The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/ en Trump Panders To Christian Nationalists Once Again – This Time With Public Health Guidance https://www.au.org/blogs/CDC-guidelines-undermined <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Trump Panders To Christian Nationalists Once Again – This Time With Public Health Guidance </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, 06/04/2020 - 09:49</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/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/mask%20woman%2C%206.4.20.jpg?h=19248c61&amp;itok=5r9R2oTE" width="1700" height="525" alt="woman in mask" title="masked woman" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>In an unforgettable image this week, President Donald Trump held up the<a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/trump-church-stunt"> Bible as a prop</a> in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. There’s no more visible example in the last four years of how Trump uses religious theater to pander to his Christian nationalist base of supporters.</p> <p>While many faith leaders declared that Trump couldn’t stoop any lower (one minister wrote to <em>The New York Times</em> that the president is “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/opinion/letters/trump-church-unrest-george-floyd.html">cravenly co-opting the sacred for personal gain</a>”), he’s continuing to do even more to pander to his base behind the scenes, even as it puts lives at risk.</p> <p>For weeks, the White House <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/14/cdc-guidance-reopening-coronavirus-259565">had been blocking</a> the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from releasing advice to the public about the dangers specific to houses of worship that are beginning to hold large, in-person gatherings for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Even more so than activities like going to the grocery store or the post office, public health officials believe many behaviors at church <a href="https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article242847301.html">are highly conducive to spreading </a><a href="https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article242847301.html">COVID-19, the respiratory ailment caused by coronavirus.</a> CDC scientists wanted to advise states and the public that lifting restrictions on religious gatherings could be especially risky due to typical behaviors like sitting indoors close to others for hours, singing, chanting, or sharing communion, hymnals and worship rugs.</p> <p>Given these risks, the CDC drafted <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/14/cdc-guidance-reopening-coronavirus-259565">guidance advising </a>houses of worship to stream services, hold drive-in services or limit in-person attendance.  But the Trump administration fought to block the CDC from releasing this public health information for weeks. According to White House officials, “<a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/white-house-and-cdc-remove-coronavirus-warnings-about-choirs-in-guidance-for-reopening-houses-of-worship/">they did not want to alienate the Evangelical community</a>” and <em>any</em> proposals would be “<a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/white-house-and-cdc-remove-coronavirus-warnings-about-choirs-in-guidance-for-reopening-houses-of-worship/">too restrictive</a>” for religious extremists that make up Trump’s base. The White House argued that any restrictions on religious gatherings – even during a deadly pandemic – violate religious freedom.</p> <p>Spurred by (who else?) Vice President Mike Pence, the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/faith-based.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fphp%2Ffaith-based.html">CDC guidelines</a> were finally posted lacking the CDC’s advice regarding virtual services, drive-in services and attendance limits. And behind the scenes, officials <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/white-house-and-cdc-remove-coronavirus-warnings-about-choirs-in-guidance-for-reopening-houses-of-worship/">told</a> Christian nationalist leaders that the CDC’s guidance was “only a guideline” and insinuated that churches could “bend the rules.”</p> <p>But it gets even worse. After the guidelines were released, <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/white-house-and-cdc-remove-coronavirus-warnings-about-choirs-in-guidance-for-reopening-houses-of-worship/">the White House forced the CDC to remove the recommendations that houses of worship limit singing and sharing communion cups or other worship materials. </a>The edited guidance <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/faith-based.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fphp%2Ffaith-based.html">urged</a> faith communities “to consider and accept, reject, or modify, consistent with their own faith tradition,” any recommendations.</p> <p>The Trump administration is wrong. Restrictions to protect public health don’t violate religious freedom; they ensure religious freedom is not misused in ways that risk people’s lives. As we’ve seen across the country, the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate between religious and secular gatherings – it spreads easily at both, putting the health of entire communities at risk (Since March, I’ve been closely tracking news stories, and I’ve found COVID-19 clusters linked to houses of worship in 20 states and Washington, D.C.).</p> <p>When health experts and public officials determine that mass gatherings or certain behaviors put public health in jeopardy, we must apply these guidelines to secular and religious gatherings equally. Certain favored churches shouldn’t be allowed to “bend the rules.” The Constitution not only permits equal treatment, but demands it. That is why, in the last few months, courts across the country – <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/supreme-court-protects-religious-freedom-public-health-by-allowing-california">including the U.S. Supreme Court</a> – have repeatedly rejected arguments that large-gathering bans violate the U.S. Constitution if they don’t exempt houses of worship.</p> <p>Entire communities should not be put in danger because Trump hopes to curry favor with a small band of religious extremists. From attacking peaceful protesters to allowing coronavirus to spread unfettered in our houses of worship, Trump’s pandering is putting us all at risk.</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/trump-administration" hreflang="en">Trump Administration</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/mike-pence-0" hreflang="en">Mike Pence</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 04 Jun 2020 13:49:05 +0000 boston 16231 at https://www.au.org America’s Faith Leaders Are Not Impressed With Trump’s Bible Stunt https://www.au.org/blogs/clergy-reaction-trump <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">America’s Faith Leaders Are Not Impressed With Trump’s Bible Stunt</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, 06/03/2020 - 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/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/white%20house%20protests.png?h=8f507558&amp;itok=fMIplP1a" width="1700" height="525" alt="protests " title="DC protests" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>President Donald Trump’s decision <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/trump-church-stunt">to walk to a church</a> near the White House Monday evening and wave a Bible – an act that led Attorney General William Barr to authorize the use of tear gas and rubber bullets to clear peaceful protesters from the area – <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/trumps-biblical-spectacle-outside-st-johns-church/612529/">might have been popular</a> with his Christian nationalist base, but other U.S. faith leaders are appalled.</p> <p>Here’s a sampling of some of the comments that have come to light since Trump’s stunt:</p> <p><strong><em>The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign:</em></strong></p> <p>“Trump’s policies and actions are both religious hypocrisy and political insanity. His policies violate the theology of the church to care for the sick, the poor, immigrants. As Christians read in Matthew 23:23, Jesus says hypocrites ‘have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice mercy and faithfulness.’”</p> <p><strong><em>The Right Rev. Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the IX bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire:</em></strong></p> <p>“The third of the Ten Commandments is: Do not take the name of Lord your God in vain. It’s about using God’s name for a profane purpose. And that is precisely what the president did yesterday with the Bible and with the church – taking something dedicated to God and using it for a profane purpose. To engage in this misuse of the Bible and the church would be bad enough, but it is worse that peaceful demonstrators were brutally treated to accomplish it.”</p> <p>(The Center for American Progress has compiled <a href="https://www.americanprogressaction.org/press/release/2020/06/02/177812/release-christian-leaders-condemn-trumps-exploitation-religious-sites-political-tool/">more reactions</a> from religious leaders.)</p> <p><strong><em><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trumps-naked-use-of-religion-as-a-political-tool-draws-rebukes-from-some-faith-leaders/2020/06/02/df281b82-a4e7-11ea-bb20-ebf0921f3bbd_story.html">Archbishop Wilton Gregory</a></em></strong><strong><em> of Washington, D.C. </em></strong><em>(reacting to news that Trump would visit a Catholic shrine within Gregory’s diocese on Tuesday):</em></p> <p>“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people, even those with whom we might disagree. Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth," Gregory said. "He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”</p> <p><a href="https://twitter.com/JonahPesner/status/1267636885649850379"><em><strong>Rabbi Jonah Pesner</strong></em></a>, <em>director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism</em>:</p> <p>"POTUS using a house of worship to shut down the voices of people of color is an affront to people of faith."</p> <p><strong><em><a href="https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EZhEsxUWAAER7Cz.png">The Rev. James Martin</a></em></strong><em>, Jesuit priest and author:</em></p> <p>“Let me be clear. This is revolting. The Bible is not a prop. A church is not a photo op. Religion is not a political tool. And God is not a plaything.”</p> <p><strong><em><a href="https://www.lex18.com/religious-leaders-condemn-president-trumps-stunt">Stan J.R. Zerkowski</a></em></strong><em>, director of </em><em>Lexington, Ky., United Interfaith Encounters<strong> </strong></em>:</p> <p>“It certainly appears that a man who has little regard for this sacred text is using it simply as a prop.”</p> <p><strong><em><a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/religious-leaders-lawmakers-outraged-over-trump-church-visit-n1221876">Rabbi Jack Moline</a></em></strong><em>, president of The Interfaith Alliance</em>:</p> <p>“Seeing President Trump stand in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church while holding a Bible in response to calls for racial justice – right after using military force to clear peaceful protesters out of the area – is one of the most flagrant misuses of religion I have ever seen. This only underscores the president's complete lack of compassion for Black Americans and the lethal consequences of racism.”</p> <p><strong><em><a href="https://wjla.com/news/local/local-church-leaders-react-president-trump-st-johns">The Rev. George C. Gilbert Jr.</a></em></strong><strong><em>, </em></strong><em>Holy Trinity United Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.:</em></p> <p>“And Mr. President, I know you stood right here and held the Bible in your hand, but it is clear that you don't have the Bible in your heart. I must warn you, Mr. President, that the Bible you held upside down in your tiny hands teaches us that God is always on the side of the oppressed.”</p> <p>If you’re a faith leader who was appalled by this display of Christian nationalism and want to help us protect church-state separation, contact AU’s Senior Faith Adviser Dr. Sabrina Dent (<a href="mailto:dent@au.org">dent@au.org</a>) to join our network of faith leaders.</p> <p><em>Photo: Protesters outside the White House. Screenshot from WJLA-TV</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/william-barber" hreflang="en">William Barber</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/william-barr" hreflang="en">William Barr</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 03 Jun 2020 16:20:49 +0000 boston 16229 at https://www.au.org Trump Goes To Church – For A Few Minutes And A Photo Op https://www.au.org/blogs/trump-church-stunt <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Trump Goes To Church – For A Few Minutes And A Photo Op</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, 06/02/2020 - 10:29</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/trump%20st%20johns.png?h=b9457d11&amp;itok=8ZLZsCMu" width="1700" height="525" alt="Trump at church" title="trump at st. johns" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The famous social critic Samuel Johnson reminded us that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. That may be so, but Johnson should have added that religion is usually the first.</p> <p>Under increasing criticism for his inability to lead during what has become one of the most challenging periods in American history, President Donald Trump decided last night to wave a Bible – literally.</p> <p>Apparently provoked by people on social media who implied that he was behaving cowardly for hunkering down in a White House bunker in the face of protesters in D.C. who demanded an end to police violence against black Americans, Trump responded: He decided to stroll to a nearby church and hold up a Bible for a few moments, an action that required that peaceful protesters first be <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/06/02/867578108/peaceful-protesters-tear-gassed-to-clear-way-for-trump-church-visit?utm_medium=RSS&amp;utm_campaign=morningedition">tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets</a> to get them out of the way. After the photo op, Trump returned to his bunker.</p> <p>Officials at the church in question, St. John’s Episcopal, said they had nothing to do with the visit, during which Trump did not even enter the building or meet with officials there.</p> <p>The Rev. Mariann Budde, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, D.C., was clearly furious over Trump’s actions.</p> <p>“I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop,”<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/bishop-budde-trump-church/2020/06/01/20ca70f8-a466-11ea-b619-3f9133bbb482_story.html"> </a><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/bishop-budde-trump-church/2020/06/01/20ca70f8-a466-11ea-b619-3f9133bbb482_story.html">Budde said</a>.</p> <p>She added, “Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence. I am beyond. We need moral leadership, and he’s done everything to divide us and has just used one of the most sacred symbols of the Judeo-Christian tradition. … No one knew this was happening. I don’t want President Trump speaking for St. John’s.”</p> <p>Asked by a reporter if the Bible he hoisted was his, all Trump would say was, “It’s a Bible.”</p> <p>Trump has <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2020/06/02/trump-catholic-shrine-church-bible-protesters/">another visit to a religious site </a>on his schedule for today. This time, his handlers had the sense to find a more welcoming venue – a Catholic shrine at the conservative Catholic University of America.</p> <p>Trump clearly hopes to cover up his inability to comfort our nation during a time of great sorrow and pain by assuming the mantle of religion. Yet we can see this for what it is: more pandering to his Christian nationalist base. Moderate and progressive religious leaders are lifting their voices in opposition to Trump and his policies. (The fact that an Episcopal priest was <a href="https://twitter.com/jackmjenkins/status/1267644542762864641?s=20">among those gassed</a> last night doesn’t help Trump.)</p> <p>More than 100,000 of our fellow citizens are dead of coronavirus, 40 million Americans are out of work and our cities are being torn apart after yet another black man was murdered by police who ignored his pleas for a gasp of air. It’s a set of circumstances that would challenge even the most rhetorically gifted and insightful of presidents. Trump lacks those gifts so all he can do is return to his standard script of fostering division, issuing crude tweets and engaging in racist dog whistles – and then attempting to cover up his failures by playing the religion card.</p> <p>It’s disgraceful, and no American – from the most devout believer to the most committed atheist – should fall for this offensive stunt.</p> <p><em>Photo: Screenshot from C-SPAN</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/display-of-religious-symbols" hreflang="en">display of religious symbols</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/bibles" hreflang="en">Bibles</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 02 Jun 2020 14:29:06 +0000 boston 16228 at https://www.au.org No One Is Free Until Everyone Is Free https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/no-one-is-free-until-everyone-is-free <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">No One Is Free Until Everyone Is Free</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, 06/01/2020 - 15:17</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rachel-laser" hreflang="en">Rachel Laser</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/George%20Floyd%20Twitter.png?h=bde28bee&amp;itok=DVP76ie0" width="1700" height="525" alt="George Floyd" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>At Americans United, we venerate the Constitution, which became the foundation of a nation determined to preserve freedom of religion, along with freedom of speech, assembly and the press.</p> <p>But we also acknowledge that the Founders who gave us these principles gravely compromised their legacy by condoning the enslavement of millions of black people. A Civil War was fought partially to free them, and yet, almost 250 years after our founding, we are still struggling with that legacy of oppression and systemic racism. Religious ideals were also distorted. While The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and thousands of other clergy fought for abolition and civil rights, others cited the Bible as permission for slave-holding and white supremacy, an “article of faith” in Christian Nationalist quarters even today.</p> <p>Many of us are supporting the peaceful protests across the nation against racism and police brutality. It is all of a piece with our values, which could be summed up by Maya Angelou’s words that <strong>no one of us can be free until everybody is free</strong>. The issue of racial equality is also intertwined with our work: for example, when we fight against private school vouchers used to fund religious education, we are also fighting taxpayer support for hundreds of schools that at best exclude and at worst were founded as segregationist academies, specifically designed to keep white and black children apart.</p> <p>This week, we continue to file legal briefs supporting governors and others who are lawfully restricting both religious and secular gatherings to protect public health. With the Trump administration issuing new regulations allowing discrimination in the name of religion and taking every opportunity to pander to religious extremists, our to-do list is constantly growing.</p> <p><strong>But we realize that for AU to succeed, we must do our part in building an inclusive movement that can change this country for the better. So we are asking you, this week, to also reach out to the civil rights organization of your choice, whether it’s national, or local to your own city or state, or a coalition like the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, to which AU belongs. Learn from them how you can help build our  movement.</strong></p> <p>Right now, as hundreds of thousands of people are in the street to call for justice, we can do nothing more important than support them and the ideals of a country in which everyone is free.</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/black-lives-matter" hreflang="en">Black Lives Matter</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 01 Jun 2020 19:17:05 +0000 LHayes 16230 at https://www.au.org Get Ready For Americans United’s Summer Series! https://www.au.org/blogs/AU-summer-series <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Get Ready For Americans United’s Summer Series! </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, 06/01/2020 - 10:24</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/computer%20meeting%206%201%2020.jpg?h=dc735f36&amp;itok=0OCs5Mq7" width="1700" height="525" alt="compouter meeting" title="meeting by computer " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Americans United’s <a href="https://www.au.org/summerseries">Summer Series kicks off tomorrow</a>! Join us for a special web-based series of lectures and discussions focusing on church-state issues of the day. We’ll meet every Tuesday in June at 3 p.m. ET for an hour. You’re welcome to join by Zoom, Facebook or phone.</p> <p>I’ll be launching the series tomorrow with a talk titled “<strong>Religious Freedom 101.</strong>” I’ll offer a short history lesson on how our country got separation of church and state. It's a talk that's designed for the layperson, and we'll have time for questions afterward.</p> <p>Here’s some information about the rest of the series:</p> <p><strong>June 9: “<em>The Power Worshippers</em> Virtual Book Tour”</strong> with Katherine Stewart. Join author and researcher Katherine Stewart as she discusses her new book <em><a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/may-2020-church-state-magazine/featured/the-power-worshippers-a-conversation-with">The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism</a></em>. It’s an insightful look at Christian nationalism and its ongoing effect on American politics.</p> <p><strong>June 16: “Religious Freedom as a Social Justice Issue”</strong> with AU Senior Faith Adviser Dr. Sabrina Dent, <a href="https://uri.org/tahil-sharma">Tahil Sharma</a>, <a href="https://bjconline.org/charles-watson-jr/">Charles Watson</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/STF.American/photos/victoria-hamilton-member-of-soka-gakkai-international-sgi-usa-a-lay-buddhist-org/1102345889850351/">Victoria Hamilton</a>. This sure-to-be enlightening discussion will look at how separation of religion and government intersects with concerns such as LGBTQ rights, racial justice, the rights of women and others.</p> <p><strong>June 23: “Supreme Court Briefing”</strong> with Alex Gouzoules and Patrick Grubel. Two AU legal fellows will take a look at the Supreme Court and where it’s headed on church-state issues. They’ll look a the church-state decisions that have come down by then and discuss any that may still be pending.</p> <p><strong>June 30: “Young People and Religious Freedom”</strong> with AU summer interns. What do young people think about separation of church and state? What issues inspire and excite them? Find out during this panel discussion with youth leaders.</p> <p>These sessions are free, but pre-registration is required to attend. And if you can’t make it to a certain session, don’t worry – most will be recorded for later viewing. <a href="https://www.au.org/summerseries">Register and learn more here</a>.</p> <p>We hope you can join us!</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/history-and-origins-of-church-state-separation" hreflang="en">History and Origins of Church-State Separation</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/americans-united" hreflang="en">Americans United</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 01 Jun 2020 14:24:43 +0000 boston 16227 at https://www.au.org Falwell’s Latest Outburst Underscores The Moral Imperative Of Religious Freedom https://www.au.org/blogs/falwell-ugly-mask <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Falwell’s Latest Outburst Underscores The Moral Imperative 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">Fri, 05/29/2020 - 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/sabrina-e-dent-dmin" hreflang="en">Sabrina E. Dent, DMin</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/Falwell%20and%20Trump%20%282%29.jpg?h=37260fb7&amp;itok=mrJcPLcv" width="1700" height="525" alt="falwell trump" title="trump and falwell" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>On May 27, Jerry Falwell Jr. <a href="https://twitter.com/JerryFalwellJr/status/1265686470259552256?s=20">tweeted</a>, “I was adamantly opposed to the mandate from<a href="https://twitter.com/GovernorVA"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/GovernorVA">@GovernorVA</a> requiring citizens to wear face masks until I decided to design my own. If I am ordered to wear a mask, I will reluctantly comply, but only if this picture of Governor Blackface himself is on it!” The thread continues featuring a mask for sale with <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/01/politics/northam-blackface-photo/index.html">a purported image</a> of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wearing blackface beside someone dressed as a Klansman. (Northam later denied that the photo depicts him but admitted to wearing blackface in another context in 1984.)</p> <p>This photo surfaced in February 2019 during Black History Month, creating chaos in the state. The controversy was addressed by many religious and nonreligious community leaders and politicians, which resulted in Northam’s administration developing an apology tour by scheduling visits to houses of worship and historically black colleges and universities.</p> <p>Clearly, we must continue to address the implicit bias of such racist behavior that continues to happen in the United States during Halloween and other costume-inspired occasions, but Falwell’s ugly tweet deeply exposes and challenges the moral imperative of religious freedom in America. Frankly, his words and actions are not only a threat to Northam in his efforts to protect the citizens of Virginia as the coronavirus continues to spread, they also brazenly exemplify and normalize racial hostility towards black people and religious minorities.</p> <p>If people are honest about the history of religious freedom in this country, we know that the Founding Fathers did not get everything right. Many owned enslaved Africans and never fought for their human freedom nor right to practice their religions freely. Additionally, the Ku Klux Klan – a Christian, white supremacist hate group founded in the late 1860s – and other hate groups continue to terrorize people of color and religious minorities such as Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and others.</p> <p>During this pandemic, when African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and Native Americans continue to fight to be humanized in our country, there is no room for religious freedom advocates to be silent on the issues that continue to marginalize communities of color. Racism, bigotry, xenophobia, sexism and privilege are all issues that exist within the context of religious freedom in America.</p> <p>The experiences of religious and nonreligious people of color must be centered in our discussions. As a Black woman in America who unapologetically champions religious freedom for ALL people of faith and none, I will continue to speak up about the hypocrisies that I see. I believe that people have the right to love whomever they love, that children should not be separated from their families and kept in detention camps and Americans should not have to fight to gain access to clean water, healthy food and proper medical assistance.</p> <p>It is my conviction that those who sit around religious freedom tables and call themselves advocates need to recognize the critical nature of this moment. Now is the time to boldly address Christian nationalism, white supremacy and the many Jerry Falwell Jr.’s – as well as those who support officials who pimp these communities and poor people for their own gain.</p> <p>In the words of Angela Davis, “[W]e will have to do something quite extraordinary: We will have to go to great lengths. We cannot go on as usual. We cannot pivot the center. We cannot be moderate. We will have to be willing to stand up and say no with our combined spirits, our collective intellects and our many bodies.” </p> <p>If we do not take action, then we are hypocrites of the missions that we proclaim to protect the rights, freedoms and dignity of every human being.</p> <p><em>Dr. Sabrina E. Dent is senior faith adviser at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. If you are a faith leader or a nontheistic celebrant/chaplain who would like to work with Americans United, email us at americansunited @au.org.</em></p> <p><em>Photo: President Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell Jr. at Liberty University. White House photo. </em></p> <p> </p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-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/jerry-falwell-jr-0" hreflang="en">Jerry Falwell Jr.</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/virginia" hreflang="en">Virginia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic" hreflang="en">Protecting Religious Freedom During the Coronavirus Pandemic</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/racism" hreflang="en">Racism</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 29 May 2020 14:27:23 +0000 boston 16204 at https://www.au.org Baptist Theologian Provides Welcome Reminder On The Limits Of Religious Freedom https://www.au.org/blogs/freeman-column-nc <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Baptist Theologian Provides Welcome Reminder On The Limits 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">Thu, 05/28/2020 - 10:38</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/stay%20home%20sign%2C%205.28.20.jpg?h=c3e10a65&amp;itok=1pX3DsqU" width="1700" height="525" alt="stay home" title="stay home sign" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Yesterday we noted that while Christian nationalist groups have been <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/AFA-defiant-churches">heedlessly pushing for in-person religious services</a> even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage in some parts of the country, many faith leaders are calling for a much more sensible course.</p> <p>Among them is Curtis W. Freeman, research professor of theology and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke University Divinity School. Freeman outlined his views recently in <a href="https://www.greensboro.com/opinion/columns/curtis-w-freeman-religious-liberty-should-be-a-protection-not-a-weapon/article_f452a776-ad63-5cdd-b6f5-48e21b392639.html">a thoughtful opinion piece</a> for the Greensboro <em>News &amp; Record</em>.</p> <p>Freeman is critical of the protestors who swamped the state capitol in Raleigh, N.C., to demand an immediate reopening of the state, including houses of worship. He points out that they’re overlooking the fact that church gatherings have been identified as vectors for the virus. Thus, government officials are trying to protect public safety by banning all large gatherings, religious and secular.</p> <p>The protestors, Freeman says, fail to grasp the nuances of religious freedom, writing, “They presume that their right to worship the way they choose is greater than their responsibility to love their neighbors.”</p> <p>Freeman goes on to point out that religious freedom is not, and never has been, interpreted to be a limitless right. When an individual’s practice of faith, no matter how sincere, infringes on the rights of someone else, it can be curbed.</p> <p>“Religious liberty as put forth in the First Amendment is a shield for protecting all, not a sword for injuring others,” Freeman observes.</p> <p>He adds, “As Thomas Jefferson pointedly opined: ‘It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.’ The free exercise of religion called for by ‘Return America’ may not pick the pockets or break the legs of North Carolinians. But if our faith communities do not carefully follow public health and safety guidelines as they move toward resuming public gatherings, it may cause harm or even take the lives of our members and our neighbors, who we are commanded to love.”</p> <p>Freeman’s <a href="https://www.greensboro.com/opinion/columns/curtis-w-freeman-religious-liberty-should-be-a-protection-not-a-weapon/article_f452a776-ad63-5cdd-b6f5-48e21b392639.html">piece</a> is a compelling reminder that while religious freedom is a cherished right of the American people, it must never become a license to do harm. We’re going to need wisdom like his in the weeks and months to come.</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/north-carolina" hreflang="en">North Carolina</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/thomas-jefferson" hreflang="en">thomas jefferson</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 28 May 2020 14:38:40 +0000 boston 16201 at https://www.au.org Christian Nationalist Group Eggs On Churches Ignoring Pandemic Restrictions https://www.au.org/blogs/AFA-defiant-churches <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Christian Nationalist Group Eggs On Churches Ignoring Pandemic Restrictions</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, 05/27/2020 - 11:27</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/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/church%20pews%2C%205.27.20.jpg?h=a82e8b30&amp;itok=KgM92nZh" width="1700" height="525" alt="pews" title="church pews" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The American Family Association (AFA), a Christian nationalist group based in Tupelo, Miss., yesterday issued <a href="https://donotlink.it/7pvYK">a triumphalistic email</a> asserting that churches all over America have decided to ignore state and local public health orders and reopen for in-person services, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.</p> <p>As is often the case with an AFA email blast, the truth is more nuanced. After the pandemic was declared, governors and other public officials began issuing orders requiring people to stay at home as much as possible and banning all large gatherings, religious and secular.</p> <p>The vast majority of America’s religious leaders followed the rules. They either suspended services temporarily or moved them online. A small, noisy minority composed mostly of fundamentalist Christians insisted that they were above the law and held in-person services anyway. Some enlisted Religious Right legal groups to take their cases to court. Americans United’s Legal Department has been tracking these lawsuits and filed legal briefs in many of them. Their count shows that of the cases filed, courts have ruled in at least 21 cases that states have the authority to issue public health orders that limit large gatherings at both secular and religious entities; only in about seven cases have courts gone the other way.</p> <p>What about the American people – do they support the idea that a house of worship should have an absolute right to hold in-person services even in the face of a pandemic? Nope. <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/poll-on-coronavirus">A recent poll</a> showed that a mere 9 percent of Americans back this view. Forty-two percent were willing to permit services as long as proper social distancing was observed, while 48 percent said in-person religious services shouldn’t be allowed at all.</p> <p>While groups like the AFA lift up the voices of extremists, Americans would do better to listen to the many faith leaders who are advocating a reasonable and prudent path toward reopening and to heed the words of religious leaders who are not rushing to reopen because their communities have been <a href="https://www.christianpost.com/news/cogic-churches-hit-hard-by-coronavirus-say-they-wont-reopen-as-disease-not-yet-contained.html">hard hit by the pandemic</a>.</p> <p>Two religious leaders recently penned <a href="https://www.ydr.com/story/opinion/2020/05/24/our-church-open-but-not-person-services-not-until-its-safe-union-lutheran-york-pa/5252986002/">an interesting column</a> for the <em>York Daily Record</em> in Pennsylvania. The Rev. Joel Folkemer, lead pastor of Union Lutheran Church, and the Rev. Carla Christopher Wilson, co-chair of the Toward Racial Justice Task Force of Lower Susquehanna Synod, vowed to refrain from holding in-person services until it’s safe. They cited a religious impulse: Their faith compels them to care for the members of their congregations – and that means protecting them from sickness.</p> <p>“These are real people; beloved, cherished people,” Folkemer and Wilson write of their congregants. “They are friends, lunch buddies, parents, grandparents, and volunteers. What they are not is acceptable potential collateral damage.”</p> <p>The two go on to say, “We believe we have a timeless faith and a God who can work through all things, including the internet. We are patient, and no, we are most definitely not opening the doors of our buildings until the consensus of infectious disease experts and church leaders advise it is safe. This isn’t about politics, it’s about love. We’ll see you online.”</p> <p>That message of care, concern and decency stands in stark contrast to the blathering we’re hearing from the AFA’s band of howlers. Let’s hope the words of true leaders like Folkemer and Wilson guide America’s faith community in the weeks and months to come.</p> <p>P.S. AU continues to do <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic">a lot of work</a> to ensure that church-state separation is respected during the pandemic. We’d love to have <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">your support</a>!</p> <p> </p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/afa" hreflang="en">AFA</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic" hreflang="en">Protecting Religious Freedom During the Coronavirus Pandemic</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/pennsylvania" hreflang="en">Pennsylvania</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/polls" hreflang="en">polls</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 27 May 2020 15:27:57 +0000 boston 16200 at https://www.au.org Legislators In Two States Want To Stop Governors From Curbing In-Person Religious Services During Pandemics https://www.au.org/blogs/bad-bills-pa-nc <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Legislators In Two States Want To Stop Governors From Curbing In-Person Religious Services During Pandemics</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 05/26/2020 - 12:06</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/pray%20at%20computer%2C%205.26.20.jpg?h=9420365e&amp;itok=49aXU1tG" width="1700" height="525" alt="praying remotely" title="remote prayer" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>As we noted on Friday, President Donald Trump announced that houses of worship should be allowed to open despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and implied that he would override governors who have issued orders limiting the size and scope of religious services.</p> <p>It was more of Trump’s trademark bluster. He doesn’t have the power to issue orders like that. Furthermore, as Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser<a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/trumps-reckless-demand-that-governors-reopen-houses-of-worship-undermines"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/trumps-reckless-demand-that-governors-reopen-houses-of-worship-undermines">pointed out</a>, the threat was “irresponsible and reckless – and tragically, will lead to more deaths.” Laser asserted that Trump’s “cynical pandering to his religious extremist base is putting the health and well-being of the American people in jeopardy.” (Her comments were taken nationwide by several media outlets, including<a href="https://religionnews.com/2020/05/22/trump-declares-places-of-worship-essential-setting-up-standoff-with-governors/"> </a><a href="https://religionnews.com/2020/05/22/trump-declares-places-of-worship-essential-setting-up-standoff-with-governors/">Religion News Service</a>,<a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/23/can-trump-order-states-to-open-churches-275170"> </a><em><a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/23/can-trump-order-states-to-open-churches-275170">Politico</a></em> and<a href="https://abcnews.go.com/US/coronavirus-live-updates-symptomatic-hair-stylist-potentially-exposes/story?id=70845697"> </a><a href="https://abcnews.go.com/US/coronavirus-live-updates-symptomatic-hair-stylist-potentially-exposes/story?id=70845697">ABC News</a>.)</p> <p>Governors are refusing to buckle under to Trump’s threat. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy (D)<a href="https://www.newsweek.com/new-jersey-governor-murphy-says-church-reopenings-must-done-right-so-we-dont-kill-anybody-1506270"> </a><a href="https://www.newsweek.com/new-jersey-governor-murphy-says-church-reopenings-must-done-right-so-we-dont-kill-anybody-1506270">was blunt</a>. The state, he said, wants to see houses of worship reopen. He added, “But we want to make sure we do it right, responsibly and that we don't kill anyone by doing it too fast.”</p> <p>Unfortunately, not all legislators are being that responsible. In two states – Pennsylvania and North Carolina – state lawmakers have introduced legislation that would make it impossible for state officials to restrict religious gatherings during a public-health emergency.</p> <p><a href="https://triblive.com/local/regional/religious-freedom-bill-proposed-in-pennsylvania-as-churches-navigate-reopening/">In Pennsylvania</a>, state Reps. Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland County) and Clint Owlett (R-Tioga County) have introduced<a href="https://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&amp;sessYr=2019&amp;sessInd=0&amp;billBody=H&amp;billTyp=B&amp;billNbr=2530&amp;pn=3782"> </a><a href="https://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&amp;sessYr=2019&amp;sessInd=0&amp;billBody=H&amp;billTyp=B&amp;billNbr=2530&amp;pn=3782">H.B. 2530</a>. It would amend a 2002 religious freedom law to prohibit the governor from issuing executive or emergency orders during a pandemic or other emergency that “infringe on the right to assemble to worship according to a person's faith” or “impact the ability to travel to or from a place of worship.” (This bill will be heard by the Pennsylvania State Government Committee today.)</p> <p>The North Carolina bill is quite similar.<a href="https://lrs.sog.unc.edu/bill-summaries-lookup/H/1059/2019-2020%20Session/H1059"> </a><a href="https://lrs.sog.unc.edu/bill-summaries-lookup/H/1059/2019-2020%20Session/H1059">H.B. 1059</a> would amend state law to say that to bar governors from prohibiting religious organizations from meeting for worship inside a building that is located in an area that has been declared a state of emergency.</p> <p>As<a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/no-church-exemption"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/no-church-exemption">we’ve noted</a> several times since the outbreak of the pandemic, giving houses of worship special treatment and privileges to meet while denying that right to similarly situated secular entities violates the First Amendment. In addition, it’s bad public policy because it threatens public health.</p> <p>Due to the communal nature of many faith services, houses of worship are uniquely situated to be vectors for transmission of coronavirus. In California, which is moving to allow houses of worship to reopen, two churches that were holding unauthorized services have been identified<a href="https://www.kpbs.org/news/2020/may/25/officials-2-church-services-sources-of-virus/"> </a><a href="https://www.kpbs.org/news/2020/may/25/officials-2-church-services-sources-of-virus/">as sources of recent outbreaks</a> in Mendocino and Butte counties.</p> <p>Government officials who have temporarily banned in-person religious services or limited the number of people who can attend them aren’t trying to squash religious freedom, they’re working to protect us all from a potentially lethal virus. Bills that would tie governors’s hands are counterproductive and dangerous. Let’s hope the bills in Pennsylvania and North Carolina are quickly rejected and that similar measures don’t surface elsewhere.</p> <p> </p> <p> </p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic" hreflang="en">Protecting Religious Freedom During the Coronavirus Pandemic</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/california" hreflang="en">California</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/pennsylvania" hreflang="en">Pennsylvania</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/north-carolina" hreflang="en">North Carolina</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/new-jersey" hreflang="en">New Jersey</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/rachel-laser" hreflang="en">Rachel Laser</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 26 May 2020 16:06:07 +0000 boston 16199 at https://www.au.org Betsy DeVos Is Using The Coronavirus Pandemic To Push School Vouchers https://www.au.org/blogs/devos-covid-vouchers <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Betsy DeVos Is Using The Coronavirus Pandemic To Push School 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">Thu, 05/21/2020 - 12:03</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/religious%20school.jpg?h=f6071a0f&amp;itok=4XfO-hkI" width="1700" height="525" alt="private religious school" title="religious school " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Since day one of the Trump administration, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has tried to funnel public money to private, religious schools through private school vouchers. We’ve seen Secretary DeVos’ proposal for <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/trump-voucher-plan">nationwide federally-funded vouchers</a>, her plan to expand an existing <a href="https://apnews.com/78788368407d6eacbecbfc795f36e264">voucher program in Washington, D.C.</a>, her attempt at <a href="https://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2018-04-18/betsy-devos-seeks-private-school-vouchers-for-military-families">vouchers for military families</a>, and even her decision to rebrand vouchers as  “<a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/trump-voucher-plan">education freedom scholarships</a>” (Different name, same thing: They’re private school vouchers). Thus far, her attempts have failed. But DeVos finally had her lucky break: the coronavirus pandemic.</p> <p>Back in March, Congress <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/03/26/821457551/whats-inside-the-senate-s-2-trillion-coronavirus-aid-package">passed the CARES Act</a>, which included <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/04/30/betsy-devos-finds-new-pot-cash-push-education-agenda-federal-covid-19-relief-money/">$30.75 billion of emergency education relief</a> to help public schools and colleges deal with the crisis. Secretary DeVos redirected hundreds of millions of these funds to her personal top priority: private schools. Contrary to Congress’s intent, DeVos has been using the pandemic as an excuse to redirect funds from public schools to private, religious schools.</p> <p>First, DeVos used $180 million to <a href="https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/secretary-devos-launches-new-grant-competition-spark-student-centered-agile-learning-opportunities-support-recovery-national-emergency">create a “microgrant” program</a>, which allows states to give parents money to pay for any education services that a private school or online company might offer, including private school tuition. DeVos is calling them “microgrants,” but again, these are private school vouchers by another name. These “microgrants” could funnel public education money that Congress intended to help public schools deal with the coronavirus crisis to private schools instead.</p> <p>Second, DeVos released <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2020/04/FAQs-Equitable-Services.pdf">guidance</a> instructing school districts to redirect millions of dollars intended for the most low-income students to wealthy private school students instead. Her guidance allows CARES Act funding to disproportionately go to private schools, while public schools with large populations of low-income students will get even less than expected. Here’s just one example: the Education Law Center of New Jersey <a href="https://edlawcenter.org/assets/files/pdfs/School%20Funding/ELC_Letter_to_Governor_Murphy_re.pdf">estimates</a> that Newark Public Schools, the state’s largest district and <a href="https://patch.com/new-jersey/parsippany/new-jerseys-wealthiest-poorest-school-districts-2017">one of its poorest</a>, will lose $800,000 of pandemic relief funding to private schools, including those attended by children from wealthy families.</p> <p>Vouchers are a bad policy idea during the best of times, and during this pandemic, they’re even worse. Voucher programs <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/studies#Academic">don’t improve student achievement</a>, lack appropriate <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/studies#Waste">oversight and accountability</a> and, of course, violate religious freedom by forcing taxpayers to fund religious education at private schools. Public schools need public funds desperately right now. They must pay teachers and staff, provide technology and distance learning, support struggling students, and <a href="https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/04/20/how-much-federal-money-do-schools-need.html">survive budget cuts</a>. The last thing public schools need during a pandemic is DeVos’ unaccountable, unfair, and ineffective voucher agenda.</p> <p>Fortunately, <a href="https://www.c-span.org/video/?471946-4/senate-minority-leader-schumer-coronavirus">members of Congress</a> are <a href="https://edlabor.house.gov/imo/media/doc/2020-5-20%20Ltr%20to%20DeVos%20re%20Equitable%20Services.pdf">noticing</a> DeVos’s schemes, and they’re working to curtail her ability to implement voucher programs with pandemic relief funds. For the next pandemic relief bill, the HEROES Act, the U.S. House of Representatives included provisions to ensure DeVos can no longer funnel public school relief funds to private schools through school vouchers or other programs.</p> <p>It’s now the Senate’s turn to consider the HEROES Act and these provisions limiting private school vouchers. We need you to urge your senators to block DeVos’s voucher agenda by ensuring that no more pandemic recovery funds go to private school vouchers. <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/TPTzy9mJcUOfbZHVRJfZ4A2?ms=blog_CTA_052120">Contact your senators now to ensure the Senate includes this key section in its version of the bill.</a> Right now, our struggling public schools depend on it.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/taxpayer-funding-of-religion" hreflang="en">Taxpayer Funding 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/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/betsy-devos" hreflang="en">Betsy DeVos</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/new-jersey" hreflang="en">New Jersey</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> Thu, 21 May 2020 16:03:13 +0000 boston 16196 at https://www.au.org