The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/ en Trump And DeVos Exploit Pandemic To Push Reckless Private School Voucher Scheme https://www.au.org/blogs/devos-pandemic-vouchers <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Trump And DeVos Exploit Pandemic To Push Reckless Private School Voucher Scheme</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, 07/10/2020 - 10:27</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/elise-helgesen-aguilar" hreflang="und">Elise Helgesen Aguilar </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/bible%20on%20desk.jpg?h=bf477b11&amp;itok=X7t24BBw" width="1700" height="525" alt="religion class" title="Bible on desk " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>This week, President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced their plans to, as <em>Politico</em> <a href="https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-education/2020/07/09/trumps-campaign-to-reopen-schools-complicates-fight-over-k-12-funding-789054">reported</a>, “use the next coronavirus relief bill to prod states into reopening schools and push school choice policies.” As DeVos <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-education/trump-administration-could-allow-families-to-use-u-s-education-funds-elsewhere-devos-says-idUSKBN24A25U">explained</a> on Fox News, “If schools aren't going to reopen, we're not suggesting pulling funding from education but instead allowing families ... [to] take that money and figure out where their kids can get educated if their schools are going to refuse to open.”</p> <p>As much as it’s no secret that  DeVos’ number one priority as secretary of education has been to find ways to funnel taxpayer dollars to education at private, religious schools through private school voucher schemes, it is still shocking that anyone would so boldly exploit a pandemic to reach that goal. </p> <p>DeVos and Trump started the week by holding a series of White House events designed to pressure public schools to reopen their buildings in the fall. Not only does  DeVos want to dangerously force public schools to reopen before they are ready, but she is also using this opportunity to push forward a new voucher proposal. In order to pressure public schools to reopen, DeVos would redirect funds from public schools that do not fully reopen to give to families to use for education for their kids outside of public schools. In other words, her plan would create a private school voucher program with funds that should be supporting our public schools instead.</p> <p>This is not  DeVos’ first attempt to exploit the pandemic for her private school voucher agenda. When Congress passed its first COVID-19 stimulus package, the CARES Act, in March, it provided additional funding to states to support K-12 education. Yet, in direct contradiction of Congress’s intent,  DeVos manipulated the CARES Act to redirect emergency funds to private schools. She first went after a fund that was intended to provide grants to states with the “highest coronavirus burden” to create a private school voucher program that provides students with “microgrants” vouchers to use on educational expenses, including tuition for private education. </p> <p>DeVos also intentionally misinterpreted a provision in the CARES Act that was meant to provide funding for certain services in private schools based on the number of low-income students in order to provide increased funding for private schools, even if those schools do not educate a single low-income student. She has incorporated this interpretation into non-binding guidance from the Department of Education, and after receiving intense backlash, she has doubled down and issued an interim final rule to give her erroneous interpretation the force of law. Recently, five states and the District of Columbia filed suit against the department, <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/07/07/888793021/states-sue-education-department-over-allocation-of-pandemic-funds-to-schools">saying</a> that the rule diverts millions of dollars from public schools most in need to fund private institutions.</p> <p>In addition to feeling empowered by the ways in which she has already exploited the CARES Act,  DeVos might also be feeling bolstered by the <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/supreme-court-decision-in-espinoza-v-montana-corrupts-foundational-principle">Supreme Court’s decision</a> in <em>Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue,</em> which held that Montana’s voucher program must fund private religious schools if it funds secular private schools, and which could open the door to new and expanded taxpayer-funded private school voucher programs in states across the country. This decision was not only a blow to the separation of religion and government, it also is one that will harm our country’s students. If we want to support America’s children, we must fund our public schools, not siphon taxpayer dollars to private religious education.</p> <p>During this challenging time, the federal government should focus on providing more resources to our public schools, which are best equipped to serve all students, including our most vulnerable children like students with disabilities. Private school voucher programs, in contrast, undermine our public schools by diverting desperately needed resources away from the public school system to fund the education of a few, select students in private, mostly religious schools. Private school vouchers do not provide students with better educational opportunities and also <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-07/2020-06-30%20-%20How%20Espinoza%20v%20Montana%20Department%20of%20Revenue%20Will%20Undermine%20Civil%20Rights%20%281%29.pdf">undermine students’ civil rights</a> and perpetuate a scheme that was historically rooted in racist attempts to subvert desegregation orders in the wake of <em>Brown v. Board of Education</em>. Unlike repeated assertions from  Trump and others, vouchers are certainly not the remedy for the “civil rights issue of our time.”</p> <p>As Congress continues to negotiate the next round of stimulus funding, we are urging legislators to reject DeVos’ proposal. Please <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/iNruJQbIHEW_jB_v89Bmfg2?contactdata=TJRO7PgjqOLzHzV4HKWv%2ftmHb0UuRs7JS99EfMCgLhCDSqByalSoqMetOi9H3sY%2fAh4KyqoNpFmSypjQ5BosXOFr6T9TVQtkeI7iVwR7k3lx%2f8EoUp%2fUCu5X1vScWD4U3hsFA9eOdJQ5yB4c9Z6hExr%2f8%2b6C8TlHEYZxD5beYWphkaqH1iIU%2bzoY76itkM7iwohbkmqkc7jxGDfQvxRTrlLzJofKJXtU7U6YC%2fEJlPUBD992U0L1zaBxq978hrUJ53Bc73A%2bZ%2bMYtlLd7r2IRw%3d%3d&amp;emci=c8a8d834-f5bd-ea11-9b05-00155d039e74&amp;emdi=2f284f07-00be-ea11-9b05-00155d039e74&amp;ceid=3850481">take action</a> and let your member of Congress know that public funds should fund public schools.</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/private-school-vouchers" hreflang="en">Private School Vouchers</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</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/tax-aid-religion" hreflang="en">tax aid to religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/betsy-devos" hreflang="en">Betsy DeVos</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</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> </div> Fri, 10 Jul 2020 14:27:45 +0000 boston 16289 at https://www.au.org Federal Court Rejects Request To Open Jewish Sleepaway Camps In N.Y. https://www.au.org/blogs/new-york-camps <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Federal Court Rejects Request To Open Jewish Sleepaway Camps In N.Y.</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, 07/09/2020 - 09:42</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/camp.jpg?h=71976bb4&amp;itok=vY4SIZh6" width="1700" height="525" alt="camp" title="empty camp " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Many of the legal challenges to the restrictions on large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic have been brought by fundamentalist Christian churches and ministries. <a href="https://www.recordonline.com/story/news/local/2020/07/06/federal-judge-refused-temporary-order-let-sleepaway-camps-open/3277488001/">A recent challenge in New York</a>, though, came from Orthodox Jews – but the result was the same: There can be no special treatment for religious groups.</p> <p>Like many other states, New York is slowly reopening. But overnight summer camps have not been allowed to open, due to worries that they could become vectors for the spread of coronavirus.</p> <p>New York’s order bars all overnight camps, not just religious ones. Chris Liberati-Conant, an assistant attorney general, explained the rationale like this: “That determination was rationally made on the basis that overnight camps involve children and adults sleeping and eating in close proximity in an enclosed space for an extended period of time, greatly increasing the risk of spread of the virus.”</p> <p>Nevertheless, the Association of Jewish Camp Operators, which represents 75 Orthodox camps around the state, sued. The group argued in part that refusing to allow the camps to open would hamper the religious freedom rights of Jewish families.</p> <p>U.S. District Judge Glenn Suddaby was not persuaded. Denying a request for an emergency injunction to open the sleepaway camps, Suddaby wrote that he had to take into account “the extenuating circumstances of the COVID-19 virus and its impact throughout the world.”</p> <p>Observed Suddaby, “Although the State of New York has made progress in limiting the transmission of the virus in recent weeks, the recent resurgence of positive COVID-19 cases in several states raises concerns and is a painful reminder that the fight is far from over.”</p> <p>The judge got it exactly right. Despite what President Donald Trump may believe, the virus is showing no signs of miraculously disappearing. In fact, several states that rushed to reopen are now <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53205720">pulling back</a> as cases skyrocket. In some regions, religious services have been identified as <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/08/us/coronavirus-churches-outbreaks.html">sources of infection</a>.</p> <p>We’re not through this pandemic yet – far from it. To get through it, we need to work together and look out for one another’s health and well-being. For the time being, that includes respecting public health orders to curb large gatherings, religious and secular alike.</p> <p>P.S. Americans United’s Legal Department continues to track these cases and intervene in many of them with important legal briefs, making it clear that religious communities should not receive special treatment that could threaten other people’s lives during the pandemic. <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">We’d love to have your support</a>.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-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> </div> Thu, 09 Jul 2020 13:42:06 +0000 boston 16285 at https://www.au.org The Supreme Court Is Embracing A Reckless And Dangerous Definition Of Religious Freedom https://www.au.org/blogs/supreme-court-rules-two <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">The Supreme Court Is Embracing A Reckless And Dangerous Definition Of Religious Freedom</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, 07/08/2020 - 14:36</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/us%20supreme%20court%20.jpg?h=615cb5c1&amp;itok=Wt2NMT0X" width="1700" height="525" alt="Supreme Court" title="US Supreme Court" 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 this morning handed down two rulings that expand on the conservative majority’s increasingly warped and discriminatory interpretation of religious freedom.</p> <p>In <a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/19-431_5i36.pdf"><em>Trump v. Pennsylvania Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania</em></a>,<a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/supreme-court/supreme-court-okays-trump-plan-limit-contraceptive-coverage-n1232339"> </a><a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/supreme-court/supreme-court-okays-trump-plan-limit-contraceptive-coverage-n1232339">the court ruled</a> that many employers and universities have the right to opt out of a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires birth control to be provided at no cost. Houses of worship and religious ministries were already exempt from this rule, but the Trump administration expanded the exemption to include any employer (that is not publicly traded) with a religious objection and almost any that claims a “moral objection.”</p> <p>What this means is that just about any worker or student at most businesses or universities (even if they’re largely secular) can be denied access to birth control in health care plans if a boss decides that he or she objects to artificial contraceptives. In effect, workers’ private and personal reproductive health care matters are now at the mercy of the religious beliefs of their bosses.</p> <p>The case was brought by Pennsylvania to challenge the new Trump administration rules. An order of nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, who own and operate a nationwide chain of nursing homes, inserted themselves into the litigation and aligned with the federal government. But no one was even trying to force the nuns to pay for or provide birth control. Their presence provided a distraction from the administration’s real goal of exploiting religious freedom to continue a crusade against reproductive freedom. As a result of today’s decision, countless workers and students – many of whom are women and LGBTQ people making a modest wage – will be denied access to a crucial facet of modern medical care. Indeed, it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of workers may lose access to birth control under this ruling.</p> <p><a href="https://www.vox.com/2020/7/8/21317223/supreme-court-ministerial-exception-religion-morrissey-berru-samuel-alito">The second case</a> that came down today, <a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/19-267_1an2.pdf"><em>Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey Berru</em></a>, concerns the ability of private religious schools to fire teachers at will, even if they have minimal religious duties, by classifying them as clergy under the “ministerial exception.” The court greatly relaxed limits on these schools’ ability to fire many of these educators, including under circumstances whereby the employee would have been protected just about anywhere else, because of their age, sexual orientation or health status.</p> <p>These rulings, taken in conjunction with<a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/supreme-court-decision-in-espinoza-v-montana-corrupts-foundational-principle"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/supreme-court-decision-in-espinoza-v-montana-corrupts-foundational-principle">a decision last week</a> in which the court greatly hindered the ability of states to restrict taxpayer funding of private religious schools, show a court that has embraced a dangerous interpretation of religious freedom. It’s a definition that, far from protecting that hallowed principle, turns it upside down.</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/reproductive-rights" hreflang="en">Reproductive Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/contraception" hreflang="en">Contraception</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-health-care" hreflang="en">Discrimination In Health Care</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/denials-of-health-care" hreflang="en">Denials of Health Care</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/schools" hreflang="en">Schools</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/private-school-vouchers" hreflang="en">Private School Vouchers</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/employment-discrimination" hreflang="en">Employment Discrimination</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/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/ministerial-exception" hreflang="en">Ministerial Exception</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/trump-administration" hreflang="en">Trump Administration</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/pennsylvania" hreflang="en">Pennsylvania</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/little-sisters-of-the-poor" hreflang="en">Little Sisters of the Poor</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 08 Jul 2020 18:36:56 +0000 boston 16284 at https://www.au.org Creationist Ken Ham Wants To ‘Cancel’ Instruction About Evolution In Public Schools https://www.au.org/blogs/cancel-charles-darwin <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Creationist Ken Ham Wants To ‘Cancel’ Instruction About Evolution In Public Schools</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, 07/07/2020 - 11:10</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/science%20class%202.jpg?h=35cf28d5&amp;itok=EVjxKoHS" width="1700" height="525" alt="science" title="science class" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>By Rebecca Rifkind-Brown</p> <p>Should Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution be “canceled” if he held racist beliefs? That’s what Ken Ham, CEO of the creationist Answers in Genesis (AIG) ministry, suggests in an episode of AIG’s “Answers News” with cohosts Bodie Hodge and Avery Foley. Ham also discusses this topic in a recent blog post on AIG’s blog.</p> <p>Ham, whose ministry owns the Creation Museum in Kentucky and the nearby Ark Encounter Noah’s Ark-themed park, isn’t really interested in canceling Darwin. Rather, he wants to cancel the teaching of evolution in public schools – and he has decided that during this time of heightened sensitivity over issues of racial justice, labeling Darwin as a racist is the way to do it.</p> <p>He’s not alone in this endeavor. Author Peter Heck wrote an opinion piece in June for Disrn, a right-wing website, and he used the same justification to “cancel” Darwin and evolution. Heck wrote, “Even by the most generous of measures, the intellectual and philosophical heritage of Charles Darwin is one of the most hideously racist legacies one can fathom. And yet, his inherently racist dogma is not only presented in public schools across America, it is state and federal policy that every student in America demonstrate proficient in understanding and applying his dangerous ideology.”</p> <p>Ham and Heck’s reasoning, however, does not hold up. The “ideology” that Heck refers to is evolution. Yet, the theory of evolution is a scientific discovery that can be separated from the personal beliefs of Darwin. That is, as a scientific theory, it has been tested over and over again by other scientists.</p> <p>It’s also worth remembering that Darwin put forth the first word in evolution, not the last. Since his time, many other scientists have looked at the same data and advanced and refined Darwin’s ideas. Therefore, whether or not Darwin was racist – and there is no conclusive evidence to say that he was – it is possible to criticize Darwin for his beliefs without invalidating his scientific achievements. As writer Val Wilde put it <a href="https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2020/07/01/ken-ham-calls-on-cancel-culture-to-scrub-darwin-and-evolution-from-science/">in a post</a> for the “Friendly Atheist” blog recently, “Even if we did decide to collectively ‘cancel’ Darwin, the theory of evolution would still be a scientific reality.”</p> <p>While holding figures of the past accountable for their racist beliefs is necessary and important, it cannot be a reason to exclude or “cancel” important scientific breakthroughs from the public education system. Evolution is a crucial part of our school systems’ curriculum and students should be educated on this topic.</p> <p>Ham and Heck are attempting to “cancel” the theory of evolution not simply because of anything Darwin may have said but because, as staunch believers in creationism, they have a religious motive. Heck’s writing makes it clear that he does not want evolution to be taught in schools, so he calls out Darwin’s discovery of natural selection and evolution as bigoted and in part responsible for slavery and eugenics, as a means to justify its exclusion from the curriculum. It’s a ridiculous assertion. The fact that some people might have distorted Darwin’s theory over the years to buttress racist views does not indict evolution. (In fact, the theory traces the origin of humankind to regions of Africa – a finding that must give racists nightmares.)</p> <p>If there is evidence that people in the past or present are racist or prejudiced in their opinions, we must call them out for it and bring awareness to the issue. But delegitimizing evolution, a testable scientific theory, on the basis of reckless claims about Darwin’s personal beliefs is completely illogical. Unfortunately, it’s also a common tactic for Ham and his allies.</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/creationism" hreflang="en">Creationism</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/ken-ham" hreflang="en">Ken Ham</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/ark-park" hreflang="en">Ark Park</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/science" hreflang="en">Science</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/charles-darwin" hreflang="en">Charles Darwin</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 07 Jul 2020 15:10:14 +0000 boston 16281 at https://www.au.org Trump’s Proposal For Statues Is Yet More Pandering To His Christian Nationalist Base https://www.au.org/blogs/garden-of-statues <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Trump’s Proposal For Statues Is Yet More Pandering To His Christian Nationalist Base</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, 07/06/2020 - 10:55</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/garden%20stat%20cropped.jpg?h=38a47154&amp;itok=Kuy_ScFu" width="1700" height="525" alt="garden" title="statue garden " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>In recent weeks, the country has been undergoing a long-overdue discussion about what types of monuments should occupy public spaces. In some states, notably Virginia, statues that glorify leaders of the Confederacy <a href="https://apnews.com/b27b2bfce3ecefe13c917a69a59cd9da">have been removed</a> due to orders by government officials. Other statues have been <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/11/us/richmond-jefferson-davis-statue-pulled-down-trnd/index.html">pulled down</a> by crowds of protestors.</p> <p>Americans of goodwill may disagree about the best way to deal with offensive monuments, but we all ought to agree that this period should be a teachable moment for our country. We need to do the hard work of facing up to difficult periods of our past and begin a dialogue about how we can best move forward as one people. Unfortunately, we lack the national leadership to kick start that conversation. President Donald Trump actually wants to make things worse. <a href="https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/07/statues-trump-include-national-garden-american-heroes.html">He has issued an executive order</a> to create a type of national garden that would contain statues of alleged “American heroes” – at least a few of whom are problematic and divisive figures.</p> <p>Trump has proposed adding statues of evangelist Billy Graham and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to the collection. Neither deserves that honor.</p> <p>When Graham died in February of 2018, Congress allowed his body to lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol, something that is rarely granted. As Americans United <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-issues-statement-on-billy-graham-lying-in-honor-at-the-us">noted at the time</a>, while many Christians admired Graham, he spent most of his life trying to convert people to his brand of conservative Christianity. His work served a private religious interest; it's not the type of activity that deserves high recognition from the federal government.</p> <p>AU also noted that during this long career, Graham made troubling statements about Jews, African Americans and LGBTQ people. And while he met with presidents of both parties, Graham ultimately got sucked into right-wing politics. Late in his life, Graham stated that his political activities were his one regret.</p> <p>Likewise, Scalia was no champion of the American people and certainly does not qualify as a hero. The late high court justice held a cramped vision of the rights of the people, firmly anchored in a time when a privileged few held sway over everyone else. His view of church-state relations was similarly outdated, and all too often his response to church-state violations was a shrug.</p> <p><a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/april-2016-church-state/editorial/judging-a-justice-antonin-scalia-and-the-verdict-of">As Americans United pointed out</a> after Scalia’s death, “His vision of the Constitution excluded too many Americans and left a lot of people on the outside looking in. His was a jurisprudence that too often looked back to the 19th century instead of forward to the 22nd.”</p> <p>While the current national conversation about who we honor and how we honor them has at times been difficult and painful, it’s also necessary. Trump’s proposal is merely another sop to his far-right, Christian nationalist base. It adds nothing of value to the discussion we so desperately need to have.</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/displays" hreflang="en">Displays</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/billy-graham" hreflang="en">Billy Graham</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/antonin-scalia" hreflang="en">Antonin Scalia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/neo-confederates" hreflang="en">neo-Confederates</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 06 Jul 2020 14:55:52 +0000 boston 16280 at https://www.au.org Mississippi Trades Confederate Emblem For ‘In God We Trust’ On State Flag https://www.au.org/blogs/mississippi-new-flag <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Mississippi Trades Confederate Emblem For ‘In God We Trust’ On State Flag</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, 07/02/2020 - 09:16</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/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/miss%20capitol.jpg?h=dd75c2cb&amp;itok=dtu7N0L3" width="1700" height="525" alt="Miss. capitol" title="Jackson, Miss." typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) on Tuesday <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/30/politics/mississippi-state-flag-confederate-emblem-removal/index.html">signed</a> a bill to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state’s flag. The state’s legislature passed the measure last weekend with an <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/06/28/mississippi-legislators-expected-debate-removal-confederate-icon-state-flag/">overwhelming vote of 128 to 37</a>. After weeks of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, decades of organizing by local leaders, and 155 years since losing the Civil War, it was a long-overdue rebuke. The Confederate battle flag represents Mississippi’s fight to uphold slavery during the Civil War and brutal years of white supremacy under Jim Crow laws. More recently the emblem has been adopted as a <a href="https://www.adl.org/education/references/hate-symbols/confederate-flag">rallying symbol by white nationalists</a>.</p> <p>But the measure to change Mississippi’s state flag contains a troubling stipulation: Whatever new design is chosen for the flag, it must contain the words “In God We Trust.” Many lawmakers thought that was the right replacement, like sponsor Sen. Briggs Hopson (R-Issaquena), who <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yRUagTaWT4">noted</a>, “I’m proud to put that on our state flag and I hope it stays there forever.” Others, like Sen. David Parker (R-DeSoto) <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yRUagTaWT4">added</a> that “If we are going to make a change, I feel very strongly that it sends a strong message to … everybody looking and watching this today that we are putting God first.”</p> <p>Mississippi has finally acknowledged that its white nationalist flag should be discarded, not venerated. But “In God We Trust” is not the right choice.</p> <p>Mississippi’s decision trades a white nationalist symbol for a Christian nationalist one. Here’s why: “In God We Trust” may seem like a common phrase, but it has also long been a rallying cry for Christian nationalists, who spread the false idea that the U.S. was founded as a “Christian nation” and that the government should favor and support Christianity over all other religions and nonreligion. In 1956, Christian nationalists <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/february-2015-church-state/featured/myths-debunked">fought to change</a> the national motto from <em>E pluribus unum</em> (“From many, one”), which had served as an unofficial motto since the early years of the republic, to “In God We Trust” to distinguish the U.S. from the “godless” Communists of the Cold War.</p> <p>Since then, Christian nationalists have pushed for <a href="https://ingodwetrust.com/">government displays of “In God We Trust”</a> on everything from<a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/february-2011-church-state/au-bulletin/kentucky-unveils-in-god-we-trust-license-plate"> license plates </a>and <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/october-2015-church-state/people-events/in-god-we-trust-stickers-appearing-on-police">police cars</a> to <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/march-2014-church-state/au-bulletin/miss-senate-adds-in-god-we-trust-to-state-seal">state seals </a>and <a href="https://www.brownwoodnews.com/2015/01/20/commissioners-vote-to-keep-in-god-we-trust-displayed-in-courtroom/">courthouses</a>. And of course, requiring <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/six-states-post-in-god-we-trust-in-public-schools-alienating-kids-and">“In God We Trust” displays in public schools</a> is a central tenet of <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/uncovering-project-blitz-fighting-a-secret-coordinated-legislative">Project Blitz</a>, a playbook created by three Christian nationalist groups to pass state bills that undermine religious freedom and redefine the U.S. as a Christian nation. Project Blitz’s architects hope to use “In God We Trust” as a stepping stone to more damaging bills that allow public schools to promote prayer, teach creationism, and even license discrimination in the name of religious freedom.</p> <p>In Mississippi, some legislators had the same goal of escalation. They were hoping that putting “In God We Trust” on the flag would be a stepping stone to even more Christian nationalist initiatives. Sen. Michael McLendon (R-Hernando) <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yRUagTaWT4">said</a>, “I think what might change the minds of [my district] if by changing and putting ‘In God We Trust’ on there, if there’s a bill next January putting prayer back in school.”</p> <p>It’s not even a new strategy to appease supporters of white nationalist flags by replacing them with Christian nationalist symbols or even lesser-known references to the confederate flag. A similar saga played out in Georgia in 2003, when <a href="https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2003-04-04-georgia-flag_x.htm">the state replaced the confederate emblem on their flag</a> with – you guessed it – “In God We Trust.” Both Alabama and Florida adopted flags containing the St. Andrew’s Cross, a <a href="https://extras.denverpost.com/flags/">symbol</a> of both the Confederacy and Christianity. <a href="https://dos.myflorida.com/florida-facts/florida-state-symbols/state-flag/">Florida</a>’s flag, like Georgia’s, also added on “In God We Trust.”</p> <p>These flags and their histories show that Christian nationalism and white nationalism are closely tied. And it’s not just symbols; the proof is in the polls. <a href="https://www.deseret.com/indepth/2019/8/5/20797494/what-is-white-nationalism-and-what-does-it-have-to-do-with-religion#president-donald-trump-speaks-about-the-mass-shootings-in-el-paso-texas-and-dayton-ohio-in-the-diplomatic-reception-room-of-the-white-house-monday-aug-5-2019-in-washington">Researchers find</a> that the more people’s views align with Christian nationalism, the more likely they are to also have negative attitudes towards racial and religious minorities. <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2332649218790983">Christians nationalists are more likely</a> to oppose interracial marriage, hold anti-Muslim prejudice, believe that Black Americans are more violent than white Americans and blame Black Americans who are killed by police. As Caroline Mala Corbin of the University Miami School of Law <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3466943">summarizes</a>, for Christian nationalists, “The mythical Christian America pictured is actually a white Christian America. In other words, ‘Christian nation’ is usually understood to mean ‘white Christian nation.” Unsurprisingly, <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3466943">studies</a> show that an overwhelming majority of supporters of Christian nationalism are white.</p> <p>Of course, not everyone who supports “In God We Trust” is a white nationalist. And the effect of those words cannot be compared to that of the Confederate emblem, which symbolizes the brutality of slavery and the injustice of segregation. For 126 years, Mississippians have lived under a flag that paid homage to those white Mississippians who enslaved and terrorized Black people.</p> <p>Still, our vision of justice should be expansive. Mississippi should not replace one exclusionary flag with another. <a href="https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/state/mississippi/">Mississippians</a> practice a variety of religions and faiths, and one in four identify as nonreligious. Our state flags are powerful symbols, so they should represent our shared values and the diversity of our communities. But the new Mississippi flag is just one indication that we still have a ways to go to be an inclusive society: Polls show that people continue to hold negative views towards atheists, who <a href="https://www.pewforum.org/2019/07/23/feelings-toward-religious-groups/">remain</a> among the most negatively viewed groups in America. Unfortunately, under the bill signed by Reeves this week, Mississippi’s flag will continue to signal who is welcome and valued in the Magnolia State and who is not.</p> <p>Mississippi can’t just paper over its white nationalist symbols with Christian nationalist symbols and say that justice is done.  </p> <p><em>Photo: Mississippi Capitol Building in Jackson</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/official-prayer-religious-displays-amp-ceremonial-religion-outside-schools" hreflang="en">Official Prayer, Religious Displays &amp;amp; Ceremonial Religion (outside schools)</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/ceremonial-deism" hreflang="en">Ceremonial Deism</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/god-we-trust" hreflang="en">in god we trust</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/mississippi" hreflang="en">Mississippi</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/christian-nation-myth" hreflang="en">Christian nation myth</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/project-blitz" hreflang="en">Project Blitz</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/official-prayer-public-school" hreflang="en">official prayer in public school</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/neo-confederates" hreflang="en">neo-Confederates</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 02 Jul 2020 13:16:11 +0000 boston 16279 at https://www.au.org Indiana Catholic Schools Could Crack Down On LGBTQ Students While Pulling In Taxpayer Dollars https://www.au.org/blogs/indiana-voucher-schools <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Indiana Catholic Schools Could Crack Down On LGBTQ Students While Pulling In Taxpayer Dollars</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, 07/01/2020 - 10:49</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/sad%20lgbtq%20student.jpg?h=756f59f9&amp;itok=W4nOnKPY" width="1700" height="525" alt="sad student" title="sag young woman " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>By Rebecca Rifkind-Brown</p> <p>Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court handed down<a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/supreme-court-decision-in-espinoza-v-montana-corrupts-foundational-principle"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/supreme-court-decision-in-espinoza-v-montana-corrupts-foundational-principle">a disturbing ruling</a> that will likely open the door to more taxpayer aid to private religious schools.</p> <p>As Americans United has noted, one of the problems with vouchers is that they force taxpayers to prop up private schools that engage in blatant forms of discrimination.</p> <p>An example of this is playing out in Indianapolis, where officials with the Catholic Archdiocese<a href="https://www.metroweekly.com/2020/06/indianapolis-archdioceses-new-policy-would-ban-transgender-children-from-parochial-schools/"> </a><a href="https://www.metroweekly.com/2020/06/indianapolis-archdioceses-new-policy-would-ban-transgender-children-from-parochial-schools/">have implemented policies</a> that will effectively ban transgender students from attending parochial schools in central and southern Indiana – even though many of its schools are receiving taxpayer support under Indiana’s voucher program. This new policy was enacted at the beginning of the month and was influenced by a document released by the Vatican in 2019 that declared being transgender antithetical to the teachings of the Catholic Church.</p> <p>The new policy states that “any student whose ‘gender’ has been legally changed from their biological sex, or who has chemically and/or surgically altered their given biology, may not be eligible for enrollment” in the schools controlled by the Archdiocese. The policy goes on to declare that students must dress in accordance with their biological sex at birth, must use the restroom of their biological sex at birth and must use the pronouns that match their sex at birth – policies that essentially force transgender students to erase their identity.</p> <p>Students who struggle with gender issues are told that they should seek assistance from pastors and trained professionals “who might best assist them in clarifying and defining issues of self (and sexuality) identity in accordance with Catholic Church teaching” – in other words, stop being transgender. </p> <p>The new policy isn’t the first time that the Indianapolis Archdiocese has discriminated against people based on their sexual identity. Last year the Archdiocese fired a number of LGBTQ identifying teachers and staff members, as well as a social worker who worked at one of the schools and who criticized the Archdiocese for its conduct.</p> <p>Indiana has the biggest voucher program in the country. This means that religious schools – which answer to church officials and aren’t held to same accountability standards as public institutions – could be receiving taxpayer dollars to fund their programs. Many of the state’s Catholics schools, therefore, are receiving a windfall of taxpayer dollars while discriminating against transgender students and others by banning them from their schools based on their sexual and gender identities. </p> <p>The new policy implemented by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis explicitly uses religious beliefs to justify its discrimination. And taxpayer money is being used to prop these discriminatory policies. This is an attack on transgender students and the separation of church and state. </p> <p>In light of yesterday’s ruling, <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-06/2020-06-30%20-%20How%20Espinoza%20v%20Montana%20Department%20of%20Revenue%20Will%20Undermine%20Civil%20Rights.pdf">we’ll see more of it</a> – unless legislators do the right thing and stop passing voucher plans.</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/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</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/neo-vouchers" hreflang="en">neo-vouchers</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 01 Jul 2020 14:49:57 +0000 boston 16261 at https://www.au.org Five Takeaways From Today’s Supreme Court Ruling On Vouchers https://www.au.org/blogs/montana-voucher-ruling <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Five Takeaways From Today’s Supreme Court Ruling On Vouchers</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, 06/30/2020 - 14:13</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/abandoned%20ps.jpg?h=787a7a88&amp;itok=5xhLtCVX" width="1700" height="525" alt="public school " title="abandoned school " 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 this morning<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/30/politics/espinoza-montana-religious-schools-scholarship-supreme-court/index.html"> </a><a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/30/politics/espinoza-montana-religious-schools-scholarship-supreme-court/index.html">issued an opinion</a> in an important church-state case called <em>Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue</em>. Ruling 5-4, the court held that the Montana Supreme Court was wrong when it invalidated a tax-credit voucher program because it included religious schools.</p> <p>Americans United attorneys are analyzing the decision, but here are five quick takeaways:</p> <p><strong><em>This ruling is a serious blow to church-state separation and religious liberty:</em></strong><em> </em>in his majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts rejected the notion that compelling taxpayers to support religious schools is a violation of an individual’s religious freedom rights. Rather, he asserted that when religious schools are denied access to certain taxpayer-funded programs, it is their religious freedom that’s being violated – a nonsensical claim that turns the very concept of religious freedom on its head.</p> <p><strong><em>The ruling exposes</em></strong><strong> <em>taxpayers to forced funding of discrimination:</em></strong><em> </em>Of the 12 private schools taking part in Montana’s program, 10 have discriminatory policies that they apply to students, teachers and staff. These policies either require adherence to a certain faith tradition and/or refuse admission to LGBTQ students or children with disabilities altogether. Taxpayers of Montana will now effectively be required to support these schools, unless Montana’s legislature takes action to prohibit Montana’s program from supporting schools that engage in discriminatory practices. Importantly, the decision does not address whether states that fund private education may deny funding to schools that have discriminatory admissions or employment policies, or whether it is constitutional for states to fund such discriminatory schools if they want to do so.</p> <p><strong><em>The ruling is further evidence that states must stop passing voucher plans:</em></strong><em> </em>The high court did not say that states must establish voucher plans, only that if a state does have one, religious schools must be included. There’s a lesson here for all of us: If you don’t want your tax money to support religious schools, make sure your legislators don’t pass voucher plans.</p> <p><strong><em>As bad as the decision is, it could have been much worse:</em></strong><em> </em>Justice Clarence M. Thomas reiterated his view that states should not have to abide by the church-state provisions of the First Amendment (or indeed the entire Bill of Rights.) In his concurring opinion, Thomas wrote that nothing in the Constitution should “prohibit States from favoring religion.” Thomas’ view remains an extreme outlier – for now. And Justices Samuel A. Alito and Neil Gorsuch strongly implied that they would have gladly wiped out completely provisions in more than 35 state constitutions that bar taxpayer funding of religion because they consider them to be anti-Catholic.</p> <p><strong><em>Judges make a difference:</em></strong> This decision would have gone the other way – or more likely the Supreme Court would have never even taken up the case – were it not for the presence of Trump appointees Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh on the bench. Remember, Supreme Court justices (and lower federal court judges) are appointed by the president and either confirmed or denied by the Senate. When you are voting for president and senators, you are in effect “electing” judges as well. It really matters, especially because the concurring opinions that some justices issued today made clear that they want to erode constitutional protections against forced tax funding of religious institutions even more than today’s decision does.</p> <p>Today’s decision is disappointing, but Americans United won’t waver from its historic mission of defending church-state separation, non-sectarian public education and the right to support only the religion, if any, that you choose.</p> <p>Our next steps are clear: We must redouble our efforts to stop private school voucher schemes and work even harder to ensure that public dollars are used only for public schools.</p> <p><a href="https://www.au.org/get-involved/donate/form">With your help</a>, that is precisely what we’ll do.</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/private-school-vouchers" hreflang="en">Private School Vouchers</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/taxpayer-funding-of-religion" hreflang="en">Taxpayer Funding 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/public-education" hreflang="en">public education</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/justice-clarence-thomas" hreflang="en">Justice Clarence Thomas</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/john-roberts" hreflang="en">John Roberts</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/samuel-alito" hreflang="en">Samuel Alito</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/espinoza-v-montana" hreflang="en">Espinoza v. Montana</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/montana" hreflang="en">Montana</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 30 Jun 2020 18:13:22 +0000 boston 16259 at https://www.au.org Despite What Christian Nationalists Say, Americans Are Wary Of Reopening Houses Of Worship https://www.au.org/blogs/pandemic-church-poll <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Despite What Christian Nationalists Say, Americans Are Wary Of Reopening Houses Of Worship</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, 06/29/2020 - 11:25</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/closed%20coronavirus%2C%203.31.20_0.jpg?h=58978e64&amp;itok=K420Yw3P" width="1700" height="525" alt="closed" title="closed sign" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>By Rebecca Rifkind-Brown</p> <p>Since the first outbreaks of the coronavirus in the United States a few months ago, houses of worship have been a site of contention as some religious leaders <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/may-2020-church-state-magazine/cover-story/church-state-and-coronavirus-a-worldwide">demanded that their services be exempt</a> from the public health orders that restricted large public gatherings.</p> <p>As the issue played out, numerous courts, including eventually the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled that government officials have the right to <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/supreme-court-protects-religious-freedom-public-health-by-allowing-california">restrict in-person meetings</a>, whether secular or religious.</p> <p>As many states have started to open up in the last few weeks and relax their restrictions, the number of coronavirus cases in many of those states has started to spike. Still, despite the increasing cases and public health risk, some religious leaders, backed by President Donald Trump, have pressured state governments to allow houses of worship to reopen for in-person services.</p> <p><a href="https://religionnews.com/2020/06/23/survey-most-americans-arent-comfortable-going-back-to-religious-services/">A recent study</a> by the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), however, shows that most Americans are wary of this move, and despite what Christian nationalists may assert, the people are in no rush to return to in-person services. Even in congregations that now offer in-person services, 56% of the survey respondents said that they still chose to not attend.</p> <p>In fact, only a small population of Americans feel comfortable returning to their houses of worship. It is the same group of people who were attacking or, in some instances, ignoring stay-at-home orders that restricted large public gatherings at houses of worship: white evangelicals. According to the recent survey, 34% of white evangelicals felt very comfortable returning to services, 27% felt somewhat comfortable, 21% felt somewhat uncomfortable, and 16% very uncomfortable.</p> <p>The number of white evangelicals who felt comfortable attending in-person services marks a stark contrast to most other Christian denominations. Among Black Protestants, only 9% responded that they would feel very comfortable attending in-person church services, and 42% said that they would feel very uncomfortable. White and Hispanic Catholics responded similarly to Black Protestants, with the majority saying that they would be uncomfortable attending services.</p> <p>The differences in responses to the survey are reflective of partisan distinctions in this country. The AEI poll found that 72% of Democrats said they have at least some concerns that a member of their household will fall ill to coronavirus, but only 43% of Republicans shared that fear.  </p> <p>As states reopen and loosen their restrictions, it is important to remember that despite the urging from Christian nationalist groups, the majority of Americans still do not feel comfortable exposing themselves to large public gatherings where the risk of infection is heightened. They’d rather take the sensible course of skipping services or attending them remotely.  </p> <p>Americans United <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic">continues to work</a> to ensure that religious organizations don’t receive special privileges during the pandemic that permit them to endanger public health. <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">We’d love to have your support!</a></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-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/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/polls" hreflang="en">polls</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/aei" hreflang="en">AEI</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 29 Jun 2020 15:25:37 +0000 boston 16250 at https://www.au.org Five Years Later, Christian Nationalist Predictions About Marriage Equality Look Pretty Silly https://www.au.org/blogs/obergefell-at-five <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Five Years Later, Christian Nationalist Predictions About Marriage Equality Look Pretty Silly </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, 06/25/2020 - 10:18</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/lesbian%20wedding.jpg?h=442cb677&amp;itok=Nn3HSa-g" width="1700" height="525" alt="wedding" title="country wedding" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in <em><a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf">Obergefell v. Hodges</a></em>, a ruling that had the effect of extending marriage equality nationwide.</p> <p>Prior to the decision and after it came down, Religious Right groups made a number of claims about marriage equality, predicting dire consequences from the ruling.</p> <p>Five years have passed. How many of these predictions have come true? Let’s take a look:</p> <p><strong><em>Western civilization will collapse:</em></strong> In October 2014, Christian nationalist attorney Mat Staver told a right-wing radio show that if the Supreme Court were to uphold marriage equality, <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/december-2014-church-state/featured/apocalypse-now">the consequences would be devastating. </a> </p> <p>“This is something that I believe is the beginning of the end of Western Civilization,” Staver said. “You can’t simply redefine and pretend that ontological differences between men and women do not exist. This will have consequences.”</p> <p>Admittedly, Western Civilization has taken a bit of a hit lately – all civilization has. But that’s due to the coronavirus pandemic and a reckoning over systemic racism, not marriage equality. In the main, Western Civilization is still plugging along.</p> <p><strong><em>The American people will rebel:</em></strong><em> </em>As states began legalizing same-sex marriage and courts started striking down bans on it in 2013, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, was certain the American people were going to rise up.</p> <p>“If you get government out of whack with where the people are and it goes too far, you create revolution,” <a href="https://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/perkins-revolution-possible-if-court-goes-too-far-on-marriage-equality-cases/">Perkins said while appearing on a right-wing radio show</a>. “I think you could see a social and cultural revolution if the court goes too far on this. [It] could literally split this nation in two and create such political and cultural turmoil that I’m not sure we could ever recover. …”</p> <p>Didn’t happen. Instead, the country underwent a fairly rapid shift in public opinion on the question of marriage equality. A number of polls now show support for it hitting the <a href="https://news.gallup.com/poll/257705/support-gay-marriage-stable.aspx">low to mid-60s</a>. Among millennials, support for marriage equality <a href="https://www.people-press.org/2013/03/20/growing-support-for-gay-marriage-changed-minds-and-changing-demographics/">is even higher</a> at 70 percent. Stick a fork in this one; it’s done.</p> <p><strong><em>Houses of worship will be forced to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples:</em></strong><strong> </strong>When it became obvious that marriage equality was coming to Alabama, Eric Johnston, president of the right-wing Southeast Law Institute, hit the panic button.</p> <p>“There will be a lot of lawsuits over whether ministers have to do it,” <a href="https://www.al.com/living/2015/01/can_churches_be_forced_to_perf.html">Johnston blathered</a>. “It will be a clash between fundamental rights under the Constitution.”</p> <p>What nonsense. The flood of lawsuits never materialized, in part because it’s obvious that houses of worship have an ironclad right to decide to whom they will extend their sacraments and religious services. Nothing about that has changed since June 26, 2015. The number of houses of worship that have been compelled to allow same-sex couples to marry stands at zero.</p> <p><strong><em>Religious conservatives will be imprisoned:</em></strong><em> </em>James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, seriously argued that people would be <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/september-2015-church-state/featured/mad-men">sent to prison</a> for refusing to accept marriage equality.</p> <p>“Many of us will be dragged into court to be prosecuted or subjected to civil judgments,” <a href="https://catholiccitizens.org/views/61167/i-fear-judgment-befalling-america/">Dobson groused in a column</a>. “… Some may go to prison as the years unfold.”</p> <p>Wrong again. No one is sitting behind bars for refusing to accept marriage equality. (Anti-LGBTQ Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was briefly in jail, but that’s because she was <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/kentucky-clerk-kim-davis-held-contempt-court-n421126">found guilty of contempt of court</a>. Davis, a government official, defied court orders and refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even after <em>Obergefell</em> had come down.)</p> <p><strong><em>Religious freedom will be obliterated:</em></strong><em> </em>After <em>Obergefell</em> was handed down, Bryan Fischer, a radio talk show host affiliated with the American Family Association, <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/september-2015-church-state/featured/mad-men">tweeted</a>: “Every advance of the gay agenda comes at the expense of religious liberty. As of today, free exercise is toast.”</p> <p>But the free exercise of religion is not toast – it’s not even scorched. In the post-<em>Obergefell</em> world, people remained free to meet in houses of worship for prayer and fellowship. Pastors who disliked the ruling had the ability to criticize it from the pulpit. No church had to admit LGBTQ members. Nothing changed. It’s true that secular, for-profit businesses were expected to follow state and local anti-discrimination laws and serve everyone equally – but that doesn’t stop anyone from worshipping as they please. It’s a strange definition of “religious freedom” that allows one person to treat another like a second-class citizen.</p> <p><strong><em>People will start marrying animals, microwave ovens, lakes, etc.</em></strong><strong>:</strong> U.S. Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) were big fans of this <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/04/republicans-predict-fraud-bestiality-if-gay-marriage-is-legalized">insipid talking point</a>. Some assertions are simply too stupid to merit a reply. This is one of them.</p> <p>Even as these claims were being made, we at Americans United were debunking them. They just aren’t true. Will the Christian nationalist groups that spread them take an honest look back five years later and admit they were wrong?</p> <p>Don’t hold your breath.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-by-public-officials" hreflang="en">Discrimination by Public Officials</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/churches-and-gay-marriage" hreflang="en">churches and gay marriage</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/civil-marriage" hreflang="en">civil marriage</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/tony-perkins" hreflang="en">Tony Perkins</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/bryan-fischer" hreflang="en">Bryan Fischer</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/james-dobson" hreflang="en">James Dobson</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/focus-family" hreflang="en">Focus On The Family</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/frc-0" hreflang="en">FRC</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/afa" hreflang="en">AFA</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/kim-davis" hreflang="en">Kim Davis</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/rep-louie-gohmert" hreflang="en">Rep. Louie Gohmert</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/rick-santorum" hreflang="en">Rick Santorum</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> Thu, 25 Jun 2020 14:18:43 +0000 boston 16248 at https://www.au.org