQ</a> youth, LGBTQ families, inter-faith families &amp; others. Young people deserve safe &amp; loving homes not government-sponsored discrimination.</p>— Sara Ramirez (@SaraRamirez) <a href="https://twitter.com/SaraRamirez/status/993902043961217025?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 8, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></center> <p></p> <p>Governor Fallin should listen to their voices and veto the bill. Religious freedom guarantees us the right to believe or not as we see fit, but it never includes the right to use your religion to harm or discriminate against others. Oklahoma should put children first—because state-funded agencies should not use religion as a justification to ignore the best interest of a child in need. If you’re from Oklahoma, you can add your voice too. We need you to speak up as soon as you can because the Governor could sign this bill any day now: <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/FTuJiCt-oEKejFyiGjTSCw2">send an email to Governor Fallin to urge her to veto this disgraceful bill!</a></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/oklahoma" hreflang="en">Oklahoma</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/adoption" hreflang="en">Adoption</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 11 May 2018 15:51:16 +0000 ritz 13921 at https://www.au.org