The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/ en The Supreme Court’s Disregard For Science Could Have Dire Consequences https://www.au.org/blogs/supreme-court-science <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">The Supreme Court’s Disregard For Science Could Have Dire Consequences</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 Nov 30, 2020 - 08:56</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/empty%20modern%20church.jpg?h=af97b938&amp;itok=vEC_l7hc" width="1700" height="525" alt="empty church" title="modern church empty" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>As the U.S. Supreme Court grows more conservative, it’s not unusual to look at actions and rulings by the court and conclude that they will reduce our rights instead of expanding them. What is unusual, though, is seeing rulings that will likely cause people to get sick and possibly die – yet that’s precisely what might happen thanks to a court action last week.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/20a87_4g15.pdf">court ruled 5-4</a> late Wednesday evening that a New York order designed to limit large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic violates the rights of houses of worship. While it wasn’t unexpected, the court’s action is still disappointing – and dangerous. (Americans United and its allies filed legal briefs in the New York cases, arguing that the Constitution does not prohibit New York officials from including houses of worship and religious services in temporary restrictions on large, in-person gatherings, and that it would be harmful to the public to exempt religious gatherings from the state’s order.)</p> <p>As fall settles in around the country and temperatures start to dip, the country is seeing exactly what medical experts warned us about: a new wave of infections as people head indoors. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html">Maps that show hotspots</a> are truly alarming; many states are seeing record numbers of cases.</p> <p>We’re in this place in part because of President Donald Trump’s poor leadership. When he wasn’t proclaiming that the virus would magically disappear, Trump peddled untested remedies and elevated the views of quack doctors all while pushing for a premature reopening of the economy.</p> <p>Things have only gotten worse since Election Day. Trump, who is obsessed with trying to overturn the results of an election that he clearly lost, has surrendered utterly to the virus. In this leadership void, state and local officials have been grappling for the past nine months with the best way to keep Americans safe and healthy. The Supreme Court’s ruling makes their already difficult job all the harder.</p> <p>In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor struck at the heart of the matter, writing, “Justices of this Court play a deadly game in second guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily.”</p> <p>That deadly game <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/27/opinions/scientifically-illiterate-scotus-covid-decision-sachs/index.html">will have consequences</a>. The justices are experts in law, not medicine. In this case, they would have done better to defer to experts in the field. Instead, they have forced state officials to go back to the drawing board to craft rules that will meet the court’s objections. Worse yet, they’ve handed a justification to those governors and other officials who, in the face of 266,000 deaths, would rather do nothing.</p> <p>Science will eventually provide a solution to this deadly pandemic. Several new vaccines already show great promise. But those vaccines aren’t yet ready for mass distribution, and until they are, it’s imperative that Americans continue to follow some commonsense guidelines and that government officials have the power to curb actions that put everyone at risk.</p> <p>The Supreme Court could have moved the nation closer to a healthier future by allowing New York’s regulations – which, it should be noted, actually treated religious gatherings more favorably than nonreligious gatherings – to stand, but instead, the court majority chose to erect roadblocks.</p> <p>It is a poor decision, and some Americans will likely die because of it.  </p> <p>P.S. Since the coronavirus outbreak, Americans United <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic">has filed</a> 40 other amicus briefs in courts across the country in similar cases involving requests for religious exemptions from COVID-19 public health orders, including one in the Supreme Court opposing a pending request that the court block California’s limits on worship services. A ruling on that request is likely within a week or so, and we will see whether it does even greater harm to states’ efforts to control the pandemic.</p> <p> </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/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/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic" hreflang="en">Protecting Religious Freedom During the Coronavirus Pandemic</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/new-york" hreflang="en">New York</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/justice-sonia-sotomayor" hreflang="en">Justice Sonia Sotomayor</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 30 Nov 2020 13:56:53 +0000 boston 16493 at https://www.au.org Give Thanks, With Grace Or Without https://www.au.org/blogs/Thanksgiving-in-2020 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Give Thanks, With Grace Or Without</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 Nov 25, 2020 - 08:34</span> <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/Thanksgiving_0.jpg?h=46b546d1&amp;itok=GYhROe0R" width="1700" height="525" alt="Thanksgiving" title="Thanksgiving " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>By Jennifer Bardi</p> <p><strong><em>Editor’s Note:</em></strong><em> Today we are pleased to present a guest blog post by Jennifer Bardi, the former editor of </em>The Humanist<em> magazine. Jennifer reminds us that even during these challenging times, we have things to be thankful for. Along those lines, Americans United would like to say that we’re thankful for all of our members and supporters. You make our work possible. Thank you – and Happy Thanksgiving! </em></p> <p>Thanksgiving is upon us. And while it’s an especially challenging time for a feast, many Americans are also feeling hard-pressed to come up with much to be thankful for in 2020. After all, the pandemic rages on, threatening lives and livelihoods, and our political divisions are anything but tamed after a wild election.</p> <p>And yet we must find sources of gratitude if we’re to endure the winter ahead. Starting small may be helpful – the autumn color, chatting with an old friend, a brisk run under clear skies, rediscovering a classic film. I’m thankful for my husband’s cooking, my 16-year-old’s penchant for jigsaw puzzles and my 13-year-old’s unabashed commitment to telling a joke none of us really want to hear.</p> <p>Bigger picture, we can be thankful that the 2020 presidential election was in fact decisive, and the transfer of power from one administration to the next has officially begun.</p> <p>I found myself tearing up the other night watching a news report on President-elect Joe Biden’s growing White House team and cabinet: the first female Treasury secretary, first immigrant and Latino to head the Department of Homeland Security, a special envoy on climate change who will join the National Security Council and the former assistant secretary of state for African Affairs as ambassador to the United Nations, to name a few.</p> <p>People who know Washington agree that Biden is putting together a group of highly capable experts with loads of experience, access and integrity. This isn’t a swamp that’s forming but a reset of sorts to a clearer, more functional pool.</p> <p>Restoring the health of the people and the economy are tantamount for this new administration, and many of us look forward to a host of issues being addressed, including climate change, racial inequality and economic disparity. Let’s also look forward to a resetting of priorities as they relate to religious freedom and pluralism, and a much greater appreciation for the rich diversity of the nation’s faith communities.</p> <p>There’s no doubt President Donald Trump’s courting of the Religious Right has been bad for secular government, and we’ll long remember the myriad ways Betsy DeVos, William Barr, Mike Pompeo and others pushed their form of Christian nationalism upon us. Because they were so blatant about their theocratic designs, I think it’s fair to assume Biden’s largest popular vote count in history was partly a referendum on those aspirations. The United States is a richly diverse country, and a whole lot of us want to keep it that way.</p> <p>And while the church-state wall took a beating during the Trump years (<a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/montana-voucher-ruling"><em>Espinoza</em></a><em>,</em> anyone?), we should be thankful that our right to believe in the god or faith of our choosing, or none at all, has remained intact. As a humanist who appreciates every American’s freedom of conscience, I will, of course, be keeping a nervous eye on Trump’s judicial nominees. But today I am truly grateful not to be inching closer to a theocracy.</p> <p>I’m grateful that 12 years after what we call the first Thanksgiving in 1621, Roger Williams left Plymouth in disgust over the colony’s theocratic bent – and out of respect for the Narragansett people whom he felt should be paid for their land. I’m glad he irked the Puritans and pressed for freedom of conscience in his less-than-graceful style. As the oft-quoted Williams line goes, “Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils.”</p> <p>What doesn’t stink are the delightful aromas of the Thanksgiving meal and the sweet smell of a renewed and reinforced freedom to practice the religion of your choice, or no religion at all. So, inhale deeply (doing what it takes to avoid the droplets of those outside your small bubble, please!) and try to breathe a little more easily.</p> <p>Whether you say it with grace or not, there are indeed reasons to be thankful this year.</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/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/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/joe-biden" hreflang="en">Joe Biden</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/betsy-devos" hreflang="en">Betsy DeVos</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/william-barr" hreflang="en">William Barr</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/mike-pompeo" hreflang="en">Mike Pompeo</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/thanksgiving" hreflang="en">thanksgiving</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/roger-williams" hreflang="en">Roger Williams</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 25 Nov 2020 13:34:04 +0000 boston 16492 at https://www.au.org A N.J. School Wins The Right To Teach Objectively About Religion https://www.au.org/blogs/NJ-Islam-lessons <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">A N.J. School Wins The Right To Teach Objectively About Religion</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 Nov 24, 2020 - 08:42</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/remote%20learning.jpg?h=4aea22bd&amp;itok=lSN9zXAE" width="1700" height="525" alt="remote learning" title="school via screen" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Here’s a story that is becoming depressingly familiar: A public school, recognizing that it’s important to teach about religion in an objective manner, includes information about Islam in a history or social studies class. Some parents freak out. They file a lawsuit. The parents lose, but the school has to spend time, money and resources battling a frivolous legal action.</p> <p>This was the script recently in Chatham, N.J. Two years ago, a parent complained about a 7th-grade class called World Cultures and Geography. The class did include information about Islam, but it discussed other religions as well and didn’t proselytize.</p> <p>A federal court recently dismissed the lawsuit, noting that the School District of the Chathams was offering objective instruction.</p> <p>“Here, the World Cultures course includes similar units on, for example, Hinduism and Buddhism, in which students watch videos on those religions to understand their tenets and practices,” U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty wrote. “A reasonable observer would not perceive an endorsement of Islam when the course also presented other religions in a similar manner. … This case falls into the category of those in which schools permissibly asked students to ‘read, discuss, and think’ about a religion.”</p> <p>Cases like this have surfaced in <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/december-2019-church-state-magazine/au-bulletin/supreme-court-wont-hear-md-case-on">other parts of the country</a>. None have been successful and for an obvious reason: Even-handedly discussing the role of Islam, or any religion for that matter, in a world history course is not the same as proselytizing. Failing to discuss the role these faiths have played in shaping our world is to leave students ignorant. No one should want that.</p> <p>There’s an especially sad element to the Chatham case: A local news outlet, <a href="https://www.tapinto.net/sections/education/articles/lawsuit-filed-by-chatham-parent-against-chatham-school-district-dismissed-with-prejudice-establishment-clause-not-violated">TAPinto, reported</a> that Jill Critchley Weber, the school board president, noted that after the parent appeared on the Fox News Channel and provided what the district considered to be inaccurate information about the course, fallout was swift – and ugly.</p> <p>Weber said the district was flooded with “dozens and dozens of hate mail – violent, vulgar mail to the district, violent threats against our employees, violent threats against our employees’ families, death threats against our employees, physical harm to our buildings, and this went on for a while. One threat was so credible that the federal authorities had to get involved.”</p> <p>The situation got so bad that Superintendent Michael LaSusa had to receive police protection. For weeks, an officer was stationed outside LaSusa’s office.</p> <p>“Some of the threats were benign and nonsensical, but many of them were violent and vulgar,” Weber said.</p> <p>Public schools can’t indoctrinate in religion or sponsor prayer, Bible reading or other religious acts of worship. But they can and should teach about religion as an objective subject. Indeed, it would be impossible to teach history accurately without a discussion of religion.</p> <p>Islam is the religion of 1.8 billion people. Its rise in the 7th century profoundly impacted world history, just as the rise of Christianity did during the 1st century. An educated person needs to know these things. It’s a shame that some individuals are so consumed by rage, hatred and fear that they lash out at the things sensible people acknowledge as facts.</p> <p>P.S. Since its founding in 1947, Americans United has been protecting the secular public education system, which serves 90% of our young people, from ill-informed attacks. <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">Please join us</a> in this important work.</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/classroom-instruction" hreflang="en">Classroom Instruction</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/islam" hreflang="en">Islam</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/new-jersey" hreflang="en">New Jersey</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/public-education" hreflang="en">public education</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/social-studies-curriculum" hreflang="en">Social Studies Curriculum</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/world-religions" hreflang="en">world religions</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 24 Nov 2020 13:42:24 +0000 boston 16490 at https://www.au.org Fox News-Loving Conservatives Believe Christians Are Victims Of Discrimination https://www.au.org/blogs/conservatives-cry-persecution <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Fox News-Loving Conservatives Believe Christians Are Victims Of Discrimination</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 Nov 23, 2020 - 08:59</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/VVS%20crowd.jpg?h=20513853&amp;itok=RBNpm7Q3" width="1700" height="525" alt="VVS crowd" title="crowd at VVS" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>A <a href="https://religionnews.com/2020/11/19/most-fox-news-republicans-believe-christians-not-black-people-face-a-lot-discrimination/">poll issued last week</a> by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows just how disconnected from reality many viewers of Fox News have become: They actually believe that Christians in America face more discrimination than Black citizens.</p> <p><a href="https://www.prri.org/research/trumpism-after-trump-how-fox-news-structures-republican-attitudes/">PRRI asked</a> if members of certain populations face a lot of discrimination in America. Among so-called “Fox News Republicans,” a whopping 73% said Christians face such discrimination, and 58% asserted that white people in general face it. Only 36% felt that Blacks face a lot of discrimination. The numbers who believe that Latinos and Asians deal with high levels of discrimination were 34% and 27% respectively.</p> <p>As PRRI points out, Republicans who consider Fox News to be a reliable source are much more likely to be evangelicals than the overall population.</p> <p>So what’s the source of this persecution complex among white evangelicals? Evangelicals, after all, are free to worship in America just as all religious groups are. They seem to have done pretty well for themselves: Their churches dot our religious landscape; they own and operate schools from kindergartens to colleges; their houses of worship, publishing arms, websites, charities and television and radio ministries pull in billions of tax-free dollars every year; they are free to spread their faith in a multitude of ways, from old-fashioned door-to-door canvassing to the latest social media sites. They have considerable political influence.</p> <p>To many people, this looks like a position of privilege, not persecution or discrimination. But one thing we’ve learned about white conservative evangelicals over the years is that they have a peculiar definition of words like "discrimination" and "persecution.” To them, being denied the ability to use the engine of the government to promote their version of Christianity (such as, for example, being told they can’t use the public schools as instruments of evangelism) is discrimination. When the government balks at erecting their towering religious symbols in public spaces that are meant for us all or insists that other groups be given the same right of access, that to Christian nationalists is persecution. Increasingly, they are even arguing that the government’s refusal to fund their religious activities with tax dollars discriminates against them. </p> <p>When conservative evangelicals operating in the secular world, such as business and commerce, are expected to obey our laws and cease discriminating against others or causing them harm, most people would see that as a reasonable attempt to protect the rights of members of vulnerable populations. To Christian nationalists, it's the conservative evangelical who's the victim of discrimination, not the person who has been turned away and denied service. Conservative evangelicals even cry persecution when a government official, such as <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/the-twisted-saga-of-anti-lgbtq-clerk-kim-davis-ends-with-her-unemployment">former county clerk Kim Davis</a> in Kentucky, is sanctioned for refusing to do her job and serve all people, including LGBTQ couples.</p> <p>We’re hearing a lot these days about polarization and division in our nation. Many Americans are hopeful that we can find a way to bridge these gaps and find unity. It will be very difficult to pull that off when so many of our fellow citizens refuse to acknowledge their own considerable privilege and instead embrace a story that makes them feel like victims of discrimination rather than seek to understand the pain and understandable anger of those who really are.</p> <p><em>Photo: Attendees of the Religious Right's Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C.</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/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</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> </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/persecution" hreflang="en">persecution</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/public-religion-research-prri" hreflang="en">Public Religion Research (PRRI)</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/fox-news-channel" hreflang="en">Fox News Channel</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/kim-davis" hreflang="en">Kim Davis</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 23 Nov 2020 13:59:27 +0000 boston 16489 at https://www.au.org Religious Groups Want The Supreme Court To Grant Special Exemptions From Coronavirus Rules https://www.au.org/blogs/pandemic-cases-court <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Religious Groups Want The Supreme Court To Grant Special Exemptions From Coronavirus Rules </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 Nov 19, 2020 - 10:33</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/empty%20church_0.jpg?h=60dee6e3&amp;itok=HUwQx7bP" width="1700" height="525" alt="empty church" title="church pews" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Recent news about the coronavirus pandemic has been alarming. Despite President Donald Trump’s claims that the virus would miraculously disappear or that it could be defeated with light and bleach, cases are on the upswing. More than a quarter of a million Americans <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/u-s-surpasses-250-000-coronavirus-deaths-virus-mortality-rate-n1248109">have died</a>, and the virus is now rampaging through Midwestern and Plains states and overwhelming rural areas.</p> <p>The U.S. Supreme Court may be about to make things worse: Houses of worship and religious groups have asked the court to exempt them from state orders curbing large gatherings.</p> <p>As we’ve noted several times on this blog, the vast majority of religious leaders in America are doing their part to combat the virus by moving services online or outside, or by finding other creative ways to avoid bringing large congregations together in person or to at least substantially limit the size of such meetings. But a noisy minority continues to insist that they should have the right to hold in-person services that don’t comply with their states’ restrictions on large gatherings – even though those restrictions apply to all large gatherings, religious and secular alike.</p> <p>In two New York lawsuits, the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and several ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups are asking the Supreme Court to grant them an emergency order allowing them to evade restrictions put in place by state officials. And late last night, an evangelical Protestant church in Louisiana also requested that the justices grant an exemption to that state’s public health order. The Louisiana church is pastored by Tony Spell, an <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/spell-loses-in-court">outspoken scofflaw</a> of COVID public health orders, and represented by former Alabama Supreme Court justice Roy Moore’s Religious Right legal organization.</p> <p>This issue has reached the high court twice before. By 5-4 votes in May and July, the court declined to grant emergency injunctions to houses of worship seeking exemptions from public health orders in California and Nevada.</p> <p>The Supreme Court has changed since then. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Sept. 18 and has been replaced by Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Ginsburg understood that granting special privileges to religious groups during a pandemic would violate church-state separation and jeopardize public health. There’s reason to believe that Barrett, who is much more conservative, may not see it that way. As a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Barrett joined a September opinion that allowed Illinois to exempt religious services from the state’s public health order, though that opinion did not address whether officials were required to do so.</p> <p>Americans United and its allies have <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/Supreme-Court-COVID-New-York">filed briefs in the Supreme Court in the two New York cases</a>. AU acknowledges that these are difficult times but argues that the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit New York from including houses of worship and religious services in temporary restrictions on large, in-person gatherings. We assert that it would be harmful to the public to exempt religious gatherings from the order.</p> <p>The Supreme Court may rule on this matter as early as tomorrow. We can only hope that our argument resonates at the court. In light of the resurgence of the virus, this would be exactly the wrong time for the justices to extend preferential treatment to religious groups by allowing them to ignore bans on large gatherings.</p> <p>No one likes the current restrictions, but they are based on sound science and are designed to keep us safe. The high court should uphold them.</p> <p>The briefs AU filed in the New York cases mark the 39th<sup> </sup>and 40th such briefs we’ve filed in similar cases nationwide. We’ll continue to urge courts to protect both religious freedom and public health by treating religious and secular gatherings the same. <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">Join us</a> to support our work.</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/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/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic" hreflang="en">Protecting Religious Freedom During the Coronavirus Pandemic</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/new-york" hreflang="en">New York</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/louisiana" hreflang="en">Louisiana</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/amyconeybarrett" hreflang="en">Amy Coney Barrett</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:33:30 +0000 boston 16487 at https://www.au.org If You Want To Understand Where Christian Nationalism Stands, Read These Two Articles https://www.au.org/blogs/two-important-articles <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">If You Want To Understand Where Christian Nationalism Stands, Read These Two Articles</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 Nov 18, 2020 - 09:59</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_0.JPG?h=0d27ee61&amp;itok=p21ciPGW" width="1700" height="525" alt="Trump " title="Trump at VVS " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Anyone seeking to understand the status of Christian nationalism post-election needs to read two important articles that shed light on where we are – and where we might end up.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/16/opinion/trump-religion-authoritarianism.html">In a <em>New York Times</em> column</a>, Katherine Stewart explains that President Donald Trump’s defeat isn’t likely to slow down the forces that yearn to compel all of us to live under a narrow, fundamentalist definition of Christianity wedded to hyper-nationalism.</p> <p>Stewart deftly analyzes the election results and lists several reasons why the Religious Right will remain a force in American politics. Among them is that the federal judiciary, which has been reshaped under Trump, is likely to keep handing them victories.</p> <p>“Republicans have long known that the judiciary is one of the most effective instruments of minority rule,” Stewart writes. “Mr. Trump’s success in packing the federal judiciary – as of this writing, 220 federal judges, including three Supreme Court justices – will be one of his most devastating legacies. The prospect of further entrenching minority rule in the coming years will keep the alliance between Republicans and the religious right alive.”</p> <p>Stewart, author of the recent book <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/may-2020-church-state-magazine/featured/the-power-worshippers-a-conversation-with"><em>The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism</em></a>, offers a sober analysis that is key to understanding the battles that lie ahead.</p> <p>The second article you should read is by longtime Americans United ally Frederick Clarkson. <a href="https://religiondispatches.org/beneath-the-wacky-paula-white-video-is-a-dark-and-deeply-undemocratic-world-propping-up-the-president/">Clarkson focuses on Paula White</a>, Trump’s spiritual adviser and a proponent of the “prosperity gospel.”</p> <p>It can be difficult to understand people who have turned Jesus, who, according to the Gospels, owned nothing and frequently rebuked the rich, into a bootstrap capitalist. But as Clarkson points out in his article for Religion Dispatches, White’s style of evangelism has made her one of the wealthiest and best-known religious leaders in America. Millions of Americans follow her teachings, and it’s not hard to understand their appeal to Trump.</p> <p>Since the election, White has been hosting nightly prayer meetings during which she calls on God to strike down Trump’s enemies while insisting that he will have a second term.</p> <p>“If this had happened on the stage of a fringe-y evangelist somewhere, it might have been enough to keep Right watchers, scholars, and journalists up at night,” Clarkson writes. “But Paula White is now one of the most prominent female religious leaders in the U.S. All the world is her stage, and she’s likely to play a growing role in American religious and public life. As an author, and as the spiritual advisor to the former president of the United States, she’s as high profile a figure as exists in all of evangelicalism.”</p> <p>Stewart and Clarkson are two of the nation’s most astute observers of Christian nationalism. What they have to say isn’t necessarily comforting – the Religious Right as a political force remains entrenched in American public life – but it’s vital that we hear them out and, more importantly, learn from them so we can be prepared to counteract the Religious Right's influence on our secular government.</p> <p><a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">Join us</a> to stay informed about the latest developments and ways you can help.</p> <p><em>Photo: President Donald Trump addresses the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in 2017</em></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/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/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/katherine-stewart" hreflang="en">Katherine Stewart</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/fred-clarkson" hreflang="en">Fred Clarkson</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 18 Nov 2020 14:59:10 +0000 boston 16486 at https://www.au.org Christian Nationalists Claim It’s The End Of The World – Again! https://www.au.org/blogs/graham-election-result <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Christian Nationalists Claim It’s The End Of The World – Again!</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 Nov 17, 2020 - 08:56</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/philly%202.png?h=22ce16eb&amp;itok=smqfRTmi" width="1700" height="525" alt="Philly" title="Philadelphia" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>When Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, Christian nationalist groups were apoplectic. They behaved the same way when Barack Obama, whom many of them incorrectly believed was secretly a Muslim, was elected in 2008 – the end was nigh!</p> <p>With Joe Biden preparing to move into the White House in January, <a href="https://donotlink.it/KWkyVa">we’re hearing it again</a>.</p> <p>“It seems our nation is under attack – attack from within, from socialists who want to bring anarchy to our streets,” harrumphed evangelist Franklin Graham in a Nov. 11 Facebook post. “The hard-won freedoms we have enjoyed in America are very much at stake.”</p> <p>Graham implored his followers to pray for President Donald Trump – he didn’t recommend that they extend that same courtesy to Biden.</p> <p>Another far-right evangelist, Alex McFarland, told the American Family Association that public schools and secular government are to blame for our nation’s alleged decline.</p> <p>“For decades, students have been told that there are no moral boundaries – we make our own rules, premarital sex is okay, if unintended pregnancies occur they are solved by abortion,” McFarland said. “So, for decades there’s been a militant, secular message being pumped into the minds of people.”</p> <p>McFarland also blamed pastors for not preaching the way he believes they ought to preach.</p> <p>The idea that the nation is due to collapse any minute now because we’ve done something a Christian nationalist doesn’t like – be it craft secular government, extend rights to all, or elect a Democrat – is a rather tiresome line. We’ve been hearing it for a long time. In the early 1800s, conservative pastors attacked the U.S. Constitution because it lacked references to God and Christianity. Some felt certain the nation would never survive because of this defect. Some pastors considered the Civil War a form of divine punishment. Such claims continued into the modern era. Remember when TV preachers Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/sep/19/september11.usa9">appallingly asserted</a> that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred because God was no longer protecting us?</p> <p>Graham is clearly not happy with the election results. Biden did beat Trump, after all. But that does not mean our nation is crumbling (even though we do face serious challenges now, as we often do); rather, it means that a lot of people don’t agree with Graham. Record numbers of Americans voted, and several million more of them favored Biden than Trump. Trump and his allies may be resisting the clear results, but our democracy worked. Even in the middle of a pandemic, our system did exactly what it was supposed to do – give the people their voice. That’s evidence of a robust and strong country, not one stumbling toward collapse.</p> <p>Obviously, Graham and his ilk don’t like what that voice said. But that doesn’t mean the nation is on the eve of destruction. A more likely scenario is that Graham and his friends are just sore losers.</p> <p><em>Photo: Crowds celebrate in Philadelphia. Screenshot via WHYY radio.</em></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/election" hreflang="en">Election</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/joe-biden" hreflang="en">Joe Biden</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/franklin-graham" hreflang="en">Franklin Graham</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/afa" hreflang="en">AFA</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/pat-robertson" hreflang="en">Pat Robertson</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/jerry-falwell-sr" hreflang="en">Jerry Falwell Sr.</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/barack-obama" hreflang="en">Barack Obama</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/bill-clinton" hreflang="en">Bill Clinton</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 17 Nov 2020 13:56:47 +0000 boston 16485 at https://www.au.org Justice Alito’s Speech Was Inappropriate – And Inaccurate https://www.au.org/blogs/justice-alito-speech <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Justice Alito’s Speech Was Inappropriate – And Inaccurate</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 Nov 16, 2020 - 09:50</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/alito%20.png?h=fe5d1b9c&amp;itok=h6oFYulg" width="1700" height="525" alt="alito" title="justice alito " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>A speech Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/justice-alito-speech-polarizing-issues-prompts-calls-reform/story?id=74194553">delivered recently</a> to the Federalist Society is attracting a lot of criticism for two reasons: its appalling content and the fact that Alito gave it at all.</p> <p>Alito’s talk was little more than a right-wing screed. Among other things, he asserted that the restrictions we’re all living under during the coronavirus pandemic are throttling personal liberty and that religious freedom is under assault as LGBTQ rights advance.</p> <p>Alito is often celebrated by conservatives as a sharp legal mind, but his speech was littered with lazy reasoning. Consider this passage: “You can’t say that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. Until very recently, that's what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now it’s considered bigotry.”</p> <p>Does Alito live in a cave? People – primarily Christian nationalists – criticize marriage equality <em>constantly</em>. They own publications, websites and entire radio and television stations that push their view. They march in the streets to promote it. Their legal arms take cases into courts to curtail that right. They walk the halls of Congress and state legislatures, lobbying to curtail LGBTQ rights. They clearly exercise their free-speech rights to criticize marriage equality. Do they receive pushback when they promote anti-LGBTQ views? You bet. That’s how the First Amendment works.</p> <p>It’s also remarkable that Alito doesn’t understand that when it comes to our constitutional rights, what the “vast majority” of Americans think is utterly irrelevant. There was a time when most Americans thought it was perfectly all right to deny basic civil and political rights to Blacks, women, non-Christians and others. Courts put a stop to that because the basic freedoms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution can’t be overridden by majority rule. (Plus, for what it’s worth, a firm majority of Americans <a href="https://www.prri.org/spotlight/americans-are-broadly-supportive-of-a-variety-of-lgbtq-rights/">now supports marriage equality</a>.)</p> <p>Alito also said, “It pains me to say this, but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right<strong>.</strong>” What? If anything, Alito and his fellow conservatives on this high court have allowed religious freedom to become weaponized to the point where bosses are allowed to interfere with the private reproductive choices of their employees, taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies may be permitted to impose religious tests on prospective parents and the owners of secular businesses may soon win the right to refuse service to anyone – LGBTQ people, single moms, atheists, Muslims, etc. – if something about the way they live their lives offends the shopkeeper.</p> <p>In an extended rant about restrictions that have been placed on large gatherings to combat the spread of coronavirus, Alito hoisted a huge straw man when he said, “Whatever one may think about the COVID restrictions, we surely don’t want them to become a recurring feature after the pandemic has passed.” No, we don’t – that’s why we’re all living under restrictions now. Virtually <em>no one</em> is talking about these restrictions still being in place once we’ve vanquished the pandemic. Alito’s remarks are a scare tactic, the type of thing that’s commonly employed by the Religious Right but that should be beneath a justice who sits on our highest court.</p> <p>Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser criticized Alito for his partisan remarks, <a href="https://news.bloomberglaw.com/us-law-week/alitos-culture-war-speech-called-insane-moving-by-lawyers">telling Bloomberg News</a> that Alito “signaled how he will vote on issues that are almost certain to come before the court, such as coronavirus public health restrictions on both secular and religious gatherings, and religious freedom being misused to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people and others. He’s dropped even the pretense of the impartiality that judges are obligated to have.”</p> <p>Indeed, he has. And the really sad thing is the thought that Alito’s views – as illogical and regressive as they are – might carry the day given the rightward tilt of the current court where he enjoys a lifetime seat.</p> <p>P.S. For an antidote to Alito’s disturbing views, check out Americans United’s <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-11/Agenda%20to%20Restore%20%26%20Protect%20Religious%20Freedom%20-%20Overview_0.pdf">“Agenda to Restore and Protect Religious Freedom,”</a> which we hope the incoming Biden-Harris administration will implement.</p> <p><em>Photo: Screenshot via YouTube</em></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/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</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/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/samuel-alito" hreflang="en">Samuel Alito</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic" hreflang="en">Protecting Religious Freedom During the Coronavirus Pandemic</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/federalist-society" hreflang="en">Federalist Society</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 16 Nov 2020 14:50:43 +0000 boston 16483 at https://www.au.org Assessing The Religious (And Non-Religious) Vote In 2020 https://www.au.org/blogs/2020-religious-vote <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Assessing The Religious (And Non-Religious) Vote In 2020</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 Nov 12, 2020 - 09:57</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/mail%20vote.jpg?h=2992ba0a&amp;itok=KOV6FMqQ" width="1700" height="525" alt="voting by mail" title="mail voter" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The election was more than a week ago, and some interesting data about how various religious and non-religious groups voted is starting to emerge. Because so many Americans voted by mail this year, traditional exit polls were not considered reliable. Most news agencies augmented the polls with other methods to get a clearer picture of what happened.</p> <p>White evangelicals were perhaps the most watched religious group in 2020. They went heavily for President Donald Trump in 2016, with 81% backing him. The Associated Press (AP) <a href="https://apnews.com/article/votecast-trump-wins-white-evangelicals-d0cb249ea7eae29187a21a702dc84706">reported similar numbers</a> this year, with 80% going for Trump. However, other pollsters <a href="https://www.christianpost.com/news/white-evangelical-trump-support-drops-slightly-in-exit-polling.html">have pegged the number a little lower</a> at 76%. While this might not seem like much of a difference, the election was tight in several states, and any defections from Trump’s base <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2020/11/11/how-biden-swung-the-religious-vote-435954">could have hastened his defeat</a>.</p> <p>Catholic voters are often looked at as a bellwether. If a candidate wins the Catholic vote, he or she often wins the election. AP reported that Catholic voters this year split down the middle, half going for Trump and half for Joe Biden. White Catholics backed Trump by 57%, but this is a drop from 2016 when 64% of them voted for him. Latino Catholics were more likely to vote for Biden, and 67% did so. </p> <p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/elections/exit-polls-changes-2016-2020/">Other polls showed</a> that Biden took a slightly higher percentage of the overall Catholic vote – 52%. Biden, who is Catholic, ran ads highlighting his faith in some battleground states that have large Catholic populations. (Trump, a lifelong Presbyterian, <a href="https://religionnews.com/2020/10/23/exclusive-trump-confirmed-a-presbyterian-now-identifies-as-non-denominational-christian/">announced shortly before Election Day</a> that he is now a non-denominational Christian.)</p> <p>Pollsters found that white mainline Protestants voted for Trump at a rate between 51-53%. But Black Protestants heavily favored Biden, and 90% cast ballots for him.</p> <p><a href="https://www.jweekly.com/2020/11/06/trump-or-biden-how-did-jewish-voters-line-up-this-year-its-complicated/">Jews backed Biden</a> at a figure between 64-70% depending on which poll you read. <a href="https://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2020/nov/04/us-elections-2020-about-69-percent-american-muslims-vote-for-biden-saysexit-poll-survey-2219227.html">Muslims broke heavily for Biden</a> at 69%. While Muslims account for a small portion of the U.S. population (1.1%), many of them live in and around Detroit, which <a href="https://www.abc12.com/2020/11/07/muslim-vote-helps-secure-michigan-for-bidenharris-ticket/">may have boosted Biden</a> in the swing state of Michigan.</p> <p>One of the more interesting demographic groups is also among the fastest growing: Americans who say they have no particular religion. These “nones” broke heavily for Biden, with 72% voting for the former vice president.</p> <p>Although Trump and some of his Christian nationalist allies are resisting the results, the American people have spoken. As Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris ramp up their transition, we have urged them to repeal dangerous Trump policies that threaten religious freedom. You can read our 10-point “Agenda to Restore and Protect Religious Freedom” <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-11/Agenda%20to%20Restore%20%26%20Protect%20Religious%20Freedom%20-%20Overview_0.pdf">here.</a></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/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/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/joe-biden" hreflang="en">Joe Biden</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/election" hreflang="en">Election</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/polls" hreflang="en">polls</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 12 Nov 2020 14:57:13 +0000 boston 16482 at https://www.au.org A Fla. Woman Is On A Crusade To Bring Back School-Sponsored Prayer https://www.au.org/blogs/fla-school-prayer <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">A Fla. Woman Is On A Crusade To Bring Back School-Sponsored Prayer</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 Nov 11, 2020 - 09:12</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rebecca-rifkind-brown" hreflang="en">Rebecca Rifkind-Brown</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/schoolkids.jpg?h=782b6120&amp;itok=80XR6V2k" width="1700" height="525" alt="public school " title="children at school " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>In 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/june-2012-church-state/featured/awesome-anniversary"><em>Engel v. Vitale</em></a> that school-sponsored prayer is unconstitutional under the First Amendment in public institutions. Today, a religious group in Jacksonville, Fla., led by Felicia Townes is fighting to reverse that decision.</p> <p>Last week, Townes <a href="https://www.wtxl.com/news/local-news/florida-group-visits-tallahassee-in-hopes-of-putting-prayer-in-schools">traveled to the state capital of Tallahassee</a> where she tried to garner support and petitioners to help her on the mission of bringing formal prayer back into public schools. Her reasoning? She believes prayer to be the answer to helping behavioral and mental health issues in children and teens.</p> <p>“We see a rise in bullying and suicidal thoughts without prayer, and so we believe that prayer goes back into the school.,” Townes said. “We believe that it will eradicate all bullying, all depression.”</p> <p>Some backers of compulsory worship in public schools seem to believe that forcing young people to say prayers will solve every social ill. It’s a gross oversimplification. There has been no evidence to suggest that Townes’ theory is correct. In fact, her argument sets a very dangerous precedent. For almost 60 years, the high court has affirmed that school-sponsored prayer violates the separation of church and state as well as individual rights. Townes, however, is trying to use the very real and very serious issue of mental health among children and teens as a justification to impose her own religious beliefs onto children in the public school system. This is a clear attack on religious freedom.  </p> <p>Townes is traveling all over Florida to share her mission and get petition signatures. As she states, “Children are in school five days a week, anywhere from six, seven, eight hours a day. Throughout the day, have words of affirmation, words of confirmation to let our young people know, our children know that they are somebody, only through prayer.” According to Townes’ reasoning, children will only understand their own worth through religion and prayer. This is a very troubling ideology to enforce on others.   </p> <p>As the Supreme Court shifts with the recent appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, cementing a 6-3 conservative majority, supporters of religious freedom and the separation of church and state might have more to worry about from people like Townes.  </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/school-sponsored-prayer" hreflang="en">School-Sponsored Prayer</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/public-school-prayer" hreflang="en">Public School Prayer</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/florida" hreflang="en">Florida</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 11 Nov 2020 14:12:31 +0000 boston 16481 at https://www.au.org