The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/ en AU Complaint Prompts Detroit Officials To Alter Program That Gave Preference To Faith-Based Organizations https://www.au.org/blogs/detroit-faith-based <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">AU Complaint Prompts Detroit Officials To Alter Program That Gave Preference To Faith-Based Organizations</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 May 06, 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/detroit.jpg?h=283672de&amp;itok=Hudd_Hfk" width="1700" height="525" alt="Detroit" title="Detroit" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>We’re pleased today to report an important win for church-state separation: Officials in Detroit ceased involvement with a taxpayer-funded program after Americans United raised concerns about its legality and lack of religious freedom safeguards.</p> <p>The program, known as the Faith Forward Fund, was designed to give tax money to faith-based entities to deal with issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was co-sponsored and partially funded by the city but was carried out by the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. AU noted that the United Way affiliate’s website stated that both faith-based organizations and secular nonprofits were eligible for grants so long as they have an operating budget of less than $250,000. But various other statements on the site and in other materials about the program suggested that only faith-based organizations would be eligible.</p> <p>Bob Holley, an AU member in the area, alerted us to the problem, and our Legal Department got on the case. In a letter to city officials, AU noted, “To begin with, the very name of the program – Faith Forward Fund – suggests that it is only for faith-based organizations and communicates a City preference for and endorsement of religion. The City press release announcing the Program is entitled, ‘City announces Faith Forward grant program to help sustain churches, synagogues, mosques during COVID-19 pandemic.’ While the press release mentions that small nonprofits are eligible, it contains quotes from Mayor Duggan, Wendy Lewis Jackson, Dr. Darienne Hudson, and Paul Propson that only speak of faith-based organizations.”</p> <p>Furthermore, AU pointed out that there was no language in the program materials stating that the money could not be used for religious purposes – a distinction that’s necessary to protect taxpayers’ religious freedom.</p> <p>But AU didn’t just point out the problems. Our attorneys made a number of suggestions, including:</p> <ul> <li>Modifying all program materials to make clear that religious and nonreligious nonprofit organizations are equally eligible for program funds; remove any statements that may suggest that only faith-based organizations are eligible or that there is any kind of preference for faith-based organizations.</li> <li>Modifying the program eligibility requirements so that nonreligious vaccine-site partners are eligible to the same extent as religious ones.</li> <li>Changing the name of the program so that it is inclusive of both religious and nonreligious organizations.</li> <li>Making clear in the program materials that program funds must not be used for religious activities or purposes.</li> <li>Requiring applicants for program funds to certify in their applications that they will not use program funds for religious activities or purposes.</li> <li>Putting in place procedures to monitor use of program funds after they are disseminated to ensure that the money does not go to religious uses.</li> </ul> <p>City officials responded quickly to AU’s letter. They pulled taxpayer money out of the program; in addition, the United Way has added restrictions that will ensure that the money will not be used for religious purposes. The group also made it clear that all grants must be used to serve the citizens of Detroit without discrimination.</p> <p>Alerted by a local activist to a problem, AU was able to quickly fix it.<a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">Your support</a> makes victories like this possible. Thank you!</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/taxpayer-funding-of-religion" hreflang="en">Taxpayer Funding Of Religion</a></div> </div> </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/faith-based-initiative" hreflang="en">faith-based initiative</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 06 May 2021 13:15:23 +0000 boston 16806 at https://www.au.org The National Day Of Prayer: It’s Still Annoying But Likely To Be Less Horrifying This Year https://www.au.org/blogs/NDP-Less-Horrifying <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">The National Day Of Prayer: It’s Still Annoying But Likely To Be Less Horrifying This Year</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 May 05, 2021 - 09:27</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/white%20house%202.jpg?h=3d1402c7&amp;itok=EBsWS8dF" width="1700" height="525" alt="white house" title="white house DC" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Tomorrow is the <a href="https://www.nationaldayofprayer.org/introducing_the_national_day_of_prayer_2021_theme">National Day of Prayer</a> (NDP), an event codified by a U.S. law dating to 1952 that requires the president to issue a proclamation recognizing it.</p> <p>Americans United has a lot of problems with the NDP. As a privately sponsored event, it would be fine, but state and local governments often mark the NDP with laudatory proclamations calling on citizens to pray and engage in acts of worship. It’s simply not the place of our secular government to direct its citizens on when, how or whether to pray. Government has no business even offering us advice on how to behave when it comes to religion.  </p> <p>But this year’s event, although it will still promote an unhealthy mixing of religion and state, is likely to be different in one key way: The president probably won’t use it to unveil a terrible policy.</p> <p>That’s exactly what President Donald Trump did to mark the NDP for three out of four years. In fact, one of Trump’s worse initiatives on church-state relations was announced <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-trump-executive-order-harms-religious-freedom-and-undermines">during the 2017 National Day of Prayer.</a> This order, allegedly promoting “religious freedom,” was in reality nothing more than a sop to Christian nationalists.</p> <p>Trump falsely claimed his order would overturn a federal law known as the Johnson Amendment and allow houses of worship to intervene in partisan politics – something he didn’t have the power to do. But even though it was mostly verbiage, the order ended up sowing a lot of confusion. A second portion of the order was also problematic: It attacked women’s access to birth control, allowing religious beliefs to be cited as a reason for taking away this vital form of health care.</p> <p>During the 2018 NDP ceremony at the White House, Trump struck again. This time he <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/june-2018-church-state-magazine/featured/offensive-order">announced plans to</a> change regulations that were put in place to protect people who use government-funded social service programs that were being handled by religious organizations. The old rules said that people who are uncomfortable with the religious character of a faith-based provider have the right to access an alternative provider. Trump’s order was the first step in stripping away that protection. It also mandated the creation of “Faith and Opportunity” offices in every federal agency and department. These offices were ordered to enforce a U.S. Justice Department guidance that furthered religion-based discrimination in taxpayer-funded programs.</p> <p>The 2019 NDP ceremony was another disaster. <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/june-2019-church-state-magazine/people-events/trump-codifies-religion-based">Trump announced a rule</a> inviting health care workers to cite their religious beliefs to deny care to patients. He also said his administration would take steps to ensure that faith-based adoption and foster care agencies that receive taxpayer funding can turn away any prospective parents who fail to meet their religious test. (Both measures were challenged in court by Americans United and its allies, and the health-care rule was quickly invalidated.)</p> <p>2020’s NDP was more subdued. With the coronavirus pandemic raging, Trump held an outdoor ceremony featuring prayer and music, but he refrained from announcing any new initiatives.</p> <p>What will happen tomorrow? We don’t know, but we can make a safe guess that President Joe Biden won’t urge houses of worship to run amok in partisan politics, and he won’t hand down a regressive order that targets women or members of the LGBTQ community. He won’t likely unveil an executive order furthering religion-based discrimination.</p> <p>Biden has been busy <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/Biden-100-Days">overturning Trump-era policies</a>, including some of the orders Trump announced during National Day of Prayer events. There’s more to be done. As we noted last week, AU and 76 other religious, civil rights, labor, health, secular and women’s organizations <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/CARD-Letter-White-House">have written</a> to Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, recommending three steps Biden should take to further repair the damage done by Trump.</p> <p>So, while we’re still not fans of a government-backed National Day of Prayer, we’re taking heart that this year’s event is likely to be much less horrifying than the ones we’ve seen since 2017. That’s cause for celebration or even a little private prayer of thanks – but only if you’re so inclined, of course.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-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/ceremonial-deism" hreflang="en">Ceremonial Deism</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/national-day-prayer" hreflang="en">National Day of Prayer</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/joe-biden" hreflang="en">Joe Biden</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 05 May 2021 13:27:43 +0000 boston 16805 at https://www.au.org The Challenges We Face Are New. Our Responses Should Be, Too https://www.au.org/blogs/new-challenges-approach <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">The Challenges We Face Are New. Our Responses Should Be, Too</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 May 04, 2021 - 08:57</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rachel-laser" hreflang="en">Rachel Laser</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/together.jpg?h=119335f7&amp;itok=vvM8Hzd5" width="1700" height="525" alt="together" title="people together" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p><em>Editor’s note: This post by AU President and CEO Rachel Laser originally appeared in the <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/may-2021-church-state-magazine">May 2021 issue </a>of AU’s </em>Church &amp; State<em> magazine.</em></p> <p>For people like me, rituals that slow you down and open up space for thought are good.</p> <p>Every Friday, I go for a sacred early morning long run with my dear friend Andrea where we exchange our innermost thoughts. As a Jew, I have evolved into appreciating the existence of certain rituals, such as pausing at the end of a busy week to light the Shabbat candles or engaging in deep and honest per­s­onal reflec­tion each year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This monthly column gives me the space as president of Americans United to step back from my daily work to reflect on AU’s work and focus on being in relationship with you — an especially important con­nection since the coronavirus has prevented us from any chance of being together in person for so long.</p> <p>At the time of this writing, I, like I hope many of you, am now not only vaccinated but in recovery mode from all that we have been through over these past few years. But every time I settle into a long and satisfying exhale, I am reminded of how much work we still have to do. Take, as one example of too many, the Supreme Court.</p> <p>On April 9, the Court <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/Supreme-Court-California-COVID-April">issued an opinion</a> in <em>Tandon v. Newsom, </em>a case challenging a California policy crafted by public health officials that put the <em>exact same </em><em>limitations on </em>religious <em>and</em> secular in-home gatherings.</p> <p>For the Court’s ultra-conservative majority, that complete parity in treatment was still somehow mis­treating religion. Remarkably, the Court ruled that because commercial businesses such as hardware stores and groceries were allowed to open, home-based religious meetings must also be permitted. The result: The Court granted a religious exemption for in-home religious gatherings.</p> <p>There is no clearer illustration of religious freedom being misused to license harm to others than this case. The long-term ramifications are extremely concerning. If the Court is willing to, in the words of Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent, “ignore ... experts’ scientific findings” even amidst a global pandemic and “equally treat apples and watermelons” to bestow privilege on religion, where will the Court draw the line?</p> <p>I could easily spend the rest of this column laying out the depth of the threats we now face with this Supreme Court (and the lower courts, now one quarter Trump appointees), but as important as it is to understand that danger, it’s equally critical to reserve energy to be strategic and forward moving in the face of it. That’s exactly what Americans United’s five-year strategic roadmap has enabled us to do. We are making steady progress as we work to grow our movement, increase our visibility and expand our legal and public policy capacity.</p> <p>Just one example is our recent poll that I plan to share in more detail soon. We cannot make transformational progress until we understand what obstacles stand in the way of more people joining our cause. Our research taught us that while a super-majority of Americans support church-state separation, very few understand how it affects their lives or that it’s under threat. As we educate more people about our issue, we must ensure that we are speaking about our values in modern and resonant terms. But the good news is, for many of our issues, the support is already there. For example, we were thrilled to learn from our poll that 8 in 10 Ameri­cans agree that “the law should not allow people to use their religious beliefs to harm others.”</p> <p>I am also excited to preview that AU will be refreshing our logo and visual identity and (drumroll please!) adding a tagline. You will also be pleased to know that we are redesigning our website to maximize its appeal and usefulness. We are doing all of this work carefully, driven by best practices, data we are collecting and extensive conversations with both our members and new target audiences.</p> <p>We’ve also begun to think about plans to celebrate our 75th anniversary<em> next year</em>. Highlights are sure to include our Second National Advocacy Summit (save the date: March 27-29, 2022), the rollout of our rebranding (discussed above), a nationwide visibility campaign, projects to grow AU’s budget to continue our strategic plan work and special opportunities throughout the year to honor our past work and look forward together.</p> <p>Thanks for spending some of your valuable time today joining me as I share my thoughts. Until next month ... stay healthy, stay hopeful and stay strong.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic" hreflang="en">Protecting Religious Freedom During the Coronavirus Pandemic</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/justice-elena-kagan" hreflang="en">Justice Elena Kagan</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/polls" hreflang="en">polls</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 04 May 2021 12:57:51 +0000 boston 16804 at https://www.au.org An Arkansas Creationism Bill Has Failed To Evolve Into Law https://www.au.org/blogs/Ark-creationism-dead <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">An Arkansas Creationism Bill Has Failed To Evolve Into Law</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 May 03, 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/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/dino%20kids.jpg?h=4462e40b&amp;itok=yk36ogfN" width="1700" height="525" alt="kids with dinos" title="dino kids" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>There’s good news out of Arkansas for a change: A Senate committee vote killed a misguided bill promoting creationism in the state’s public schools.</p> <p>As we <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/Arkansas-creationism-bill">noted on this blog recently</a>, House Bill 1701, sponsored by state Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville), was a real throwback: It would have allowed the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in science classes.</p> <p>This “balanced treatment” approach has been invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts (including in a 1981 ruling from Arkansas), but that didn’t matter to Bentley. She believes the Supreme Court might be willing to change its mind.</p> <p>But that unlikely scenario would leave Arkansas students woefully unprepared to understand modern biology. Bentley is doing the state’s youngsters no favors here. In a world where STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and math) are increasingly important gateways to good careers and success, her approach would leave the young people of Arkansas behind.</p> <p>Bentley’s bill passed the Arkansas House of Representatives by a wide margin but ran into problems in the Senate. Two weeks ago, the Senate Education Committee deadlocked on it 3-3. For now, the bill is dead – the legislature has finished most of its work for the session, having gone Wednesday into an extended recess until it takes up redistricting later this year.</p> <p>As Hemant Mehta of the “Friendly Atheist” blog <a href="https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2021/04/22/arkansas-senate-committee-defeats-bill-allowing-creationism-in-science-class/">noted</a>, the debate over the bill was hardly inspiring. Some lawmakers backed creationism, and one even said the bill was unnecessary because creationism is already being taught in a school where a friend teaches (yikes!). But in the end, enough members of the committee voted the right way. It might have been an ugly win, but we’ll take it.</p> <p>While there were few profiles in courage in Arkansas, it’s still good to see this dangerous bill die. Let’s hope it does not rise again.</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/arkansas" hreflang="en">Arkansas</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/public-education" hreflang="en">public education</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 03 May 2021 12:44:41 +0000 boston 16803 at https://www.au.org 77 Organizations Urge New Path Forward For Biden’s White House On Religious Freedom https://www.au.org/blogs/CARD-Letter-White-House <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">77 Organizations Urge New Path Forward For Biden’s White House On 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">Fri Apr 30, 2021 - 13:12</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/samantha-sokol" hreflang="und">Samantha Sokol</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/GettyImages-503375767.jpg?h=7fb3de95&amp;itok=RrdIHCDN" width="1700" height="525" alt="White House" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Under President Joe Biden, the White House’s Office of Faith-Based &amp; Neighborhood Partnerships seems to be moving in a new direction. Biden’s executive order reestablishing the partnership office recognizes that it must “preserv[e] our fundamental constitutional commitments” to equal protection and church-state separation. And longtime church-state advocate <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/Biden-Appoints-Melissa-Rogers">Melissa Rogers</a> will lead the office.</p> <p>But there’s much more work to be done. Over the past four years, the Trump administration stripped religious freedom protections from regulations and issued memoranda, policies and executive orders encouraging the misuse of religious freedom to justify discrimination. Even before Trump, leftover policies from the Bush administration’s “Faith-Based Initiative” allowed federal contractors and grantees to discriminate in employment with taxpayer dollars. </p> <p>Today, <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2021-04/CARD%20Letter%20to%20White%20House%204.30.21.pdf">77 religious, civil rights, labor, health, secular and women’s organizations wrote to Rogers</a> to urge the White House’s Faith-Based Office to restore critical religious freedom protections and chart a new path forward with even more robust protections. As members and allies of the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination (CARD), they include diverse groups ranging from the Presbyterian Church (USA) to the Union for Reform Judaism, the National Education Association, National Women’s Law Center, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the NAACP, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the National Council of Churches, the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign, and us at Americans United.</p> <p>All of us agree that faith-based organizations, like secular organizations, should not be allowed to take government funds and then place religious litmus tests on whom they hire, whom they serve, or what services required under the program to provide. Our letter urges the White House to take several concrete actions, including: </p> <p><strong>1. Restoring safeguards in social service programs that were stripped by the Trump administration in their </strong><a href="https://www.au.org/coalition-against-religious-discrimination-card-comments-on-trumps-faith-based-regulations"><strong>Faith-Based Regulations</strong></a><strong>. </strong>Trump’s regulations removed requirements that people who are receiving taxpayer-funded social services get notice of their religious freedom rights, including that they could request a referral to another provider if they are uncomfortable with the religious character of the current provider. The Trump regulations also ended the requirement that people who get services through a voucher program (known as “indirect aid”) had at least one secular option to choose from.<strong> </strong>The result:<strong> </strong>Trump’s rules could lead to people – especially religious minorities and the nonreligious, women and LGBTQ people – foregoing the services they need for fear of religious coercion or because they aren’t informed about their rights.</p> <p>That’s why Americans United, along with our allies at Democracy Forward and Lambda Legal, filed a <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2021-01/MAZON%20v.%20Dept.%20of%20Health%20and%20Human%20Services%20Complaint%201.19.21.pdf">federal lawsuit </a>against the Trump administration to challenge this rollback of religious freedom protections for vulnerable people who use taxpayer-funded social services. We’re suing on behalf of several organizations, including MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and Services &amp; Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), that fund and provide services to vulnerable communities. </p> <p>Although this lawsuit is in the pipeline, Biden can fix this problem immediately by issuing new regulations that restore the religious freedom safeguards for people who receive social services. </p> <p><strong>2. Ending federally funded employment discrimination.</strong> Existing policies allow taxpayer-funded contractors and grantees to use religion to discriminate against their employees. Biden must ensure that no one is denied a government-funded job because they are the “wrong” religion.</p> <p><strong>3. Undoing policies, memoranda and guidance by the Trump administration that misused federal religious freedom law.</strong> Previous administrations issued policies that misused the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to justify religious exemptions to laws that bar discrimination. The Biden White House must rescind these policies and clarify that RFRA cannot be used to violate the civil rights of others. RFRA must be a shield to protect religious freedom, not a sword to allow discrimination. </p> <p>The Biden White House has a lot to do to restore the damage to our religious freedom rights of the last four years, and has an important opportunity to chart a new path that will protect religious freedom for all Americans. With this <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2021-04/CARD%20Letter%20to%20White%20House%204.30.21.pdf">CARD letter</a> supported by 77 organizations, we hope they will use our blueprint for where to start. </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/employment-discrimination" hreflang="en">Employment Discrimination</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/faith-based-regulations" hreflang="en">Faith-Based Regulations</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/melissa-rogers" hreflang="en">Melissa Rogers</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/joe-biden" hreflang="en">Joe Biden</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/card" hreflang="en">CARD</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 30 Apr 2021 17:12:58 +0000 LHayes 16802 at https://www.au.org So How’s He Doing? Biden Marks 100 Days In Office https://www.au.org/blogs/Biden-100-Days <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">So How’s He Doing? Biden Marks 100 Days In Office</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">Thu Apr 29, 2021 - 11:17</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/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/Biden%20Joint%20Congress%20Address%20CSPAN%204.28.21.png?h=83d127b5&amp;itok=NY9A1FHS" width="1700" height="525" alt="President Biden speaking at Joint Session of Congress with VP Harris and Speaker Pelosi" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>President Joe Biden has been in office for 100 days. While that’s something of an arbitrary number, it’s traditionally the point where lots of people step back and ask, “So, how’s it going so far?”</p> <p>So, how is it going when it comes to church-state separation? Very good overall. Here are five areas where Biden has made a real difference, along with some next steps we hope Congress and his administration will take <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-11/Agenda%20to%20Restore%20%26%20Protect%20Religious%20Freedom%20-%20Overview_0.pdf">to continue restoring and protecting religious freedom</a>:</p> <p><strong><em>Biden axed the Muslim and African Bans: </em></strong>During the campaign, Biden promised to get rid of Donald Trump’s discriminatory Muslim and African Bans, which barred people from coming into America simply because Trump and white Christian nationalists dislike Muslims and immigrants of color. Discriminating against people because of their religion or nationality imposed a high cost on families and our country and violated religious freedom. <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/President-Biden-Ends-Muslim-Ban">Biden issued an executive order</a> reversing the policy on his first day in office. (Next step: The <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/House-Passes-No-Ban-Act">NO BAN Act</a>, which passed the House earlier this month, will make sure a future president couldn’t reinstate the bans.) </p> <p><strong><em>Biden ended policies that harm LGBTQ people</em></strong><strong>: </strong>To keep his Christian nationalist base happy, Trump issued a number of orders and regulatory changes that discriminated against members of the LGBTQ community. Biden replaced these with a sweeping order that encapsulates what have been called the most <a href="https://www.npr.org/2021/01/28/961722392/biden-signs-most-far-reaching-federal-protections-for-lgbtq-people-yet">far-reaching federal protections</a> for members of the LGBTQ community to date. Notably, the ban on transgender troops in the military, which leaders of the Armed Forces never supported, <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/Biden-Ends-Trans-Military-Ban">is no more</a>. (Next step: Passage of the <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/two-important-bills">Equality Act</a> and the <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/pass-the-DNHA">Do No Harm Act</a> will give LGBTQ folks much-needed, comprehensive protections.) </p> <p><strong><em>Biden reformed the White House “faith-based” office</em></strong><strong>: </strong>Trump put Paula White, a “prosperity gospel” TV preacher, in charge of his faith-based office even though she was unqualified for the job. Under Trump, the office’s focus was almost exclusively on pandering to conservative evangelicals. <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/rogers-appointment-office">Biden named Melissa Rogers</a>, an esteemed scholar and author who respects church-state separation, to head the partnership office. Rogers promises to embrace our country’s diversity – including the secular community – in her work. A White House fact sheet announcing her appointment read, “When Methodists and Muslims, Buddhists and Baptists, Sikhs and Secular Humanists serve together, we strengthen one another and we strengthen America.” (Next step: The Biden administration must <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/protect-people-services">implement robust religious-freedom protections</a> for people seeking taxpayer-funded services.)</p> <p><strong><em>Biden policies elevate science over religious dogma:</em></strong><strong> </strong>Under Biden, decisions about scientific and medical matters are being made by the people best able to make them: scientific and medical experts. Trump-era policies that all but <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/fetal-tissue-ban">banned fetal tissue research</a> and <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/28/politics/biden-abortion-executive-orders/index.html">denied federal money</a> to groups that provide or refer patients for abortions have been rolled back. (Next step: <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/Religious-Freedom-Agenda-Health-Care">Revoke Trump rules</a> that invited health care providers to deny medical care and allowed employers and universities to deny workers and students access to birth control, all based on religious beliefs.)</p> <p><strong><em>Biden ended Trump’s attempt to rewrite American history:</em></strong> During the waning days of the Trump administration, a band of right-wing historical revisionists that Trump called the 1776 Commission <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/trump-history-commission">produced a report</a> designed to give aid and comfort to the “Christian nation” crowd. Trump wanted the commission’s report – a skimpy 41-page document lacking footnotes – to be the basis for a new social studies curriculum. That’s not going to happen. Biden disbanded the commission and consigned the report to where it always belonged: a trash bin.</p> <p>We can be thankful for other things: The religious extremists who swarmed around the Trump White House like flies have been sent packing, Biden’s Twitter account isn’t an international embarrassment and it’s highly unlikely Biden will ever incite a riot leading to loss of life and an assault on the Capitol. There’s a certain air of stability and even tedium in the Biden White House. It’s a relief after four years of Trump’s manic ride on a careening rollercoaster.</p> <p>But even as we breathe a sigh of relief, let’s not forget that we have a lot of work to do. The new direction in the White House is welcome, but the religious extremists are still smarting over Trump’s loss and dreaming up new schemes to undermine church-state separation. </p> <p><a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">With your help</a>, Americans United will be there to meet them each and every time. </p> <p><em>(Photo credit: <a href="https://www.c-span.org/video/?511121-1/president-biden-addresses-joint-session-congress&amp;live">C-SPAN screenshot</a> of President Biden's address to the joint Congress.)</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/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/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/transgender-rights" hreflang="en">Transgender Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/schools" hreflang="en">Schools</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/reproductive-rights" hreflang="en">Reproductive 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/joe-biden" hreflang="en">Joe Biden</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/muslim-ban" hreflang="en">Muslim Ban</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/faith-based-regulations" hreflang="en">Faith-Based Regulations</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/melissa-rogers" hreflang="en">Melissa Rogers</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/denial-of-care-rule" hreflang="en">Denial of Care Rule</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 29 Apr 2021 15:17:02 +0000 LHayes 16788 at https://www.au.org Biden Administration Axes Trump-Era HUD Rule That Attacked Transgender Rights https://www.au.org/blogs/homeless-shelters-transgender-rights <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Biden Administration Axes Trump-Era HUD Rule That Attacked Transgender Rights</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon Apr 26, 2021 - 11:30</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/GettyImages-1236341679.jpg?h=b1a91ebe&amp;itok=fe2DEWzu" width="1700" height="525" alt="Transgender man" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The administration of former President Donald Trump was notorious for putting into place rules and regulations that harmed LGBTQ people and undermined their rights. One by one, President Joe Biden has been rolling back Trump’s harmful policies.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/biden-admin-scraps-trump-era-proposal-limit-trans-protections-shelters-n1265010">The latest to fall</a> is a particularly cruel provision proposed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under former Secretary Ben Carson that could have led to transgender people being denied access to federally funded homeless shelters, and subjected to harassment in the process. </p> <p>Trump sought to weaken what’s known as the Equal Access Rule. This policy, first enacted during the presidency of Barack Obama, guarantees that people in need of emergency housing have equal access to federally funded shelters and facilities regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.</p> <p>Had the Trump rule been put in place, staff members at federally funded shelters would have been able to cite their religious beliefs as a reason to refuse service to transgender people. Shelters also would also have been allowed to assign transgender people space based on their sex as assigned at birth as opposed to their current gender identity. It would also have permitted personnel at these shelters to engage in intrusive questioning to determine a person’s sex at birth.</p> <p>Trump sought to undermine the Equal Access Rule to appease his base of Christian nationalists, who have been attacking transgender rights as the latest front in their culture wars. Had it been implemented, the change would have resulted in real harm to real people. Trump and his allies simply didn’t care.</p> <p>In announcing that HUD pulled the plug on the the Trump policy proposal, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said, “Access to safe, stable housing – and shelter – is a basic necessity. Unfortunately, transgender and gender non-conforming people report more instances of housing instability and homelessness than cis-gender people. Today, we are taking a critical step in affirming HUD’s commitment that no person be denied access to housing or other critical services because of their gender identity. HUD is open for business for all.”</p> <p>The Trump-Carson policy would have furthered religious discrimination on the taxpayers’ dime, but it was also simply mean-spirited. The Biden administration’s decision to ditch the rule is a loss for Christian nationalists, but it’s a win for all Americans who care about fairness, equality and decency.</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/transgender-rights" hreflang="en">Transgender Rights</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/hud" hreflang="en">HUD</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 26 Apr 2021 15:30:20 +0000 LHayes 16769 at https://www.au.org Allowing Taxpayer-Funded Religious Discrimination In Foster Care Harms Children In Need https://www.au.org/blogs/foster-care-discrimination <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Allowing Taxpayer-Funded Religious Discrimination In Foster Care Harms Children In Need</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 Apr 22, 2021 - 10:24</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/mom%20with%20child.jpg?h=271aaa1c&amp;itok=GAt6PTGs" width="1700" height="525" alt="mom and child" title="mother and child" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>When the U.S. Supreme Court hands down decisions, it doesn’t just pontificate on abstract legal principles. Its decisions affect real people with real problems and real concerns. The court’s decisions can alleviate those concerns or make them worse.</p> <p>A case pending before the high court from Philadelphia illustrates this point. In<a href="https://www.aclu.org/cases/fulton-v-city-philadelphia"> </a><a href="https://www.aclu.org/cases/fulton-v-city-philadelphia"><em>Fulton v. City of Philadelphia</em></a>, the court will decide whether a religious foster care agency in Pennsylvania that contracted to perform government services on behalf of the city and received taxpayer funding to do so can turn couples away because they are LGBTQ, the “wrong” religion or they’ve fallen afoul of some other religious standard.</p> <p>The ruling could affect people like John Currie, a high school student in Philadelphia, who recently shared his heart-wrenching story in an<a href="https://forward.com/opinion/467928/adoption-supreme-court-foster-care-religious-discrimination/"> </a><a href="https://forward.com/opinion/467928/adoption-supreme-court-foster-care-religious-discrimination/">opinion column</a> in the <em>Forward. </em>At age 8, John’s ill mother was unable to care for him. He ended up in a residential facility. Six months later, he was placed with a Jewish couple who later adopted him.</p> <p>That happy ending almost didn’t happen. As John tells the story, his adopted mother had been looking to foster an older child but was turned away from an evangelical Christian agency in South Carolina, where she lived at the time. She later found John through another foster care provider, but South Carolina no longer contracts with that agency.</p> <p>In parts of that state, if you want to foster a child, you will likely end up being referred to Miracle Hill Ministries – an organization that, though it receives funding from the state, will only work with evangelical Protestants or people who are Catholic or Orthodox if they willing to endorse its faith statement. This excludes many people, such as Jews, Muslims, Mormons and Unitarian Universalists, to name a few, who are eager to offer a loving home to a child in need.</p> <p>As John put it, “It’s not right for a taxpayer-funded agency to deny children in foster care access to loving families that could care for them because those families don’t meet a religious test.”</p> <p>Americans United is currently representing a South Carolina mom, Aimee Maddonna, who was turned away from Miracle Hill because of her Catholic faith. In a 2019<a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/Aimee-Maddonnas-Story"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/Aimee-Maddonnas-Story">blog post</a>, Aimee spoke of the pain and frustration of being denied the opportunity to help children in need – and from a taxpayer-supported agency.</p> <p>If the Supreme Court rules that cities and states don’t have the power to deny public support to discriminatory agencies like Miracle Hill, it won’t just set religious freedom back; it will make it more difficult for children stuck in foster care to find forever homes.</p> <p>As John Currie eloquently observed: “After my mom found out that her faith disqualified her from getting licensed to foster-adopt, she might have felt disheartened and given up. But because of her extraordinary tenacity, she and my dad found me, and they brought me home. Children in foster care can’t afford for such obstacles to be placed in the paths of families who are willing and able to love and support them.”</p> <p>No child should be placed in the position of missing out on that kind of love and care because of an extreme, inaccurate definition of religious freedom.</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/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/foster-care" hreflang="en">foster care</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/fostercare" hreflang="en">Religious Discrimination in Foster Care</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/south-carolina" hreflang="en">South Carolina</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 22 Apr 2021 14:24:35 +0000 boston 16767 at https://www.au.org Christian Nationalists Are Supporting Voter Suppression Bills. These Faith Leaders Are Fighting Back. https://www.au.org/blogs/clergy-oppose-voter-suppression <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Christian Nationalists Are Supporting Voter Suppression Bills. These Faith Leaders Are Fighting Back.</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 Apr 21, 2021 - 08:52</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/waiting%20to%20vote.jpg?h=eb537b00&amp;itok=LNZ8qlj5" width="1700" height="525" alt="voting" title="voting line" 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 that Christian nationalist groups have <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/FRC-ADF-voter-suppression">backed legislation</a> in several states designed to erect deliberate barriers to voting, especially for people of color.</p> <p>The reason for this is simple: Christian nationalists are angry that Black voters played a decisive role in Joe Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump. They want to game the system to make sure that doesn’t happen again.</p> <p>And now they’ve got a fight on their hands. The <a href="https://apnews.com/article/general-news-religion-government-and-politics-voting-670d41dd7903e7ba067d11763da23329">Associated Press reported</a> recently about a growing campaign led by religious leaders who have a much different view about voting: They want to make it safer and more accessible, not more difficult. These clergy members recognize denying our freedom to vote for the un-American evil that it is, and they’re speaking out.</p> <p>The effort started in Georgia, where a severe anti-voter law has already been passed. It has since spread to Arizona, Texas, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and other states. Faith leaders are mobilizing supporters and pressing corporate leaders to address the issue, a tactic that’s under way in Georgia.</p> <p>In Texas, the Rev. Edwin Robinson of Dallas Black Clergy got right to the heart of the matter. </p> <p>“No matter what side of the political aisle you find yourself, any attempt to hinder voting is an attempt to take away our greatest freedom and liberty,” Robinson said. “We should be doing everything to protect our greatest freedoms – and make ways for our citizens to enthusiastically vote and do so free from fear and intimidation.”</p> <p>Christian nationalists have responded to this with their usual tactic: generating a fog of misinformation. They’re claiming that these bills don’t do the things that anyone who can read can plainly see that they do. It’s a tactic these groups honed during the Trump era. Call it the “Deny and Lie” strategy.</p> <p>It won’t work if enough Americans – religious and secular alike – stand up and demand equal and convenient access to the ballot for everyone.</p> <p>P.S. We’ll have more on this issue in the forthcoming May issue of <em>Church &amp; State </em>magazine. Remember, you get the magazine when you <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">join Americans United</a>.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/georgia" hreflang="en">Georgia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/texas" hreflang="en">Texas</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/voting-rights" hreflang="en">voting rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/joe-biden" hreflang="en">Joe Biden</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 21 Apr 2021 12:52:08 +0000 boston 16763 at https://www.au.org Walter Mondale: A Stalwart Defender Of Church-State Separation https://www.au.org/blogs/walter-mondale-speech <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Walter Mondale: A Stalwart Defender Of Church-State Separation</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 Apr 20, 2021 - 09:29</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/W%20Mondale%20.jpg?h=a3133557&amp;itok=nneCEe_C" width="1700" height="525" alt="mondale" title="carter and mondale" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Former Vice President Walter Mondale <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/19/vice-president-walter-mondale-dies-036254">died last night</a> at age 93. Although many Americans undoubtedly remember Mondale as the Democratic candidate who lost to President Ronald Reagan in a landslide in 1984, there was much more to the man. He was, for example, a strong defender of church-state separation.</p> <p>The 1980s were a challenging time for advocates of that principle. Religious Right groups had an ally in the White House and were riding high. Reagan, who called for a constitutional amendment authorizing school prayer during his 1980 campaign, had worked with Senate allies to engineer a vote on the proposal, which would have allowed coercive forms of state-sponsored prayer into public schools.</p> <p>On March 20, 1984, <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/remembering-the-law-professor-who-helped-us-defeat-reagans-school-prayer">the amendment failed</a>, 55-43. While the measure secured a majority, it fell 11 votes short of the two-thirds needed to pass a constitutional amendment. Despite the defeat, bringing the amendment this far was a victory for the Religious Right. There hadn’t been a serious push for a school prayer amendment in the Senate <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/march-2020-church-state/cover-story/say-your-prayers-kids-or-well-force-you-christian">since 1966</a>.</p> <p>Against this backdrop of a roiling, injudicious mixture of religion and politics, both Reagan and Mondale were asked to address the international convention of the Jewish organization B’nai B’rith in early September 1984.</p> <p>Reagan’s speech dealt mainly with economic issues and foreign policy. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1984/09/07/us/excerpts-from-candidates-addresses-to-b-nai-b-rith-meeting.html">Mondale’s speech</a> was much more focused: It was a stirring defense of church-state separation.</p> <p>In words that evoked <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/october-2010-church-state/featured/john-f-kennedy-on-religion-and-politics">a famous address</a> by John F. Kennedy during the 1960 presidential campaign, Mondale remarked, “I believe in an America that honors what Thomas Jefferson first called the ‘wall of separation between church and state.’ That freedom has made our faith unadulterated and unintimidated. It has made Americans the most religious people on earth. Today, the religion clauses of the First Amendment do not need to be fixed; they need to be followed.”</p> <p>Mondale criticized Reagan for egging on religious extremists in the GOP and for posing as a defender of the faith, a role he said was alien to our government.</p> <p>“The Queen of England, where state religion is established, is called Defender of the Faith.” Mondale observed. “But the president of the United States is the defender of the Constitution, which defends all faiths. A president has no higher role. Whatever his private beliefs and religious practice, a president must be the guardian of the laws which insure America’s religious diversity.”</p> <p>Mondale concluded his remarks with a forceful defense of pluralism, remarking, “So let me speak plainly: The United States of America is, and must remain, a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. Our very unity has been strengthened by this pluralism. That is how we began. This is how we must always be. The ideals of our country leave no room whatsoever for intolerance, anti-Semitism or bigotry of any kind, none. The unique thing about America is a wall in our Constitution separating church and state. It guarantees there will never be a state religion in this land but at the same time, it makes sure that every single American is free to choose and practice his or her religious beliefs or to choose no religion at all. Their rights shall not be questioned or violated by the state.”</p> <p>Two months later, Mondale was soundly beaten by Reagan. But the vision of religious freedom he outlined to B’nai B’rith remains powerful and inspiring. Our nation would be a better place today if we were to fully embrace it.</p> <p> </p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/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/president-ronald-reagan" hreflang="en">President Ronald Reagan</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/public-school-prayer" hreflang="en">Public School Prayer</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 20 Apr 2021 13:29:39 +0000 boston 16761 at https://www.au.org