The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/blogs/feed en Black History Month Spotlight: U.S. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/black-history-month-spotlight-us-del-eleanor-holmes-norton <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Black History Month Spotlight: U.S. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton </span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/67749" lang="" about="/user/67749" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">Hassanein</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 02/16/2018 - 10:08</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/rokia-hassanein" hreflang="und">Rokia Hassanein</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/eleanorholmes_edit.jpg" width="629" height="247" alt="eleanor speech" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p><em>February marks </em><a href="http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month"><em>Black History Month</em></a><em>, a month to appreciate the accomplishments that African-Americans have made throughout American history. This month, we are highlighting the important role African-American figures have played, and continue to play, in promoting true religious freedom and church-state separation</em>.</p> <p>Among the biggest advocates of church-state separation and religious freedom is civil rights icon <a href="https://norton.house.gov/">U.S. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton</a> (D-D.C.). Holmes Norton was the first woman appointed as chair of the <a href="https://www.eeoc.gov/">Equal Employment Opportunity Commission</a>, and during her time there she worked on immensely important issues, including combatting religious discrimination, to protect the civil rights of all Americans, regardless of race, gender, religion and the like.</p> <p>With her hefty resume of civil rights, it’s no surprise that Holmes Norton is a strong anti-voucher advocate in Congress. Voucher <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/facts#Rights">schemes remain a threat to civil rights</a> and <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/facts#ReligiousFreedom">religious freedom</a> because they don’t provide the same rights and protections to students as public schools, and selectively choose which students to serve. Studies also revealed that <a href="https://tcf.org/content/report/private-school-vouchers-pose-threat-integration/">racial segregation is higher in private schools</a> and that school voucher schemes favor white children.</p> <blockquote> <p>With her hefty resume of civil rights, it’s no surprise that Holmes Norton is a strong anti-voucher advocate in Congress.</p> </blockquote> <p>Vouchers have a <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/reports/2017/07/12/435629/racist-origins-private-school-vouchers/">troubling history</a>. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregation in public schools in 1954’s <a href="http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/history-brown-v-board-education-re-enactment"><em>Brown v. Board of Education</em></a>, officials in some counties, notably in Virginia, closed their public schools and gave white parents financial assistance to send their children to private academies that practiced segregation. In Congress, Holmes Norton has strongly <a href="https://norton.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/norton-releases-opening-statement-for-markup-of-dc-private-school">opposed the D.C. voucher program</a>, which is the only federally funded voucher program in the country.</p> <p>In addition to pushing back against voucher programs that pick and choose which students to serve, Holmes Norton is also a critic of the government picking and choosing which religious groups they deem worthy of entering the country. She co-sponsored the Freedom of Religion Act, which would ensure that immigrants, refugees and international travelers are not barred from entering the United States solely because of their religion.</p> <p>“The very first Americans were refugees from religious oppression. It is unthinkable that in the 21st century a religion bar would be considered,” Holmes <a href="http://mondoweiss.net/2016/05/interfaith-coalition-religion/">Norton said</a> of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entry to America. “Virtually every American believes there can be no religious test or exclusion of an immigrant to our country. That was the very first principle and it’s time we put that very first principle into law.”</p> <p>More recently, Holmes Norton fought for women to protect a D.C. anti-discrimination law, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health care decisions – a law that the far-right has been attempting to prevent from being enforced by claiming “religious freedom” objections.</p> <p>“No employer has the right to know, much less interfere, with the most private of health decisions of their employees,” she <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/house-republican-seeks-to-quash-dc-law-banning-reproductive-discrimination/2017/08/25/03c758e0-89b6-11e7-a94f-3139abce39f5_story.html?utm_term=.a3791159f5c6">said</a>.</p> <p>Holmes Norton is also a fierce defender of the Johnson Amendment, a federal law that protects the integrity of houses of worship and nonprofits from politicians using them as campaign tools for endorsement. Throughout her defense of the law, which Trump vowed to “totally destroy,” Holmes Norton emphasized that houses of worship serve communities, not candidates. </p> <p>“Clergy are among our most powerful groups and know how to make their voices heard to protect their unique place in American society, and the overwhelming majority of clergy oppose repealing the Johnson Amendment,” she said in a May statement after Trump signed a “religious freedom” executive order that he claimed (incorrectly) would weaken enforcement of the Johnson Amendment. “Clergy already enjoy great leeway in their houses of worship when it comes to political speech, and some of the most political figures in our country are ministers and rabbis.”</p> <p>Holmes Norton’s contributions to civil rights and social justice in the United States are impressive, and we appreciate her including church-state separation and religious freedom among the important issues she continues to champion. </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/eleanor-holmes-norton" hreflang="en">Eleanor Holmes Norton</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 16 Feb 2018 15:08:43 +0000 Hassanein 13692 at https://www.au.org Striking Down The Muslim Ban, A Federal Appeals Court Has Landed An Important Blow For Religious Freedom https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/striking-down-the-muslim-ban-a-federal-appeals-court-has-landed-an <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Striking Down The Muslim Ban, A Federal Appeals Court Has Landed An Important Blow For Religious Freedom </span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/67749" lang="" about="/user/67749" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">Hassanein</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 02/15/2018 - 14:57</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/andrew-nellis" hreflang="und">Andrew Nellis</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/muslimcropped.jpg" width="2108" height="1060" alt="Muslim Woman " typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>At long last, the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today issued <a href="https://www.muslimadvocates.org/wp-content/uploads/172231.pdf">its ruling</a> in <em>IAAB v. Trump</em>, the challenge brought by Americans United and its allies to the current iteration of President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.</p> <p>As we hoped, the court ruled in our favor, agreeing with us that the ban likely violates the Constitution because of the strong evidence that President Donald Trump’s purpose was to exclude Muslims from the United States.</p> <p>But it may feel like Groundhog Day to faithful readers of this blog.  Trump’s Muslim ban, in one form or another, <a href="https://www.au.org/content/au-fights-trumps-muslim-ban">has been litigated</a> up and down the courts all around the country for more than a year now. And indeed, the courts have repeatedly blocked it for one reason or another, including for violating the First Amendment’s promise of governmental neutrality toward religion.</p> <p>So rather than recite once more the gross litany of anti-Muslim statements that Trump has made or rehash the many ways that the ban violates the Constitution, let’s talk about what’s different this time.</p> <blockquote> <p>The majority of the 4th Circuit declared that the ban is “not only a likely Establishment Clause violation, but also strikes at the basic notion that the government may not act based on ‘religious animosity.’”</p> </blockquote> <p>Today was the first time that a federal court of appeals ruled that the <em>current</em> version of the ban, released in September, is a Muslim ban – and  thus that it violates the Constitution by targeting Muslims for disfavor. Another court of appeals – the  9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – previously  ruled that the ban could not stand, but on different grounds; that court determined that the ban violates our country’s immigration laws. But today’s majority opinion, written by Chief Judge Roger Gregory on behalf of a nine-judge majority, decides the constitutional question. (Five judges on the 4th Circuit in today’s decision believe that the ban <em>also </em>violates the immigration laws.)</p> <p>That the court today ruled on the constitutional question matters for a couple of reasons. First, the Supreme Court has already decided to review the 9th Circuit’s decision and thus is expected to issue an opinion by late June on the legality of the Muslim ban. And though the court stated that it would consider not only whether the Muslim ban violates the immigration laws but also whether it violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause – the  part of the Constitution that prevents the government from favoring certain religions over others, or all religions over none – until  today, the high court wouldn’t have had the benefit of a well-reasoned appellate decision explaining how  Trump’s actions trample that critical constitutional protection of religious freedom.</p> <p>And second, as Judge Pamela Harris pointed out today in a concurring opinion, the Muslim ban is an “extraordinary” case. Most often, church-state  cases center on governmental favoritism toward a particular faith or toward religion generally, both of which are, of course, unconstitutional. But the Muslim ban is the other side of the coin: The president acted “on the basis of <em>animus</em> toward a disfavored religious minority.” As Judge Harris put it: “The principle that government decision-making should not be informed by religious animus is so well and deeply understood in this country that there are few violations recorded.”</p> <p>That’s exactly right, and the majority of the 4th Circuit seems to agree, declaring that the ban is “not only a likely Establishment Clause violation, but also strikes at the basic notion that the government may not act based on ‘religious animosity.’”</p> <p>Today’s ruling is so important because it is imperative that the Supreme Court understands how far the Muslim ban falls short of our fundamental constitutional commitments. The Supreme Court justices, like the rest of us, have been living in a country in which a Muslim ban has been official government policy for over a year. It’s only natural that the outrage that this idea <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/this-weekend-at-dulles-international-airport">originally provoked</a> may dull somewhat in the face of a constant rush of newer shocks and provocations from the Trump–Pence administration. But we – and  the Supreme Court – must  not lose sight of how truly outrageous and antithetical to the basic promises of the Constitution a “Muslim ban” is.</p> <p>To quote today’s ruling again, “on a fundamental level, the Proclamation second-guesses our nation’s dedication to religious freedom and tolerance. . . . When we compromise our values as to some, we shake the foundation as to all.”</p> <p>That’s why Americans United will not stop fighting this ban. When it comes time for the Supreme Court to hear this issue, you can be sure that we will be there to say that, in America, there can be no Muslim ban, ever. </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/religious-minorities-rights" hreflang="en">Religious Minorities&#039; Rights</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/muslim-ban" hreflang="en">Muslim Ban</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/iranian-alliances-across-borders-v-trump" hreflang="en">Iranian Alliances Across Borders v. Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/lawsuit/iaab-v-trump" hreflang="en">IAAB v. Trump</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 15 Feb 2018 19:57:32 +0000 Hassanein 13691 at https://www.au.org State Legislatures Are Considering More Bills Than Ever to Allow College Student Groups to Use Religion to Discriminate https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/state-legislatures-are-considering-more-bills-than-ever-to-allow-college <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden"> State Legislatures Are Considering More Bills Than Ever to Allow College Student Groups to Use Religion to Discriminate</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/67749" lang="" about="/user/67749" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">Hassanein</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:15</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/samantha-sokol" hreflang="und">Samantha Sokol</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/studentgroupscropped_0.jpg" width="2097" height="1039" alt="student groups" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>It’s February, and that means students across the country are back on college and university campuses for a new semester.  One of the highlights of campus life is joining student groups. But in some states, students at public universities could be denied the opportunity to participate in a student club because of who they are.</p> <p>Across the country, state legislatures are <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/state-legislation-2018#2018Student">considering bills</a> that exempt religious clubs from nondiscrimination policies. Many colleges have “all-comers” policies that require officially recognized student groups to allow any student to join, participate in, and seek leadership in those groups. These policies ensure that your taxpayer dollars and students’ tuition fees don’t subsidize discrimination. But legislators across the country have introduced bills that would create a massive loophole in these nondiscrimination safeguards for religious groups. The result: student groups could discriminate against anyone who doesn’t adhere to their sincerely held religious beliefs, all while getting school funding and official recognition.</p> <p>Initially aimed at excluding LGBTQ students from the leadership of campus Christian clubs, these bills allow religious student groups at public universities to also exclude students from membership or leadership positions because:</p> <ul><li>They are the “wrong” religion, or;</li> <li>They don’t adhere to an organization’s statement of faith or standards of conduct. This could allow discrimination against nearly anyone for nearly any reason—for instance, because they don’t attend church often enough or because they are a single mom.</li> </ul><blockquote> <p>Religious freedom is the right to believe—or not—as we see fit. It doesn’t include a right to discriminate—and especially not while using taxpayer dollars or using the tuition fees of the very students who are being excluded. Religious student groups, of course, still have First Amendment rights on campus. They have been able to access school facilities for their meetings and use school bulletin boards to advertise their events like any other group. But they don’t have the right to force public universities to subsidize discrimination. If student groups want to discriminate, they shouldn’t receive public university recognition, tuition fees, or state taxpayer money to do so.</p> </blockquote> <p>This isn’t the first time we’re seeing these bills in state legislatures. Both <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/posts/2016/5/12/1fd5mfso920ua8czbgouw5nw5ev4in">Kansas</a> and <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/2017-state-legislation/2017/3/17/kentuckyhb-17">Kentucky</a> have passed similar bills in past years. But the number of bills has doubled in 2018 since last year, with 10 bills introduced already, compared to <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/state-legislation-2017#2017Student">5 in 2017</a> and <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/state-legislation-2016#2016Student">3 in 2016</a>. Why has the number of student groups bills skyrocketed this year? We can’t be sure, but some are tied to bills pushed by legislators to respond to <a href="http://time.com/4955245/milo-yiannopoulos-berkeley-free-speech-week/">protests that shut down some alt-right and conservative speakers</a> on campus in 2017. But sanctioning discrimination in the name of religion is never the right thing to do.</p> <p>There’s one state in particular we’ve been watching closely: in Virginia, one of these bills, <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/2018-state-legislation/2018/1/12/virginiahb-1274">HB 1274</a>, passed a subcommittee by a vote of 8-0. This bill would have allow discrimination by student groups against nearly anyone for nearly any reason that doesn’t conform with the group’s mission—it was as bad as it gets. But we have good news: this week, the House Education Committee left HB 1274 in committee, which means it’s most likely dead for the rest of the year.</p> <p>But there are still nine more bills alive in other states. You can join us too in fighting these student groups bills that allow discrimination in the name of religion on public university campuses. <a href="https://www.au.org/get-involved/updates">Sign up for our emails </a>and we’ll notify you if a bill like this one that uses religion to discriminate is moving in your state, and give you opportunities to fight back. We need your help to ensure that religious freedom is not used to as an excuse to exclude and discriminate on our state university campuses!</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-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/state-legislation" hreflang="en">state legislation</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 15 Feb 2018 16:15:23 +0000 Hassanein 13689 at https://www.au.org Notre Dame Flip-Flops Again, Will Deny Women Access To Some Forms Of Birth Control https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/notre-dame-flip-flops-again-will-deny-women-access-to-some-forms-of-birth <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Notre Dame Flip-Flops Again, Will Deny Women Access To Some Forms Of Birth Control</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 02/14/2018 - 14:01</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/liz-hayes" hreflang="und">Liz Hayes</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/Birth%20Control%20Pills%20cropped.jpg" width="1199" height="460" alt="Birth Control Pills" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The University of Notre Dame has flip-flopped again: Notre Dame President the Rev. John Jenkins <a href="http://president.nd.edu/writings-addresses/2018-writings/letter-on-health-care-coverage/">announced</a> this month that university-sponsored health insurance plans for students and staff will stop covering some forms of birth control. The decision will affect more than 17,000 people who rely on the school for health insurance.</p> <p>That’s yet another reversal in course from the university in less than six months. In November, Notre Dame <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/11/notre-dame-birth-control-obamacare-reversal/545282/">promised</a> that its plans would continue to provide students and employees with a method for accessing birth control.</p> <p>A few weeks before that, Notre Dame was one of the first and most prominent organizations <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/10/notre-dame-pulls-contraceptive-coverage-following-new-trump-administration-rule/">to announce</a> it would take advantage of <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/contraception-coverage-litigation#TrumpRegs">new rules</a> proposed on Oct. 6 by the Trump administration that would allow employers and universities to cite religious beliefs as justification for denying women access to birth control.</p> <p>Religious freedom is about fairness. It’s not fair for an employer or university to deny women access to crucial health care – a benefit guaranteed by law. Stripping insurance coverage for birth control is discrimination, plain and simple.</p> <p>Americans United has been monitoring this situation closely. In October, AU, joined by the National Women’s Law Center and the law firm Dentons, filed a <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/americans-united-sues-trump-administration-over-rules-that-threaten-women-s">federal lawsuit</a>, <em>Shiraef v. Hargan</em>, challenging the Trump rules because they discriminate against women and violate religious freedom. We represented several Notre Dame students whose access to contraception was in jeopardy.</p> <blockquote> <p>Religious freedom is about fairness. It’s not fair for an employer or university to deny women access to crucial health care – a benefit guaranteed by law. Stripping insurance coverage for birth control is discrimination, plain and simple.</p> </blockquote> <p>After we filed our lawsuit, Notre Dame reversed course and promised its insurance plans would include birth control. Since our plaintiffs now had access to birth control, AU and the NWLC on Feb. 2 <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/declaring-victory-for-plaintiffs-groups-withdraw-lawsuit-against-trump">withdrew</a> the case. (Meanwhile, in related lawsuits, federal judges in California and Pennsylvania <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/february-2018-church-state/people-events/two-federal-courts-block-trump">have blocked</a> the Trump rules from going into effect).</p> <p>Days after we withdrew the case, Jenkins issued a letter to the Notre Dame community with a new position: While the university will continue to provide coverage for “simple contraceptives (i.e., drugs designed to prevent conception),” it will <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/notre-dame-switches-its-position-on-contraception-coverage-again/552605/">stop covering</a> some forms of birth control it considers “abortion-inducing.”</p> <p>It is not immediately clear what forms of birth control Notre Dame will refuse to cover in its plans, but it could include IUDs, the morning-after pill or other long-acting contraceptives – types of FDA-approved birth control that women depend upon.</p> <p>Notre Dame is supposed to clarify its latest position next month and Americans United will be watching the situation closely. We will continue to fight to ensure our plaintiffs – and all women – have seamless, low-cost access to birth control to protect their health and equality.</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-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/notre-dame" hreflang="en">Notre Dame</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/shiraef-v-hargan" hreflang="en">Shiraef v. Hargan</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 14 Feb 2018 19:01:39 +0000 LHayes 13683 at https://www.au.org North Carolina Gov. Cooper Should Veto The Voucher Expansion https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/north-carolina-gov-cooper-should-veto-the-voucher-expansion <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">North Carolina Gov. Cooper Should Veto The Voucher Expansion</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 02/14/2018 - 11:11</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/nik-nartowicz" hreflang="en">Nik Nartowicz</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/Empty%20Classroom%202%20cropped.jpg" width="5586" height="1593" alt="Empty classroom" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>There’s a <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/facts">long list</a> of reasons why private school vouchers are problematic. Even though these reasons are <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/facts">well-documented</a>, state legislatures keep trying to funnel more money away from public schools to private, religious schools. Unfortunately, North Carolina is no different. Legislators in that state just tried to sneak a provision into an education bill, <a href="https://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2017&amp;BillID=H90">HB 90</a>, that would expand one of their voucher programs. We are <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2018-02/NC%20Vouchers%20Veto%20Letter%202.14.18.pdf">urging</a> Gov. Roy Cooper (D) to veto it.</p> <p>Last year, North Carolina legislators decided that the state’s two voucher programs weren’t enough, so they created a new program called the Personal Education Savings Account (PESA) for students with disabilities. The PESAs are set to begin in the 2018-2019 school year. Legislators couldn’t wait for the program to even begin before trying to expand eligibility.</p> <p>They must have known this move would be unpopular though, because they tried to sneak the voucher expansion into an unrelated education bill, HB 90. The House and Senate both passed HB 90 last year. Then last Thursday, legislators met in conference to work out the differences in the versions they passed. By the time they were done that evening, they had created an entirely new – and <a href="https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/north-carolina/articles/2018-02-08/bill-fixing-north-carolinas-class-size-challenge-loaded-up">controversial</a> – bill. Among other things, it now contains the voucher expansion. Both chambers then acted very quickly: The Senate approved this new bill by Friday afternoon, and the House approved it yesterday.</p> <p>To qualify under the current program, students must have a disability and meet one other criteria from a set list, such as being a full-time student at a public school, entering kindergarten or first grade or being in foster care. If HB 90 passes, the program would be open to all students with disabilities who are eligible to attend a public school. This is a significant expansion.</p> <blockquote> <p>Students who leave public schools with a voucher forfeit many of the protections provided to students under IDEA. As a result, students with disabilities have been systematically excluded from voucher programs around the country.</p> </blockquote> <p>Although we support the goal of improving educational opportunities for <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/students-with-disabilities">students with disabilities</a>, vouchers harm rather than improve <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/academic-achievement">educational outcomes</a>. And private voucher schools <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/690/688444.pdf">are not required to adhere to the federal civil rights laws</a> that protect those students. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that students with disabilities are provided with a free appropriate public education that is tailored to their individual needs. Students who leave public schools with a voucher forfeit many of the protections provided to students under IDEA. As a result, students with disabilities have been systematically excluded from voucher programs around the country.  In fact, under the North Carolina program, voucher schools are not even prohibited from refusing to admit students based upon a disability. That just doesn’t make sense.</p> <p>North Carolina’s already existing voucher programs demonstrate that vouchers don’t work. <a href="https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/docs/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf">One analysis</a> shows that a majority of voucher students scored below the 50th percentile on standardized tests two years in a row. Voucher schools in North Carolina also are unaccountable: They don’t have to be accredited or adhere to state curricular or graduation standards. And they can discriminate in their admission process, meaning they can refuse students because of their disability status, religion, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.</p> <p>Unfortunately, in North Carolina’s existing voucher programs, the vast majority of public funding goes to private religious schools: 93 percent of vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools. And, like all private schools, they can take taxpayer dollars and then reject students because they are the “wrong” religion or because they have a disability. Government funding of religious discrimination violates the religious freedom of all North Carolinians.</p> <p>You can let Gov. Cooper know that you oppose this bill, too. <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/STkaEq3hTUSDm5diDrXPXg2">Click here</a> for our action alert.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/schools" hreflang="en">Schools</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/private-school-vouchers" hreflang="en">Private School Vouchers</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/north-carolina" hreflang="en">North Carolina</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 14 Feb 2018 16:11:12 +0000 LHayes 13681 at https://www.au.org West Virginia Senators Want To Bring The Bible – And Religion – To The Classroom https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/west-virginia-senators-want-to-bring-the-bible-and-religion-to-the <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">West Virginia Senators Want To Bring The Bible – And Religion – To The Classroom</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 02/13/2018 - 12:20</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/nik-nartowicz" hreflang="en">Nik Nartowicz</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/Bible%20in%20Classroom%20cropped_0.jpg" width="5393" height="2129" alt="Bible in classroom" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The West Virginia Senate is considering a bill, <a href="http://www.wvlegislature.gov/Bill_Text_HTML/2018_SESSIONS/RS/bills/SB252%20INTR.pdf">SB 252</a>, that would allow public schools to offer classes that teach about the Bible. Under the U.S. Constitution, public schools may teach about the Bible, but there are strict requirements that courts have said the courses must meet – and experience shows that schools struggle to meet these requirements. Often, <a href="https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2018/01/09/bible-literacy-courses-kentucky-schools-breaking-law-aclu-says/1014481001/">these Bible classes</a> resemble Sunday school lessons, rather than public school courses. That is why Americans United sent a <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2018-02/WV%20Bible%20Class%202.13.2018.pdf">letter</a> to the West Virginia Education Committee earlier today urging them to reject the bill.</p> <p>Federal courts have said time and again that Bible courses must be taught from a secular, objective perspective. And the courses must be taught in a non-devotional manner, with no attempt made to indoctrinate students as to either the truth or falsity of biblical materials.</p> <p>Unfortunately, SB 252 doesn’t mandate any of these things. Instead, the bill says that the courses must “follow applicable law . . . and federal and state guidelines,” leaving it completely up to the school or teacher to figure out exactly how to do that.</p> <p>We know from experience that these classes usually end up violating the constitution. For example, last year, Kentucky passed a bill, <a href="http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/17RS/HB128.htm">HB 128</a>, that is essentially identical to the West Virginia bill. And the classes taught in Kentucky have clearly been used to proselytize students. The ACLU <a href="https://www.aclu.org/blog/religious-liberty/religion-and-public-schools/kentucky-public-school-bible-courses-look-more">examined</a> classes across the state and found troubling results. Students were required to watch religious videos promoting Christianity, and it appeared classroom materials came from Sunday school websites.  Kentucky’s experience should serve as a warning to West Virginia.</p> <blockquote> <p>Under the U.S. Constitution, public schools may teach about the Bible, but there are strict requirements that courts have said the courses must meet – and experience shows that schools struggle to meet these requirements. Often, these Bible classes resemble Sunday school lessons, rather than public school courses.</p> </blockquote> <p>It’s no surprise that the guidelines aren’t more rigorous when you see what the bill sponsor, Sen. Michael Azinger (R), said about it at a recent <a href="http://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00289/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20180201/-1/19767">committee hearing</a>. It appears he introduced this bill not so students could learn about the Bible’s influence on literature and art – but so that students would be taught religion.</p> <p>Azinger said, “We live in an age of confusion in a lot of areas … This is a humanistic era where truth is relative . . . One thing the Bible does is it brings moral clarity.” And, he lamented that “removing” the Bible from public schools led to a “dramatic cause and effect in social ills.”</p> <p>Luckily, Angela Mann, a principal in West Virginia, was on hand to answer some questions. She took the chance to point out that there are religious texts from a wide variety of religions, not just the Christian Bible, that people study and follow. She told Azinger that the “country was founded on religious freedom.” Mann is right, even if some in the West Virginia Senate want to ignore her. Religious freedom means that students and parents get to decide how and when to engage with religion, if at all.</p> <p>Hopefully, the Education Committee will reject this bill. We’ll be watching to see if it passes, and we’ll fight it at every step. If you live in West Virginia, use our <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/SoEq8EJs3kqRud3jUW-9ng2">action alert</a> to let your legislators know you oppose the bill also. But West Virginia isn’t the only state with a bill like this. Iowa and Alabama have introduced similar bills this year, and your state could be next. Make sure to follow us on <a href="https://twitter.com/americansunited">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/americansunited">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/Z0BKvxZt40GCdoNOrhgWkw2">sign up for our action alerts</a> so you can lend your support to fighting these bills wherever the pop up.</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/schools" hreflang="en">Schools</a></div> <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/west-virginia" hreflang="en">West Virginia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/bibles" hreflang="en">Bibles</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 13 Feb 2018 17:20:40 +0000 LHayes 13680 at https://www.au.org Trump Budget Proposal Would Funnel $1 Billion To Private, Mostly Religious Schools https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/trump-budget-proposal-would-funnel-1-billion-to-private-mostly-religious <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Trump Budget Proposal Would Funnel $1 Billion To Private, Mostly Religious Schools</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 02/12/2018 - 16:21</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/liz-hayes" hreflang="und">Liz Hayes</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/Empty%20Classroom%20cropped_0.jpg" width="5474" height="1746" alt="Empty classroom" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>President Donald Trump today proposed a $4.4 trillion <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/budget-fy2019.pdf">federal budget</a> for next year that would slash the Department of Education’s budget by about 5 percent – all while diverting $1 billion of the remaining money to fund private school vouchers and related schemes.</p> <p>Advancing the misguided <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/betsy-devos-top-priority-for-public-education-includes-private-school">top priority</a> set forth by Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, this latest budget proposal would divert a billion dollars in desperately needed public funds to private, mostly religious schools. That’s four times the amount Trump <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/here-s-the-skinny-trump-s-trying-to-push-a-voucher-plan-on-us">proposed for vouchers in his last budget</a>.</p> <p>Public money should fund public schools, which educate 90 percent of American schoolchildren. Taxpayers simply can’t afford to fund two education systems – a public one that serves everyone, and a private one that serves only a select few.</p> <blockquote> <p>Public money should fund public schools, which educate 90 percent of American schoolchildren.</p> </blockquote> <p>Americans United recently produced a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa5-oqMpLXE&amp;feature=youtu.be">video</a> that outlines how vouchers are bad for students, families, public schools and taxpayers because they undermine public education and religious freedom. Problems with voucher programs include:</p> <ul><li>Private schools accepting vouchers don’t offer students the same civil rights protections required of public schools, particularly for students with disabilities and LGBTQ children.</li> <li><a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/studies/">Numerous studies</a> and investigations have found that not only do students using vouchers not improve academically, but in many cases, their academic performance is worse.</li> <li>Voucher proponents mislead families by offering them the premise of choice when it really is private schools that have all the choices because they can pick and choose which students to accept.</li> <li>Vouchers often don’t cover the entire cost of private schools, making private schools unaffordable for many families even with a voucher. And those children who remain in public schools are left with fewer resources because voucher programs drain funding from public schools.</li> <li>Taxpayers should not be compelled to fund religious schools whose teachings they may not agree with.</li> </ul><p>Despite touting private school vouchers and related schemes for the past year, Trump and DeVos still have not yet laid out exactly how they would spend federal money on vouchers. Rather than using public money to expand existing voucher programs and create new ones, the Education Department should be focused on improving and strengthening our public schools that serve all children.</p> <p>You can help protect our public schools by <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/RM4O1EoCXEGiUm_lgArhQA2">urging your members of Congress and state legislators</a> to oppose any private school voucher plans.</p> <p>***</p> <p>Trump’s budget proposal also continues the administration’s attacks on health care in the name of religion.</p> <p>It includes language that would prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services from distributing family planning, Medicaid and other federal program funds to health care providers whose services include abortions, even though federal dollars already are prevented from directly funding abortion services. The language represents the far-right’s long-threatened attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading reproductive health care provider whose health centers serve 2.4 million people annually.</p> <p>It also would also block federal funding from being used in support of the Washington, D.C., Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (<a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/posts/2017/9/13/us-house-to-vote-on-amendment-blocking-dc-nondiscrimination-law?rq=RHNDA">RHNDAA</a>) that protects employees from discrimination based on their reproductive health decisions. Opponents of the D.C.-passed law falsely claim that prohibiting such discrimination violates religious freedom.</p> <p>These proposals come on the heels of the administration’s recent attempts to allow <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/contraception-regulations">employers, universities</a> and <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/2017-2018-federal-legislation/2018/1/19/proposed-health-and-human-services-religious-freedom-rule">health care providers</a> to use religion as an excuse to deny women, LGBTQ patients, religious minorities and others access to critical health care. Religious freedom is about fairness. It is not fair to use religion as an excuse to discriminate, especially when a person’s health is on the line.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/schools" hreflang="en">Schools</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/private-school-vouchers" hreflang="en">Private School Vouchers</a></div> </div> </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/budget" hreflang="en">Budget</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 12 Feb 2018 21:21:27 +0000 LHayes 13679 at https://www.au.org Memo To Foes Of Church-State Separation: Thomas Jefferson Is Not Your Ally https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/memo-to-foes-of-church-state-separation-thomas-jefferson-is-not-your-ally <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Memo To Foes Of Church-State Separation: Thomas Jefferson Is Not Your Ally </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, 02/12/2018 - 09:53</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/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/images/blog_post/Steve%20Scalise%20Prayer%20Breakfast%20cropped_0.png" width="850" height="281" alt="Rep. Scalise at prayer breakfast" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>A video of U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) has been floating around on the internet. <a href="https://twitter.com/nowthisnews/status/962763926034251776">During the video</a>, which was taken during Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast, Scalise asserts that it’s impossible to separate church and state and cites Thomas Jefferson, whom he calls “the author of the Constitution.”</p> <p>There are times when the irony meter explodes, and this is one of them. Let’s start with the obvious factual error: Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. Jefferson was in France during the Constitutional Convention. James Madison is the Father of the Constitution and a primary author of the First Amendment. (A strong argument can be made that the church-state provisions of the First Amendment were influenced by Jefferson’s <a href="https://www.virginiahistory.org/collections-and-resources/virginia-history-explorer/thomas-jefferson">Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom</a>, but it was Madison who did the heavy lifting.)</p> <p>More to the point, Scalise’s argument fails because Jefferson was one of the strongest advocates of separation of church and state ever to occupy the White House. On New Year’s Day, 1802, Jefferson <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/january-2002-church-state/featured/priority-mail">drafted a famous letter</a> to the Danbury, Conn., Baptist Association that invoked the metaphor of the First Amendment erecting a “wall of separation between church and state.”</p> <blockquote> <p>Jefferson abhorred the idea of state-established religion and was no 'Christian nation' advocate.</p> </blockquote> <p>As president, Jefferson refused to issue proclamations calling for official days of prayer and fasting. “I do not believe,” <a href="http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_religions60.html">he observed in an 1808 letter</a>, “it is for the interest of religion to invite the magistrate to direct its exercises, it disciplines or its doctrines….”</p> <p>Scalise relies heavily on a quote from Jefferson that is engraved on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”</p> <p>What Scalise fails to realize is that it was quite possible for Jefferson to hold a belief like this yet still insist that freedom of conscience be extended to all and that the government refrain from meddling in religious matters. Jefferson abhorred the idea of state-established religion and was no “Christian nation” advocate.</p> <p>Furthermore, his personal religious views – he admired Jesus as a great moral teacher but rejected his divinity and the miracles of the New Testament – hardly qualify him as the kind of devout Christian who would seek to mix church and state. Indeed, according to the strict litmus test laid down by today’s Religious Right, Jefferson would not qualify as a Christian at all. This is the man after all, who took a knife to the Gospels, cutting away what he did not accept and pasting up what was left to create <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Jefferson-Bible-Smithsonian-Morals-Nazareth/dp/158834312X">a private devotional</a>.  (In a remarkable <a href="http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/presidents/thomas-jefferson/letters-of-thomas-jefferson/jefl259.php">1819 letter</a> to his friend William Short, Jefferson listed the doctrines of Christianity that he did not accept. The list reads: “The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, etc.”)</p> <p>It’s obvious that Scalise is no fan of separation of church and state. He has the right to hold that view – but he has no right to draft Jefferson as an ally in his ill-considered crusade.</p> <p>P.S. Americans United has a pamphlet that debunks the “Christian nation” myth. You can <a href="https://www.au.org/resources/publications/is-america-a-christian-nation">read it here</a>.</p> <p> </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/thomas-jefferson" hreflang="en">thomas jefferson</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/rep-steve-scalise" hreflang="en">Rep. Steve Scalise</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/national-prayer-breakfast" hreflang="en">National Prayer Breakfast</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/james-madison" hreflang="en">James Madison</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/christian-nation-myth" hreflang="en">Christian nation myth</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 12 Feb 2018 14:53:15 +0000 boston 13675 at https://www.au.org Congress Slips ‘Hurricane Vouchers’ Into Budget Bill https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/congress-slips-hurricane-vouchers-into-budget-bill <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Congress Slips ‘Hurricane Vouchers’ Into Budget Bill</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 02/09/2018 - 10:23</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/maggie-garrett" hreflang="und">Maggie Garrett</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/Female%20Student%20Raising%20Hand%20cropped.jpg" width="5867" height="2129" alt="Female Student in Public School" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>This morning, Congress passed a budget deal to avoid a prolonged government shutdown. The deal includes lots of other measures, including a disaster-relief package for those affected by the 2017 hurricanes and wildfires. Tucked within that proposal is a reckless provision that funnels taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools.</p> <p>After the devastating hurricanes and wildfires of 2017, many families were displaced and students had to change schools, in addition to their neighborhoods. For example, <a href="http://www.courant.com/education/hc-news-puerto-rican-school-kids-hurricane-20171115-story.html">nearly 1,500 displaced students</a> – most from Puerto Rico – have been admitted into public schools in Connecticut.</p> <p>The schools accepting these students, however, don’t have money in their budgets for these extra kids. Our public schools, of course, will serve them anyway. This bill provides an infusion of additional funds for a limited period – through 2022 – to help these schools serve displaced students.</p> <p>That is the good news.</p> <p>The bad news is that the bill permits tax dollars to flow both to public <em>and</em> private schools. In other words, the bill gives vouchers to certain students.  The provision, in large part, mirrors a voucher plan Congress adopted after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But just because they did it once before doesn’t make it a good idea.</p> <blockquote> <p>Students who accept these vouchers will have to forfeit many of the rights and protections they would otherwise receive in public school. For example, voucher schools can pick and choose which students to admit, and they can deny students based on their academic achievement, economic status, religion or language spoken.</p> </blockquote> <p>In addition, study after study shows that private voucher schools provide fewer services for students, including a lack of the resources and expertise necessary to educate students who are English language learners.</p> <p>Florida has received <a href="http://floridacollegeaccess.org/news/see-where-k-12-students-displaced-by-hurricane-maria-have-enrolled-in-florida/">thousands of displaced students</a> following Hurricane Maria. This bill will use taxpayer dollars to pay for many of them to attend private institutions, even though the majority of the state’s private schools <a href="https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/06/07/in-states-private-school-vouchers-few-safeguards-against.html">are unaccredited</a>, and the state’s existing voucher programs have been found to be <a href="http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-florida-school-voucher-investigation-1018-htmlstory.html">rife with fraud, abuse and lack of oversight</a>.</p> <p>Sending students in need of critical support and services to private voucher schools that are unlikely to provide those resources isn’t what’s best for these kids. Rather, our taxpayer dollars would be better spent funding the public schools that have already been serving displaced students since last fall – schools that embrace all students, regardless of academic achievement, religion, disability or English language ability.</p> <p>For more information on private school vouchers and why they are bad education policy, check out the National Coalition for Public Education <a href="http://www.ncpecoalition.org">website</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/schools" hreflang="en">Schools</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/private-school-vouchers" hreflang="en">Private School Vouchers</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/budget" hreflang="en">Budget</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/hurricanes" hreflang="en">hurricanes</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 09 Feb 2018 15:23:09 +0000 LHayes 13671 at https://www.au.org Black History Month Spotlight: Civil Rights Leader The Rev. William Barber II https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/black-history-month-spotlight-civil-rights-leader-the-rev-william-barber <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Black History Month Spotlight: Civil Rights Leader The Rev. William Barber II</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/67749" lang="" about="/user/67749" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">Hassanein</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 02/09/2018 - 10:01</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/rokia-hassanein" hreflang="und">Rokia Hassanein</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/williambarbercropped_2.png" width="1251" height="397" alt="William Barber" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p><em>February marks</em><a href="https://mail.au.org/owa/redir.aspx?REF=jcSrAmkJ5uKvtN5MGPIBITBr8uioGrOlfksyWH6BiIw9RH2vzm_VCAFodHRwOi8vd3d3Lmhpc3RvcnkuY29tL3RvcGljcy9ibGFjay1oaXN0b3J5L2JsYWNrLWhpc3RvcnktbW9udGg."><em> </em></a><a href="https://mail.au.org/owa/redir.aspx?REF=jcSrAmkJ5uKvtN5MGPIBITBr8uioGrOlfksyWH6BiIw9RH2vzm_VCAFodHRwOi8vd3d3Lmhpc3RvcnkuY29tL3RvcGljcy9ibGFjay1oaXN0b3J5L2JsYWNrLWhpc3RvcnktbW9udGg."><em>Black History Month</em></a><em>, a month to appreciate the accomplishments that African-Americans have made throughout American history. This month, we are highlighting the important role African-American figures have played, and continue to play, in promoting true religious freedom and church-state separation</em>.</p> <p>Among the most important current civil rights figures is <a href="https://mail.au.org/owa/redir.aspx?REF=PZ2jifH714foGNo_6Rn4n7PgU_VQxRsujIKOHWPKsGo9RH2vzm_VCAFodHRwczovL2VuLndpa2lwZWRpYS5vcmcvd2lraS9XaWxsaWFtX0JhcmJlcl9JSQ..">the Rev. William Barber II</a>, a civil rights activist, author and member of the NAACP who built on the momentum of social justice work in North Carolina to expand his grass-roots activism nationwide.</p> <p>When President Donald J. Trump’s administration implemented some policies — and attempted to implement others — harmful to religious minorities, women and LGBTQ people, Barber’s charisma made him a strong leader in a movement of religious leaders standing up to bigotry.</p> <blockquote> <p>Cornel West, a well-known Princeton professor of philosophy and Christian practice, called Barber “the closest person we have to Martin Luther King Jr. in our midst.” Perhaps this is because, like King, Barber has been effective at tackling a multitude of intersectional issues, including how racism intersects with religious discrimination and discrimination within the name of religion.</p> </blockquote> <p>When Trump released his first of three versions of the Muslim ban, which appeased the Islamophobes in Trump’s base, Barber passionately pointed out that banning Muslims and refugees stemmed from fear and hatred.</p> <p>“These acts smell of racism and reek of xenophobia,” Barber said. “They are the antithesis of the Bible, which declares, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”</p> <p>Barber is also a strong defender of the Johnson Amendment, the law that protects the integrity of houses of worship by preventing politicians from using them as campaign tools. When <a href="https://mail.au.org/owa/redir.aspx?REF=7LKHDIFOeTrKDpli9mSCmC2Sowfw4BeLqufd8oPhWIQ9RH2vzm_VCAFodHRwczovL3d3dy5hdS5vcmcvYmxvZ3Mvd2FsbC1vZi1zZXBhcmF0aW9uL3RoZS1qb2huc29uLWFtZW5kbWVudC1pcy1zdGlsbC1pbi1lZmZlY3QtdGhlLXRydW1wLWFkbWluaXN0cmF0aW9uLWFkbWl0cw..">Trump falsely claimed that he weakened the Johnson Amendment in his “religious freedom” executive order</a>, Barber noted that repealing or weakening the Johnson Amendment “is not about religious liberty. It's about religious bigotry.”</p> <p>“As a clergy person who knows the Scripture, we have the authority at any time to speak out on policy,” he <a href="https://mail.au.org/owa/redir.aspx?REF=aJpsPQVlbRjcOV9d2RU6Ks4MWXc-gyqDL6QbntGu87I9RH2vzm_VCAFodHRwczovL3d3dy5ucHIub3JnLzIwMTcvMDUvMDYvNTI3MTk2Mzc2L25vcnRoLWNhcm9saW5hLXJldmVyZW5kLXNheXMtdHJ1bXBzLWV4ZWN1dGl2ZS1vcmRlci1pcy1hYm91dC1yZWxpZ2lvdXMtYmlnb3RyeQ..">said</a>, adding that repealing the Johnson Amendment “is about loosening more dark money, doing it under the guise of religion to support candidates who in many ways support policies who are the antithesis of love and justice and mercy.”</p> <p>In speeches, Barber has advocated for marginalized faith communities to come together through intersectional activism, rather than use religion as a license to discriminate, hate or restrict the rights of LGBTQ people.</p> <p>“I’ll never forget we got in the middle of a LGBT fight in North Carolina. Some friends asked, well why are you involved as a black preacher, why were you involved in LGBT? I said, well, first of all, this isn’t a war between the black church and the LGBT, that’s a false notion,” he <a href="https://mail.au.org/owa/redir.aspx?REF=4cjG2K9PQnIUOP3zcnduEvnDUvEq6fA2K9AgJdCyfPc9RH2vzm_VCAFodHRwczovL3d3dy55b3V0dWJlLmNvbS93YXRjaD90aW1lX2NvbnRpbnVlPTIzMDImdj1SVGF4MHpUVG1Qdw..">said in a 2014 speech in Wisconsin</a>. “If anybody’s understood race in America, it’s the black church … because black people know the original sins of America, which is racism, and because black people know that once that sin was committed it took 250 years of slavery, a hundred years of Jim Crow, martyrs and people being killed. … We should be the last ones that want to see anybody codify hate into our Constitution.”</p> <p>And Barber continues to tackle harmful rhetoric from the Religious Right, calling them extremists who use religion to divide, not unite. </p> <p>“It hurts me to say the so-called Values Summit is not about Judeo-Christian values; it’s not about Christianity, but about the values of the heretical, rhetorical extremism, funded by a whole lot of money,” he declared in advance of the Family Research Council’s 2017 Values Voter Summit. “Their values are cash and not Christ, greed and not grace.”</p> <p>We appreciate faith leaders and civil rights activists like Barber, who will continue to build on his strong legacy, to fight for equality and true religious freedom.</p> <p><em>If you’re a religious leader who would like to help Americans United support religious freedom, join Americans United’s </em><a href="https://mail.au.org/owa/redir.aspx?REF=i2nDCkgNM_Irwkr2_7kQIBBQRA4M30Tcomx5zOP0xzk9RH2vzm_VCAFodHRwczovL2FtZXJpY2Fuc3VuaXRlZC53dWZvby5jb20vZm9ybXMvejE5eWpnd3oxa2Jsc3hlLw.."><em>Faith Leaders United</em>.</a></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/william-barber" hreflang="en">William Barber</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 09 Feb 2018 15:01:23 +0000 Hassanein 13670 at https://www.au.org