The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/ en I’ve Led Americans United For Two Years Now. Here Are Some Things I’ve Learned. https://www.au.org/blogs/Rachel-Laser-Two-Years <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">I’ve Led Americans United For Two Years Now. Here Are Some Things I’ve Learned.</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, 02/21/2020 - 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/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/DSC_0357_0.JPG?h=fe231965&amp;itok=PKjVtqf9" width="1700" height="525" alt="Rachel Laser" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Today – Feb. 21 – marks my two-year anniversary at Americans United. I’ve learned way too much to fit into a blog post, so for today, I thought I’d share five highlights: </p> <p><em>You need to be able to take the heat in this job:</em> I learned this lesson fast. My first day in the office, famous evangelist Billy Graham died, and a few days after that, members of Congress announced that he would “lie in honor” in the U.S. Capitol. This rarely granted privilege has been extended only three times in history: for civil rights icon Rosa Parks and for two U.S. Capitol police officers who were killed in the line of duty. Graham’s achievements didn’t seem to reach those levels, so Americans United released a<a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-issues-statement-on-billy-graham-lying-in-honor-at-the-us"> statement of opposition</a>. It got good play in the media, but it didn’t make me the most popular person in America. Let’s just say, there have been other such moments over these past two years. </p> <p><em>Working on this issue puts you on a roller coaster:</em> AU has had some incredible victories over the past two years – in courts, in Congress and in state legislatures. And we’ve seen some bitter losses as well. You have to be prepared for that in this job. We celebrate the former and learn from the latter. There’s no time to lick wounds – we just keep pushing ahead, but always strategically. </p> <p><em>The work we do isn’t just necessary and important, it is honorable: </em>My journey has brought me into contact with people whose lives have been affected by reckless combinations of religion and state. I’m thinking of my friend Aimee Maddonna who was turned away from helping children in need by a taxpayer-funded foster care agency in South Carolina because she’s the “wrong” religion. I’m thinking of the Muslims who have been cut off from their families due to President Donald Trump’s cruel and capricious Muslim Ban. I’m thinking of the parents whose children have been pressured to take part in religious activities in public schools and the LGBTQ people who have been denied services in businesses and stores. I’ve heard their stories. I’ve felt their pain. I’ve shared their sorrow. And I’m determined that Americans United will help them. We will never stop holding America accountable to her constitutional promise that we must all be free to believe as we wish and live as our true selves. </p> <p><em>Americans United’s staff is amazing: </em>As the weeks and months passed (sometimes in a blur), I came to see up close the talent and dedication of AU’s staff – a collection of people whose passion and drive keep me in awe. You often see and read about the efforts of our legal and public policy teams, our outreach department, our communications folks, and our fundraising staff, but the people behind the scenes managing AU’s budget, making sure the bills are paid and ensuring that we all have functioning computers and a comfortable place to work  are every bit as crucial. Even better, we are a truly collaborative bunch, which makes this team so effective. </p> <p><em>Ditto for AU’s members: </em>All of you are amazing! By now, I’ve been fortunate to have traveled around the country, met some of you in person and talked to others on the phone or by email. You come to us from so many different backgrounds, geographic locations and motivations, but every one of you is a loyal and devoted AU supporter. You donate. You write lawmakers. You march in the streets and attend rallies. You share AU’s material on social media. You write letters to the editor. You fight and fight and never stop. In short, you make all of our work possible.</p> <p>I’m shocked at how quickly these two years have gone by, and I look forward to many more working in partnership with you. Thanks for your support!</p></div> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 14:56:16 +0000 LHayes 16048 at https://www.au.org It’s Time For Religious Literature Parity In Pa. Jails https://www.au.org/blogs/pennsylvania-jail-literature <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">It’s Time For Religious Literature Parity In Pa. Jails</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, 02/19/2020 - 10:10</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/prison%20bars%20cropped%2C%202.8.19_0.jpg?h=c6aa71c9&amp;itok=wpUPB9dJ" width="1700" height="525" alt="prison bars" title="jail " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Yesterday, Americans United’s Legal Department <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-demands-pennsylvania-jails-stop-discriminating-against-muslim">sent letters</a> to officials at six county jails in Pennsylvania concerning the ability of Muslim inmates to get copies of the Quran at a reasonable cost.</p> <p>AU took action after the online news site <a href="https://papost.org/2020/01/07/christians-pray-at-a-discount-muslim-inmates-charged-more-for-religious-texts/">PA Post reported</a> that Qurans were being heavily marked up at the county jails’ commissaries. The cost disparity between Bibles and Qurans was striking. In Adams County, for example, the local jail sells Bibles for $7.95, but a Quran costs $21.20. In Columbia County, inmates can actually get a Bible for free – while a Quran costs $20.</p> <p>Lest you think there’s something about the Quran that makes it more expensive, there’s not. Copies can be had through online booksellers <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Holy-Quran-Abdullah-Yusuf-Ali/dp/1853267821/ref=sr_1_5?keywords=the+quran&amp;qid=1582119504&amp;s=books&amp;sr=1-5">for as little as $4</a>.</p> <p>Men and women who are incarcerated in prisons and jails obviously don’t enjoy the same amount of religious freedom as people living on the outside. Certain religious implements can be placed on restricted use or banned in correctional institutions if they present a security hazard. A heavy metal cross, for example, might be carried aloft during a religious service outside of prison. In a prison or jail, an item like that could become a weapon so inmates’ access to it might be curtailed.</p> <p>But there have always been different rules for religious literature. It has more freely circulated behind bars. Many religious groups believe that exposure to religious literature can be a part of inmates’ rehabilitation efforts. At the very least, some inmates take solace from their ability to read and study religious texts.</p> <p>As AU Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser noted yesterday in a media statement, “Some prisoners draw strength and comfort from religious texts or rituals, and Pennsylvania’s jails must make a reasonable effort to ensure that incarcerated people have the ability to practice the faith of their choice.”</p> <p>Correctional officials in Pennsylvania have an obligation to treat all religions equally. Right now, some of them are showing preference to the majority faith by charging three times more for a Quran than a Bible. This must stop. Americans United hopes our letter will resolve this issue.</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/religious-minorities-rights" hreflang="en">Religious Minorities&#039; Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/rights-of-incarcerated-people-parolees" hreflang="en">Rights Of Incarcerated People &amp; Parolees</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/pennsylvania" hreflang="en">Pennsylvania</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/prisons-and-jails" hreflang="en">Prisons and jails</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/islam" hreflang="en">Islam</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 19 Feb 2020 15:10:43 +0000 boston 16043 at https://www.au.org Court Says Ohio College Professor Has No Religious Freedom Right To Mis-gender Trans Student https://www.au.org/blogs/ohio-trans-ruling <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Court Says Ohio College Professor Has No Religious Freedom Right To Mis-gender Trans Student</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, 02/18/2020 - 10:26</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/trans%20symbol%2C%209.11.19%20%282%29.jpg?h=3e7a7e16&amp;itok=TbzMjqgT" width="1700" height="525" alt="Trans symbol" title="trans" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>An Ohio college professor who said he had a legal right to refuse to call a transgender student by her preferred pronouns <a href="https://www.metroweekly.com/2020/02/federal-court-dismisses-lawsuit-from-shawnee-state-professor-disciplined-for-misgendering-trans-student/">has lost in court</a> – again.</p> <p>The suit was filed by the anti-LGBTQ Christian nationalist legal group Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Nicholas K. Meriwether, a teacher of religion and philosophy at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth.</p> <p>The origins of the case go back to January 2018, when a transgender student, identified as “Jane Doe” in court papers, requested that Meriwether use female pronouns when referring to her. Meriwether said he wasn’t sure he could do that. After several instances where Meriwether used the wrong pronouns and referred to Doe using the title “Mr.” in class, the student filed a complaint.</p> <p>School officials counseled Meriwether to use the proper pronouns, but he refused to back down. He told officials at the college, “I am a Christian. As such, it is my sincerely held religious belief, based on the Bible’s teachings, that God created human beings as either male or female, that this gender is fixed in each person from the moment of conception, and that it cannot be changed.”</p> <p>In a preliminary ruling issued in September, Magistrate Judge Karen L. Litkovitz of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio recommended dismissing the case. Last week, U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott agreed.</p> <p>“The Court concludes that Meriwether failed to state a claim for violation of his rights under the United States Constitution,” Dlott wrote in her <a href="http://www.nclrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/2020.02.12.-Dkt-60.-Order-Adopting-Report-and-Recommendation.pdf">ruling</a>. “His speech – the manner by which he addressed a transgender student – was not protected under the First Amendment. Further, he did not plead facts sufficient to state a claim for a violation of his right to free exercise of religion … or for a violation of his rights to due process or equal protection.”</p> <p>Meriwether has the right to hold whatever views he wants on transgender issues. But in this case, the student has rights, too – chiefly, the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to receive an education free from harassment and mistreatment.</p> <p>Religious freedom is a vital principle that protects your right to practice a faith, or no faith at all, but it gives you no right to harm others or treat them badly, especially in a public, taxpayer-funded institution. That’s what Meriwether did, and that’s also why he deserved to lose in court.</p> <p>P.S. In another victory for transgender rights, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week issued an important ruing in a case called <em>Parents for Privacy v. Barr</em>. The court upheld an Oregon public school district’s policy that protects the rights of transgender students to use bathroom and locker-room facilities of their affirmed gender. Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case. You can <a href="https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/9th_cir_opinion.pdf">read the opinion here</a>.</p> <p> </p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/colleges-universities" hreflang="en">Colleges &amp; Universities</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/adf" hreflang="en">ADF</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/ohio" hreflang="en">Ohio</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 18 Feb 2020 15:26:37 +0000 boston 16041 at https://www.au.org Trump Doesn’t Respect Church-State Separation – But Lots Of Presidents Have https://www.au.org/blogs/statements-by-presidents <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Trump Doesn’t Respect Church-State Separation – But Lots Of Presidents Have</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, 02/17/2020 - 08:08</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-house-129112.jpg?h=1aa08d83&amp;itok=wk2btLgs" width="1700" height="525" alt="White House" title="White House " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The current occupant of the White House doesn’t seem to have much use for the separation of church and state. That’s discouraging, to be sure, but let’s not forget the many presidents throughout American history who felt differently.</p> <p>Four years ago, <em>Church &amp; State</em> pulled together some great statements by presidents expressing their support for a decent distance between religion and government. <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/february-2016-church-state/featured/presidential-proclamations">You can read them here</a>.</p> <p>You’ll find some classics in this article, with statements by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John F. Kennedy, but the comments by some of our less well-known presidents are also interesting. For example, John Tyler, our tenth president, was a fan of separation. Who knew?</p> <p>Happy Presidents’ Day!</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/james-madison" hreflang="en">James Madison</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/thomas-jefferson" hreflang="en">thomas jefferson</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/john-f-kennedy" hreflang="en">John F. Kennedy</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/john-tyler" hreflang="en">John Tyler</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 17 Feb 2020 13:08:24 +0000 boston 16040 at https://www.au.org Legislative Prayers Won’t Offend Anyone If Government Stops Sponsoring Them https://www.au.org/blogs/virginia-prayer-flap <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Legislative Prayers Won’t Offend Anyone If Government Stops Sponsoring Them </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, 02/14/2020 - 10:45</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/VA%20house%20of%20delegates.jpg?h=9efa0e0e&amp;itok=Oj0WOEnu" width="1700" height="525" alt="VA House of Delegates" title="VA House " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>As we noted yesterday, Americans United and its allies recently <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/win-in-brevard-county">settled a case</a> in Brevard County, Fla., dealing with legislative prayer. Under the terms of the settlement, the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners has agreed not to reinstitute its old practice of discriminating against people who don’t belong to mainstream, monotheistic religions when selecting invocation speakers.</p> <p>Meetings in Brevard are now opened with a moment of silence. Other government bodies might want to follow suit. Not only does this practice avoid problems of picking and choosing among religions, it also ensures that guest speakers don’t go off the rails.</p> <p>A few days ago, several Democratic members of the Virginia House of Delegates walked out after a minister who had been selected to give an opening invocation started ranting about abortion and marriage equality.</p> <p>The Rev. Dr. Robert M. Grant Jr. of Father’s Way Church in Warrenton warned of God’s “wrath” coming down on those who tolerate abortion and LGBTQ rights. His remarks led one Democratic legislator to yell, “Is this a prayer or a sermon?”</p> <p>When it became apparent that Grant wasn’t going to stop, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) terminated his remarks by banging on her gavel and calling for the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, <a href="https://www.virginiamercury.com/2020/02/11/va-house-democrats-protest-opening-prayer-as-conservative-pastor-condemns-abortion-gay-marriage/">reported the <em>Virginia Mercury</em></a>.</p> <p>Some House members later expressed dismay over the prayer.</p> <p>“It was totally disrespectful to all of us, all of us in this House,” Del. Luke Torian (D-Prince William County), told the <em>Mercury</em>.</p> <p>Even some Republicans thought Grant, who has been invited to give the guest invocation by Del. Michael Webert (R-Fauquier County), went too far.</p> <p>“I don’t know if he was ill-instructed or didn’t realize what he was here to do,” said Del. Matt Fariss (R-Campbell County). “This wasn’t the place or the time to do all of that. … This is a time we need to be working together and not being divisive.”</p> <p>The problem is, this sort of thing has happened before. Some guest pastors decide to use their time at the podium to launch into political harangues or attack members of the community, such as people who are LGBTQ, abortion-rights advocates and others. (Here are just two examples, one from <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/march-2009-church-state/people-events/priest-s-prayer-stirs-up-conflict-in-kansas-house">Kansas</a> and one from <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/prayer-and-the-power-company-alabama-official-stands-by-controversial">Alabama</a>.)</p> <p>It’s offensive and rightly angers many people. After all, the government is supposed to represent all of us.</p> <p>There’s one sure-fire way to make certain that no one is offended by disturbing content in official legislative prayers: Stop having them.  </p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/official-prayer" hreflang="en">Official Prayer</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/legislative-prayers" hreflang="en">legislative prayers</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/virginia" hreflang="en">Virginia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/abortion" hreflang="en">Abortion</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 14 Feb 2020 15:45:40 +0000 boston 16038 at https://www.au.org AU Scores A Victory For Religious Freedom And Inclusive Public Meetings In Florida https://www.au.org/blogs/win-in-brevard-county <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">AU Scores A Victory For Religious Freedom And Inclusive Public Meetings In Florida</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, 02/13/2020 - 08:32</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/Brevard%20County%20Commission.jpg?h=d14bb121&amp;itok=IDhawBg4" width="1700" height="525" alt="Brevard Commission " title="Brevard Board " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>A few years ago, Americans United was approached by some residents of central Florida who had a problem: The Brevard County Board of County Commissioners had a practice of opening its meetings almost always with Christian prayers. They were <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/september-2015-church-state/featured/atheists-excluded">absolutely not interested</a> in hearing secular invocations.</p> <p>In fact, a review of the county’s prayer practices found that during a six-year period that included 195 meeting invocations, 96 percent of them were given by Christian faith leaders and/or contained Christian content.</p> <p>Some local residents tried to change that. David Williamson, a U.S. Navy veteran and ordained Humanist celebrant, requested that a member of the <a href="https://www.cflfreethought.org/">Central Florida Freethought Community</a> be given the opportunity to offer an opening invocation. The board said no. Not long after that, Ronald Gordon, an atheist/agnostic U.S. Army veteran, and the Rev. Ann Fuller, a Humanist ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, also requested opportunities to deliver opening invocations. They too were denied.</p> <p>In 2015, the board went further and formalized a policy that permitted only “traditional faith-based invocation[s]” at the opening of its meetings. Americans United, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida then filed a lawsuit challenging the policy on behalf of Williamson, Gordon and other local residents and organizations.</p> <p>Two federal courts ruled against the board, and now the case, <em>Williamson v. Brevard County</em>, <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/brevard-county-fla-commissioners-agree-to-end-religious-discrimination-in">has been settled</a>. The board, which now opens its meetings with a moment of silence, has agreed not to reinstitute its old practice of discriminating against people who don’t belong to mainstream, monotheistic religions when selecting invocation speakers.</p> <p>The U.S. Supreme Court in 2014 <a href="https://www.oyez.org/cases/2013/12-696">allowed local communities</a> to open their meetings with prayers, even if they were often Christian. But in its ruling, the high court also stressed the need for inclusion. The case, <em>Town of </em><em>Greece v. Galloway</em> (which was sponsored by Americans United), challenged a prayer policy in the town of Greece, N.Y. As in Brevard, the legislative prayers in Greece were often Christian, but there was a key difference: Greece officials were willing to allow atheists, Wiccans, and other non-monotheists to deliver invocations on occasion. That element was missing in Brevard County, where all the opening invocations were delivered by representatives of traditional monotheistic religions, while other belief systems – including nontheists, polytheists and deists – were excluded.</p> <p>Just to be clear, Americans United opposes official, government-sponsored prayers before legislative meetings. But the Supreme Court has allowed these practices, calling them traditional. In response, Americans United advocates truly inclusive invocation policies. The religious landscape in the U.S. is changing, with growing numbers of Americans saying they have no formal religion. It simply makes sense for local governments to respect and reflect the full diversity of their constituents.</p> <p>Americans United is pleased that the Brevard County case has been resolved in a manner that respects diversity. Other localities should follow the teachings of this litigation, either by ensuring that their invocation policies are completely nondiscriminatory or by refraining from opening their meetings with prayers altogether.</p> <p><em>Photo: A meeting of the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners </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-by-public-officials" hreflang="en">Discrimination by Public Officials</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/city-council-prayers" hreflang="en">city council prayers</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/legislative-prayer" hreflang="en">legislative prayer</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/brevard-county" hreflang="en">Brevard County</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/florida" hreflang="en">Florida</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 13 Feb 2020 13:32:53 +0000 boston 16037 at https://www.au.org It’s Time To Pass The No Ban Act https://www.au.org/blogs/pass-no-ban-act <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">It’s Time To Pass The No Ban Act</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 02/12/2020 - 13:13</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/m%20ban%20trio%20cropped_0.jpg?h=32e02bb8&amp;itok=b1HBt9w2" width="1700" height="525" alt="muslim ban" title="m ban" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is today holding a markup on an important piece of legislation called the No Ban Act.</p> <p>The legislation is designed to respond to President Donald Trump’s cruel and capricious Muslim Ban. It will ensure that no one can be banned from our country based on religion ever again and puts in place vital protections against future discriminatory bans.</p> <p>Sponsored in the House by U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), the legislation gets the nation back to important founding principles: We don't punish an entire class of people based on their religion.</p> <p>This legislation is especially important now because Trump recently announced an expansion of the Muslim Ban, adding several more countries to the “banned” list.</p> <p>When Trump took that action, AU President and CEO Rachel Laser was<a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-denounces-president-trumps-muslim-ban-expansion-as-continued"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-denounces-president-trumps-muslim-ban-expansion-as-continued">quick to respond</a>.</p> <p>“It was un-American when President Trump proposed a Muslim Ban from the campaign trail, it was un-American when he first implemented a Muslim Ban three years ago, and it’s un-American today to expand the Muslim Ban to more countries and cruelly separate even more families,” Laser said. “Engaging in religious discrimination to ban people because of their faith fundamentally violates our country’s constitutional principle of religious freedom. We will continue to challenge Trump’s Muslim Ban in court as we have since it was first enacted, and we urge Congress to pass the No Ban Act immediately.”</p> <p>AU opposes the Muslim Ban because it violates our fundamental values of religious freedom for all. It’s clear this ban is driven by hostility toward Muslims and their faith, and for evidence of that, you need not look beyond<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/05/20/i-think-islam-hates-us-a-timeline-of-trumps-comments-about-islam-and-muslims/"> </a><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/05/20/i-think-islam-hates-us-a-timeline-of-trumps-comments-about-islam-and-muslims/">Trump’s statements</a> on the campaign trail in 2016 and afterward. America was founded on the principle of religious freedom. We dishonor that principle when we oppress others and spread intolerance.</p> <p>The Muslim Ban also harms families by tearing them apart. In the years since the ban went into effect, countless families have been needlessly separated, people have been denied access to lifesaving medical treatments, children have been denied their parents and grandparents and people have missed the births, deaths, weddings, and funerals of loved ones – for no other reason than their faith. (To learn more, <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-02/NO BAN Act for Markup - FINAL.pdf">read AU’s statement to the committee</a> about the No Ban Act.)</p> <p>The Muslim Ban is a short-sighted policy and an affront to our national values. This markup is important because it’s the first step toward passing this legislation. The next stop is a vote on the House floor. Help Americans United protect religious freedom by urging your members of Congress to<a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/zJrWLOXMu0ul7TXwtySsYA2"> </a><a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/zJrWLOXMu0ul7TXwtySsYA2">support the No Ban Act</a>.</p> <p><em>Photo: Protestors rally against the Muslim Ban</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/discrimination-by-public-officials" hreflang="en">Discrimination by Public Officials</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/anti-muslim-discrimination" hreflang="en">Anti-Muslim Discrimination</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/muslim-ban" hreflang="en">Muslim Ban</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/trump-administration" hreflang="en">Trump Administration</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 12 Feb 2020 18:13:42 +0000 boston 16036 at https://www.au.org Help Americans United Stop The Trump Administration’s Latest Assault On Religious Freedom https://www.au.org/blogs/new-faith-based-regs <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Help Americans United Stop The Trump Administration’s Latest Assault On Religious Freedom</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 02/11/2020 - 11:14</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/disappointed%20woman%20getty%202.11.20.jpg%20cropped%20.jpg?h=19b74c62&amp;itok=c8Kto3MQ" width="1700" height="525" alt="disappointed woman " title="sad woman " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>In its latest attack on separation of church and state and Americans’ rights, the Trump administration last month<a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/trump-uses-religious-freedom-day-to-violate-religious-freedom-for-public"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/trump-uses-religious-freedom-day-to-violate-religious-freedom-for-public">announced a series of proposed regulations</a> that would target the most vulnerable members of our society – people who get social services at taxpayer-funded religious organizations.</p> <p>People who need these services are often at a difficult point in their lives. They may be unemployed, experiencing homelessness or grappling with drug or alcohol use disorder. What these people need and deserve is help – not a sermon.</p> <p>Yet under these proposed regulations, members of vulnerable populations may be subjected to unwanted proselytism – or denied services entirely. Trump wants to change the rules in eight federal agencies so that “faith-based” organizations could discriminate against certain people yet still receive millions in taxpayer dollars.</p> <p>Maggie Garrett, AU’s vice president for public policy, pointed out recently that these new proposed rules would:</p> <ul><li>Eliminate religious freedom protections, including requirements to notify people of their rights or offer people an alternative provider.</li> <li>Open the door to government-funded discrimination and create more hurdles for vulnerable people who could be forced to choose between their religious beliefs and accessing the services they need.</li> <li>Likely harm LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities and the nonreligious the most.</li> </ul><p>Furthermore, these proposed regulations could have a broad reach, affecting programs for housing, food, substance use treatment, counseling, veterans’ services, care for the elderly and more.</p> <p>Americans United is opposing these new regulations, and we need your help. The release of the rules started a 30-day public comment period, which ends soon. By <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/ErHZQLIeVE2lTxfHMPzslw2?ms=Blog_CTA_021120">clicking here</a>, you can submit your public comment opposing these regulations. We’ve created a simple, <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/ErHZQLIeVE2lTxfHMPzslw2?ms=Blog_CTA_021120">one-click tool</a> for you to use – and please add a few words of personalization to your message for added impact.</p> <p>This latest administration attack on religious freedom for vulnerable Americans is unacceptable. Please help Americans United send that message today.</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-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</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/faith-based-initiative" hreflang="en">faith-based initiative</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/trump-administration" hreflang="en">Trump Administration</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 11 Feb 2020 16:14:11 +0000 boston 16034 at https://www.au.org Please Scale This Summit! Join Us Next Month In D.C. https://www.au.org/blogs/national-advocacy-summit <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Please Scale This Summit! Join Us Next Month In D.C.</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, 02/10/2020 - 08:46</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/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/Wash%20DC%20skyline%20.jpg?h=059ebd53&amp;itok=-MEsZpzk" width="1700" height="525" alt="DC skyline " title="Washington, D.C. " 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:</em> <em>This blog post by AU President and CEO Rachel Laser originally appeared in the <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/february-2020-church-state-magazine">February 2020 issue</a> </em><em>of AU's </em>Church &amp; State<em> magazine.</em></p> <p>March 22-24, Americans United is going to host our first-ever <a href="https://www.au.org/conference">National Advocacy Summit</a> in Washington, D.C. AU Vice President for State Outreach and En­gage­ment Sarah Gillooly, in conjunction with her department and many others at AU, is doing an incredible job of making the conference come to life. Space for the Summit is tight, so please head to our website at au.org and sign up ASAP if you haven’t already.</p> <p>Why should you join us, if possible, and why is the Summit an important milestone for AU? I can think of a few reasons:</p> <p><em>You’ll find your voice as a champion: </em>Even for those of us who know how vital church-state separation is, it isn’t always easy to find the words to express why, or to make the case to others about why they should care. The Summit will help. You will learn more about the intersections of our issue with issues like racial justice and LGBTQ rights and the current legal battles we are fighting; you can attend workshops on storytelling and poll-tested messaging; and you will hear directly from some of our plaintiffs, whose stories shine light on the urgency of our issue. Then, you can practice being an advocate when you take your message to Capitol Hill (see below).</p> <p><em>You’ll get inspired:</em> These days, with constant attacks on church-state separation and many other essential parts of our democracy, it’s not easy to feel hopeful. But we cannot be change agents if we don’t believe we can make a difference. Come to the Summit to witness the energy, strategy and diversity we have on our side. I promise you will be in great company. Think younger and older people; leaders from the nontheist, faith, LGBTQ and racial justice communities; people willing to put themselves at risk and be named plaintiffs in our cases; and people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds from across the country who, like you, are some of AU’s most dedicated supporters and activists. We have time built into the program for you to deepen your connections with your fellow separationists.</p> <p>For more inspiration, what could be better than our keynote speech featuring Jeff Sharlet (whose<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Family-Secret-Fundamentalism-Heart-American/dp/0060559799/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&amp;qid=&amp;sr="> book</a> on the covert Christian nationalist group <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/september-2009-church-state/featured/behind-the-green-door">The Family</a> has been turned into a popular Netflix series) followed by a musical performance by <a href="https://americansongwriter.com/scarlett-rabe/evan-schlansky/">Scarlett Rabe</a>, a talented singer and songwriter who’s also a self-described inter­sec­tional feminist and humanist?</p> <p><em>You’ll bring church-state separation to the halls of Congress:</em> You all know separation of religion and government, the linchpin of religious freedom, is central to the American experiment. But too many people think that we secured it back at our founding and don’t realize it’s under siege. That’s why we have to make more noise! One way the Summit will turn up the volume on our issue is through our lobby day on Tuesday, March 24. Yes, AU’s talented public policy staff serves as a critical resource on Capitol Hill. But there is no one members of Congress listen to more carefully and enthusiastically than their constituents. I can’t think of a more important moment for AU activists across the country to take to our feet in the halls of Congress and speak truth to power about the importance of church-state separation.</p> <p><em>You’ll be first to see our brand-new Visibility Cam­paign:</em> You will be present as we roll out our first-ever National Visibility Campaign, designed to inspire a new generation of leaders to invest in our movement and fight back against religious discrimination. There is a lot more I wish I could tell you, but it’s a surprise! This I can say: There will be swag – lots of swag.</p> <p><em>You’ll pump up AU’s staff: </em>If that’s not reason enough, come nourish our hardworking staff by showing them your investment in our cause and AU and expressing your appreciation for all they do, because believe me, there isn’t a member of this staff who doesn’t pour their blood, sweat and tears into protecting our freedom of conscience.</p> <p>Though planning the Summit is a large investment of time and energy, it has already provided a wonderful opportunity for cross-departmental collaboration and for AU’s staff to take pride in what they have ac­com­plished. And that’s even before we get to spend time with you.</p> <p>We can’t wait to see you there!</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/foundations-of-church-state-separation" hreflang="en">Foundations of Church-State Separation</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/legal-foundations-of-church-state-separation" hreflang="en">Legal Foundations of Church-State Separation</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/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/jeff-sharlet" hreflang="en">Jeff Sharlet</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/family" hreflang="en">The Family</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 10 Feb 2020 13:46:22 +0000 boston 16031 at https://www.au.org After This Year’s Embarrassment, It’s Time To End The National Prayer Breakfast https://www.au.org/blogs/prayer-breakfast-fallout <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">After This Year’s Embarrassment, It’s Time To End The National Prayer Breakfast</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, 02/07/2020 - 10:57</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/NPB%202020%20.jpg?h=65a8e87a&amp;itok=34w9_YUR" width="1700" height="525" alt="prayer breakfast " title="NPB" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Fallout continues from President Donald Trump’s petulant, and frankly immature, behavior during yesterday’s <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/06/donald-trump-lashes-out-impeachment-national-prayer-breakfast-111379">National Prayer Breakfast</a>.</p> <p>The event is allegedly designed to bridge the partisan divide, at least temporarily, by bringing religious believers who work in government together for fellowship. Trump was having none of that. He used his time at the podium to attack U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who had the temerity to vote to impeach Trump, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has been a frequent Trump critic.</p> <p>Trump treated Pelosi with ill-disguised contempt. She was sitting just a few seats away from him on the dais, when Trump remarked, “Nor do I like people who say, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ when I know that is not so.”</p> <p>The petty remark was a slap at Pelosi, who has pointed out that even though she strongly disagrees with Trump on policy issues, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-congress-pelosi/pelosi-says-she-prays-for-trump-after-accusing-him-of-cover-up-idUSKCN1SS26C">she prays for him</a>.</p> <p>The fact that Trump refuses to believe that Pelosi might pray for someone even if she doesn’t see eye to eye with that person says a lot about the stunted state of his theological beliefs and the unfortunate influence right-wing evangelicals have had on them.</p> <p>In fact, praying for a person you might consider a foe isn’t unusual. Kind, decent Christians do it all of the time. That’s not surprising because many Christians believe it is <a href="https://biblehub.com/matthew/5-44.htm">a clear commandment of Jesus</a>. The idea is alien only to those Christians who have elevated division, hate and fear above what many would consider to be the plain teachings of the faith’s founder.</p> <p><em>Washington Post </em>columnist Michel Gerson, himself a conservative evangelical, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-politicization-of-the-national-prayer-breakfast-is-unholy-and-immoral/2020/02/06/529518e4-4931-11ea-bdbf-1dfb23249293_story.html">wrote that Trump’s latest outburst</a> should be a challenge to Trump’s evangelical band of sycophants.</p> <p>“They must also somehow justify his discomfort with a central teaching of the Sermon on the Mount and his use of a prayer meeting to attack and defame his enemies,” Gerson wrote. “These evangelical Christian leaders will, of course, find some way to bless Trump’s sacrilege. But he makes their job ever harder and their moral surrender ever more obvious.”</p> <p>Gerson also said he’d understand if Democrats chose to not attend the breakfast next year, and he recommended that “religious people of every background should no longer give credence to this parody of a prayer meeting.”</p> <p>Indeed. <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/trump-speech-NPB20">As we noted yesterday</a>, the National Prayer Breakfast, a private event, is sponsored by the <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/september-2009-church-state/featured/behind-the-green-door">Fellowship Foundation</a> (aka the Family), a far-right evangelical group whose theology and public policy goals exclude millions of Americans (members of the LGBTQ community, nontheists, non-Christians, progressives, feminists, etc.). Trump’s decision to use the event to mock conventional Christian theology – which, it’s worth pointing out, has been met with a veritable wall of silence from his Christian nationalist chorus – is only the latest embarrassment for this “God and country” charade.</p> <p>The National Prayer Breakfast is an anachronism. It’s also beyond reforming. After yesterday’s travesty, the best thing to do is shut it down.</p> <p>P.S. Want to learn more about the group behind the National Prayer Breakfast? Jeff Sharlet, an award-winning literary journalist and an expert on the group, will be the featured speaker at Americans United’s inaugural National Advocacy Summit in Washington, D.C., March 22-24. Sharlet is the author of <em>The New York Times</em> bestseller <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000SFZK3Y/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&amp;btkr=1">The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power</a></em> and <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Street-Fundamentalist-American-Democracy-Readers/dp/0316091065/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=c+street&amp;qid=1580919990&amp;s=books&amp;sr=1-1">C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy</a></em> as well as executive producer of a Netflix documentary series based on the books. More information about the Summit is <a href="https://www.au.org/conference">available here</a>.</p> <p><em>Photo: Screenshot from C-SPAN</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/national-prayer-breakfast" hreflang="en">National Prayer Breakfast</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/fellowship-foundation-0" hreflang="en">Fellowship Foundation</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/family" hreflang="en">The Family</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/jeff-sharlet" hreflang="en">Jeff Sharlet</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/evangelical-christianity" hreflang="en">Evangelical Christianity</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/michael-gerson" hreflang="en">Michael Gerson</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/nancy-pelosi" hreflang="en">Nancy Pelosi</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/mitt-romney" hreflang="en">Mitt Romney</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 07 Feb 2020 15:57:52 +0000 boston 16030 at https://www.au.org