The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/blogs/feed en It's Not Getting Any Easier To Have A Secular Wedding In Texas https://www.au.org/blogs/Texas-secular-wedding <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">It&#039;s Not Getting Any Easier To Have A Secular Wedding In Texas</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">Thu, 08/22/2019 - 10:16</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/wedding%20ceremony%2C%208.22.19.jpg?h=77ed991e&amp;itok=J49id_fs" width="1700" height="525" alt="wedding" title="wedding" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Not everyone wants to get married in a house of worship. Not everyone wants a member of the clergy to officiate at the service. Some people want a secular wedding day.</p> <p>And in some states, that can be hard to get.</p> <p>Consider Texas, for example. State law says only members of the clergy and some government officials can perform marriages. The Center for Inquiry (CFI), an ally of Americans United, says that’s unfair to secular celebrants and sued over the matter.</p> <p>Unfortunately, a federal court on Friday <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2019/08/21/this-non-profit-is-fighting-give-non-religious-couples-more-choice-who-marries-them-texas-just-dealt-them-setback/">ruled against CFI.</a> U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle asserted in her ruling that “the state has an interest in … ensuring the respect, solemnity, and gravity of marriage ceremonies.” She added that only religious leaders and government officials such as judges can “reasonably be expected” to maintain an appropriate level of decorum.</p> <p>Nick Little, CFI’s general counsel, called the ruling “ridiculous” and vowed to appeal.</p> <p>The ruling does seem to have some issues. First off, it’s just not accurate to suggest that a secular celebrant can’t provide solemnity and gravity to marriage ceremonies. Anyone who has been to a secular wedding, funeral, baby welcoming event or other ceremony knows that’s not true.</p> <p>Furthermore, what possible interest does the government have in ensuring that people have solemn and grave weddings? Solemnity is the last thing some people want at their wedding – they’d rather have fun. Some people go to Las Vegas and get married <a href="https://www.vivalasvegasweddings.com/las-vegas-wedding-packages/elvis-weddings">by Elvis Presley impersonators</a>, others have <a href="https://www.kag.org/klingon-wedding/">Klingon weddings</a> and so on. A wedding day is about what the couple wants. If they want solemnity, that’s fine, but those who prefer frivolity should be able to have that instead.</p> <p>Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the government did have an interest in wedding quality control. It still should not be able to delegate its regulatory power to religious institutions but not secular ones.</p> <p>At the end of the day, what matters as far as the state is concerned is that the proper paperwork is filed so that the couple is legally married. A secular celebrant can do that as easily as a member of the clergy.</p> <p>Texas’s marriage law clearly extends a benefit to religious leaders that is not given to similarly situated secular officiants. It should be struck down on appeal.</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> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/wedding-officiants" hreflang="en">Wedding Officiants</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/weddings" hreflang="en">weddings</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/center-inquiry" hreflang="en">Center for Inquiry</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/klingons" hreflang="en">Klingons</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/texas" hreflang="en">Texas</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 22 Aug 2019 14:16:06 +0000 boston 15703 at https://www.au.org Donald Trump Is No Friend To The LGBTQ Community https://www.au.org/blogs/trump-no-friend <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Donald Trump Is No Friend To The LGBTQ Community</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">Wed, 08/21/2019 - 11:22</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/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/Gay%20couple%20cropped_1.jpg?h=4dbe9714&amp;itok=7vMslon6" width="1700" height="525" alt="same-sex couple" title="sad same-sex couple " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Just a few years ago, LGBTQ rights in the United States were moving ahead at a fast clip. The Supreme Court in 2015 <a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf">upheld marriage equality</a>, states and local jurisdictions were implementing laws to protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination and the administration of President Barack Obama promoted policies friendly to LGBTQ concerns.</p> <p>Then came the election of Donald Trump. Trump, who rode into office in part with high levels of support from white evangelicals, immediately began chipping away at LGBTQ rights.</p> <p>Despite Trump’s dismal track record in this area, a few days ago <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-met-his-commitments-to-lgbtq-americans-he-has-our-endorsement/2019/08/15/fb9b741c-bf96-11e9-a5c6-1e74f7ec4a93_story.html?noredirect=on">he received the endorsement</a> of the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative LGBTQ group. Many supporters of gay rights are having none of this, however. Today’s <em>Washington Post</em> contains <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-may-want-you-to-think-hes-lgbtq-friendly-dont-be-fooled/2019/08/20/c2b7a7be-c36b-11e9-b72f-b31dfaa77212_story.html">a powerful rebuttal</a> from Michelangelo Signorile, an LGBTQ rights activist and radio talk show host.</p> <p>“The Trump administration’s continued assaults on LGBTQ rights are nothing short of breathtaking,” wrote Signorile. “And yet, Trump’s supporters who don’t want to acknowledge this aspect of the administration find ways to bury this part of his record in the chaos.”</p> <p>Signorile is correct. The facts speak for themselves. And when it comes to LGBTQ rights, the facts are clear: Trump’s record has been nothing short of appalling. (For a full rundown of Trump’s assaults on the LGBTQ community, <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/december-2018-church-state/cover-story/reversal-of-fortune-lgbtq-rights-in-america">see this story</a> from the December issue of <em>Church &amp; State</em> and <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/julyaugust-2019-church-state-magazine/editorial/cruel-and-capricious-the-trump">this editorial</a> from the July-August issue, which focuses on Trump’s erosion of transgender rights.)</p> <p>There are two aspects of Trump’s record that are worth highlighting because they are especially dangerous to the LGBTQ community.</p> <p>The first is a series of regulatory changes the administration has implemented that foster discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community at every turn. We saw another example of this just last week when the U.S. Department of Labor <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/trump-administration-announces-rule-promoting-government-funded-employment">issued a proposed rule</a> to allow federal contractors to engage in employment discrimination with tax dollars by citing “religious freedom” to justify firing or refusing to hire LGBTQ people.</p> <p>As Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-denounces-trump-administrations-rule-to-promote-employment">put it</a>, “Today, the Trump administration puts yet another stain on religious freedom. Because today, the Department of Labor, whose job it is to prevent employment discrimination, has announced a new rule to fund it with our taxpayer dollars.”</p> <p>And while this rule could affect just about anyone, including single moms, members of religious minority groups and non-theists, the LGBTQ community is likely to take the hardest hit.</p> <p>That proposed rule is just one example. The Trump administration also sided with South Carolina by allowing the state to funnel taxpayer money to an evangelical foster care agency that discriminates against LGBTQ people, members of other Christian denominations, non-Christians, non-theists and others. It is expected that this rule will soon be extended nationwide.</p> <p>The second way Trump is decimating LGBTQ rights is through his appointments to the federal courts. Trump has nominated judges who have been vetted by anti-LGBTQ rights religious groups or who, in some cases, used to work for these organizations.</p> <p>During the 2016 campaign, Trump said he’d be willing to name a Supreme Court justice who favored overturning the marriage equality ruling. His two appointments – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – haven’t faced that issue yet, but during the high court’s next term, the justices <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/22/us/politics/supreme-court-gay-transgender-employees.html">will hear major cases</a> dealing with whether a federal law that bans employment discrimination on the basis of sex protects LGBTQ people. The Trump administration has asked the court to rule that it does not. </p> <p>The Associated Press (AP) yesterday <a href="https://www.apnews.com/c8626c6bdbab4e3f8232ea1499a6954b">ran a story</a> about Trump’s constant efforts to placate religious extremists, a movement whose members utterly despise LGBTQ people and often trade in crude homophobia. <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/Evangelicals-Still-Support-Trump">As we noted yesterday</a>, they remain Trump’s biggest allies. Eighty-one percent of white evangelicals supported Trump in 2016, while only 14 percent of LGBTQ Americans cast ballots for him. Common sense tells us which side he’ll placate.</p> <p>AU’s Laser told the AP that for the Religious Right, “Every day is Christmas.” She’s right. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, the days are often as scary as Halloween. For members of the LGBTQ community, it’s especially bad. Anyone whose eyes are not blinded by religious extremist ideology, delusional thinking or fake news can plainly see that.</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/employment-discrimination" hreflang="en">Employment 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/christian-fundamentalism" hreflang="en">Christian fundamentalism</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/neil-gorsuch" hreflang="en">Neil Gorsuch</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/brett-kavanaugh" hreflang="en">Brett Kavanaugh</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</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/obergefell-v-hodges-0" hreflang="en">Obergefell v. Hodges</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 21 Aug 2019 15:22:47 +0000 boston 15702 at https://www.au.org White Evangelicals Remain In Thrall Of Trump https://www.au.org/blogs/Evangelicals-Still-Support-Trump <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">White Evangelicals Remain In Thrall Of Trump</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, 08/20/2019 - 09:46</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/Trump%20VVS%20Arms%20Wide%20cropped.jpg?h=2d5b401d&amp;itok=LIlgThko" width="1700" height="525" alt="Donald Trump" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p><em>The Washington Post</em> <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/evangelicals-arent-turned-off-by-trumps-first-term--theyre-delighted-by-it/2019/08/11/3911bc88-a990-11e9-a3a6-ab670962db05_story.html">recently interviewed</a> evangelical Christians in a number of states and found that they’re as enthusiastic about the Donald Trump presidency as ever.</p> <p>Nothing, it seems, has dented Trump’s support among white evangelicals. Eighty percent of them voted for him in 2016, and most say they’ll do the same next year.</p> <p>Just in case anyone’s unclear on the matter, the moral majoritarians and so-called “values voters” of the evangelical right are sending America a message. It’s this:</p> <p>Trump’s crude, erratic behavior and Twitter outbursts mean nothing to them. Likewise, his tendency to snuggle up to dictators in Russia and North Korea is not a problem. They yawn over the allegations in the Mueller Report. They shrug off Trump’s <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/06/10/president-trump-has-made-false-or-misleading-claims-over-days/">constant lying</a> and his <a href="https://www.vox.com/2016/7/25/12270880/donald-trump-racist-racism-history">frequent lapses into racism</a>. (Franklin Graham <a href="https://donotlink.it/jOOJ0">recently issued a statement</a> insisting that Trump is not a racist. I guess that settles it!) These groups, which claim to be “pro-life,” saw Trump’s family separation immigration policy and not only did not object, they blessed it.</p> <p>Plenty of other Americans look at the situation we’re in now and realize it is not normal. They understand that a president should not visit a community grieving in the wake of a horrific mass shooting and spend his time glad-handing, grinning and filming a campaign-style video. They recognize the lack of real leadership when a president has to struggle to <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/in-their-responses-to-charlottesville-trump-and-his-religious-right-allies">condemn neo-Nazis and fascists</a>. </p> <p>For decades, the leaders and followers of America’s Religious Right insisted that they wanted a devout Christian figure in the White House to lead a type of national revival. The fact that they looked to a political leader to fill a religious role is disturbing and alarming in its own right, but now it turns out they didn’t even mean it. America’s ethically challenged religious extremists happily chucked that out the nearest window to follow a reality TV huckster, a man clearly lacking any moral center, who, thanks to a perfect storm of Russian meddling and voter apathy, managed to blunder into the most important job in the world.</p> <p>Trump’s disturbing relationship with religious extremists continues because he gives them what they want, be it judicial nominees, attacks on reproductive freedom or <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-denounces-trump-administrations-rule-to-promote-employment">hateful discriminatory policies</a> dressed up as “religious freedom.” In exchange for these things, leaders and followers of the movement to combine religion and politics averted their gaze from Trump’s moral failings.  </p> <p>The Trump era will end at some point, and religious extremists will have much to answer for. When that day comes, Americans United will still be here working to undo the damage and shore up the country’s foundations. I hope you’ll be <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">right there with us</a>.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/evangelical-christianity" hreflang="en">Evangelical Christianity</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 20 Aug 2019 13:46:48 +0000 LHayes 15693 at https://www.au.org Ordered To Post ‘In God We Trust’ Signs, This Public School’s Solution Was Right On The Money https://www.au.org/blogs/Kentucky-dollar-bill <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Ordered To Post ‘In God We Trust’ Signs, This Public School’s Solution Was Right On The Money</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">Mon, 08/19/2019 - 09:22</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/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/dollar%20bill.jpg?h=e9743413&amp;itok=QtRLs_Do" width="1700" height="525" alt="dollar bill" title="one dollar " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>A number of states have passed bills lately requiring public schools to post signs reading “In God We Trust.” In some states, the bills are very specific, mandating that the signs be of a certain size or that they be posted in a prominent place.</p> <p>Kentucky’s version of the law requires prominent placement but doesn’t say anything about size. Education officials in the Fayette County Public School system <a href="https://www.wkyt.com/content/news/In-God-We-Trust-found-in-form-of-dollar-bill-at-Fayette-County-school-542607641.html?fbclid=IwAR19o2l_UIqOF2T5qgrNyS75DdYPxpedDkThvN3970yFNBgWNwCb2cXAvpQ">came up with a perfect solution</a>: They made of copies of the back of dollar bills, framed them and hung them up.</p> <p>Asked about the displays by a local television station, Superintendent Manny Caulk replied, “Like every school district in the commonwealth, Fayette County Public Schools has complied with the requirements of the new law to display the national motto in our schools. All schools in our district have been provided a framed version of an enlarged copy of a $1 dollar bill to display in a prominent location.”</p> <p>State Rep. Brandon Reed (R-Hodgenville), the legislator who sponsored the bill requiring that the motto be posted, isn’t pleased and has accused the district of playing “political games.” But it’s actually the lawmakers sponsoring these “In God We Trust” bills who are playing political games – through the <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/project-blitz">Project Blitz</a> campaign, they’re proposing supposedly innocuous bills like displaying the national motto and teaching Bible classes in public schools as the vanguard to other problematic measures that would allow religious freedom to be used to justify discrimination in foster care, marriage and other aspects of life.</p> <p>The Kentucky law requires schools to post “In God We Trust.” The back of U.S. dollar bills contains the motto. Fayette County schools are meeting the law’s requirements, so what’s the problem?</p> <p>Posting money has another additional benefit: It might spur some students to start thinking about how that phrase got on our currency in the first place. That, in turn, could lead to some interesting classroom discussion about the <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/june-2013-church-state/featured/coining-controversy">origin of the phrase</a>.</p> <p> “In God We Trust” isn’t something the Founding Fathers came up with. Early U.S. coins contained other phrases, such as “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugio_cent">Mind Your Business</a>” and <em>E Pluribus Unum</em>, America’s unofficial national motto.</p> <p>A Pennsylvania minister, M. R. Watkinson, first pitched the idea of a religious motto on coins in November 1861. Watkinson was distraught that the Civil War was not going so well for the North at the time and thought adding the phase to money might help.</p> <p>U.S. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase agreed and told James Pollock, director of the federal mint at Philadelphia, “The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. You will cause a device to be prepared without un­necessary delay with a motto expres­sing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition.”</p> <p>The phrase appeared on coins sporadically after that but was not codified for use on all currency until 1956, when “In God We Trust” was declared the national motto. It first appeared on paper money the following year. Congress’s embrace of “In God We Trust” was a form of civil religion undertaken in part to strike a blow against “godless communism” in the Soviet Union.</p> <p>An honest discussion of this history forces us to confront some tough questions: Is the motto political in nature? Is civil religion of any value? Does the motto send a message of exclusion to non-theists and others? Doesn’t <em>E Pluribus Unum</em> more accurately reflect our nation’s values?</p> <p>Good questions – and they could spark a discussion that’s worth having in a classroom. Instead of posting religious signs in public schools devoid of context, maybe we should have that conversation.    </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/nontheists-rights" hreflang="en">Nontheists&#039; 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-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</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/display-of-religious-symbols" hreflang="en">display of religious symbols</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/forced-religious-display" hreflang="en">forced religious display</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/ceremonial-deism" hreflang="en">Ceremonial Deism</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 19 Aug 2019 13:22:22 +0000 boston 15692 at https://www.au.org Trump Administration Announces Rule Promoting Government-Funded Employment Discrimination https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/trump-administration-announces-rule-promoting-government-funded-employment <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Trump Administration Announces Rule Promoting Government-Funded Employment Discrimination</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, 08/16/2019 - 11:47</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/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/Young%20man%20in%20warehouse.jpg?h=8fd1f9da&amp;itok=XHlL1ZfU" width="1700" height="525" alt="Sad man in warehouse" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>When you go to a job interview for a government-funded job, you don’t expect to be turned away because of your religion. But that’s exactly what happened to Alan Yorker, a psychologist who applied for a government-funded job at a children’s home in Georgia.</p> <p>Alan was well-qualified, so the children’s home asked him to come in for an interview. But when he arrived, they found out he was Jewish and cut the interview short. They told Alan they didn’t hire Jews. Even though the job was funded by the government, the children’s home discriminated against potential employees on the basis of religion. Fortunately, Alan sued under state law and favorably settled his case.</p> <p>But this week, the Trump administration changed federal policy so that more people like Alan will face employment discrimination not just in Georgia, but throughout the nation.</p> <p>In the latest attack on working Americans, President Donald Trump’s Department of Labor issued a <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2019-17472.pdf">proposed rule </a>that would vastly expand a religious exemption to allow government contractors to discriminate in hiring. And as usual, the Trump administration justified its discriminatory policy by citing “religious freedom.” The result: <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-denounces-trump-administrations-rule-to-promote-employment">taxpayer-funded federal contractors, including for-profit companies, could claim a religious right </a>to fire someone because they are LGBTQ, they are a single mom, they are the “wrong” religion, or they don’t go to church often enough. Imagine a sign on the government contractor’s office that says “Jews, Sikhs, Catholics, and Latter-day Saints need not apply.” </p> <p>Let’s start from the beginning by explaining how government contractors work, and how they’re supposed to treat their employees. Government contractors get taxpayer money to provide a service for the government – like transitional services for veterans, or disaster management assistance after a hurricane. According to a <a href="https://www.volckeralliance.org/publications/true-size-government">2017 study</a>, nearly one-fourth of the entire U.S. workforce is employed by government contractors – so millions of Americans depend on these employers to treat them fairly. </p> <p>As early as 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued the first antidiscrimination requirements for federal contractors. In executive orders, Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Obama have all expanded these protections, increasing equality and inclusion for workers. But President George W. Bush introduced a rule allowing religiously affiliated nonprofit organizations to prefer co-religionists – in other words, to only hire people who are the same religion. Americans United has fought to dial back Bush’s harmful rule since its inception.</p> <p>Trump’s new rule would go much further than Bush ever did. Under the existing rule, religiously affiliated nonprofits could prefer co-religionists, but they couldn’t use the religious exemption to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, sex or other protected classes. Trump’s rule would change all that: It invites contractors to claim a religious exemption that will allow them to fire or refuse to hire someone who is LGBTQ, a person who uses birth control or has a baby outside of marriage, or someone who is the “wrong” religion or doesn’t practice their religion the “right” way. </p> <p>Before, the religious exemption only applied to religiously affiliated nonprofits. But under Trump’s new rule, it would apply to for-profit businesses. As long as a corporation claims to hold religious beliefs, it can take taxpayer dollars and fire someone who doesn’t meet its religious test.</p> <p>This is not religious freedom. Religious freedom is a fundamental American value. It guarantees us the right to believe – or not – as we see fit, but it cannot be used to justify harming or discriminating against others. And it’s even more important to ensure religion is not being used to discriminate when taxpayer money is involved. When religious organizations get government money, they should play by the same rules as everybody else. Our nation has a long history of protecting the American people from taxpayer-funded discrimination, and we shouldn’t turn the clock back now. The government should never use our taxpayer dollars to force us to live by someone else’s religion in order to get or keep a government-funded job. </p> <p>Trump’s Department of Labor has given the public 30 days to respond to this proposed rule before they finalize it and allow it to enter into effect, which would allow more people to face discrimination like Alan Yorker. We at AU will continue to <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-denounces-trump-administrations-rule-to-promote-employment">denounce</a> this policy, and we urge you to join us in taking action by <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/LhWW9F8M3kWfERsKOMGeXg2?emci=3fe26e25-8dbf-e911-bcd0-281878391efb&amp;emdi=40e26e25-8dbf-e911-bcd0-281878391efb&amp;ceid=3850497&amp;contactdata=JI6BYz4BJSKreMcz9UsbFSPzOkJ4q1jJNjoQiDGHyb1IPAlWpbOjkCMrA7V5diSh292Dxx7MuqdgTo1rogpPJ6PIPqR5dselvRvuipB1nRwTs%2bCtVYDEos0UAhpkOuTpH7Gttxm4lB57NQsx1yIyanL5BroVRArJlVC3JRp3aV5S%2fzIC%2f7PqmPunVUXvEcNg%2bXGpYFR5GEEcdlIvR%2b6NDbiw%2fNCuecVg%2bLwRx6PpTjY%3d">signing our rapid response petition rejecting this attempt at taxpayer-funded religious discrimination.</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/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/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/dept-of-labor" hreflang="en">Dept. of Labor</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 16 Aug 2019 15:47:54 +0000 LHayes 15691 at https://www.au.org Americans United Ally MRFF Shares Emails From The Dark Side https://www.au.org/blogs/MRFF-gets-mail <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Americans United Ally MRFF Shares Emails From The Dark Side</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">Wed, 08/14/2019 - 09:52</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/keyboard%20hate%2C%208.14.19.jpg?h=8fe6e057&amp;itok=yOAKh1fQ" width="1700" height="525" alt="keyboard" title="keyboard " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>If you defend separation of church and state for a living, you’re going to hear from religious extremists – and chances are they’re going to be angry.</p> <p>I’ve received my share of hateful email over the years, but my collection is dwarfed by the amount of invective that regularly floods the inbox of AU’s allies at the <a href="https://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/">Military Religious Freedom Foundation</a> (MRFF). Mikey Weinstein, who founded MRFF along with his wife Bonnie, shares some of this stuff with me on occasion, and it’s truly vile.</p> <p>But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can read some of these emails yourself in a collection put together by Bonnie Weinstein. Her new book, <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/When-Christians-Break-Bad-Letters/dp/1644280485/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2T6YYTZJ12P7W&amp;keywords=when+christians+break+bad&amp;qid=1565633024&amp;s=gateway&amp;sprefix=when+christians+break+%2Caps%2C127&amp;sr=8-1">When Christians Break Bad: Letters from the Insane, Inane and Profane</a></em>, is just out. While disturbing, the book casts an illuminating light on the mindset of religious extremists who yearn to merge their narrow version of fundamentalist Christianity with the machinery of government – and what they’re willing to say to anyone who dares stand in their way.</p> <p>Be warned, these emails are presented unfiltered, uncensored and raw. Many are littered with profanity, anti-Semitism, threats and just plain nastiness. You might want to read this book in small doses. (As you read, bear in mind that this is Bonnie’s second collection of hate emails to MRFF. <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Right-Christian-Hater-Good-Speller-ebook/dp/B00QJ9GGH2/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=bonnie+weinstein&amp;qid=1565631714&amp;s=gateway&amp;sr=8-2">Her first</a> came out in 2014.)</p> <p>But in the midst of all of this hate, some humor does occasionally shine through. Sometimes the MRFF replies to its hate mail, and those are included in the book as well. My favorite responses tend to be written by <a href="https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0268286/">Mike Farrell</a>, the actor known for his portrayal of B.J. Hunnicutt on “M*A*S*H.” Farrell, who serves as an MRFF board member, has a stinging wit, which he unleashes on several hapless MRFF bashers. After wading through so much hate, it’s good to see someone fight back.</p> <p>You’ll frequently wince, but this book is worth a read. You can learn more about it <a href="https://www.rarebirdbooks.com/products/when-christians-god-bad-letters-from-the-inane-insane-and-profane?_pos=1&amp;_sid=a2771cf72&amp;_ss=r">here</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/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/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/bonnie-weinstein" hreflang="en">Bonnie Weinstein</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/mikey-weinstein" hreflang="en">mikey weinstein</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 14 Aug 2019 13:52:50 +0000 boston 15666 at https://www.au.org The Dangers Of The Denial Of Care Rule Are Very Real https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/the-dangers-of-the-denial-of-care-rule-are-very-real <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">The Dangers Of The Denial Of Care Rule Are Very Real</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, 08/13/2019 - 10:20</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/emergency%20care%208.13.19.jpg?h=95ed6c96&amp;itok=XB9w3IL0" width="1700" height="525" alt="emergency care " title="medical care " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>On June 12, 2016, a 29-year-old heavily armed man burst into Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that served a mainly LGBTQ clientele, and started shooting. Before police killed Omar Mateen, he had murdered 49 people and injured 53 more in one of the worst mass shootings in American history.</p> <p>First responders swarmed on the scene and began tending to the wounded. But imagine what would have happened if some of the medical personnel had refused to help, citing their religious objections to homosexuality. More people might have died.</p> <p>But that could never happen, right? The very idea is absurd, right?</p> <p>Unfortunately, it’s not. The Denial of Care Rule proposed by the Trump administration invites anyone who works in the medical profession, including dispatchers, ambulance drivers, schedulers and EMTs, to refuse service to people in need based on religious objections.</p> <p><a href="https://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/guest-commentary/os-op-health-care-bias-20190812-u7q3z6g6xzckhludhrahzl277m-story.html">Writing in the <em>Orlando Sentinel</em></a>, Christian John Lillis, executive director of the Peggy Lillis Foundation, provides a stark reminder of how the Denial of Care Rule could affect every one of us.  </p> <p>“Under the denial of care rule, anyone from receptionists and intake nurses to paramedics and emergency-room physicians could simply refuse medical attention to a patient in need by claiming a religious objection,” writes Lillis. “So much for the Hippocratic Oath and its immortal words, ‘first do no harm.’… This trap door in the hospital floor could open under a wide swath of patients based on any employee’s qualm toward an individual or group of people, or a quarrel with a particular medical procedure.”</p> <p>Lillis adds, “News coverage about the denial-of-care regulation highlights fertility treatment and abortion. But the far-reaching rule also targets people identifying as LGBT, who can become casualties of withheld services by those asserting reluctance based on religion. Imagine victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre going untended or rejected from trauma centers because they were LGBT. Amid rising violence, especially against trans people, protection in federal policy is more urgent than ever.”</p> <p>As recent events have shown, eruptions of mass violence can occur just about anywhere. When that happens, victims need prompt, professional medical intervention – not refusals to help based on bogus claims of religious freedom.</p> <p>Americans United is determined to ensure that all Americans get the medical help they need without religious interference. That’s why we, along with our allies, <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/denial-of-care-rule">are suing the Trump administration over the Denial of Care Rule. </a></p> <p>Thanks to the legal efforts of AU and its allies, the Trump administration has agreed to <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/statement-of-americans-united-and-allies-on-postponement-of-denial-of-care">delay implementation</a> of this dangerous rule at least until November. But a delay is not a rollback, so rest assured that AU will continue to fight to make certain that the health care of all Americans – and indeed their very lives – never hinge on the religious beliefs of a stranger.</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/discrimination-in-health-care" hreflang="en">Discrimination In Health Care</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/reproductive-rights" hreflang="en">Reproductive 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/denial-of-care-rule" hreflang="en">Denial of Care Rule</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/trump-administration" hreflang="en">Trump Administration</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/florida" hreflang="en">Florida</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 13 Aug 2019 14:20:09 +0000 boston 15656 at https://www.au.org Federal Court Approves ‘Christians-Only’ County Seal In Pa. https://www.au.org/blogs/lehigh-county-seal <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Federal Court Approves ‘Christians-Only’ County Seal In Pa. </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">Mon, 08/12/2019 - 09:54</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/Lehigh%20Seals%20%28002%29%20cropped.jpg?h=5a5f248b&amp;itok=U41su5c5" width="1700" height="525" alt="Lehigh Co. seal" title="Lehigh " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The U.S. Supreme Court June 20 ruled that a 40-foot-tall cross on public land in Bladensburg, Md., <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/supreme-court-says-a-cross-on-government-land-in-maryland-can-stay-what">may stay where it is</a>, in part because the cross, erected in 1925, has been up so long that the justices believe it has taken on secular meaning.</p> <p>We’re already seeing fallout from the <em><a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/18pdf/17-1717_4f14.pdf">American Legion v. American Humanist Association</a></em> ruling – and it’s not good.</p> <p>Last week, a federal appeals court ruled that a prominent cross on the county seal of Lehigh County, Pa., <a href="https://www.yorkdispatch.com/story/news/2019/08/09/court-christian-cross-can-stay-lehigh-county-seal/1964997001/">may remain</a>. The seal, which was designed about 75 years ago, features other symbols such as farm implements and a factory, but the cross dominates. It certainly sends the impression that Lehigh County is a Christian community.</p> <p>None of this mattered to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. </p> <p>“The Lehigh County seal fits comfortably within a long tradition of State and municipal seals and flags throughout our Republic that include religious symbols or mottos, which further confirms its constitutionality,” the court declared. “It also abided over 70 years without complaint.”</p> <p>Ironically, in its own decision, the court discussed the history of the seal, which makes it clear it was adopted for a religious purpose. The court noted that the seal was designed in 1944 by Commissioner Harry D. Hertzog, who later said, “In center of Shield appears the huge cross in canary-yellow signifying Christianity and the God-fearing people which are the foundation and backbone of our County.”</p> <p>What does that say about everyone in the county who’s not God-fearing or Christian? It tells them they’re not the foundation, they’re not the backbone. The law may require that they be tolerated, but we know the kind of people who are first and foremost in Lehigh County – Christians.</p> <p>The court also bought into one of the key claims of the Bladensburg ruling: that a cross, despite it being the central symbol of Christianity, can somehow take on secular meaning over time. It’s an assertion that should alarm religious people most of all. Apparently, their most sacred religious symbols can become non-religious if enough time passes.</p> <p>Americans United <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2018-05/Lehigh%20may%2018.pdf">filed a court brief</a> in this case on behalf of 20 organizations, including Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, non-theistic and Christian groups. We pointed out that the government’s use of a Christian symbol endorses that faith and sends a message of exclusion to non-Christians.</p> <p>“When government employs the primary symbol of one religion for its official insignia, it communicates an impermissible message of favoritism and exclusion that stigmatizes nonadherents while also demeaning the faith that it endorses,” observed the AU brief.</p> <p>That would seem to be an obvious point. It’s unfortunate that the courts have decided to turn a blind eye toward it.</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> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/display-of-religious-symbols" hreflang="en">display of religious symbols</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/crosses" hreflang="en">crosses</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/pennsylvania" hreflang="en">Pennsylvania</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/maryland" hreflang="en">Maryland</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 12 Aug 2019 13:54:14 +0000 boston 15607 at https://www.au.org Iowa Religious Extremist Who Burned Library Books Faces The Law https://www.au.org/blogs/iowa-book-burning <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Iowa Religious Extremist Who Burned Library Books Faces The Law </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">Fri, 08/09/2019 - 08:48</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/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/Book%20Burning%20screenshot%20cropped.jpg?h=0eac4e0b&amp;itok=2uhqjjKQ" width="1700" height="525" alt="Book burning " title="Dorr" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>In October 2018, I wrote <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/iowa-man-who-burned-librarys-lgbtq-books-because-they-offended-his">a blog post</a> about Paul Dorr, an Iowa man who made a video of himself burning several books with LGBTQ themes.</p> <p>Burning books because you don’t like their content is an extreme act of intolerance, but in this case, there was an additional wrinkle: They weren’t Dorr’s books. He had checked them out of a public library in Orange City.</p> <p>Today I’m pleased to report that Dorr <a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2019/08/06/book-burning-iowa-man-who-burned-lgbtq-books-trial-paul-dorr-david-levithan-orange-city-library/1936961001/">has been punished</a> for his act of vandalism. He was found guilty of criminal mischief earlier this week and fined $125 in fines and court costs.</p> <p>Dorr got angry because OC Pride, a local LGBTQ rights group, had held a festival in town that included a storytime for children. In response, Dorr checked out four LGBTQ-themed books from the Orange City Public Library and made <a href="https://www.facebook.com/407614879417079/videos/2266061786797493/">a video of himself tossing them into a barrel of fire</a> as he read an anti-LGBTQ statement.</p> <p>“I cannot stand by and let the shameful adults at the Orange City Library Board bring the next group of little children into their foul, sexual reality without a firm resistance,” Dorr said during the video, which he posted on Facebook.</p> <p>According to the <em>Des Moines Register</em>, Dorr attempted to argue in court that he was being singled out for his views. The judge was not buying it and told Dorr the message being sent to him is “that he cannot burn books that do not belong to him.” (That would seem to be a no-brainer.)</p> <p>After the story of Dorr’s actions broke, the library heard from people all over the country who offered to replace the books he had destroyed. Others made cash donations to the library.</p> <p>While I wish the fine had been higher, the fact that Dorr was arrested, charged and found guilty is proof that local authorities took this matter seriously. I’m sure the fine won’t change Dorr’s intolerant opinions, but perhaps it will lead other religious extremists in the area to think twice before they decide their dogmatic beliefs should determine what everyone can read.</p> <p><em>(Photo: Screenshot from Paul Dorr's Facebook video)</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> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/censorship" hreflang="en">censorship</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/iowa" hreflang="en">Iowa</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/public-libraries" hreflang="en">public libraries</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 09 Aug 2019 12:48:00 +0000 boston 15306 at https://www.au.org These Mo. Teachers Were Told To Attend An Event At An Anti-LGBTQ Church. Their Response Was Perfect. https://www.au.org/blogs/Mo-teachers-protest <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">These Mo. Teachers Were Told To Attend An Event At An Anti-LGBTQ Church. Their Response Was Perfect.</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">Thu, 08/08/2019 - 10:58</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/zachary-freiman" hreflang="en">Zachary Freiman</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/women%20with%20LGBTQ%20flag.jpg?h=73d3381f&amp;itok=v5S_Ku2M" width="1700" height="525" alt="Girls with LGBTQ flag " title="LGBTQ flag at farm " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>During my time at Americans United this summer, I’ve written about some pretty depressing things. Whether it was a decision by leaders in <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/illinois-town-proclaims-it-has-no-need-for-church-state-separation">Mount Vernon, Ill., to proclaim an official “recognize God” day</a> renouncing supposed “spiritual attacks” on the city by non-Christians or the<a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/in-a-fuss-over-flags-fort-worth-vandals-attack-no-god-banners-and-free"> vandalism of atheist banners in Fort Worth, </a>communities of minority faiths and non-faiths have felt the brunt of discrimination and persecution promoted by and emanating from the top.</p> <p>Decisions like the one in the <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-condemns-us-supreme-courts-decision-to-allow-bladensburg">Bladensburg Cross case</a>, in which the Supreme Court ruled that a 40-foot-high Christian cross standing on public land is constitutional, or the <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/aus-laser-tells-house-panel-not-to-allow-religious-freedom-to-become-a">Trump administration’s blatant misuse</a> of the concept of religious freedom as a license to discriminate, have set disturbing precedents for the dismantling of church-state separation.</p> <p>Yet, all it takes is one ray of sunshine to break through the clouds. This week saw such a ray at the peak of Lee’s Summit, Mo. Turns out, the public schoolteachers had had enough of the district’s questionable antics and decided to put their collective foot down.</p> <p>As happened last year, though with much less notice and subsequent controversy, the district planned on hosting its back-to-school convocation for all district staff at a vehemently, vocally anti-LGBTQ church. Not only is the Abundant Life Church opposed to marriage equality, but it also states on its website that “homosexuality is a perversion of God’s natural order.” So, no, that doesn’t square with lead Pastor Phil Hoppers’ <a href="https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article233531872.html">statement to the <em>Kansas City Star</em></a> that “We welcome everyone at Abundant Life” and “We’re not bigots.”</p> <p>This year, however, the teachers weren’t having it. Instead of going along with the district’s decision, the teachers planned a clever way to protest the location of the convocation. According to the <em>Star</em>, they planned on wearing rainbow articles of clothing and pride-decorated accessories to show support for the LGBT community – some of whom are the very young people they teach.</p> <p>One teacher posted that she already “struggle[d] with us having a district meeting at a church due to separation of church and state,” but that it was the “messages of hate being preached” that she just could not tolerate. She listed some local shops where attendees could purchase LGBTQ-friendly apparel to wear to the event and offered pride stickers to anyone who wanted one.</p> <p>The teachers’ protests ultimately forced the district to move the event, but not without the district remarking through its spokeswoman that “[T]his does not diminish our gratitude to Abundant Life.” Yes, it’s disheartening that the district chose to host its program at the church and continues to praise it, or that the church espouses intolerance in the first place, but the response of the teachers is commendable and inspiring.</p> <p>This is my last day with Americans United, and as I conclude my time here, there's no better moment to highlight a story of the resilience of church-state separation at the most local of levels. The strength of the separation of church and state, especially as a last resort against tyrannical theocracy, comes from the people – not our leaders, not the Founders, not even from the Constitution itself. To be sure, we’re deeply grateful every time a law professor or a U.S. senator makes an eloquent statement about the importance of the separation of church and state and its inherent value in the American way of life, but it takes someone on the ground to put that principle into practice. These teachers in Missouri did.</p> <p>I am incredibly proud to have worked here this summer, fighting to keep extremist religious influence out of government policy and promoting the constitutional protection provided to people of all faiths and non-faiths in this country to practice or not however he or she chooses free from government infringement.</p> <p>That is what America should strive to be: a place for all, being ourselves together.</p> <p> </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/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/churches-and-gay-marriage" hreflang="en">churches and gay marriage</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/christian-fundamentalism" hreflang="en">Christian fundamentalism</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 08 Aug 2019 14:58:14 +0000 boston 15289 at https://www.au.org