The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/ en Christian Nationalists See Illiberal Hungary As A Model For America https://www.au.org/blogs/hungary-anti-LGBTQ <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Christian Nationalists See Illiberal Hungary As A Model For America</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 Jun 24, 2021 - 08:44</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/ethan-magistro" hreflang="en">Ethan Magistro</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/Hungarian_Parliament%2C_Budapest.jpg?h=7a9b0699&amp;itok=ZoLT-T0e" width="1700" height="525" alt="budapest" title="Hungary parliament" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>In a <a href="https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2021/06/22/david-barton-hungarys-anti-lgbtq-laws-promote-traditional-biblical-values/">recent interview</a> on the right-wing, religious television outlet Victory News, self-designated “historian” and evangelical propagandist David Barton cheered the passing of an <a href="https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/hungarys-parliament-passes-anti-lgbt-law-ahead-2022-election-2021-06-15/">anti-LGBTQ law</a> in Hungary. The law, which bans discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools and further hamstrings the waning media freedoms in the country, was applauded by Barton as lining up with “traditional biblical values.”</p> <p>This kind of law is par for the course in Hungary under Viktor Orban, the state’s prime minister. Since 2010, when Fidesz, the current governing party, swept to power on a Christian nationalist platform, Orban and the party have reconstructed the country as an “illiberal democracy” of far-right Christian values and ideals.</p> <p>In 2011, when Fidesz created a new Hungarian constitution, it redefined marriage as being only between a man and woman. In 2020, the party amended the constitution <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/hungary-lgbt/hungary-amends-constitution-to-redefine-family-limits-gay-adoption-idUSKBN28P1N8">to ban</a> same-sex couples from adopting children. The nation <a href="https://www.romereports.com/en/2019/11/26/hungary-seeks-allies-against-christian-persecution-with-political-and-religious-leaders/">cites</a> Christian persecution as “the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time” and has worked to keep non-Christians out of the country. This mentality appeals to religious extremists like Barton and his lawmaker allies. For them, Hungary’s laws serve as the <a href="https://www.vox.com/2020/5/21/21256324/viktor-orban-hungary-american-conservatives">perfect model</a> for what they want in the United States.</p> <p>It would be misguided to see Hungary’s flirtation with Christian nationalism as solely an attempt to have God “bless the nation,” as Barton suggests. In the past decade, Orban and Fidesz have done more than just introduce theocratic laws that harm others. They have gutted Hungary’s democracy, transforming it into a one-party state in all but name. Fidesz has used constitutional amendments to prop up party loyalists, pack the courts and erode judicial independence. Among other mafia-esque maneuvers, the party has gerrymandered the country so much that it makes <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/23/916290633/redmap-update">REDMAP</a> – a U.S. Republican strategy to increase the party’s power in Congress through gerrymandering – look like child’s play.</p> <p>This crusade against liberalism under the banner of Christian nationalism has found fans in the United States. In a 2019 speech, Donald Trump thanked Orban for being “great with respect to Christian communities.” Orban was happy to stand with Trump and “protect and help Christian communities all around the world.” Trump even celebrated Hungary’s <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/how-the-hungarian-border-fence-remains-a-political-symbol-1.5476964">creation of barriers</a> on its eastern front to keep immigrants and non-Christians out of the country, something Trump sought for the U.S.-Mexico border. Barton and other Christian nationalists idolize what Orban has done to Hungary. They want to see the same laws come to fruition in the United States.</p> <p>It’s shocking to see how Barton seems unconcerned about the waning media freedoms in Hungary, which the anti-LGBTQ law would further curb. Fidesz <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/12/eu-hungary-press-freedom/603985/">influences</a> much of Hungary’s media outlets already. According to <a href="https://rsf.org/en/hungary">Reporters Without Borders</a>, a freedom-of-press watchdog, Hungary’s media freedom ranking has fallen a whopping 33 places in the past eight years. But values of freedom and equality, which most Americans cherish, are mere roadblocks to be removed in the eyes of Orban and his admirers in America’s Religious Right.</p> <p>Orban has shattered democratic guardrails in Hungary to construct a state that infuses its laws with far-right Christianity merged with nationalism. Back on our own shores, religious extremists are eagerly taking notes.</p> <p><em>Photo of the Hungarian parliament by Anund Knutsen</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/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> </div> </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/david-barton" hreflang="en">David Barton</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/adoption" hreflang="en">Adoption</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/civil-marriage" hreflang="en">civil marriage</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 24 Jun 2021 12:44:47 +0000 boston 16874 at https://www.au.org Enter The Young: Why I’m Excited To Be Interning For Americans United This Summer https://www.au.org/blogs/magistro-AU-intern <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Enter The Young: Why I’m Excited To Be Interning For Americans United This Summer</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 Jun 23, 2021 - 08:38</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/ethan-magistro" hreflang="en">Ethan Magistro</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%20and%20state%20street%20sign%20%20%282%29_0.jpg?h=84a3cfca&amp;itok=nekRDtSz" width="1700" height="525" alt="signs" title="street signs " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The mark of Generation Z is one of activism, diversity and new ideas. In the battle for the separation of church and state, a foundational American principle on which many other freedoms rest, it’s important to bring the young into the fold, using our fresh perspectives to spearhead the next generation of First Amendment activism. That’s why, for the rest of the summer, you’ll be hearing from me here at the “Wall of Separation” blog.</p> <p>My name is Ethan Magistro, and I’m a philosophy major at Princeton University. I’ve spent much of my time at Princeton reading the works of the early-modern rationalists: thinkers like <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spinoza-political/">Baruch Spinoza</a>, an early advocate for religious tolerance who saw pluralism as a practical way to maintain a stable society. Spinozian ideas of pluralism found their way to John Locke, and, further down the line, to Hannah Arendt. These philosophers understood the political realm as something not bound up or enmeshed with religion, but instead existing in its own separate sphere. In other words, they’d be fans of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.</p> <p>The most exciting part of philosophy is to walk away from the books and investigate how philosophical ideas have made their way off the page and into society. Americans United is a shining star of theory in practice, as the group has unfailingly put the philosophical tradition of the separation of church and state into action for nearly 75 years. What drew me to Americans United is its eloquent vision of a politics unbounded by religion, but respectful of people of all religions and none. Americans United understands that we all have a right to practice any, or no, religion, and that faith has a home in many lives as a source of “civic morality,” as <a href="https://hac.bard.edu/amor-mundi/faith-changes-its-object-it-does-not-die-2021-04-08">Alexis de Tocqueville</a> famously put it. Religion’s home, however, is not in the political realm.</p> <p>While religion can inspire civic morality, political unity, according to Arendt, comes from our shared political institutions. Because of that, pluralism and multiculturalism are inherent to a successful republic. The United States is at its best when it embraces the contradictions of pluralism, inclusivity and equality without exception. Of course, we recently lived through an administration that did the exact opposite, scorning the very notion of multiculturalism in favor of religious extremism. That is a sobering reminder that First Amendment protections are only guaranteed so long as they are continuously defended.</p> <p>That defense falls upon the shoulders of young activists and thinkers as much as on the old guard. The fight for the separation of church and state needs to hear <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/youth-organizing-fellowship">our voices</a> and our stories the most, because the battles being waged now will ultimately impact us the most. That’s why, for the next couple of months, I’ll be writing some blog posts for “The Wall of Separation.”</p> <p>Now, more than ever, we need more people with visionary ideas championing the separation of church and state. Although the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in <em>Fulton v. City of Philadelphia</em> was a <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/Supreme-Court-Fulton">narrow one</a>, it made clear that religious extremists are still eager to try and scrap church-state protections.</p> <p>While always a keystone issue, attacks on the separation of church and state have become more contentious with wider repercussions in recent years. American United’s ongoing fight to preserve the wall of separation may be challenging, but to quote Spinoza, “[A]ll things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.” During my time here, I plan on highlighting all the excellent, and difficult, things Americans United accomplishes.</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 class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/fulton-v-the-city-of-philadelphia" hreflang="en">Fulton v. The City of Philadelphia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 23 Jun 2021 12:38:11 +0000 boston 16873 at https://www.au.org Biden And The Bishops: The President’s Job Is Not To Enforce Theology https://www.au.org/blogs/biden-and-bishops <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Biden And The Bishops: The President’s Job Is Not To Enforce Theology</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 Jun 22, 2021 - 08:54</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/bidens%20at%20church%20service.png?h=a3e817f6&amp;itok=Oh93avFt" width="1700" height="525" alt="Bidens in church" title="Bidens attend church " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The U.S. Catholic bishops have captured headlines lately for voting <a href="https://www.npr.org/2021/06/18/1007794929/catholic-bishops-abortion-biden-communion">to draft a formal statement</a> on the meaning of communion within the church. The move is widely acknowledged as an attempt by hardline clerics to punish President Joe Biden, a pro-choice Catholic, by instructing him not to receive communion or even pressuring clergy to deny it to him.</p> <p>Thanks to the separation of church and state, religious organizations in the United States have complete freedom to decide how they will conduct their rituals and who gets to take part in them. No one is suggesting otherwise. But because Biden is the first Catholic to occupy the White House since <em>Roe v. Wade</em> was decided in 1973, the bishops’ move against him is seen as political. It’s also sparking a significant backlash within the church. Most American Catholics, like Biden, are <a href="https://fox8.com/news/majority-of-u-s-catholics-say-abortion-should-be-legal-in-most-cases-survey-shows/">pro-choice</a>.</p> <p>Last week, 60 Democratic members of the House of Representatives who are Catholic were moved by the controversy to issue a <a href="https://delauro.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/catholic-members-congress-release-statement-principles">Statement of Principles</a>. The document is interesting for its endorsement of secular government and frank acknowledgment that it’s inevitable that political leaders will be in tension with some church teachings.  </p> <p>“We recognize that no political party is perfectly in accord with all aspects of Church doctrine,” the statement observes. “This fact speaks to the secular nature of American democracy, not the devotion of our democratically elected leaders. Yet we believe we can speak to the fundamental issues that unite us as Catholics and lend our voices to changing the political debate – a debate that often fails to reflect and encompass the depth and complexity of these issues.”</p> <p>The statement doesn’t explicitly say it, but the reason that tension exists is that elected politicians represent everyone – not just people who share the same religious beliefs. John F. Kennedy – who became the nation’s only other Catholic president – put this well in a famous speech prior to the 1960 election. Kennedy, seeking to disarm allegations that he would slavishly follow church teachings if elected, <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/october-2010-church-state/featured/john-f-kennedy-on-religion-and-politics">told religious leaders in Houston</a>, “I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters – and the church does not speak for me.”</p> <p>Biden was elected to oversee a nation of 328 million people. They represent every religion conceivable and include a growing number of non-religious people. As Alexander Hamilton <a href="https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed69.asp">once observed</a>, the president “has no particle of spiritual jurisdiction.” His job is entirely secular and does not involve the promotion of any church’s doctrines.</p> <p>The bishops are free to punish Biden for acknowledging this simple fact. But their decision to do so only feeds the perception that they fail to grasp – or more likely don’t care – about the fundamental American principle that our politicians are not theological enforcers.</p> <p><em>Photo: President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden attend a religious service in Washington, D.C. </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/churches-and-politics" hreflang="en">Churches and Politics</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/joe-biden" hreflang="en">Joe Biden</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/roman-catholic-church" hreflang="en">Roman Catholic Church</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/john-f-kennedy" hreflang="en">John F. Kennedy</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/abortion" hreflang="en">Abortion</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 22 Jun 2021 12:54:37 +0000 boston 16871 at https://www.au.org Study Shows Government Support Harms Christianity https://www.au.org/blogs/secular-govt-study <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Study Shows Government Support Harms Christianity</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 Jun 21, 2021 - 09:03</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/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/DC%20church.jpg?h=119335f7&amp;itok=ojCDa4_S" width="1700" height="525" alt="D.C. church" title="church in D.C. " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Christian nationalists often portray secularism as the enemy of religion. The two concepts are depicted as antagonists, locked in a never-ending struggle for dominance.</p> <p>This portrayal could not be more wrong. An official policy of government secularism is, in fact, religion’s greatest friend. A state that is neutral on faith allows all religions and non-religious philosophies to flourish. This creates a vibrant marketplace of ideas where people are free to align with whatever system speaks to them – or create their own if they can’t find a good match. Secular government is the platform upon which religious freedom rests.</p> <p>Americans United has been pressing this point for nearly 75 years. We’ve tended to point to our own nation as an example, noting that America is a place where separation of church and state has given the people an amazing amount of religious diversity.</p> <p>Now <a href="https://academic.oup.com/socrel/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/socrel/srab006/6213975">a major study</a> of 166 nations spanning 10 years bears us out. The study, “Paradoxes of Pluralism, Privilege, and Persecution: Explaining Christian Growth and Decline Worldwide” is by scholars Nilay Saiya and Stuti Manchanda. As Jeff Brumley of <a href="https://baptistnews.com/article/global-study-finds-when-religion-seeks-political-dominance-the-faith-suffers/#.YMzci2hKg2w">Baptist News Global</a> put it, the study’s results “overturn common assumptions about secularism and persecution, showing they can instead be conducive to the growth and vibrance of religion. On the other hand, achieving political power usually has the opposite effect.”</p> <p>In their abstract, Saiya and Manchanda write, “Our findings provide support for our theory that Christianity suffers in contexts of privilege but not in environments of pluralism or persecution.”</p> <p>Saiya told Baptist News Global that politicized Christianity is turning people away from the faith.</p> <p>“The politicization of Christianity is repelling potential converts to Christianity who see the Christian faith as nothing more than a political movement,” he said. “It is also driving away Christians themselves who no longer can tolerate their faith being equated with a particular party or the ideology of Christian nationalism.”</p> <p>Saiya made another point, one that has often occurred to us at Americans United: State-favored churches are gradually drained of all their strength and vigor.</p> <p>“In settings of privilege, Christians do not have to worry as much about religious competition because they have the favor of the state,” he said. “Christians do not have to win the battle for hearts through the strength of their arguments. This naturally weakens Christianity theologically and numerically.”</p> <p>He’s right. Many Western European and Scandinavian nations are historically and, in some cases, legally Christian but are <em>de facto</em> secular today. What happened? Hundreds of years of state support sapped the churches of their strength and turned them into government lapdogs. The situation got so bad in Sweden that in 2007, the official state church agreed to separate itself from the state after 500 years, hoping for a shot in the arm. It is probably too late: Only a small fraction of Swedes attend church regularly, and the country has been called the <a href="https://www.thelocal.se/20150413/swedes-least-religious-in-western-world/">least religious nation in the West</a>.</p> <p>In the U.S., Christian nationalists have been campaigning for state support for decades, including demanding taxpayer subsidies for their schools and social service programs (even as they demand special privileges, like exemptions from nondiscrimination laws that public schools and secular service providers must follow) and pressuring legislators to enact their theological positions into law.</p> <p>They’ve managed to convince courts to give them some of this support, but it may be coming at the expense of their membership, their vitality and even their continued existence. Watching the irony meter explode, Americans United hates to say we told you so, but well, we did.</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/secularism" hreflang="en">secularism</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/sweden" hreflang="en">Sweden</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 21 Jun 2021 13:03:29 +0000 boston 16868 at https://www.au.org What The Supreme Court Said – And Didn’t Say – In The Philadelphia Foster Care Ruling https://www.au.org/blogs/Supreme-Court-Fulton <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">What The Supreme Court Said – And Didn’t Say – In The Philadelphia Foster Care Ruling</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 Jun 18, 2021 - 08:49</span> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/same%20sex%20couple%20with%20little%20kid.jpg?h=32d8ca1f&amp;itok=gaphfjOd" width="1700" height="525" alt="couple with child" title="couple with child" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>By Chelsea Thomeer</p> <p>Sometimes, Supreme Court decisions are resets, revolutions, wholesale re-makings. We tend to think of the court this way, as the announcer of edicts – there is a right to privacy, a right to abortion, a right to marry regardless of one’s gender identity.</p> <p>But much more often, the decisions of the nation’s highest court are far less sweeping. Yesterday’s Supreme Court <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2021-06/SCOTUS%20Decision%2C%20Fulton%20v.%20Philadelphia%206.17.21.pdf">ruling</a> in<a href="https://www.au.org/tags/fulton-v-the-city-of-philadelphia"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/tags/fulton-v-the-city-of-philadelphia"><em>Fulton v. City of Philadelphia</em></a><em> – </em>a<em> </em>case concerning whether a city could prohibit a taxpayer-funded, religiously affiliated foster-care agency from discriminating against LGBTQ prospective parents – is a paradigmatic example of a narrow decision. Though all nine justices voted against the city, to see this case as a unanimous victory for faith-based organizations that wish to discriminate against LGBTQ people would be a mistake. On the other hand, aspects of the decision create serious cause for concern for those who believe that religious freedom should never be misused to justify discrimination.</p> <p><em>Fulton </em>stemmed from a dispute between the city of Philadelphia and Catholic Social Services (CSS), one of the private agencies Philadelphia contracted with to provide foster care services. CSS would certify prospective foster parents, who could then be matched with a child in Philadelphia’s foster care system.</p> <p>State and municipal governments frequently make such contracts with private organizations, including religious ones, to fulfill government obligations to provide for the general welfare. Because the private organization is carrying out a public mission, the contract is often made contingent on fulfillment of certain requirements, such as a willingness to serve <em>all </em>the public, or at least all the public eligible for a given service. Catholic Social Services’ contract with Philadelphia included such a provision, which prohibited “reject[ing] a child or family” on the basis of a number of characteristics, including sexual orientation, “unless an exception is granted by the Commissioner” of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services at the commissioner’s “sole discretion.”</p> <p>The controversy that reached the Supreme Court began when Philadelphia learned from a local journalist that CSS was not upholding its end of this bargain because it wouldn’t certify LGBTQ couples as foster parents. To make a long lawsuit short, Philadelphia stopped working with CSS because the organization had violated its contract. CSS then sued Philadelphia, on the grounds that its policy was based on its religious beliefs. To refuse to work with a faith-based agency because of its faith-based policy, CSS said, was a violation of the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion.</p> <p>A federal district court and a federal appellate court both rejected CSS’s argument that its rights were violated. Philadelphia officials, the courts held, had a right to enforce its public accommodations and nondiscrimination requirements, and it was not interfering with CSS’s free exercise rights but simply declining to contract with the agency.</p> <p>In the majority opinion released yesterday, the high court reversed the lower courts, holding that “the actions of the City” did indeed “violate the Free Exercise Clause.” The opinion was authored by Chief Justice John G. Roberts and joined by five other justices, including the court’s three most liberal members.</p> <p>In its opinion, the court cited<a href="https://www.oyez.org/cases/1989/88-1213"> </a><a href="https://www.oyez.org/cases/1989/88-1213"><em>Employment Division v. Smith</em></a>, a leading free exercise case authored by late Justice Antonin Scalia. Under <em>Smith</em>, only laws that are not “neutrally and generally applicable” are subjected to “strict scrutiny,” the court’s most exacting standard. Put another way, if a law applies to everyone in an equal and unbiased manner, it can stand, even if it happens to impose an extra burden on members of a particular religious group. But if a law is <em>not </em>neutral or generally applicable, it is subject to “strict scrutiny” and can only be upheld if it advances “interests of the highest order” and “is narrowly tailored to achieve those interests.”</p> <p>In <em>Fulton</em>, looking at the particular provisions of the contract at issue, the court said that Philadelphia’s nondiscrimination policy wasn’t neutral and generally applicable. Why? Because the contract allowed the commissioner to make individualized exceptions from the policy. The court’s ruling can be boiled down to this: If a government allows discretionary exceptions in some cases, it generally must also grant religious exceptions to religious individuals or organizations.</p> <p>So, at least for now, this specific organization receiving public funding to provide public services is being allowed to maintain a policy that excludes a portion of the public. But it’s also important to take note of what the court – or at least a majority of the court – didn’t say, if only to be aware of what the court still <em>could </em>say in the future.</p> <p>The <em>Fulton </em>decision is extraordinarily narrow, based less on a reading of the Free Exercise Clause than a single clause of a single contract between a religious organization and a municipal government. If Philadelphia decides to rewrite its future contracts to remove all exceptions from its nondiscrimination policy, there is nothing in<em> Fulton</em> that would require religious exemptions from the policy.</p> <p>Technically, Catholic Social Services won – but it won very narrowly, and perhaps only for the time being. Indeed, CSS had specifically asked the court not only to find Philadelphia’s actions unconstitutional but to overrule prevailing free exercise precedent in a manner that would make it much easier for religious claimants to ignore a wide variety of laws and impose their religious beliefs on others. That did not happen.</p> <p>Justices Samuel A. Alito and Neil M. Gorsuch, joined by Justice Clarence M. Thomas, wrote concurring opinions advocating acceptance of this invitation. But Justice Amy Coney Barrett, joined by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, wrote a more measured concurrence. While those two justices stated that they disagree with current free exercise precedent, they were not willing to overrule it at this time because they are not sure what to replace it with.</p> <p>“I am skeptical,” wrote Barrett, “about swapping <em>Smith</em>’s categorial antidiscrimination approach for an equally categorial strict scrutiny regime, particularly when this Court’s resolution of conflicts between generally applicable laws and other First Amendment rights – like speech and assembly – has been much more nuanced.”         </p> <p>Thus, <em>Fulton</em> is <em>not </em>a unanimous, unvarnished victory for the religious extremists who wanted an expansive free pass to misuse religion to discriminate. It is not a revolution in religious freedom law. It is, rather, an expression of skepticism on the part of six justices that there exists a general right for religious entities to opt out of laws that were meant to protect all of us equally.</p> <p>May those justices stay skeptical. And may the rest of us not let them forget why they ought to be.</p> <p><em>Chelsea Thomeer is a legal intern with Americans United.</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/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-minorities-rights" hreflang="en">Religious Minorities&#039; Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-against-customers" hreflang="en">Discrimination Against Customers</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/denials-of-service" hreflang="en">Denials of Service</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/fulton-v-the-city-of-philadelphia" hreflang="en">Fulton v. The City of Philadelphia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/philadelphia" hreflang="en">Philadelphia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/foster-care" hreflang="en">foster care</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/maddonna-v-dept-of-health-and-human-services" hreflang="en">Maddonna v. Dept. of Health and Human Services</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 18 Jun 2021 12:49:40 +0000 boston 16867 at https://www.au.org What America’s Middle School Students Are (And Aren’t) Learning About Evolution https://www.au.org/blogs/middle-school-evolution <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">What America’s Middle School Students Are (And Aren’t) Learning About Evolution</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 Jun 17, 2021 - 09:11</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/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/kids%20with%20microscopes.jpg?h=9c971647&amp;itok=9I4kMf0j" width="1700" height="525" alt="students with microscopes" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Researchers affiliated with Americans United’s allies at the <a href="https://ncse.ngo/">National Center for Science Education</a> earlier this month <a href="https://evolution-outreach.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12052-021-00145-z">published a paper</a> examining the issue of how science teachers in public middle schools approach the issue of evolution. As the saying goes, there’s good news and bad news.</p> <p>The good news is that of the teachers who discuss evolution in class, 81.8% emphasize that there’s a scientific consensus on the reality of evolution. Furthermore, those who teach evolution are devoting a substantial amount of classroom time to it – 14.6 class hours, which translates to about three weeks of instruction.</p> <p>The bad news is that not all middle school science teachers are offering instruction on evolution. Of all the teachers surveyed, 52% teach evolution as settled science, 21% avoid the topic, 18% offer a mixed message (defined as “emphasizing the broad scientific consensus on evolution while also emphasizing the scientific credibility of creationism”) and 9.3% are actually favoring creationism. </p> <p>The paper’s authors, NCSE Executive Director Ann Reid, NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch and Eric Plutzer, a professor of political science and sociology at Penn State, write, “We find that, compared to high school biology teachers, middle school science teachers report themselves as less well-equipped to teach evolution, devoting less class time to evolution, and more likely to avoid taking a stand on the scientific standing of evolution and creationism.”</p> <p>Reid, Branch and Plutzer go on to say that middle school science teachers in states that have adopted the <a href="https://www.nextgenscience.org/">Next Generation Science Standards</a> “are more likely to report devoting more class time to evolution” and that teachers in the pro-standards states “who are newer to the profession are more likely to report themselves as presenting evolution as settled science.”</p> <p>Those findings would indicate that the situation will improve in the future as this younger generation of teachers gets established. But these teachers will need support – from their administrators, from faculty at local colleges, from the large scientific community, from legislators and from parents who recognize the value of teaching sound science.</p> <p>It’s not easy to teach evolution front and center in some parts of the country. While creationists haven’t been very successful in court, they have managed in some communities to create a culture of intimidation that results in evolution being taught half-heartedly if at all.</p> <p>Supporting the teachers who are doing the right thing will ensure that when it comes to understanding evolution – a fundamental, unifying principle of biology – no child is left behind.</p> <p> </p> <p> </p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/creationism" hreflang="en">Creationism</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/ncse" hreflang="en">NCSE</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/science" hreflang="en">Science</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/public-education" hreflang="en">public education</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 17 Jun 2021 13:11:25 +0000 boston 16863 at https://www.au.org Florida Public School Moment Of Silence Law Doesn’t Advance Religious Freedom https://www.au.org/blogs/Florida-Moment-Silence <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Florida Public School Moment Of Silence Law Doesn’t Advance Religious Freedom</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed Jun 16, 2021 - 09:23</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/School%20kids%20praying.jpg?h=119335f7&amp;itok=QemrwtNU" width="1700" height="525" alt="School kids praying" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill June 14 that requires all public schools in the state to sponsor a one-minute moment of silence. It’s a completely unnecessary measure.</p> <p>Florida already had a law allowing for moments of silence, but the new law makes them mandatory. The old law was also unnecessary. Moment-of-silence laws exist in several states, and they are almost always about currying favor with religious voters, not protecting students’ rights.</p> <p>Despite what Christian nationalists believe, truly voluntary prayer has never been removed from public schools. In 1962 and ’63,<a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/march-2020-church-state/featured/the-voluntary-principle-the-us-supreme-court-had-made"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/march-2020-church-state/featured/the-voluntary-principle-the-us-supreme-court-had-made">the Supreme Court struck down</a> laws that compelled or pressured students to take part in prayer and Bible reading. (The law that was struck down in 1962’s <em>Engel v. Vitale</em> would have allowed public schools to sponsor a so-called “non-denominational” prayer written by a government committee.) Those rulings left voluntary prayer by students intact. Furthermore, students can pray at the beginning of the day, over lunch, before they take a test or whenever they feel the need as long as they don’t disrupt others. They don’t need to confine themselves to a ritualized 60 seconds of silence at the start of the day.</p> <p>Formalizing a minute of silence in public schools, especially in the Bible Belt, usually has more to do with politics than religion. That appears to be the case here as well. The<a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/fla-governor-signs-bill-requiring-moment-school-prayer-78274980"> </a><a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/fla-governor-signs-bill-requiring-moment-school-prayer-78274980">Associated Press reported</a> that DeSantis signed the bill at an orthodox synagogue in the city of Surfside and that the ceremony had the “air of a campaign event.” Rabbi Sholom Lipskar of The Shul of Bal Harbour introduced DeSantis as a “great governor and future world leader.” (DeSantis is running for reelection next year, and there has been speculation that he might seek the presidency in 2024.)</p> <p>While the bill was considered in the legislature, lawmakers claimed it was just to give students a chance to stop and reflect. But during the signing, DeSantis remarked, “It’s something that’s important to be able to provide each student the ability, every day, to be able to reflect and to be able to pray as they see fit. The idea that you can just push God out of every institution, and be successful – I’m sorry, our Founding Fathers did not believe that.”</p> <p>No one is pushing God out of our institutions. What Americans United and others work for is ending government-sponsored force and pressure in matters of religion. DeSantis invoked the Founding Fathers, but he fails to understand what they believed: They were dead set against allowing the government to use its powers to compel anyone to take part in or support religion against his or her will.</p> <p>Americans United will continue to ensure that our public schools welcome students of all faiths and those who are non-religious. We can best do that by keeping the schools focused on teaching, not preaching.</p> <p>P.S. To learn more about the issue of prayer in public schools, see this<a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/march-2020-church-state"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/march-2020-church-state">special issue</a> of AU’s <em>Church &amp; State</em> magazine.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/schools" hreflang="en">Schools</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/school-sponsored-prayer" hreflang="en">School-Sponsored Prayer</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/florida" hreflang="en">Florida</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/moment-silence" hreflang="en">Moment of Silence</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 16 Jun 2021 13:23:07 +0000 LHayes 16862 at https://www.au.org Conservative Evangelicals’ Embrace Of Conspiracy Theories Threatens Democracy https://www.au.org/blogs/evangelical-conspiracy-theories <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Conservative Evangelicals’ Embrace Of Conspiracy Theories Threatens Democracy</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 Jun 15, 2021 - 09:15</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/Qanon%20Anthony%20Crider%20via%20flickr.jpg?h=2026e697&amp;itok=GQ35X9YP" width="1700" height="525" alt="QAnon" title="QAnon advocates " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>A few weeks ago, Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) <a href="https://www.prri.org/research/qanon-conspiracy-american-politics-report/">released a report</a> noting that a quarter of white evangelical Protestants in America accept the major beliefs of the QAnon conspiracy theory.</p> <p>In case you’ve forgotten, QAnon, which began to gain traction online during the presidency of Donald Trump, holds that a ring of satanic pedophiles who are highly placed in government and the entertainment industry worked to undermine Trump because he planned to expose their trafficking of children. Its adherents believe that these pedophiles will be purged from public life, and some even insist that Trump will be “restored” to the White House in August.</p> <p>Ridiculous, right? Yep – yet tens of millions of Americans believe it. And some are moved to action: QAnon followers were among the insurrectionists who assaulted the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6.</p> <p>That’s troubling enough, but now <a href="https://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&amp;story=223733">another study</a> has been released about fundamentalists and conspiracy theories, and its findings are equally disturbing. Researchers at Baylor University found that biblical literalists, people who self-identify as “very religious” and those who attend church weekly are significantly more likely to believe in other conspiracy theories as well. Not only do they swallow the QAnon “Democrats-are-sex-traffickers-line,” they also believe that the 2020 election was fraudulent and that the COVID-19 vaccinations aren’t safe.  </p> <p>Paul Froese, Ph.D., director of the Baylor Religion Surveys and professor of sociology, said in a press statement, “The intersection of religion and politics makes the discrete religion effect on conspiratorial thinking hard to concisely determine, and we must note that there are lots of different types and expressions of religiosity. While Americans who most strongly assert their personal religiosity are, on average, more likely to believe these falsehoods, they still remain a minority of religious Americans overall.”</p> <p>That’s a bit of a cold comfort. Yes, these people are a minority, but they hold increasingly radicalized beliefs; some are open to violence. In the PRRI study, 15% of respondents overall backed the idea that violence may be necessary to save the country. That’s millions of people. Remember, on Jan. 6  it only took a mob numbering in the thousands whipped into a frenzy by a demagogue to overrun the Capitol, assault police and do at least <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/insurrection-at-the-capitol/2021/02/24/970977612/architect-of-the-capitol-outlines-30-million-in-damages-from-pro-trump-riot">$30 million in damage</a>.</p> <p>Conspiracy theories have hurt America in other ways. COVID deniers fought in court to keep houses of worship open during the lockdowns, unfortunately winning a sympathetic ear at the Supreme Court. Vaccine skeptics are denying the country herd immunity and scaring people away from shots while spreading <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/558144-woman-fails-to-prove-the-covid-19-vaccine-made-her-magnetic-during-ohio">all manner of nonsense</a>. Debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election helped fuel voter suppression laws in several states. QAnon has <a href="https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/their-loved-ones-are-obsessed-with-qanon-conspiracies-its-tearing-their-families-apart">torn families apart</a>. It remains a festering sore on our body politic. QAnon’s leading proponent in Congress, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), is a disruptive influence whose antics might be amusing if so many people didn’t take them seriously.</p> <p>There’s a sense among some political commentators that American democracy <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jun/05/american-democracy-threat-republicans-donald-trump-voter-suppression">stands on a precipice</a>. Beyond the GOP-led assault on voting rights, we face a growing concern that democracy can’t function in a nation where so many people push facts aside in favor of nonsense that feeds their biases. Much to their shame, far-right evangelicals are forging the path that may take us over the cliff.</p> <p><em>(Photo by Anthony Crider via Creative Commons)</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/evangelical-christianity" hreflang="en">Evangelical Christianity</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/public-religion-research-prri" hreflang="en">Public Religion Research (PRRI)</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 15 Jun 2021 13:15:13 +0000 boston 16861 at https://www.au.org It’s Time To Get Rid Of All The Bigotry In Tennessee’s Constitution https://www.au.org/blogs/Tenn-Constitution-change <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">It’s Time To Get Rid Of All The Bigotry In Tennessee’s Constitution</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 Jun 14, 2021 - 09:15</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/voting%20line.jpg?h=119335f7&amp;itok=1VhjfY12" width="1700" height="525" alt="voting line" title="waiting to vote " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Tennessee’s constitution contains a provision banning public office to three classes of people: ministers, atheists and anyone who has fought in a duel or helped arrange one.</p> <p>The provision, found in <a href="https://www.capitol.tn.gov/about/docs/TN-Constitution.pdf">Article IX of the state’s constitution</a>, dates to 1796 and is clearly antiquated. In fact, the bans on atheists and ministers can’t be enforced, having been nullified by U.S. Supreme Court decisions in <a href="https://www.oyez.org/cases/1960/373">1961</a> and <a href="https://www.oyez.org/cases/1977/76-1427">1978</a> respectively. (Would-be duelists have apparently never tested the third section.) Now a legislator in Tennessee has proposed officially removing the section on ministers – but that’s all. Under a proposal put forth by state Sen. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon), the other two provisions would remain intact.</p> <p>Pody points out that even though the language banning ministers from serving in the legislature can’t be enforced, it’s evidence of past bigotry and ought to go. He’s right about that – but the same thing could be said about the ban on atheists. So why not ditch it as well?</p> <p>That question came up during the debate over Pody’s proposal. “If we’re going to do that, should we just clean up everything that’s currently in the Tennessee Constitution?” asked Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville). “We have numerous provisions that can be deleted. Seems like that would be a more sensible way of doing it and putting it on one resolution.”</p> <p>Pody’s reply was rather weak. He said he prefers to make changes <a href="https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2021/04/07/tn-gop-will-fix-statewide-ban-on-priests-in-government-but-atheist-ban-remains/">“one simple step at a time.”</a></p> <p>A more likely scenario is that Pody, who frequently promotes Christian nationalist ideas in the Tennessee legislature, doesn’t want to be seen as going to bat for atheists. But to leave the anti-atheist language in, even if it can’t be enforced, while repealing the ban for religious leaders, only serves to reinforce the idea that the state doesn’t care about the rights of non-religious people.</p> <p>Andrew L. Seidel, director of strategic response at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, put it well in <a href="https://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/2021/06/08/tennessee-should-end-religious-tests-public-office-impartially/5270885001/">a recent column</a> in the Nashville <em>Tennessean</em>.</p> <p>“It’s great that Tennessee is attempting to fix its Constitution, but it must do so objectively,” Seidel wrote. “Pody claims to be erasing relics of invidious discrimination, but he’s discriminating while doing so. He wants to erase the text that discriminates against ministers but leave the text that treats atheists as second-class citizens.”</p> <p>Bingo. Since all three disqualifications are found in Article IX of the Tennessee Constitution, the obvious answer is to ask voters to repeal the entire article. Removing the section that bans ministers while leaving the ban on atheists in place only serves to perpetuate the bigotry Pody claims to oppose.</p> <p>P.S. <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/april-2020-church-state-magazine/featured/prejudiced-provisions-what-eight-state">Several other states</a> retain antiquated provisions barring atheists from holding public office in their constitutions. It’s time for all of them to go.</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/nontheists-rights" hreflang="en">Nontheists&#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/tennessee" hreflang="en">Tennessee</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/voting-and-religion" hreflang="en">voting and religion</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 14 Jun 2021 13:15:38 +0000 boston 16860 at https://www.au.org There’s No Contradiction: Religious Leaders Celebrate The Colors Of Pride https://www.au.org/blogs/clergy-celebrate-pride <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">There’s No Contradiction: Religious Leaders Celebrate The Colors Of Pride</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 Jun 10, 2021 - 09:22</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/woman%20with%20lgbtq%20flag%20.jpg?h=9c33a359&amp;itok=bAZ3CBDd" width="1700" height="525" alt="woman with LGBTQ flag" title="woman with LGBTQ flag " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, June continues to be a significant month for commemorating observances in American culture. For many people, this includes Juneteenth and Pride Month. Both are two distinctive celebrations signifying freedom and the declaration of joy in one’s identity and full existence in society. The origins of these celebrations stem from different events and experiences of marginalized groups in this country (which should never be compared). However, one cannot deny the connection of the struggle for human rights tied to these landmark events observed in June.</p> <p>Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is an annual celebration that marks the emancipation of Blacks from slavery in the United States. It was on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, declaring the freedom of all enslaved people. Although this executive order was not issued until January 1, 1863, Juneteenth remains a symbolic day in American history as a catalyst to affirming the liberation of Black people.</p> <p>At the same time, June is recognized as Pride Month, a yearly celebration that was established to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots that took place in New York’s Greenwich Village. This uprising was a series of demonstrations that occurred after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar that provided a safe haven for gay patrons. It was illegal to provide such protections during this time. Since 1970, Pride gatherings for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities embody public acceptance and honor the strides in this movement toward equality. Progress has occurred, but much more advocacy needs to be prioritized to secure the civil and human rights of all people in this country.</p> <p>Religious leaders continue to play a critical role in raising awareness about many social justice issues that impact marginalized people. This year, Americans United has joined a coalition of advocacy and faith-based community partners to co-sponsor “<a href="https://www.equalitytime.org/cop-join.html">The Colors of Pride</a>,” a week of activities that will bring together faith leaders and their congregations in support of LGBTQ equality. The Colors of Pride Week of Action (June 11-19) will provide opportunities for allyship between and within the queer community, Black and Brown communities, and congregations. Activities will focus on the intersectionality of queerness, racial justice and religious identity. These events include a virtual Juneteenth celebration honoring the resilience of African Americans as well as advocacy actions prioritizing trans women of color and voting rights. </p> <p>A <a href="https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/lgbt-religiosity-us/">report published by the UCLA Williams Institute</a> found that 5.3 million LGBTQ adults are religious. Of the 1.2 million Black LBGTQ adults living in the United States, 71% identified as religious.</p> <p>This is significant in remembering the legacies of <a href="https://www.biography.com/activist/marsha-p-johnson?li_source=LI&amp;li_medium=m2m-rcw-history">Marsha P. Johnson</a> and <a href="https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/100-amazing-facts/who-designed-the-march-on-washington/">Bayard Rustin</a>. Both were African American activists, people of faith, and members of the LGBTQ community who fought tirelessly to advance human and civil rights in a society that sometimes shunned their Blackness and queerness. Johnson was a transgender Black woman credited for being an instigator of the Stonewall riots. She was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ people and especially trans women of color despite the challenges that she faced, including homelessness. Rustin, a Quaker, was an influential leader during the civil rights movement who served as an adviser to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was the main organizer for the 1963 March on Washington. Unfortunately, the taboo associated with his sexual identity as a Black gay man during that era resulted in Rustin taking a less visible role in the movement.</p> <p>Yet, Americans United is honored to work alongside <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/june-2021-church-state-magazine/featured/keeping-the-faithful-americans-united-unveils">Faith Advisory Council</a> members like Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart who offered affirming words last week during the Samuel DeWitt <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=1165637727242280&amp;ref=search">Proctor Conference’s Pride Prayerdemic Facebook live event</a>. Wearing a black T-shirt with the words “My Black Wife Makes Me Smile,” she offered an empowering prayer by saying, “God, thank you for making me Black and Queer … Thank you for allowing your imagination to run deep for molding us and shaping us in our blackness and queerness.” Toward the end, she said, “Push us <em>all</em> to Black freedom.” These affirming words resonated with the viewers as endless hearts and likes filled the chat. It served as a reminder for many that there is no contradiction in proclaiming one’s sexual identity or faith – both can, will, and do coexist – even in a world that creates a false narrative about LGBTQ people of faith.</p> <p>Over the next month, more Faith Advisory Council members like Circle Sanctuary’s the Rev. Selena Fox will continue raising their voices in support of LGBTQ equality and racial justice. We are encouraging our <a href="https://www.au.org/get-involved/religious-outreach">Faith Leaders United</a> members to join us in participating in the Colors of Pride Week of Action by showing their support for the <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/equality-act">Equality Act</a>, racial and religious minorities of color, and LGBTQ people who are often discriminated against in areas of housing, education, health care and many more.  <a href="https://www.equalitytime.org/cop-join.html">Click here to sign up for any of the week’s activities!</a></p> <p>In the words of AU friend and Hindu leader Dr. Murali Balaji, “Being an ally means more than just putting up social media symbols and sharing hashtags. It means doing the work of empathy-based action, to ensure our LGBTQI+ family members know we will join them in causing ‘good trouble’ for equality. Most importantly, we need to be there for queer and trans community members of color who need our support as they practice self-care and resilience in the face of homophobia, transphobia, and racism.”</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/pride-month" hreflang="en">Pride Month</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/equality-act" hreflang="en">Equality Act</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/martin-luther-king-jr" hreflang="en">Martin Luther King Jr.</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/racial-justice-and-religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Racial Justice and Religious Freedom</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 10 Jun 2021 13:22:06 +0000 boston 16859 at https://www.au.org