The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/ en Trump’s Call For Easter Services Is Unconstitutional And Dangerous https://www.au.org/blogs/trump-easter-services <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Trump’s Call For Easter Services Is Unconstitutional And Dangerous</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, 04/06/2020 - 10:46</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/church%20pews.jpg?h=54705569&amp;itok=-pHhbp8c" width="1700" height="525" alt="church pews" title="pews " 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, President Donald Trump toyed with the idea of reopening the country’s economy by Easter. Public health officials reacted sharply to the idea, and Trump dropped it.</p> <p>Kind of. Over the weekend, he floated the idea of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/04/world/coronavirus-live-news-updates.html">lifting social distancing restrictions for Easter</a> only so people who wanted to could attend church services.</p> <p>Trump suggested that “maybe we could allow special for churches” and recommended gatherings with “great separation.”</p> <p>“It’s something we should talk about," Trump said. (Note that Trump didn’t suggest opening synagogues and mosques, even though Jews and Muslims also have major holidays this month. One suspects this might be another sop to the president’s Christian nationalist allies.)</p> <p>But there’s really no point in talking about it. We’ve been through this before. As Americans United <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/religious-services-shouldnt-be-excluded-from-bans-against-large-gatherings-to">has pointed out</a>, allowing people to gather for religious services while denying them the right to attend secular events violates the First Amendment. Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser put it well to <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Health/constitutional-questions-murky-churches-continue-defy-restrictions-gatherings/story?id=69973339">ABC News yesterday</a>: “Equal treatment does not violate religious freedom; it ensures religious freedom is not misused to risk people’s lives.”</p> <p>Furthermore, encouraging people to attend religious services – even if only for one day – is dangerous. Several outbreaks of coronavirus have been traced to events at churches. In Albany, Ga., dozens of cases have been linked to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/30/us/coronavirus-funeral-albany-georgia.html">a funeral at a chapel</a>. In Washington state, a Presbyterian church held choir practice March 10. Of the choir’s 60 members, 45 <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/coronavirus-strikes-45-of-60-people-who-went-to-mount-vernon-washington-choir-practice">have tested positive</a> for coronavirus.</p> <p>It’s understandable that some Americans are seeking the comfort and solace of religious communities at this difficult time. Religious leaders have stepped up to meet the need. The vast majority are being responsible and holding services remotely. <em>The Washington Post</em> <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2020/04/02/last-rites-coronavirus-sick-facetime-clergy/">has even reported</a> that some pastors are using platforms such as Facetime and Zoom to offer last rites for the dying.</p> <p>As we strive to flatten the curve, the last thing we want to do is risk slipping backward. Trying to find ways for people to meet in large groups, even for religious worship on an important holiday for Christians, is counterproductive. Trump needs to drop the idea for good.</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/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/easter" hreflang="en">Easter</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 06 Apr 2020 14:46:39 +0000 boston 16132 at https://www.au.org A Calif. Pastor Wrongly Believes He’s Above The Law. Americans United Is Setting The Record Straight. https://www.au.org/blogs/lodi-california-church <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">A Calif. Pastor Wrongly Believes He’s Above The Law. Americans United Is Setting The Record Straight.</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, 04/03/2020 - 09:55</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/Lodi_CA_Arch.JPG?h=2240b8e9&amp;itok=6yDxOeWQ" width="1700" height="525" alt="lodi" title="lodi arch" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>We’ve noted on this blog several times that the vast majority of religious leaders in America are <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/no-church-exemption">doing the right thing</a> during the coronavirus outbreak by moving services online or temporarily suspending them – but reports continue to come in about pastors who are determined to ignore stay-at-home orders.</p> <p>The latest is from Lodi, Calif., where Pastor John Duncan of Cross Culture Christian Center <a href="https://www.lodinews.com/news/article_207c1a22-72eb-11ea-aeb4-a3170ac7f1d9.html">continues to hold Sunday services</a> that attract 25-50 people, in violation of orders from officials of San Joaquin County and the state of California that ban public gatherings.</p> <p>After Lodi police officers visited the congregation to educate members about the dangers of holding services, the church enlisted an extreme Religious Right legal group called the National Center for Law &amp; Policy to send a letter to city officials asserting that its rights are being violated.</p> <p>“I must insist that you and your officers respect CCCC’s constitutional rights and immediately cease and desist any and all unlawful police threats of enforcement actions or enforcement actions against the church,” wrote attorney Dean Broyles.</p> <p>Yesterday Americans United responded with <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-04/AU%20Letter%20to%20Lodi%20Calif.%20on%20Coronavirus%204.2.20.pdf">its own letter</a> to Lodi officials to let them know that Broyles and his group are wrong: Legal precedent clearly states that during public health emergencies, large gatherings, religious and secular, can be curbed.</p> <p>“It has long been established that state and local governments have the power to impose reasonable restrictions on personal liberty to protect the public from contagious disease,” Alex J. Luchenitser, AU associate legal director, and Patrick Grubel, Madison legal fellow, wrote to Lodi municipal and law enforcement officials. “Lodi therefore can and should continue to enforce the emergency orders equally against religious and nonreligious institutions.”</p> <p>AU’s letter noted that religious gatherings have sparked outbreaks of coronavirus around the country. In Bartow County, Ga., 40 early cases of coronavirus were linked to a single church event.</p> <p>“A single unwitting carrier in the Christian Center’s congregation could cause a ripple effect through the entire community: That one carrier might pass the virus to the worshippers next to him, who might then return home and pass it to their family members, including people at high risk of severe illness,” asserted Luchenitser and Grubel. “If those infected family members then go to the doctor’s office, or to the grocery store for milk, they may potentially expose others, who may then do the same to their families – and so on.”</p> <p>As AU President and CEO Rachel Laser <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-01/florida-governor-ron-desantis-issuing-stay-at-home-order">told Bloomberg News recently</a>, “This virus doesn’t discriminate – it endangers people whether they gather for religious or secular purposes, and it puts entire communities at risk.”</p> <p>That includes Lodi. Here’s hoping officials there take Americans United’s advice and ignore the National Center for Law &amp; Policy’s misguided analysis.</p> <p><em>Photo by Randy Elliott via Creative Commons</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/california" hreflang="en">California</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/national-center-for-law-and-policy" hreflang="en">National Center for Law and Policy</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/georgia" hreflang="en">Georgia</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 03 Apr 2020 13:55:18 +0000 boston 16131 at https://www.au.org Deadline Approaching: Enter AU’s Annual Student Essay Contest Now! https://www.au.org/blogs/student-essay-contest <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Deadline Approaching: Enter AU’s Annual Student Essay Contest Now! </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, 04/02/2020 - 10:39</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/alicia-johnson" hreflang="en">Alicia Johnson</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/young%20woman%20writing%2C%204.2.20.jpg?h=8615b6b7&amp;itok=u3mHX5yW" width="1700" height="525" alt="woman writing" title="young woman writing" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>"My generation is the key to change,” said Ranen Miao of Short Hills, N.J., in the closing words of his <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/september-2019-church-state-magazine/featured/reclaiming-religious-freedom-its-up-to">winning submission</a> to Americans United’s 2019 Student Essay Contest. He continued, “Today, young voices matter more than ever: together, with shared conviction and faith, we can create an inclusive future that defends both religious freedom and social justice.”</p> <p>The importance of young people raising their voices, and older folks listening, has always been true. Now with the separation of religion and government under unprecedented attack, AU understands how important it is to engage Generation Z in the fight for the freedom to practice any religion we want or no religion at all, so long as we aren’t harming others.</p> <p><a href="https://www.au.org/essaycontest">AU’s annual essay contest</a> is one way we encourage young people to reflect on why religious freedom and the separation of religion and government are important to them, their peers, their families, and their communities.</p> <p>In past years, we’ve seen hundreds of submissions from across the country. Once again, we’re eager to hear young people’s ideas for what we can all do to ensure that religious freedom is used as a shield that protects, not a sword to harm others.</p> <p>Are you – or do you know – a high school junior or senior who has ideas about the importance of separation of religion and government? We are accepting submissions to the <a href="http://au.org/essaycontest">2020 Student Essay Contest</a> now through April 19.</p> <p>This year’s contest invites high schoolers to reflect on why the separation of religion and government is important to them, what they and others in their community have done to oppose threats to religious freedom, and what more can be done.</p> <p>The top three essay writers will receive prizes of $500-$1,500 and have their essays published on AU’s website. The first-place prize winner will also be published in <em>Church &amp; State </em>magazine<em>.</em></p> <p>“Today’s young people, shaped by the horrors of political polarization, will be the ones to create positive change,” last year’s third-prize winner, Isabella Reish, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., <a href="https://www.au.org/media/297">wrote</a>. “We have a unique skill set for modern times: We can organize massive groups through social media, we can communicate with other young activists across the country, and we have the knowledge required to build the America that we want to live in.”</p> <p><em>Alicia Johnson is Americans United’s national organizer and student network manager. </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/student-essay-contest" hreflang="en">Student Essay Contest</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 02 Apr 2020 14:39:53 +0000 boston 16130 at https://www.au.org Note To Christian Nationalist Pastors: You Don’t Have A Constitutional Right To Make People Sick https://www.au.org/blogs/curbing-pandemic-spread <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Note To Christian Nationalist Pastors: You Don’t Have A Constitutional Right To Make People Sick</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, 04/01/2020 - 09:56</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/doctors%2C%204.1.20.jpg?h=3b3a6c19&amp;itok=5Hs0b0cf" width="1700" height="525" alt="doctors" title="docs" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>During trying times such as these, it is understandable that people who believe in a higher power would want to lean into their faith and meet with their faith communities. That makes the public health orders around the country barring people from gathering, including for religious services, all the more difficult – but still necessary.</p> <p>“We appreciate the difficulty that these public health orders pose for all of us, including those who find solace in religious services during such challenging times,” <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/texas-countys-mass-gathering-ban-protects-public-health-does-not-require">said Rachel Laser</a>, president and CEO of Americans United, in a statement yesterday. “But this virus doesn’t discriminate – it endangers people whether they gather for religious or secular purposes, and it puts entire communities at risk. … We applaud the faith communities who are finding creative new ways to worship together virtually. We will get through this crisis together, even if not in person.”</p> <p>Unfortunately, as we <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/coronavirus-stories-update">noted yesterday</a>, some misguided religious leaders are resisting stay-at-home orders issued by state and local officials, arguing that they have a constitutional right to meet for religious services, even in the face of a pandemic.</p> <p>Among them are Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of Florida’s River at Tampa Bay Church, who <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/30/us/florida-pastor-arrested-river-church/index.html">has been arrested</a> because he refused to stop holding religious services even though an order had been issued requiring people to stay home except for essential trips, and a band of clergy in Harris County, Texas, who are opposing an order there that curbs large gatherings.</p> <p>In both cases, extremist voices are arguing in favor of the churches. In Harris County, the pastors are working with Steven Hotze, a medical doctor known for his anti-LGBTQ activism. Hotze has been on Americans United’s radar screen for a long time and has a history of activism in the <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/october-2001-church-state/featured/operation-potomac">most radical Christian nationalist circles</a>, while Howard-Browne has retained Mat Staver, an attorney who runs the Religious Right legal group Liberty Counsel, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center considers to be <a href="https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/liberty-counsel">a hate group</a>, to represent him.</p> <p>Predictably, Staver has been making wild-eyed claims on his group’s website, <a href="https://lc.org/newsroom/details/20200330-sheriff-arrests-tampa-fl-pastor-for-holding-church-tyranny-is-here">asserting</a>, “America is in the fight for her life right now – not against a virus that has so far caused fewer deaths worldwide than car accidents or tuberculosis – but against the anti-Christian, petty tyrants who, unable to steal YOUR freedom in the good times of broad daylight, now seek to use panic and fear to force you into compliance.”</p> <p>Hotze and Staver are ignoring the extraordinary nature of these times. Normally, a church’s worship activities would be of no interest to the government. But, normally the government would not be interested in banning people from gathering for secular purposes either. In the face of a public health crisis, that can change. Restrictions on gatherings can be put in place as long as they are neutral and applied equally to religious and secular entities. (If you’re of a legal bent, you can read more about these arguments in <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/AU%20Amicus%20Brief%20Texas%20Supreme%20Court%20In%20re%20Hotze%203.31.20.pdf">AU’s brief</a> in the Harris County case. The situation there is in flux, as Gov. Greg Abbott has since issued a <a href="https://www.expressnews.com/news/local/article/Gov-Abbott-overrides-San-Antonio-Bexar-County-15170236.php">statewide executive order</a> that allows houses of worship to meet as long as social distancing is practiced.)</p> <p>When the health and well-being of the population is at stake, and public officials have a duty to take steps to protect it. This is not a new idea. In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case called <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobson_v._Massachusetts">Jacobson v. Massachusetts</a></em>, which upheld the right of states to fine residents who refused to get mandatory vaccinations. The plaintiff in the case, Henning Jacobson, refused to get a smallpox vaccination even though an epidemic was under way in his town of Cambridge. Jacobson was a member of the clergy but did not raise a specific religious objection to the vaccine; rather, he argued that forcing him to receive it was “an invasion of his liberty.”</p> <p>The high court, ruling 7-2, disagreed.</p> <p>“Upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members,” observed Justice John Marshall Harlan.</p> <p>Seventeen years later, the Supreme Court affirmed its ruling in the <em>Jacobson</em> case when it ruled in <em>Zucht v. King</em> that the public schools of San Antonio, Texas, could refuse admission to students unless they were first vaccinated against smallpox.</p> <p>Since then, several lower federal and state courts have issued <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/december-2019-church-state-magazine/au-bulletin/ny-court-upholds-vaccination">similar decisions</a> specifically rejecting the idea that parents have a religious freedom right to ignore vaccination requirements for children.</p> <p>As Americans United has noted repeatedly, religious freedom doesn’t grant anyone the right to expose others to harm or take away their rights. Hotze, Howard-Browne, the Harris County pastors and others who are trying to undermine stay-at-home orders are threatening the health and well-being of not just their congregations but of their larger communities. Neither common sense nor the law is on their side. </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/texas" hreflang="en">Texas</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/florida" hreflang="en">Florida</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/mat-staver" hreflang="en">Mat Staver</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/liberty-counsel" hreflang="en">Liberty Counsel</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/vaccinations" hreflang="en">Vaccinations</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 01 Apr 2020 13:56:49 +0000 boston 16103 at https://www.au.org Church, State And The Coronavirus: An Update Of Recent Developments https://www.au.org/blogs/coronavirus-stories-update <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Church, State And The Coronavirus: An Update Of Recent Developments</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, 03/31/2020 - 11:26</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/closed%20coronavirus%2C%203.31.20.jpg?h=d6303b21&amp;itok=O9zAbXzp" width="1700" height="525" alt="closed" title="closed sign " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>We’ve seen several important church-state developments related to the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s a round-up of recent news:</p> <p>* Yesterday Americans United <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/AU%20Letter%20to%20NM%20Health%20Sec.%20Kunkel%20on%20Coronavirus%203.30.20.pdf">sent a letter</a> to Kathyleen M. Kunkel, cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Health, urging her to alter a March 24 public health order that curbs most mass gatherings but that exempts “individuals congregated in a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship.”</p> <p>Observed AU President and CEO Rachel Laser, “This exemption allows religious gatherings to continue under circumstances deemed too dangerous for secular gatherings, putting the public health at risk. We write to explain why this exemption is not only detrimental to public health but also unconstitutional and to urge you to revoke it immediately.”</p> <p>Kunkel is the third state official AU has written to about coronavirus-related orders that exempt houses of worship. The others are <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/AU%20Letter%20to%20MI%20Gov.%20Whitmer%20on%20Coronavirus%203.23.20.pdf">Michigan</a> and <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/AU%20Letter%20to%20KS%20Gov.%20Kelly%20on%20Coronavirus%203.25.20.pdf">Kansas</a>.</p> <p>* Law enforcement officials in Hillsborough County, Fla., <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/florida-pastor-arrested-after-holding-church-services-despite-coronavirus-orders-n1172276">have arrested Rodney Howard-Browne</a>, pastor of the River Church at Tampa Bay, after he refused to stop holding services. Howard-Browne has vowed to continue sponsoring services, and witnesses reported seeing dozens of cars pulling into the church parking lot Sunday night.</p> <p>Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said law enforcement was compelled to act.</p> <p>“His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people from his congregation at risk and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week,” Chronister said.</p> <p>Thankfully, many faith leaders are taking the proper precautions. Bishop Thomas Scott of 34th Street Church of God in Tampa <a href="https://www.local10.com/news/local/2020/03/30/pastor-faces-charges-for-defying-stay-at-home-order-with-large-services/">appeared at a press conference with the sheriff</a> to encourage faith communities to avoid mass gatherings.</p> <p>“It is important for the religious community to govern themselves according to the laws of the land. The Bible instructs us to obey the laws of the land,” Scott said, noting that his church has moved to online Sunday and Wednesday worship services. “We value the importance of the laws of the land and we value the importance of social distancing, and more important, protecting our parishioners. Make sure they are not in harm’s way or that they spread this deadly disease throughout the community.” </p> <p>Liberty Counsel, an extreme Religious Right legal group run by Mat Staver, has agreed to represent Howard-Browne in court.</p> <p>* Religious Right activists in Harris County, Texas, are <a href="https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Texas-Supreme-Court-Harris-County-stay-at-home-15166758.php">going to the Texas Supreme Court today</a> in an attempt to nullify a public health order issued by County Executive Lina Hidalgo, which requires most businesses to close and does not exempt houses of worship.</p> <p>The lawsuit was filed in part by Steven Hotze, a Christian nationalist and opponent of LGBTQ rights who has been active in Texas Republican Party politics for decades. Hotze and a handful of ministers assert that Hidalgo’s order violates religious freedom.</p> <p>Last week, a court in New Hampshire <a href="https://apnews.com/95a5ec823697e0b52e7a548d3f04b7b0">rejected a similar lawsuit</a> brought by people who said they had a right to attend secular and religious gatherings.</p> <p>(Update: This afternoon, AU's Legal Department <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/texas-countys-mass-gathering-ban-protects-public-health-does-not-require">filed a friend-of-the-court brief </a>in the Harris County case, arguing that it's s not only permissible for the county to include houses of worship and religious services in its ban of in-person gatherings, but it would be unconstitutional to exempt religious gatherings from the  order.)</p> <p>* Officials in New Jersey are cracking down on unauthorized gatherings at religious buildings. Yesterday <a href="https://www.nj.com/news/2020/03/2-men-charged-for-gathering-at-lakewood-school-that-defied-coronavirus-rules.html">police broke up a gathering</a> of dozens of men at a yeshiva in Lakewood, N.J., and charged two men, David Gluck and Abraham Haberfeld, with maintaining a nuisance.</p> <p>* Jerry Falwell Jr. continues to receive criticism for his decision to reopen Liberty University, where at least one student has tested positive for COVID-19 and several others have reported flu-like symptoms. Columnist Michael Gerson, himself a conservative evangelical, pulls no punches as he makes some relevant points about Falwell’s poor reasoning in <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jerry-falwell-jrs-coronavirus-response-shows-his-staggering-level-of-ignorance/2020/03/30/9138ae4c-72af-11ea-85cb-8670579b863d_story.html">today’s column</a>.</p> <p>Americans United will continue to protect our constitutional right to religious freedom amid these new attempts to undermine church-state separation in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Even during hard times – especially during hard times – we must defend the Constitution. And remember, we’re keeping a <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/resources-at-home">list of resources on church-state relations</a>, including books, podcasts, documentaries and so on, that you can check out from home. We’ll be updating it regularly. </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/jerry-falwell-jr-0" hreflang="en">Jerry Falwell Jr.</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/liberty-university" hreflang="en">Liberty University</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/florida" hreflang="en">Florida</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/michigan" hreflang="en">Michigan</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/new-mexico" hreflang="en">New Mexico</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/kansas" hreflang="en">Kansas</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/texas" hreflang="en">Texas</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/new-hampshire" hreflang="en">New Hampshire</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/new-jersey" hreflang="en">New Jersey</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 31 Mar 2020 15:26:38 +0000 boston 16101 at https://www.au.org Separating Together: Living – And Learning – During The Coronavirus Outbreak https://www.au.org/blogs/resources-at-home <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Separating Together: Living – And Learning – During The Coronavirus Outbreak</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, 03/30/2020 - 12:40</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/woman%20reading%20alone%20%282%29.jpg?h=0b533ab2&amp;itok=V3SCu6G7" width="1700" height="525" alt="reading alone" title="reading book" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p><em>Even as we keep physically distant from one another during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s important that we find ways to connect with people and stay engaged on the issues we care most about – including the separation of religion and government. During good times and bad, we remain committed to defending the Constitution and its promise of religious freedom.</em></p> <p><em>That’s why, over the coming days and weeks, we’ll be sharing recommendations of books, articles, podcasts, movies, and other resources you can check out if you have some extra time on your hands and are trying to keep occupied. Some will be serious, some will be more light-hearted, but all of them are offerings from our staff, supporters and friends to help us all make the best of these trying times – and come out all the stronger for it in the end. Bookmark this page and keep checking back, as we plan to keep updating it. And share your own recommendations <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/zcNH73ZKKEq3_sSiAqUVGw2?ms=social">here</a>!</em></p> <p><strong>Monday, April 6, 2020</strong></p> <p>This week, we’re going to focus on some content from recent issues of Americans United’s <em>Church &amp; State</em> magazine:</p> <ul><li>The just-released <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/april-2020-church-state-magazine">April issue of the magazine</a> takes a look at the question of religious tests for public office. At one time, many states had provisions requiring people to be Christians or even Protestants as a condition of holding public office. Learn what happened to these antiquated laws in <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/april-2020-church-state-magazine/cover-story/believe-it-or-not-in-the-us-no-one-can-be">this story</a>.</li> <li>Did you know that eight state constitutions still bar atheists from holding public office? While these provisions can’t be enforced anymore, they came from a time when prejudice against non-believers was common. Is your state one of them? Find out <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/april-2020-church-state-magazine/featured/prejudiced-provisions-what-eight-state">here</a>.</li> <li>Courtni Burleson and Ahmed Ali are Americans United’s newest employees. <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/april-2020-church-state-magazine/featured/development-duo-meet-courtni-burleson-and">Find out what they do at AU</a> and get to know them personally.</li> <li>The Supreme Court has accepted a new case that could make it easier for religious employers to restrict access to birth control. Read about it <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/april-2020-church-state-magazine/featured/access-denied-the-supreme-court-is-hearing-a">here</a>.</li> <li>Like millions of others all over the country, the staff of Americans United has been working from home. That can present certain challenges. AU President and CEO Rachel Laser shares <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/april-2020-church-state-magazine/perspective/were-keeping-our-distance-even-as-we-stay">some reflections on that</a>.</li> <li>Education researcher/writer Diane Ravitch has a great new book out about the importance of public education and the threat of vouchers. We’ve got <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/april-2020-church-state-magazine/books-ideas/welcome-to-the-resistance-diane-ravitchs">a review</a>.  </li> <li>Finally, if you’re interested in the question of religion in public schools, the March issue of <em>Church &amp; State</em> took an in-depth look at the issue. The <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/march-2020-church-state/cover-story/say-your-prayers-kids-or-well-force-you-christian">cover story</a> provides a short history of religion in public education, looks at several efforts to amend the Constitution to require religious worship in public schools and takes a look at where we are now. Other articles examine occasions when <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/march-2020-church-state/featured/a-history-of-violence-how-disputes-over-school">violence has erupted</a> over religion in schools and <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/march-2020-church-state/featured/prayer-in-public-schools-its-time-to-set-the-record">debunk common myths</a> about the issue.</li> </ul><p>A subscription to <em>Church &amp; State</em> is included with your membership in Americans United. If you’re not a member and you like what you read, <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">sign up</a>. We’d love to have you!</p> <p><strong>Monday, March 30, 2020:</strong></p> <ul><li>Fans of podcasts might want to tune into this episode of <strong>NPR’s “Throughline”</strong> titled <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/03/04/812092399/public-universal-friend">“Public Universal Friend.”</a> It’s an intriguing story of religious freedom and a non-binary self-proclaimed prophet who challenged gender assumptions – in the late 1700s!</li> </ul><ul><li>Another NPR podcast, <strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/podcasts/767992905/unprecedented">“Unprecedented,”</a></strong> covers the waterfront of civil liberties issues, including some episodes that touch on religious freedom.</li> </ul><ul><li>If you’re in the mood for a documentary, consider “<strong>We Believe in Dinosaurs,”</strong> which examines the conflict over taxpayer funding of creationist Ken Ham’s “replica” of Noah’s Ark in a small Kentucky town. <a href="https://www.webelieveindinosaurs.net/">The film’s website</a> has information about how to stream it.</li> </ul><ul><li>For a more historical look at church-state separation and how it has played out in public schools, try <strong>“The Lord Is Not On Trial Here Today.”</strong> This documentary takes an in-depth look at <a href="https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/333us203"><em>McCollum v. Board of Education</em></a>, a 1948 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in one of the first legal battles over the role of religion in public schools. <a href="https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/lord-trial-here-today/">You can watch it here.</a></li> </ul><ul><li>Feel like reading? <strong><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Godless-Constitution-Against-Religious-Correctness/dp/039331524X"><em>The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness</em></a></strong> by Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore is a brief but enlightening defense of our secular Constitution. For a book with a more contemporary feel, try Jax Wexler’s <strong><a href="https://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=27312"><em>Our Non-Christian Nation: How Atheists, Satanists, Pagans, and Others Are Demanding Their Rightful Place in Public Life</em></a></strong><strong>,</strong> an engaging look at how radically inclusive pluralism is changing the church-state debate in America.</li> </ul><p>We hope you enjoy these resources. Stay safe!</p> <p><strong>Monday, March 23, 2020:</strong></p> <p>If it hadn’t been for the coronavirus, Americans United’s first-ever National Advocacy Summit (NAS) would have been well under way today. The event has been rescheduled for <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/NAS-FAQ-Final.pdf">Sept. 13-15</a>, but you can get a head start on things by checking out these resources from NAS speakers:</p> <ul><li><strong>Jeff Sharlet</strong>, an award-winning literary journalist, will keynote the event. Sharlet is the author of several books, including two about the secretive Religious Right group the Family. Check out <em>The New York Times</em> bestseller <em><a href="https://www.harpercollins.com/9780060560058/the-family/">The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power</a></em><em> </em>and <em><a href="https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/jeff-sharlet/c-street/9780316179737/">C Street:  The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy</a></em>. Many of us are spending a lot more time indoors these days so now is a great time to binge watch <a href="https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/netflix-the-family-jesse-moss-secret-christian-cult-washington-dc-869396/">“The Family,”</a> the Netflix series based on Sharlet’s work. (Sharlet served as executive producer of the series.)</li> </ul><ul><li>Writer/researcher <strong>Katherine Stewart</strong> will speak on a panel about Christian nationalism during the NAS. Now would be a great time to read her eye-opening new book, <em><a href="https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/the-power-worshippers-9781635573435/">The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism</a></em>. You might also pick up Stewart’s previous book, <em><a href="http://thegoodnewsclub.com/">The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children</a></em>, an expose of Religious Right-led efforts to proselytize in America’s public schools. Stewart also recently wrote <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/06/opinion/sunday/trump-evangelicals.html">this piece for <em>The New York Times</em></a> (which quotes AU President and CEO Rachel Laser) about the Trump administration’s proposed rules that would roll back religious freedom protections for vulnerable people who rely on taxpayer-funded social services provided by faith-based agencies.</li> </ul><ul><li>T<strong>he Rev. Kentina Washington-Leapheart</strong>, an ordained minister who currently works as a writer and consultant, will join her wife, the Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart, and others for a panel on the connection between racial justice and religious freedom. She contributed to <em><a href="https://www.thepilgrimpress.com/products/the-words-of-her-mouth-psalms-for-the-struggle-spong">The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle</a></em><em>, </em>which the editor described as “conversation with the psalms in this season of child separation and climate change and #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter.”</li> </ul><ul><li><strong>Robert P. Jones</strong>, the CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, is another NAS speaker who has published books. Jones’s <em><a href="https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-End-of-White-Christian-America/Robert-P-Jones/9781501122323">The End of White Christian America</a></em> is an interesting dissection of demographic trends in America and where they are taking us. Jones’s newest book, the forthcoming <em><a href="https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/White-Too-Long/Robert-P-Jones/9781982122867">White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity</a></em>, is a powerful look at the disturbing relationship between American Christianity and white supremacy. The book will be released in June, a few months before the NAS.</li> </ul><ul><li>Not to toot my own horn too much, but I’ll be moderating a panel at the NAS, and I’ve written some books, too. <em><a href="http://www.prometheusbooks.com/books/9781591021148">Why The Religious Right Is Wrong About Separation of Church &amp; State</a></em> debunks claims that America was founded to be a “Christian nation.” <em><a href="https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781616149123/Taking-Liberties-Why-Religious-Freedom-Doesn%27t-Give-You-the-Right-to-Tell-Other-People-What-to-Do">Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You The Right To Tell Other People What To Do</a></em>, makes it clear that religious freedom was never intended to be an instrument to harm others or take away their rights.</li> </ul><ul><li>Take a break from all that reading by checking out singer-songwriter <strong>Scarlett Rabe</strong>, who will provide entertainment during the NAS. Follow her on <a href="https://www.instagram.com/scarlettrabe/?hl=en">Instagram</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/scarlettrabe?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor">Twitter</a> and check out her music on her <a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/scarlettrabe">YouTube channel</a>.</li> </ul><p>We’ll be back on this blog from time to time with more ideas on how to school yourself about separation of church and state during this period of working from home, self-quarantining and sheltering in place. We’d love to have your ideas, too – send them to us on <a href="https://twitter.com/americansunited">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/americansunited/">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/americansunited/">Instagram</a>, or send them to us<a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/zcNH73ZKKEq3_sSiAqUVGw2?ms=social"> via this form</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/katherine-stewart" hreflang="en">Katherine Stewart</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/jeff-sharlet" hreflang="en">Jeff Sharlet</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/family" hreflang="en">The Family</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 30 Mar 2020 16:40:55 +0000 boston 16095 at https://www.au.org The Religious Right’s Disdain For Science Is Exactly What We Don’t Need Right Now https://www.au.org/blogs/denial-of-science <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">The Religious Right’s Disdain For Science Is Exactly What We Don’t Need Right Now</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, 03/30/2020 - 11:51</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/scientist%2C%203.30.20.jpg?h=dfab142e&amp;itok=N2Cw4ZuQ" width="1700" height="525" alt="scientist " title="science!" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Media pundits and syndicated columnists are already speculating about what sort of lessons the nation will take from the coronavirus pandemic once life gets back to some semblance of normality. Here’s one I hope we all learn: Science matters.</p> <p>This point would seem rather obvious, but as writer/researcher Katherine Stewart <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/opinion/coronavirus-trump-evangelicals.html">noted in <em>The New York Times</em> last week</a>, Religious Right groups’s hostility to science may have hampered our response to the outbreak.</p> <p>“Religious nationalism has brought to American politics the conviction that our political differences are a battle between absolute evil and absolute good,” Stewart, author of the new book <em><a href="https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/the-power-worshippers-9781635573435/">The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism</a></em>, wrote. “When you’re engaged in a struggle between the ‘party of life’ and the ‘party of death,’ as some religious nationalists now frame our political divisions, you don’t need to worry about crafting careful policy based on expert opinion and analysis. Only a heroic leader, free from the scruples of political correctness, can save the righteous from the damned. Fealty to the cause is everything; fidelity to the facts means nothing. Perhaps this is why many Christian nationalist leaders greeted the news of the coronavirus as an insult to their chosen leader.”</p> <p>Anyone who tracks the Religious Right, as we do assiduously here at Americans United, is familiar with the tendency of these groups to heap disdain and scorn on science and often higher education generally. Universities are portrayed as harbors for far-left “elites” who yearn to tear down students’ faith and “traditional” values. Science is all too often portrayed as a threat to religion.</p> <p>It’s a caricature, of course, but this type of fear of secular knowledge does affect public policy. It’s what led to the rise of creationism (and the constant legal fights over it in public schools), bogus “Christian nation” views of U.S. history, climate change denial, etc. (Here’s another example: <a href="https://whatweknow.inequality.cornell.edu/topics/lgbt-equality/what-does-the-scholarly-research-say-about-the-wellbeing-of-children-with-gay-or-lesbian-parents/">Numerous studies have been published</a> showing that the children of same-sex couples fare no worse than the children of opposite-sex parents. Religious Right groups simply ignore this data and keep pushing the lie that same-sex parenting is bad for kids.)</p> <p>In the early days of the outbreak, too many from these groups listened to President Donald Trump and Fox News talking heads, who insisted that the threat of coronavirus <a href="https://www.vox.com/2020/3/13/21178188/fox-news-coronavirus-sean-hannity-trump-response">was overblown and all about “politics,”</a> instead of medical experts who knew better. Even now, as the pandemic ravages our population, some groups continue to embrace conspiracy theories and are <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/28/technology/coronavirus-fauci-trump-conspiracy-target.html">attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci</a>, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci, a career public servant who has worked under Republican and Democratic administrations, is to many Americans a voice of sanity in challenging times. To science-deniers, he’s increasingly a target for social media scorn.</p> <p>The rejection of science and refusal to see facts as the non-partisan things that they are have consequences, as Jerry Falwell Jr. – and his students at Liberty University in Virginia – are <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/nearly-a-dozen-liberty-university-students-sick-with-coronavirus-symptoms-after-falwell-reopened-campus">painfully learning</a>. Put simply, viruses don’t care whether you believe in them or not. They will wreak their havoc either way. </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/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/katherine-stewart" hreflang="en">Katherine Stewart</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/fox-news-channel" hreflang="en">Fox News Channel</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/jerry-falwell-jr-0" hreflang="en">Jerry Falwell Jr.</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/liberty-university" hreflang="en">Liberty University</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 30 Mar 2020 15:51:22 +0000 boston 16100 at https://www.au.org Could Someone Persuade Jerry Falwell Jr. To Stop Talking? Please? https://www.au.org/blogs/falwell-liberty-university <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Could Someone Persuade Jerry Falwell Jr. To Stop Talking? Please? </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, 03/26/2020 - 09:57</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/liberty%20univ%20flickr.jpg?h=2e2bd29a&amp;itok=NwseCqpl" width="1700" height="525" alt="liberty univ" title="liberty univ " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and a prominent evangelical supporter of President Donald Trump, is ramping up his campaign of misinformation about the coronavirus.</p> <p>Fresh from his March 13 appearance on Fox News during which Falwell speculated, with absolutely no evidence, that the virus is a North Korean bioweapon, the fact-lacking Lynchburger has struck again. This time, he appeared on Todd Starnes’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRIzp8xOq7M">podcast to boast</a> about his plans to keep Liberty open during the pandemic, all the while spewing even more nonsense. (Starnes, you may recall, is the guy whose right-wing nuttery is so out there that even Fox News <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/media/464127-radio-host-todd-starnes-out-at-fox-news">cut him loose</a>.)</p> <p>Falwell was only on the show for about four minutes but managed to spread an astonishing amount of rubbish in that time period. He asserted that the reaction to the virus is “politics – it’s just politics,” inaccurately called coronavirus a flu (<a href="https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-disease-2019-vs-the-flu">it’s not</a>) and harrumphed, “I’m not worried about it.”</p> <p>According to Falwell, the media has blown the virus out of proportion “just to hurt Trump.” (He failed to explain how the media has managed to kill more than <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/1093256/novel-coronavirus-2019ncov-deaths-worldwide-by-country/">21,000 people worldwide</a>.) He said it was important to speak out because otherwise, the country might “resort to socialism.” (Note to Falwell: <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/03/25/coronavirus-mcconnell-schumer-trump-admin-announce-stimulus-deal/5076640002/">You’re too late</a>.)</p> <p>“Government’s not the answer,” Falwell drawled. “Common sense is the answer. Churches are the answer.”</p> <p>Falwell’s version of “common sense” includes reopening Liberty and allowing students to live close together in dorms and mandating that faculty and staff report to work – even after state officials closed public schools for the year and urged people not to gather in groups of 10 or more.</p> <p>Although in-person classes are canceled at Liberty, students can elect to attend remotely while living on campus, and nearly <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/24/us/liberty-university-reopens-coronavirus-trnd/index.html">2,000 returned after spring break</a>. Falwell’s decision has been widely panned; Marybeth Davis Baggett,<em> </em>an English professor at the school, <a href="https://religionnews.com/2020/03/22/dear-liberty-university-board-please-stop-jerry-falwell-jr-before-its-too-late/">has called on Liberty’s board to overrule him</a>. Lynchburg Mayor Treney Tweedy <a href="https://apnews.com/326b67255b5436bd2a6bf2443ae5be96">called the move “reckless</a>.”</p> <p>Board action against Falwell isn’t likely to happen, and if I were Baggett, I’d start polishing my resume because, except for at its law school, faculty at Liberty don’t have tenure. Still, it’s good to see people standing up to Falwell. The man is putting lives at stake.</p> <p>The good news is that Falwell is an outlier. Across the country, most religious leaders and educators are doing the right thing and holding worship services or classes virtually. They know that the only way we’ll get through this public health emergency is if we work together – even if we’re physically apart.</p> <p>Americans United is doing its part. All staff members are working remotely to protect church-state separation. We haven’t let up one bit. That includes urging governors <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/religious-services-shouldnt-be-excluded-from-bans-against-large-gatherings-to">not to grant houses of worship exemptions</a> from restrictions on mass gatherings and speaking out against Christian nationalists like Falwell whose views endanger our people.</p> <p>Be assured that AU's activism and tenacious defense of America’s precious legacy of religious freedom, undergirded by the separation of religion and government, will continue – before, during and after this crisis.</p> <p><em>Photo: By Taber Andrew Bain via Creative Commons</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/jerry-falwell-jr-0" hreflang="en">Jerry Falwell Jr.</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/virginia" hreflang="en">Virginia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/liberty-university" hreflang="en">Liberty University</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/lynchburg" hreflang="en">Lynchburg</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> Thu, 26 Mar 2020 13:57:56 +0000 boston 16099 at https://www.au.org A Legislator In Pennsylvania Has Introduced An Offensive Prayer Day Resolution. Lawmakers Should Denounce It. https://www.au.org/blogs/offensive-pennsylvania-resolution <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">A Legislator In Pennsylvania Has Introduced An Offensive Prayer Day Resolution. Lawmakers Should Denounce 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">Wed, 03/25/2020 - 11:55</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/PA%20capitol%20hburg.jpg?h=5888d62a&amp;itok=EeXYwtPC" width="1700" height="525" alt="PA capitol" title="Harrisburg " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>President Donald Trump proclaimed March 18 a National Day of Prayer in response to the coronavirus pandemic. That was a misguided move. <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/trump-prayer-day">As we noted at the time</a>, mixing religion and government won’t protect anyone from the virus.</p> <p>Now a legislator in Pennsylvania has proposed another<a href="https://www.abc27.com/news/local/harrisburg/state-rep-files-controversial-resolution-for-day-of-humiliation-fasting-and-prayer-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/"> </a><a href="https://www.abc27.com/news/local/harrisburg/state-rep-files-controversial-resolution-for-day-of-humiliation-fasting-and-prayer-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/">resolution calling for prayer</a> that’s even more offensive because of the way it’s worded.</p> <p>State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, a Republican who represents parts of Clinton and Centre counties, has introduced<a href="https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2019&amp;sInd=0&amp;body=H&amp;type=R&amp;bn=835"> </a><a href="https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2019&amp;sInd=0&amp;body=H&amp;type=R&amp;bn=835">House Resolution 835</a> that would designate March 30 as “A State Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer” in Pennsylvania.</p> <p>The resolution is littered with offensive Christian nationalist language, among those a declaration that “The House of Representatives devoutly recognizes the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations” and a call for the state to “recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history: that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”</p> <p>It goes on to urge Pennsylvanians to “abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.”</p> <p>But hands down the worse passage is this one: “May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of the pandemic, which now desolates this Commonwealth may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins…?”</p> <p>In other words, we sinned so we deserve the death and destruction brought about by this pandemic – and all we can do now is beg the fundamentalists’ vengeful deity to mitigate its effects. That may be standard far-right Christian theology, but it’s nothing a state government should endorse. Not only does language like that offend non-Christians and non-believers (and, I am sure, plenty of Christians as well), it goes out of its way to blame innocent people for a worldwide pandemic. It offers a cold shoulder to the more than <a href="https://www.wgal.com/article/coronavirus-covid19-in-pennsylvania-updates/31924015">850 people in Pennsylvania </a>who’ve been infected with coronavirus, in effect saying, “It’s your own fault. Maybe you should have prayed more.”</p> <p>Does the commonwealth of Pennsylvania really want to be on record saying that?</p> <p>Thankfully, some Pennsylvania legislators are pushing back. State Rep. Kevin J. Boyle, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties, <a href="https://twitter.com/RepKevinBoyle/status/1242198957461307395">put it bluntly in a tweet</a>: “I do believe this is the stupidest resolution I’ve ever seen a politician introduce.”</p> <p>This resolution reflects the worst kind of narrow-minded, exclusionary fundamentalist theology. It is divisive and offensive. Pennsylvania legislators should do more than reject it out of hand: They ought to condemn it.</p> <p><em>Photo: Pennsylvania's capitol building in Harrisburg</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/ceremonial-deism" hreflang="en">Ceremonial Deism</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/prayer-proclamations" hreflang="en">prayer proclamations</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/pennsylvania" hreflang="en">Pennsylvania</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 25 Mar 2020 15:55:25 +0000 boston 16097 at https://www.au.org In The Face Of A Pandemic, The Government Can Curb Gatherings – And That Includes Houses Of Worship https://www.au.org/blogs/no-church-exemption <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">In The Face Of A Pandemic, The Government Can Curb Gatherings – And That Includes 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, 03/24/2020 - 11:43</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/empty%20church%2022.jpg?h=dbeb3295&amp;itok=Yg-pj2IE" width="1700" height="525" alt="empty church" title="church pews" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>In normal times, when a house of worship holds its services, how many people attend and what form that worship takes would be none of the government’s business.</p> <p>These are not normal times. The coronavirus has reached the level of a pandemic, and states and cities are taking unprecedented steps to curb gatherings of people. Most schools have closed and events like concerts, plays, lectures, movies, sporting matches, social functions and others have been shut down.</p> <p>The restrictions include houses of worship, and the vast majority of religious leaders are being responsible and have either moved services online or canceled <a>them outright.</a> Some religious leaders have issued <a href="https://action.groundswell-mvmt.org/petitions/faithful-distance-commit-to-church-social-distance">thoughtful statements</a> about the need to behave in a way that protects us all during this difficult time. The leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals and <em>Christianity Today</em> have <a href="https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/march-web-only/walter-kim-nae-timothy-dalrymple-cancel-church-or-not.html">issued a statement</a> that will likely resonate with many religious people: Believers aren’t being asked to stop worshipping – merely to do it differently.</p> <p>Unfortunately, not everyone is taking the threat of coronavirus seriously or they’re misunderstanding how religious freedom impacts restrictions.</p> <p>In some states, notably Michigan, government officials have spawned confusion by issuing orders that ban gatherings of 50 or more but go on to<a href="https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/03/21/coronavirus-whitmer-updates-order-assemblies-exempt-churches-penalty/2885395001/"> </a><a href="https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/03/21/coronavirus-whitmer-updates-order-assemblies-exempt-churches-penalty/2885395001/">effectively exempt worship services</a>. Under pressure from conservative legislators, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) granted such an exemption last week.<a href="https://www.rawstory.com/2020/03/michigan-governor-blames-gop-and-separation-of-church-and-state-on-failure-to-ban-megachurch-gatherings/"> </a><a href="https://www.rawstory.com/2020/03/michigan-governor-blames-gop-and-separation-of-church-and-state-on-failure-to-ban-megachurch-gatherings/">She told Fox News on Sunday</a> that she acted because, “Well, you know, the separation of church and state, and the Republican legislature asked me to clarify that that’s an area that we don’t have the ability to enforce and control.”</p> <p>But Whitmer is wrong about that. Separation of church and state does not demand that houses of worship get an exemption in a case like this. In fact, granting worship facilities special treatment while denying it to similarly situated secular events – concerts, public lectures, rallies, etc. – is preference to religion, which the government is not supposed to show.</p> <p>Religious freedom doesn’t mean the right to expose others to harm, injury or death. Certain religious practices can be curbed or banned if they threaten others. In this case, the government is acting to protect citizens by issuing neutral rules that treat religious and secular bodies exactly the same – 50 people can’t gather for a flute recital on Sunday morning, nor can they for a religious service.</p> <p>Americans United is<a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/AU%20Letter%20to%20MI%20Gov.%20Whitmer%20on%20Coronavirus%203.23.20.pdf"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/AU%20Letter%20to%20MI%20Gov.%20Whitmer%20on%20Coronavirus%203.23.20.pdf">working to educate policymakers</a> about this important issue and how separation of church and state is to be applied during these challenging times.<a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/AU%20Letter%20to%20MI%20Gov.%20Whitmer%20on%20Coronavirus%203.23.20.pdf"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/AU%20Letter%20to%20MI%20Gov.%20Whitmer%20on%20Coronavirus%203.23.20.pdf">In a letter</a> sent to Whitmer yesterday, AU President and CEO Rachel Laser observed, “[A]t this moment, the Constitution not only permits but demands that the safety and health of every single person must take precedence. In order to protect the lives and health of those who attend religious services and those who might be in contact with them, we urge you to rescind immediately the religious exemption for houses of worship.” (AU is sending similar letters to the governors of other states who have exempted houses of worship.)</p> <p>In a media statement, Laser said, “We applaud the faith communities that are finding creative ways to worship together online or by broadcast, and we hope that people will find comfort by participating in these virtual services. We may be physically apart, but we will get through this public health crisis together – even if it’s together in new ways.”</p> <p>At Americans United, we’re working hard to convey the message that we’re all in this together. For everyone to make it through safely, we all have to abide by the same rules – and that includes America’s houses of worship.</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/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/michigan" hreflang="en">Michigan</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/national-association-evangelicals" hreflang="en">National Association of Evangelicals</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/christianity-today" hreflang="en">Christianity Today</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 24 Mar 2020 15:43:56 +0000 boston 16096 at https://www.au.org