The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/ en On Constitution Day, Let’s Celebrate Secular Government – And Vow To Defend It https://www.au.org/blogs/constitution-day-secular <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">On Constitution Day, Let’s Celebrate Secular Government – And Vow To Defend It </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, 09/17/2020 - 08:48</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/constitution_0.jpg?h=51a72048&amp;itok=zQZU1Al8" width="1700" height="525" alt="constitution" title="US Constitution" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Alexander Hamilton, as the story goes, was once accosted by a man who was outraged that the governing document Hamilton had helped create, the U.S. Constitution, contained no references to God. A rather flippant Hamilton is said to have cheekily replied, “I declare, we forgot it!”</p> <p>The tale is considered apocryphal, but beneath it lurks an intriguing fact that is well worth celebrating on this <a href="https://loc.gov/law/help/commemorative-observations/constitution-day.php">Constitution Day</a>: Our national charter’s wholly secular nature.</p> <p>In the late 18th century, it was common for government documents to contain religious language. Many early state constitutions, for example, include appeals to God – yet such pious platitudes are absent from the federal Constitution.</p> <p>The Bill of Rights and the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom and church-state separation were added to the Constitution a few years after the signing of that document in 1787. But one could argue that the Constitution’s secular nature is itself an affirmation of the principle of separation of religion and government. The new American government saw no need to include appeals to the divine its foundational charter, a powerful signal that when it came to religion, this nation wouldn’t presume to tell people what to believe or not to believe.  </p> <p>Conservative pastors at the time understood that the Constitution was in no way Christian. After ratification, many of them attacked the document from their pulpits, blasting its “godless” nature. One New York minister called the lack of references to God in the Constitution “an omission which no pretext whatever can palliate.” He opined that an angry deity would soon seek vengeance for the slight and “overturn from its foundations the fabric we have been rearing and crush us to atoms in the wreck.”</p> <p>This drumbeat continued, reaching a peak during the Civil War when a band of conservative pastors joined forces to create a kind of proto-Christian nationalist organization called the National Reform Association. The group had many goals, but chief among them was correcting what they saw as the founders’ mistake by rewriting the Preamble to the Constitution to add references to God, Jesus Christ and Christianity.</p> <p>The National Reform Association’s proposed Preamble read: “We, the people of the United States, humbly acknowledging Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Ruler among the nations, His revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government, and in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the inalienable rights and blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.”</p> <p>The proposal languished in Congress for several years until the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives agreed to vote on it in 1874. The committee rejected it, pointing out in a statement that unions of church and state had done great damage in “so many nations of the Old World.”</p> <p>Despite this history, today’s advocates of “Christian nation” mythology insist, against all available evidence, that our Constitution somehow officially established a Christian government. They say it over and over and some may even believe it, but they can’t get around the one thing that is fatal to their claim: the actual text of the Constitution.</p> <p>But that doesn’t mean we can be complacent. We know that Christian nationalists won’t stop their efforts to insert their narrow interpretation of Christianity into America’s laws; look no further than the <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/project-blitz">Project Blitz</a> campaign in the states and the Trump administration’s catering to far-right evangelicals’ policy demands. Americans United won’t stop protecting our shared secular laws that are based on our secular Constitution – and we need your support. <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">Join us</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/history-and-origins-of-church-state-separation" hreflang="en">History and Origins of Church-State Separation</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/founding-fathers" hreflang="en">Founding Fathers</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/foundations-of-american-law-and-government" hreflang="en">Foundations of American Law and Government</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/project-blitz" hreflang="en">Project Blitz</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/constitution" hreflang="en">Constitution</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/christian-nation-myth" hreflang="en">Christian nation myth</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 17 Sep 2020 12:48:58 +0000 boston 16380 at https://www.au.org Americans United’s National Advocacy Summit Is Over – But Your Activism Must Continue https://www.au.org/blogs/get-active-ideas <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Americans United’s National Advocacy Summit Is Over – But Your Activism Must Continue</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, 09/16/2020 - 09:54</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/Rachel%20and%20JeffHorizontal%202.png?h=1b8f9d90&amp;itok=kL8GkQ4S" width="1700" height="525" alt="NAS" title="NAS panel" 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 first-ever National Advocacy Summit concluded yesterday. It was an amazing virtual event that drew more than 800 participants. Our goal was to help people learn, connect and advocate. Mission accomplished!</p> <p>Whether you attended the Summit or not, we urge you to get active to defend the separation of religion and government – the only principle that can protect the right to worship or not as you see fit as long as you don’t harm others.</p> <p>Here are five easy things you can do to boost your activism:</p> <ul> <li><strong>JOIN Americans United.</strong> If you’re not a member, <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">please sign up</a>. We’d love to have your support; we need it to continue our important work. Being a member of Americans United is a great way to stay informed and amplify your voice as you join in solidarity with others who want to protect the bedrock principle of church-state separation. With your membership, you’ll receive a subscription to AU’s <em><a href="https://www.au.org/church-state">Church &amp; State magazine</a></em>.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>SIGN up for Americans United’s alerts.</strong> You’ll get emails about breaking news, special alerts on actions you can take and a weekly newsletter. It’s the best way to stay on top of things in a fast-moving world. You can sign up on <a href="https://www.au.org/">AU’s homepage</a>.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>REPORT a potential church-state violation</strong>. Is there something going on in your community or state that you believe might violate separation of church and state? Does something look just not quite right? Let us know about it using <a href="https://www.au.org/get-involved/report-a-violation/form">this form</a>. Our attorneys will check it out.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>LEARN more about the history</strong> of religious freedom in America. Boning up on the critical role church-state separation plays in protecting religious freedom gives you the tools to debunk the Christian nationalists’ bogus claims about our past – and it will inspire you to defend our legacy of freedom. A great place to start is <a href="https://www.au.org/issues/foundations-of-church-state-separation">this page of historical resources</a>.  Additional resources were listed in the <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/june-2020-church-state-magazine/cover-story/inside-information-spending-more-time">June issue</a> of <em>Church &amp; State</em>.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>SPEAK out.</strong> Defend separation of church and state with whatever tools you’re comfortable using. That includes social media, letters to the editor, discussion groups or other forums. Follow us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/americansunited">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/americansunited">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/americansunited/">Instagram</a> and share our content with your friends and family. As several speakers stressed during the National Advocacy Summit, separation of religion and government is under assault today like never before. That principle needs defenders. Be one of them!</li> </ul> <p>If you missed the summit, you can still watch all the sessions online at AU’s <a href="https://www.facebook.com/americansunited">Facebook</a> page – including Monday’s opening session on religious freedom being at the intersection of many social justice issues; the keynote conversation between AU President and CEO Rachel Laser and literary journalist Jeff Sharlet; and Tuesday’s kickoff rally to launch our <a href="https://www.au.org/DayofAction">National Day of Action</a> around getting Congress to pass the Do No Harm Act.</p> <p><em>Photo: Rachel Laser and Jeff Sharlet at AU's National Advocacy Summit</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/rachel-laser" hreflang="en">Rachel Laser</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/jeff-sharlet" hreflang="en">Jeff Sharlet</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/do-no-harm-act" hreflang="en">Do No Harm Act</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/congress" hreflang="en">Congress</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 16 Sep 2020 13:54:27 +0000 boston 16379 at https://www.au.org On This Day Of Action, Help Americans United Pass The Do No Harm Act https://www.au.org/blogs/day-of-action <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">On This Day Of Action, Help Americans United Pass The Do No Harm Act</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, 09/15/2020 - 08:52</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/day%20of%20action.png?h=1b7b0745&amp;itok=UoWvJuPY" width="1700" height="525" alt="Day of Action" title="Day of Action " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>As part of Americans United’s <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?extid=uhrmWLMSAld7QtLw&amp;v=2702913609997232&amp;ref=watch_permalink">National Advocacy Summit</a>, we are rallying today to press Congress to pass the Do No Harm Act.</p> <p>This critical legislation will make changes to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a 1993 law that was intended to protect religious minorities but that has been misinterpreted by federal courts to allow religious freedom to be misused in ways that harm others.</p> <p>The Do No Harm Act will restore RFRA to its original intent by making it clear that RFRA cannot be used to allow for discrimination or harm. The Do No Harm Act will protect the rights of women, LGBTQ people, religious minorities and others in cases like health care, employment discrimination and access to government-funded services. More than 200 members of the House of Representatives and 30 in the Senate are co-sponsoring the bill.</p> <p>Many Summit attendees today are virtually visiting members of Congress and their staffs to express their support for the Do No Harm Act. Even if you aren’t signed up for virtually lobbying with AU, you can still take action to show your support for the Do No Harm Act.</p> <p><a href="https://www.au.org/DayofAction">This special section of AU’s site</a> has toolkits you can use to take action to support the Do No Harm Act, such as by posting about it on social media. writing a letter to the editor and using a convenient form that makes it possible for you to contact your members of Congress.</p> <p>Check out these resources and help AU make the Do No Harm Act law!</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/do-no-harm-act" hreflang="en">Do No Harm Act</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/rfra-0" hreflang="en">RFRA</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 15 Sep 2020 12:52:20 +0000 boston 16378 at https://www.au.org AU’s National Advocacy Summit Will Carry Forth The Real Spirit Of Religious Freedom https://www.au.org/blogs/JFK-speech-at-sixty <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">AU’s National Advocacy Summit Will Carry Forth The Real Spirit 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">Mon, 09/14/2020 - 09:51</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/JFK%20II%20.png?h=0ce4a408&amp;itok=Tgf_aLVH" width="1700" height="525" alt="John F. Kennedy" title="JFK in Houston " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Saturday marked the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/october-2010-church-state/featured/john-f-kennedy-on-religion-and-politics">famous speech</a> to a group of religious leaders in Houston during which he strongly endorsed the separation of church and state.</p> <p>Kennedy, the first (and so far only) Roman Catholic to win the presidency, had been under scrutiny by some members of the clergy who worried that he might use the nation’s highest office to elevate the public policy goals of his church.</p> <p>Kennedy defused those fears with a masterful speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association at the Rice Hotel in Houston the evening of Sept. 12, 1960. Some scholars believe the speech gave Kennedy the momentum he needed to eke out a narrow victory over Richard M. Nixon two months later.</p> <p>This eloquent passage is often cited: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute – where no Catholic prelate would tell the President, should he be Catholic, how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote – where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference – and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.</p> <p>“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish – where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source – where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials – and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”</p> <p>Stirring words indeed. But there’s another passage that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially in today’s climate. JFK made it clear that if he were ever challenged to reconcile his personal faith with the public interest, he would choose the latter.</p> <p>“Whatever issue may come before me as president, if I should be elected – on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject – I will make my decision in accordance … with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates,” Kennedy said. “And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise. But if the time should ever come – and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible – when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any other conscientious public servant would do likewise.”</p> <p>Americans United’s National Advocacy Summit kicks off today. (You can watch it <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?extid=uhrmWLMSAld7QtLw&amp;v=2702913609997232&amp;ref=watch_permalink">online here</a>.) Among the issues we’ll be discussing is efforts by Christian nationalists to misuse religious freedom as an instrument of discrimination and a device to take away the right of others.</p> <p>Tomorrow we’ll rally for a National Day of Action. We’ll urge members of Congress to pass the <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/DNHA%20Talking%20Points%209.9.20.pdf">Do No Harm Act</a>, key legislation that will make it clear that freedom can’t be used to harm others. (Among the speakers will be U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, the grandson of JFK’s brother Robert F. Kennedy.)</p> <p>President Kennedy understood that religious freedom was meant to be a shield to protect your beliefs, not a sword to lash out at others; he made that case powerfully 60 years ago. Americans United will be carrying that spirit forward during the National Advocacy Summit. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?extid=uhrmWLMSAld7QtLw&amp;v=2702913609997232&amp;ref=watch_permalink">Please join us!</a></p> <p><em>Photo: John F. Kennedy speaks to religious leaders in Houston, Sept. 12, 1960</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/history-and-origins-of-church-state-separation" hreflang="en">History and Origins of Church-State Separation</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/john-f-kennedy" hreflang="en">John F. Kennedy</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/joe-kennedy" hreflang="en">Joe Kennedy</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 14 Sep 2020 13:51:10 +0000 boston 16376 at https://www.au.org Join Us Monday For Americans United’s Virtual National Advocacy Summit! https://www.au.org/blogs/Americans-United-NAS <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Join Us Monday For Americans United’s Virtual National Advocacy Summit!</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, 09/10/2020 - 09:43</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/NAS%20banner.png?h=1b7b0745&amp;itok=Tw7CPo7J" width="1700" height="525" alt="NAS " title="summit" 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 first-ever National Advocacy Summit kicks off in just a few days. On Monday, Sept. 14, you can join us online for a free two-day event that will empower and inspire you and give you the tools you need to defend religious freedom and separation of church and state:</p> <p>Highlights include:</p> <ul> <li>Welcoming remarks by Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>A conversation between Laser and Jeff Sharlet, an award-winning literary journalist, author of The New York Times bestseller <em>The Family</em>: <em>The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power</em> and <em>C Street</em>: <em>The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy,</em> and executive producer of the Netflix documentary series based on the books. They’ll be joined by Aimee Maddonna, a mother from South Carolina and a plaintiff in an AU lawsuit who will share her story of how her rights were violated by a twisted definition of “religious freedom.” You’ll also enjoy a dynamic musical performance by singer-songwriter Scarlett Rabe.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Powerful and thought-provoking breakout sessions, among them “Do No Harm: Fighting for Religious Freedom for All,” “Religious Freedom in the States: Perspectives from Local Advocates,” “The Remaking of the Courts (and Why You Should Care),” “Dismantling White Privilege: Race, Religious Freedom &amp; Christian Nationalism” and “Fight for Your Rights in School.” These panels will feature top experts from Americans United and other thought leaders.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>A special rally on Tuesday to kick off Americans United’s National Day of Action, when we will urge members of Congress to pass the Do No Harm Act – critical legislation that will protect religious freedom while also clarifying that it may not be used to harm others. The rally will feature two congressional champions of church-state separation – U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) and U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.).</li> </ul> <p>Our Lobby Day visits are full, but the rest of the Summit is wide open. We’d love to see you there! <a href="https://www.au.org/conference">Click here to register</a> and view the full schedule of events.</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/americans-united" hreflang="en">Americans United</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/rep-bobby-scott" hreflang="en">Rep. Bobby Scott</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/rep-joseph-kennedy" hreflang="en">Rep. Joseph Kennedy</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/jeff-sharlet" hreflang="en">Jeff Sharlet</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 10 Sep 2020 13:43:00 +0000 boston 16374 at https://www.au.org Christian Nationalist Pastors Continue Fighting Pandemic Health Orders https://www.au.org/blogs/california-pastors-pandemic <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Christian Nationalist Pastors Continue Fighting Pandemic Health Orders </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, 09/09/2020 - 11:52</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/church%20is%20closed.jpg?h=4684bf95&amp;itok=8HtGJS2I" width="1700" height="525" alt="closed church" title="church is closed" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Americans have been living under restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic for six months now. When the country began shutting down in the spring, we saw a flurry of legal cases brought by houses of worship that resisted public health orders requiring them to cease holding in-person services.</p> <p>Many courts – <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/supreme-court-nevada-church">including the U.S. Supreme Court</a> – upheld these orders, ruling that state officials have the right to protect people from a potentially fatal illness. But that doesn’t mean the issue has died down. We’re still seeing resistance, particularly in California.</p> <p>A mega-church there has been <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/12/us/pastor-macarthur-church-california/index.html">openly defying state orders</a> to limit the number of people who attend its indoor services. Grace Community Church in Sun Valley has ignored public health orders by hosting services featuring more than 6,000 attendees. Under an order issued by Los Angeles County, houses of worship are limited to 100 people or 25% of the building’s capacity, whichever is lower. Video of the church’s services shows people standing close together, and few are wearing masks.</p> <p>The church’s pastor, John MacArthur, is facing fines and a lawsuit by county officials but says he won’t back down.</p> <p>“We open the doors because that’s what we are,” MacArthur told CNN. “We’re a church, and we’re going to trust those people to make adult decisions about the reality of their physical and spiritual health.”</p> <p>MacArthur isn’t alone. In Redding, Pastor Sean Feucht has been holding mass worship services in defiance of the law. A few days ago, Feucht <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/california-pastor-coronavirus-health-guidelines-prayer-rally/">held a large rally</a> that drew thousands to the state capitol in Sacramento. Media outlets reported that most attendees didn’t wear masks and didn’t engage in social distancing. (<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/09/08/worst-case-scenerios-sturgis-rally-may-be-linked-266000-coronavirus-cases-study-says/">Rallies that are held mostly outdoors</a> can still become “superspreader” events if proper precautions aren’t followed.)</p> <p>Feucht, MacArthur and other defiant religious leaders like them are being <a href="https://donotlink.it/vK1NM6">egged on by Religious Right legal groups</a>. These organizations are representing the pastors in court for free and portraying them as folk heroes in slick P.R. campaigns.</p> <p>Americans deserve to know the truth: Far from being heroes, these misguided pastors don’t care about the health and well-being of their communities. They in no way represent mainstream religious leaders, most of whom have done the right thing by temporarily suspending services or moving them online.</p> <p>If you’re looking for heroes during this pandemic, you can find them on the front lines of the medical profession, on the staffs of nursing homes, in public school classrooms, in labs where men and women labor to create a vaccine,  behind the counter at your local grocery store – and in the houses of worship and faith leaders who are finding innovative ways to meet their communities’ spiritual and physical needs while still following public health guidelines.</p> <p>You won’t find them hanging out with Christian nationalists who believe that their desire to meet for large, in-person religious services should give them the power to expose everyone else to a serious illness. </p> <p>P.S. Americans United is hard at work ensuring that Christian nationalist groups don’t win the right to use religious freedom as a weapon to lash out at others during the pandemic. Read about <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic">our efforts here</a>.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/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> </div> Wed, 09 Sep 2020 15:52:59 +0000 boston 16373 at https://www.au.org Partisan ‘Voter Guides’ Are Making The Rounds In Houses Of Worship https://www.au.org/blogs/slanted-voter-guides <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Partisan ‘Voter Guides’ Are Making The Rounds In Houses Of Worship</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 09/08/2020 - 09:40</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/voter%20guides%20.jpg?h=5512bace&amp;itok=rQ_-VTPT" width="1700" height="525" alt="voting" title="voters " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>As summer winds down and the election season begins in earnest, we can expect to see a proliferation of an unfortunate trend: houses of worship distributing biased “voter guides.”</p> <p>Last week, the Rev. Angela Denker, a Lutheran pastor in Minnesota, <a href="https://religionnews.com/2020/09/03/voter-guides-show-the-power-and-duplicity-of-american-evangelicalism/">wrote a column for Religion News Service</a> recounting the first time she encountered one of these guides in 2008 while pastoring a church in Florida.</p> <p>Denker pointed out that while the guides claimed to be non-partisan, its “veneer of nonpartisanship, however, was razor thin.” She noted that guides are now being sent to churches all over America, especially in swing states.</p> <p>These guides haven’t gotten better over time. Produced by Christian nationalist groups like the Faith &amp; Freedom Coalition, the Family Research Council and others, the guides are clearly stacked to promote conservative candidates.</p> <p>In the 1990s, the Christian Coalition, a Religious Right group founded by TV preacher Pat Robertson, turned the production of the guides into an art form. The Coalition supposedly based the guides on questionnaires they mailed to candidates. But if a candidate didn’t fill it out – and most liberals and Democrats, knowing they would never get a fair shake from the organization, didn’t bother – the group would base the candidate’s answers on other factors.</p> <p>One of the Coalition’s favorite tricks was to issue a guide with, say, 10 issues on it. The Republican candidate would have answers for all 10, and more often than not, they’d echo the far-right line. His or her Democratic opponent would have seven or eight answers with the remaining two or three – often the most hot-button issues – listed as “No Reply.” In fact, the Democrat hadn’t replied to any of the questions. The Christian Coalition simply made up answers for the seven or eight issues and listed “No Reply” for the others to make it look like the Democrat was too scared to answer or was trying to hide something.</p> <p>The group used other tactics to slant the guides. Sometimes they would claim that candidates’ positions were based on votes in Congress, but the vote the group cited might have been on a procedural matter that failed to tell the whole story of why a candidate voted a certain way. (These guides, with their simplistic “Support” or “Oppose” dichotomy on complex issues, are not the place for nuance.)</p> <p>Although the Christian Coalition collapsed some years ago, its sleazy tactics live on in the voter guides that are being produced by other Christian nationalist groups today.</p> <p>In her column, Denker asks, “What would Jesus think of this mailing, of these pastors who have jumped fully on-board a deeply partisan agenda?”</p> <p>That’s an important question for a religious leader to ask. In the secular realm, we might ask a different one: What does the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) think about material like this? These guides are clearly partisan in nature, and, under current law, houses of worship and other tax-exempt, nonprofit entities may not engage in partisan politicking. Doing so undermines both the integrity of our elections and the religious mission of houses of worship.</p> <p>It’s time for the IRS to make it clear that these biased and partisan “voter guides” have no place in any house of worship. </p> <p>P.S. You can learn more about this issue by visiting AU’s <a href="http://projectfairplay.org/">Project Fair Play site</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/churches-and-elections" hreflang="en">Churches and Elections</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/johnson-amendment" hreflang="en">Johnson Amendment</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/christian-coalition" hreflang="en">Christian Coalition</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/pat-robertson" hreflang="en">Pat Robertson</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/faith-freedom-coalition" hreflang="en">Faith &amp; Freedom Coalition</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/frc-0" hreflang="en">FRC</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/voter-guides" hreflang="en">voter guides</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 08 Sep 2020 13:40:35 +0000 boston 16372 at https://www.au.org Giving Tax Aid To Religious Schools Forces You To Support Discrimination https://www.au.org/blogs/Texas-student-expelled <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Giving Tax Aid To Religious Schools Forces You To Support Discrimination</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 09/03/2020 - 10:13</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/high%20schoolers%202%20.jpg?h=a5bc43b3&amp;itok=w_q6-I1z" width="1700" height="525" alt="high school kids " title="high school students " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Over the past few decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has been giving its approval to various forms of taxpayer aid to private religious schools.</p> <p>Americans United opposes these rulings because they violate the fundamental principle of church-state separation: They compel taxpayers to support religious education. Americans United believes religious activities should be funded with voluntary contributions from supporters, not tax dollars. Public money should fund public schools, which educate 90% of America’s schoolchildren.</p> <p>There are plenty of other reasons why vouchers, tuition tax credits and other forms of tax aid to religious schools are problematic from a public policy perspective, and you can <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/facts">read about some of them here</a>. But one of the most compelling reasons is that these schools often engage in blatant forms of discrimination, something no taxpayer should ever be made to support.</p> <p>If you need a reminder of how bad this can be, <a href="https://dallasvoice.com/jesus-said-to-expel-the-gay-kid/">consider the case of Devin Bryant</a>, who was prepared to begin his senior year at Covenant Christian Academy in Colleyville, Texas, last month.</p> <p>Devin is a straight-A student who has attended the school since kindergarten. He’s so well-liked that teachers have written notes to his mother thanking her for raising such a great kid. He has won school awards for his art and played on sports teams.</p> <p>So what’s the problem? Devin is gay. Seniors at the school have a tradition of decorating their parking spots, and over the summer, Devin unveiled his design, which included the words, “Super Hot, Fun, Attractive, Fast-driving, Insane, Very Smart, Outgoing, Party Freak, Young, Gay (as in happy don’t worry lol), Pretty, Reckless, Humble, Pyromaniac, Fun, Gay (as in homosexual this time, sorry) Person Parking Only.”</p> <p>Devin told <em>Dallas Voice</em> that the design “derived humor from how brash it was.”</p> <p>School officials felt differently. They informed Devin’s mother that he was not welcome to return. Devin promised to be less vocal about his sexuality, but it made no difference. He was expelled. He enrolled in a public school where he’s taking a full slate of advanced placement classes and considering options for college.</p> <p>Texas doesn’t have a voucher plan – although some legislators have pushed them over the years. If the state did have vouchers, there would likely be nothing to prevent Covenant Christian Academy from discriminating against students like Devin even as it raked in taxpayer support.</p> <p>But Covenant did receive another form of public support recently. <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/coronavirus/bailouts/loans/colleyville-covenant-christian-academy-fe85a1de185274a03e13c7b18e55b4ce">The school got a “loan” between $1 million-$2 million</a> under the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a key feature of the coronavirus relief package passed by Congress. (Under the terms of the program, the loans will be forgiven as long as a few conditions are met, so they are really grants.)</p> <p>Covenant is not alone. <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/paycheck-protection-program">Research by Americans United</a> found that private religious and secular schools received funding totaling between $2.67 billion and $6.47 billion under PPP.</p> <p>How many of these schools discriminate against kids like Devin Bryant? It’s hard to say for sure, but AU’s report lists plenty of examples of private schools that got money under PPP even as they state up front that they will deny admission to or expel students who are LGBTQ, whose parents are of the same sex, who are the “wrong” religion or who have disabilities.</p> <p>Discriminatory policies like these are bad enough. Compelling taxpayers to buttress them by awarding these schools a windfall in taxpayer aid is a disgrace. That’s why Americans United works to oppose private school voucher programs and other forms of public aid to private, mostly religious schools. <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/iNruJQbIHEW_jB_v89Bmfg2">You can help by urging your Senators to reject</a> the latest attempt to create a federally funded voucher program.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/texas" hreflang="en">Texas</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/neo-vouchers" hreflang="en">neo-vouchers</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/tax-aid-religion" hreflang="en">tax aid to religion</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 03 Sep 2020 14:13:58 +0000 boston 16371 at https://www.au.org Religious Freedom Is Not Religious Privilege https://www.au.org/blogs/religious-freedom-privilege <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Religious Freedom Is Not Religious Privilege</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, 09/02/2020 - 08:43</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/gloomy%20sup%20court.jpg?h=1389ae57&amp;itok=1PflmvfU" width="1700" height="525" alt="US Supreme Court" title="Supreme Court gloomy skies" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p><em>Editor’s note: This post by AU President and CEO Rachel Laser originally appeared in the </em><em><a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/september-2020-church-state-magazine"><em>September 2020 issue</em></a></em><em> of AU’s </em>Church &amp; State<em> magazine.</em></p> <p>When the Supreme Court took on an unpre­ce­dented number of cases discussing religious freedom this term, Americans United was con­cerned. We had fought hard against the nominations of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. We knew the new majority was unlikely to be with us.</p> <p>Nevertheless, you probably celebrated alongside AU when six justices agreed that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act’s ban on sex discrimination prohibits LGBTQ dis­crim­ination in the workplace too.</p> <p>But the opinion contained a paragraph that left open the possibility of a gaping hole in this newly clarified right. Justice Gorsuch, writing for the majority, explained that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act operates “as a kind of super statute, displacing the normal operation of other federal laws” and “might supersede Title VII’s commands in appro­priate cases.”</p> <p>So, even as we were overjoyed by the heart of this ruling, we worried about decisions imminently coming down directly involving religious freedom.</p> <p>Unfortunately, we were not wrong. In a trio of deci­sions, the court handed down rulings that represent a distortion of religious freedom that privileges certain religious beliefs over the interests and well-being of the vast majority of Americans.</p> <p>In <em>Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue</em>, the court overturned decades of precedent to hold that if a state decides to create a private school voucher pro­gram, it <em>must</em> fund private religious schools along with private secular schools. This decision offends church-state separation and threatens 38 state constitutions, which specifically prevent funding of reli­gi­ous schools.</p> <p>Religious schools have turned students away because their families don’t share the school’s religious beliefs. They have barred admission because a student or parent is LGBTQ or a student has a disability. They have expelled students who engage in sex outside marriage. And some have fired teachers for being pregnant and unmarried, for undergoing in vitro fertilization or for advocating for the right to terminate a pregnancy.</p> <p>When religious schools are given a sweeping right to ignore anti-discrimination laws but at the same time are guaranteed access to taxpayer dollars through voucher programs, they are receiving special treatment (or religious privilege), not equal treatment (or religious freedom).</p> <p>And these same religious schools are now even freer to discriminate against their own teachers – thanks to the Supreme Court’s <em>Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Mor­rissey-Berru </em>decision. In this case, two fifth-grade teachers at private Catholic schools had complained that they were fired for discriminatory reasons – one for being older and the other after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The majority concluded that both of the teachers fall within the ministerial exception, meaning that they can’t bring em­ployment-discrimination claims against the schools. Under this ruling, if teachers teach or even supervise <em>any</em> religious content at all, they are likely to be considered “ministers” who may be denied the employment protec­tions that other teachers have and deserve. More religious privilege for these taxpayer-funded schools.</p> <p>The birth control decision in <em>Trump v. Pennsylvania</em> is also deeply troubling. The court decided that the Trump administration had the authority to issue rules that would exempt employers and universities from covering contraceptives based on their religious beliefs. Though the court formally sidestepped the religious freedom issue and instead relied on a narrow interpretation of administrative law, it should have struck down the reli­gion exemption because it violates religious freedom under the guise of protecting it.</p> <p>This decision tells tens of thousands of people that they have to sacrifice their right to no-cost birth control, as guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act, because of their bosses’ religious views. That’s not religious free­dom; it’s religious privilege. As Justice Ruth Bader Gins­burg wrote, “Today, for the first time, the court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the <em>n</em>th degree.”</p> <p>This Supreme Court term wasn’t just disappointing, it was enraging. But don’t think we’re waving any white flags here at Americans United. We have our work cut out for us, but we have a strategy, a huge number of allies, a talented staff and you all, who make us a true force to be reckoned with. It won’t be easy to rebuild the church-state wall, but Americans United is uniquely positioned to lead that effort.</p> <p>I’m counting on your con­­tinued support. </p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-health-care" hreflang="en">Discrimination In Health Care</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/taxpayer-funding-of-religion" hreflang="en">Taxpayer Funding Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/employment-discrimination" hreflang="en">Employment Discrimination</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/justice-ruth-bader-ginsburg" hreflang="en">Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/birth-control-benefit" hreflang="en">Birth Control Benefit</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 02 Sep 2020 12:43:57 +0000 boston 16370 at https://www.au.org Pressuring Workers To Be ‘Spiritual’ Isn’t The Answer To The Office Blues https://www.au.org/blogs/spirituality-in-workplace <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Pressuring Workers To Be ‘Spiritual’ Isn’t The Answer To The Office Blues</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, 09/01/2020 - 10:41</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/corporate.jpg?h=2992ba0a&amp;itok=6CLdnTye" width="1700" height="525" alt="corporate meeting" title="business meeting " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p><em>The New York Times</em> on Sunday ran <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/28/business/remote-work-spiritual-consultants.html">a lengthy piece</a> about a new trend in corporate America: hiring “divinity consultants” for the workplace.</p> <p>What do these people do? As <em>The Times</em> put it, divinity consultants – who are also known as ritual consultants, sacred designers and soul-centered advertisers – have this goal: “Their business is borrowing from religious tradition to bring spiritual richness to corporate America.”</p> <p>If you think this could be a real problem, you’re right. To put it simply, it’s no business of secular employers to meddle in the spiritual or non-spiritual lives of their workers. Under federal law, it’s illegal to intentionally discriminate against an employee because of their religious or non-religious beliefs. In addition, employers are required to make certain accommodations to meet employees’ religious beliefs or practices. An entire body of case law exists to flesh out how these rules are applied, but it’s safe to say that if your boss is pressuring you to take part in a religious practice or even be “spiritual” when you don’t want to, there will be trouble.  </p> <p><em>The Times</em> story touches on these issues, noting, “Another challenge is that many workers are already devout on their own terms, on their own time, and are not at all hungry for soul-based activities between 9 and 5.”</p> <p>But it isn’t just devout workers who might object. I can certainly understand why a Christian of any stripe might oppose rituals that mimic the style of faith but that have been decoupled from it, but it’s easy to see why a non-believer would also have concerns. The slippery, “New Age” feel of these “rituals” makes them not for everyone. Pressuring employees to take part in such activities is only going to spark litigation.</p> <p>Office workers are certainly facing some serious issues right now. Most workplaces are closed, and working from home can present unique stresses, including a sense of social isolation. The best way for employers to deal with that is not to assume that everyone is yearning for a shot of spirituality. Rather, they should support their workers with the coping mechanisms of the workers’ choice. Ensuring that company health care plans cover whatever sort of counseling an employee finds best suits his or her needs would also be a good step.</p> <p>P.S. If you feel your religious freedom rights are being violated at your job, <a href="https://www.au.org/get-involved/report-a-violation/form">report it to AU</a>. We may be able to help.</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/employment-discrimination" hreflang="en">Employment Discrimination</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/workplace-issues" hreflang="en">Workplace Issues</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/workplace-religious-accommodation" hreflang="en">workplace religious accommodation</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 01 Sep 2020 14:41:54 +0000 boston 16369 at https://www.au.org