The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/ en Falwell’s ‘Indefinite Leave’ Gives Liberty University The Opportunity To Shed Its Partisan Image https://www.au.org/blogs/falwell-leave-absence <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Falwell’s ‘Indefinite Leave’ Gives Liberty University The Opportunity To Shed Its Partisan Image</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, 08/11/2020 - 08:38</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/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/LU%20billy%20hathorn.JPG?h=2dcff2eb&amp;itok=ksTfpwUj" width="1700" height="525" alt="LU " title="Liberty University " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Liberty University Chancellor and President Jerry Falwell Jr. has hit a bit of a rough patch.</p> <p>Falwell got into trouble a few days ago after he <a href="https://www.wsls.com/news/local/2020/08/06/jerry-falwell-jr-responds-to-questionable-instagram-photo/">posted a photo</a> of himself on Instagram with his arm around a young woman, both of whom had their pants undone. In the photo, Falwell is holding a drink of what he claimed was “black water.”</p> <p>Falwell quickly removed the photo from the social media site, but it was too late – several people had made copies, and a media eruption followed. Falwell claimed that the whole thing was just a joke and the woman in the photo is his wife’s assistant. He spun a convoluted tale about unbuttoning his pants because they were old and too tight. The Board of Trustees at Liberty University was not amused by any of this and announced last week that he will go on an “<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/07/us/jerry-falwell-jr-liberty-university-leave/index.html">indefinite leave of absence</a>.”</p> <p>Lest anyone think Falwell is being harshly punished over one wacky photo, it’s worth remembering that the new incident is just the latest in a string of disturbing comments and actions by Falwell:</p> <p>* Earlier this year, Falwell joined forces with a noisy band of cranky coronavirus deniers, insisting that the pandemic, which has now killed 162,000 people in the U.S. alone, <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/may-2020-church-state-magazine/featured/outbreak-of-nonsense-christian-nationalists-at">was being overblown</a> by liberals to undermine President Donald Trump. He has ridiculed the idea that people should wear masks in public places and tweeted a photo of himself <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/falwell-ugly-mask">wearing a mask with a racist image</a>.</p> <p>* At a time when other universities were closing down due to the pandemic, Falwell insisted that Liberty would stay open. After a Liberty professor of English named Marybeth Davis Baggett <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/falwell-liberty-university">publicly questioned</a> Falwell’s decision in an opinion column, he issued a tweet calling her “Bag­gett lady.” When a parent wrote to him to complain about the school staying open, Falwell called the man a “dummy.” (Baggett has since left Liberty and yesterday <a href="https://religionnews.com/2020/08/10/liberty-universitys-board-must-save-rejectjerry-falwells-vision/">penned a column</a> for Religion News Service calling for Falwell’s permanent removal.)</p> <p>* After <em>The New York Times</em> and ProPublica published stories about Liberty that Falwell did not like, he attempted to have a <em>Times</em> photographer and a Pro Publica writer <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/media/492015-liberty-university-police-issue-arrest-warrants-for-nyt-propublica-reporters">arrested for trespassing on campus</a></p> <p>* Former students <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/former-student-provides-inside-look-at-the-orwellian-world-of-liberty">have complained</a> that Falwell runs the school as an autocrat who brooks no dissent. Most Liberty professors don’t have tenure. Anyone who fails to toe Falwell’s line can be summarily fired.</p> <p>* Angered by the fact that Democrats won statewide offices in Virginia in 2019, Falwell proposed that huge swaths of the state <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/falwell-west-virginia">secede and join West Virginia</a>.</p> <p>* Falwell has repeatedly sought to excuse appalling behavior by Trump and has gone so far as to assert that <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/february-2019-church-state-magazine/people-events/falwell-says-nothing-could-lead-him">there is nothing Trump could do</a> that would cause him to withdraw his support.</p> <p>* In 2015, Falwell <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2015/12/05/us/liberty-university-urges-armed-students/index.html">suggested</a> that students begin carrying concealed handguns so “we could end those Muslims before they walk in and kill.”</p> <p>Liberty University's trustees should not get distracted by one strange photo. They need to examine Falwell’s behavior and statements over the years and ask themselves if those actions have been in the school’s best interests. They should also consider if it makes sense for Liberty to have a leader who spends most of his time molding the university into an adjunct of the Republican Party – a stance that is clearly not appropriate for a tax-exempt entity and damages the integrity of Liberty’s purported religious mission.</p> <p>The trustees could send Falwell on a paid vacation for a few months and then bring him back and pretend like everything is fine. That would be a mistake; it’s time for a thorough house-cleaning.</p> <p>This new flap has handed Liberty’s trustees the opportunity to find a stable, less inflammatory leader who has a forward-looking vision for the school – a vision that goes beyond it being a tool for one man’s extreme political views. Here’s hoping they take it.</p> <p><em>Photo by Billy Hathorn via Wikimedia Commmons.</em></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/jerry-falwell-jr-0" hreflang="en">Jerry Falwell Jr.</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/liberty-university" hreflang="en">Liberty University</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/islamophobia" hreflang="en">Islamophobia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/virginia" hreflang="en">Virginia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/west-virginia" hreflang="en">West Virginia</a></div> <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> </div> Tue, 11 Aug 2020 12:38:36 +0000 boston 16316 at https://www.au.org On Pandemic-Related Church Closings, Americans Agree With AU, Not Christian Nationalists https://www.au.org/blogs/pew-poll-on-closings <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">On Pandemic-Related Church Closings, Americans Agree With AU, Not Christian Nationalists</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, 08/10/2020 - 09:59</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rebecca-rifkind-brown" hreflang="en">Rebecca Rifkind-Brown</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/women%20pray%2C%208.10.20.jpg?h=2841397e&amp;itok=Ok6U4gEo" width="1700" height="525" alt="women praying" title="mask-wearing women pray " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>It turns out a majority of Americans take the same view as Americans United relating to the treatment of houses of worship during this global pandemic. According to <a href="https://www.pewforum.org/2020/08/07/americans-oppose-religious-exemptions-from-coronavirus-related-restrictions/?utm_source=adaptivemailer&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=20-08-07%20religion%20and%20covid-19&amp;org=982&amp;lvl=100&amp;ite=6829&amp;lea=1506610&amp;ctr=0&amp;par=1&amp;trk=">a new survey by the Pew Research Center,</a> most Americans oppose religious exemptions to public health orders aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, despite public outcry from a select few of the Religious Right, “U.S. adults overwhelmingly say houses of worship should be required to follow the same rules about social distancing and large gatherings as other organizations or businesses,” Pew reported. </p> <p>The survey, conducted in mid-July, found that that 79% supported this view, while only 19% took an opposing stance, arguing that houses of worship should be treated differently and with more flexibility than other businesses or organizations.</p> <p>This debate has been taken to the Supreme Court <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/supreme-court-nevada-church">twice over the last few months</a>, with the court declining to grant religious exemptions to public health orders in California or Nevada. According to the survey, a majority of Americans agree with this sentiment.</p> <p>Among U.S. Christians, 75% believe that houses of worship should be treated like other institutions. Even among Protestant evangelicals, the most outspoken religious group to the coronavirus health restrictions, 62% think that “houses of worship should be held to the same standards as other businesses.”</p> <p>As religious institutions, like other secular entities, have had to adapt to this new world we live in, most Americans who regularly attend religious services are in favor of houses of worship implementing sensible restrictions and modifications. Only 13% think that houses of worship can operate identically to the way they did before the coronavirus outbreak. A majority of respondents support restrictions such as wearing masks, social distancing of at least six feet apart, limiting the number of people in attendance at services, and reducing the amount of communal singing.</p> <p>It also appears that most religious leaders are listening to the opinions of the American people as well as the health directives issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 6% of people responded that their houses of worship are open exactly as they were before the pandemic, while 55% responded that their houses of worship are open only on a modified basis with health restrictions in place. Thirty-one percent said that their houses of worship are still completely closed following the stay-at-home orders and bans on large gatherings issued a few months ago.</p> <p>It is clear from the survey responses that a majority of Americans are on the same page – and they agree with Americans United that treating houses of worship the same as secular entities is necessary during a global health crisis.</p> <p>Americans United has been making this argument in court in cases across the country and urging legislators to adopt reasonable policies to protect people. Read about <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic">our important efforts here</a>.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic" hreflang="en">Protecting Religious Freedom During the Coronavirus Pandemic</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/pew-research" hreflang="en">Pew Research</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/polls" hreflang="en">polls</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 10 Aug 2020 13:59:24 +0000 boston 16314 at https://www.au.org In A Fla. Town, Commissioners Walked Out Rather Than Listen To A Secular Invocation https://www.au.org/blogs/lake-wales-flap <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">In A Fla. Town, Commissioners Walked Out Rather Than Listen To A Secular Invocation</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, 08/06/2020 - 09:43</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/city%20hall%2C%208.6.20.jpg?h=f2fcf546&amp;itok=SLjR8bBp" width="1700" height="525" alt="city hall" title="city hall" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Two days ago, <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/lake-wales-invocation">I blogged</a> about a situation in Lakes Wales, Fla., where an atheist was scheduled to deliver an invocation before a meeting of the city commission. Two members of the commission, Al Goldstein and Curtis Gibson, were so offended by that they threatened to turn their backs or walk out.</p> <p>Here’s an update: Sarah Ray of the Atheist Community of Polk County was able to offer the invocation Tuesday night – and Goldstein and Gibson did indeed walk out.</p> <p>Blogger Hemant Mehta obtained the text of <a href="https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2020/08/05/two-elected-officials-in-lake-wales-fl-walked-out-during-an-atheist-invocation/">Ray’s remarks</a>. I was struck by this passage: “We, the people, far more alike than different, bring our many unique talents and skills together for the good of all. Tonight I call for peace and understanding. Yes, I’m an atheist. I’m white. I’m a parent. I’m originally from Illinois. I’m a transgender woman. We are all different in many ways. If we have prejudged each other already upon these differences, I fear we have lost before we ever began. Instead, may we seek out that which we have in common, and recognize that much of what makes us different separately, makes us stronger together.”</p> <p>It’s a good message. Goldstein and Gibson would have benefitted from hearing it.</p> <p>Whenever something like this happens, I can’t help but wonder what sort of brouhaha would have erupted if Goldstein and Gibson had walked out on a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, etc. That story would have probably gone viral, and the two men would be widely condemned for their intolerant – and, frankly, immature – behavior. It shouldn’t make a difference that Ray is an atheist. Government officials have a duty to represent and respect all of their constituents, whether they agree with them on matters of religion or not.</p> <p>The good news is that, in the long run, the feeble protest of Goldstein and Gibson will be meaningless. Religious diversity in America continues to grow, and that includes more and more people openly declaring that their religion is “none.” These folks are not content to stay silent. As law professor Jay Wexler noted in his 2019 book <em><a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/may-2019-church-state-magazine/books-ideas/on-the-road-again-a-church-state-journey">Our Non-Christian Nation: How Atheists, Satanists, Pagans, and Others Are Demanding Their Rightful Place in Public Life</a></em><em>, </em>skeptics of organized religion (and others) are demanding the same rights and privileges that America’s Christian majority has long taken for granted – and that includes the right to offer some thoughts before a meeting of a government body.</p> <p>The United States was never intended to be an officially “Christian nation,” and its future shows just how untenable that notion has become. No amount of back turning or storming off in a huff will change that.</p> <p>P.S. <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">Your support</a> of Americans United helps us ensure that government does not discriminate against people based on what they believe – or don’t believe – about faith.  </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/official-prayer" hreflang="en">Official Prayer</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-by-public-officials" hreflang="en">Discrimination by Public Officials</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/florida" hreflang="en">Florida</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/invocations" hreflang="en">Invocations</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/atheism" hreflang="en">Atheism</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 06 Aug 2020 13:43:00 +0000 boston 16312 at https://www.au.org Christian Nationalist Groups Are Still Trying To Overturn Pandemic Orders https://www.au.org/blogs/covid-cases-update <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Christian Nationalist Groups Are Still Trying To Overturn Pandemic Orders </span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 08/05/2020 - 11:01</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/church%20closed%2C%208.5.20.jpg?h=3cc9af2c&amp;itok=vEVTJs2T" width="1700" height="525" alt="Church closed" title="closed church" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The U.S. Supreme Court has on two occasions since May <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/supreme-court-nevada-church">refused to grant churches emergency injunctions</a> from state orders limiting large gatherings. This would seem to be a strong indication that the high court isn’t interested in short-circuiting its normal procedures to second-guess state officials’ ability to protect public health and safety during the pandemic. Nevertheless, some Christian nationalists, aided and abetted by Religious Right legal groups, keep filing lawsuits.</p> <p>And they keep losing many of them. Most recently, a federal court in Connecticut ruled against three men who argued that an order issued by Gov. Ned Lamont (D) that limits attendance of places of worship to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is fewer, violates their religious freedom rights.</p> <p>U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall was not persuaded by the trio’s arguments. As Howard Friedman <a href="https://religionclause.blogspot.com/2020/08/attack-on-connecticut-covid-19-orders.html">reported on his “Religion Clause” blog</a>, the judge held that nothing in the order impeded the men from attending religious services. She called their allegations “too vague to establish an injury-in-fact.”</p> <p>Hall noted that Connecticut’s orders are similar to those in other states that have been allowed to stand by the Supreme Court. She wrote, “The challenged Executive Orders are plainly neutral, and plaintiffs have not proffered any evidence to suggest that the Governor has any animus towards religious organizations. Indeed, more severe restrictions apply to secular gatherings.”</p> <p>Despite losses like these, clergy who believe their right to hold in-person worship supersedes public health won’t let up. Perhaps hoping for a better result outside of federal court, the Rev. Joel Tillis of Suncoast Baptist Church in Palmetto, Fla., is <a href="https://www.bradenton.com/news/coronavirus/article244682537.html">suing in state court</a>, challenging a mask-wearing requirement in Manatee County.</p> <p>During a rally announcing the lawsuit, Tillis, flanked by a cohort of anti-maskers, asserted that the county’s mask order somehow infringes on his ability to worship.</p> <p>“The resolution is wrong legally,” said Tillis. “The resolution is wrong biblically. The resolution is wrong medically. The resolution is wrong, and we do not accept it under any circumstances.”</p> <p>And in California, churches<a href="https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article244219407.html"> continue to challenge </a>the state’s restrictions on gatherings despite a series of court rulings upholding California’s rules.</p> <p>It’s worth keeping in mind that the vast majority of America’s religious leaders are doing the right thing and following public health orders. Those who are defiant tend to represent extreme fundamentalist factions; they’re the same people who have long argued that they have a right to put their interpretation of “God’s law” above secular law.</p> <p>They don’t – and their refusal to behave with even a modicum of compassion and decency during this pandemic continues to put all of us at risk. That’s why Americans United has been busy urging courts not to grant demands for religious exemptions from public health orders. So far, AU’s legal team has filed 27 briefs in these cases. Read more about our work <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic">here</a>.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic" hreflang="en">Protecting Religious Freedom During the Coronavirus Pandemic</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/connecticut" hreflang="en">Connecticut</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/florida" hreflang="en">Florida</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/california" hreflang="en">California</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 05 Aug 2020 15:01:28 +0000 boston 16310 at https://www.au.org Some Officials In A Fla. Town Aren’t Interested In Hearing What An Atheist Has To Say https://www.au.org/blogs/lake-wales-invocation <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Some Officials In A Fla. Town Aren’t Interested In Hearing What An Atheist Has To Say</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, 08/04/2020 - 09:39</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/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/speaker%2C%208.4.20.jpg?h=790be497&amp;itok=kyb8Uz4E" width="1700" height="525" alt="microphone" title="podium" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>An atheist is scheduled to deliver the invocation tonight before a meeting of the Lake Wales, Fla., City Commission, and some people are not happy about that.</p> <p>Sarah Ray of the Atheist Community of Polk County has delivered opening statements to the Polk County Board of County Commissioners without incident. But her plans to do the same in Lake Wales, a central Florida community of about 17,000, is running into opposition.</p> <p>A local news site, the <em>Lake Wales News</em>, <a href="https://www.lakewalesnews.net/story/2020/07/29/news/commissioners-unhappy-atheist-to-give-invocation-at-aug-4-meeting/1717.html">reported</a> that Commissioner Al Goldstein demanded to know, “Who will she be praying to?” and said he plans to walk out of the room when Ray begins speaking. Another member, Curtis Gibson, said he might turn his back on Ray. Interim City Manager James Slaton said he planned to take the issue to the city attorney.</p> <p>Six years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court, ruling in <em><a href="https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/12-696">Greece v. Galloway</a></em>, a legal case sponsored by Americans United, allowed local governments to open meetings with prayers as long as a policy of non-discrimination was observed.</p> <p>This means that local officials might on occasion hear invocations by Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans and, yes, nontheists. This should not be controversial. After all, Lake Wales undoubtedly has residents who follow all of these traditions and more. All deserve the right to speak to local government.</p> <p>This issue of invocations has surfaced in other parts of Florida. In Brevard County, the Board of County Commissioners refused to allow anyone who did not belong to a mainstream, monotheistic religion to open board meetings. Americans United and its allies <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/brevard-county-fla-commissioners-agree-to-end-religious-discrimination-in">sued the board and won</a>. The board subsequently agreed to a settlement prohibiting it from continuing its discriminatory practices and requiring the county to pay $60,000 in damages to the plaintiffs and $430,000 in attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.</p> <p>Lake Wales officials would do well to study this recent history and avoid repeating Brevard County’s costly mistake. They might also work on being more tolerant and open-minded. Assuming she is allowed to speak, Ray might have some interesting things to say tonight. Instead of walking out of the room or turning their backs, the commissioners ought to grant Ray the same measure of respect they’d give to someone delivering a religious message.</p> <p>Who knows? They might learn something.</p> <p>P.S. If you think your local public officials have a discriminatory invocation policy, <a href="https://www.au.org/get-involved/report-a-violation/form">let Americans United know about it</a>. We might be able to help.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/official-prayer" hreflang="en">Official Prayer</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/invocations" hreflang="en">Invocations</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/florida" hreflang="en">Florida</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/atheism" hreflang="en">Atheism</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/brevard-county" hreflang="en">Brevard County</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 04 Aug 2020 13:39:21 +0000 boston 16308 at https://www.au.org Right-Wing Evangelical Men’s Group Tries For A Comeback https://www.au.org/blogs/promise-keepers-comeback <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Right-Wing Evangelical Men’s Group Tries For A Comeback</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, 08/03/2020 - 10:34</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/PK%20RFK%201997%20.jpg?h=551ff741&amp;itok=R_q8K-7o" width="1700" height="525" alt="Promise Keepers " title="PK event 1997 " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Back in the 1990s, some observers speculated that the Promise Keepers (PK), an evangelical Christian men’s group, would spearhead a new wave of Religious Right activism.</p> <p>It didn’t happen. The organization, founded by former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney, was known for holding mass rallies in sports stadiums that attracted hundreds of thousands of men. For a time, it looked as if the group really might sweep the nation.</p> <p>But that peak was impossible to sustain. For various reasons, Promise Keepers went into decline. The organization, based in Colorado Springs, once had 345 people on its staff. It now has 28. Its budget, which reached $30 million 20 years ago, now stands at $2 million. Promise Keepers’ current CEO, Ken Harrison, is an unpaid volunteer.</p> <p>Veteran religion reporter Adelle Banks of Religion News Service <a href="https://religionnews.com/2020/07/31/promise-keepers-stages-a-comeback-but-returns-on-screens-instead-of-in-a-stadium/">wrote an interesting story</a> July 31 about Promise Keepers’ hopes for a comeback. The group held a virtual rally Friday and Saturday that a reported 500 U.S. churches agreed to simulcast. The event was translated into Spanish and a few other languages.</p> <p>In the late ‘90s, many of us who monitor Christian nationalist groups were curious as to what Promise Keepers were all about. Seeking to get a better understanding of this movement and its goals, I attended a June 1997 PK event at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, D.C. At the time, there was a lot of talk about the Promise Keepers “going political.” After attending the two-day rally, I concluded that they didn’t really need to do this because they already were. (I later wrote about the event in my 2000 book <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Close-Encounters-Religious-Right-Journeys/dp/157392797X">Close Encounters with the Religious Right</a></em>.)</p> <p>During the rally, I heard the same messages I’d been hearing at Religious Right events since 1988: LGBTQ rights must be curbed. Because it is God’s plan for women to submit to men, husbands should run households. The Bible, which is to be read literally, provides answers to every issue we face. Contemporary culture mocks Christianity.</p> <p>Twenty-three years have passed, but things don’t appear to have changed for PK. Banks reported that the schedule for the weekend Promise Keepers event included a session featuring My Faith Votes, a group whose honorary co-chairmen include U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee, the former Republican governor of Arkansas and unsuccessful presidential candidate – yet Harrison denied that the group is wading into politics. (Several speakers, however, are <a href="https://ministrywatch.com/promise-keepers-2020-guys-god-and-the-gop/">affiliated with far-right politics</a>, among them David Barton, a notorious Christian nationalist pseudo-historian who’s one of the backers of <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/project-blitz">Project Blitz</a>, which seeks to pass right-wing legislation in the states.) </p> <p>“We are not going to take on politics in any way, shape or form,” Harrison said. “But some of the things we do, talking about justice, standing up for justice, people will come to their own political conclusion.”</p> <p>To me, it’s 1997 all over again. When PK men spend two days hearing a constant bombardment of right-wing culture war messages, they really don’t need to be told explicitly how to vote. Chances are, they can figure that out for themselves.</p> <p>Will this work? Can Promise Keepers rise again? Call me skeptical. PK is offering a product that fewer and fewer Americans want. At a time when racial justice is a growing concern, PK has little to say about this issue. (Indeed, some observers believe Promise Keepers went into decline in the late 1990s because its leaders began talking about the need for racial reconciliation. The conservative, white, evangelical men who formed the group’s base weren’t interested and drifted away.) At a time when increasing numbers of Americans support LGBTQ rights, PK remains homophobic. At a time when women’s rights are on the upswing, Promise Keepers tells women to stay home and follow the guidance of “godly” husbands. At a time when America is more diverse than ever (including growing numbers of Americans leaving religion altogether), PK remains wedded to a vision of the nation mired in the 1950s. </p> <p>While the brand of far-right, “he-man” evangelism offered by PK still has adherents, it doesn’t represent our nation’s future. That’s a significant challenge to any sort of comeback the group wants to mount.  </p> <p><em>Photo: Men gather for a 1997 Promise Keepers event in Washington, D.C. Photo by Elvert Barnes/Protest Photography via Creative Commons</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/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/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/david-barton" hreflang="en">David Barton</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/project-blitz" hreflang="en">Project Blitz</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/christian-nation-myth" hreflang="en">Christian nation myth</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/mike-huckabee" hreflang="en">Mike Huckabee</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/ben-carson" hreflang="en">Ben Carson</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/womens-rights" hreflang="en">women&#039;s rights</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 03 Aug 2020 14:34:34 +0000 boston 16307 at https://www.au.org AU’s New Report Details How Billions In Pandemic Relief Was Diverted To Private Schools https://www.au.org/blogs/pandemic-aid-private-schools <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">AU’s New Report Details How Billions In Pandemic Relief Was Diverted To Private Schools</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, 07/30/2020 - 11:29</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/private%20school.jpg?h=9b443e29&amp;itok=uJgpsLWu" width="1700" height="525" alt="private school" title="private school" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Americans United has just issued<a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-07/PPP%20COVID%20Relief%20Money%20for%20Private%20Schools%207.29.20.pdf"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-07/PPP%20COVID%20Relief%20Money%20for%20Private%20Schools%207.29.20.pdf">a new report</a> detailing how the Trump administration used taxpayer funds under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) – money that was supposed to help workers at small businesses who were at risk of losing their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic – to funnel billions into the coffers of private schools, the majority of them religious.</p> <p>The report is a real shocker. You can read the <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-07/PPP%20COVID%20Relief%20Money%20for%20Private%20Schools%207.29.20_0.pdf">full document here</a>, but if you want a quick summary, here are some of its chief findings:</p> <p><strong><em>Private schools got billions in taxpayer money:</em></strong> Under PPP, private schools, both religious and secular, got between $2.67 billion and $6.47 billion. At least 5,691 private schools, including at least 4,006 private religious schools, got “loans” from PPP – and remember, these loans can be mostly forgiven by the government as long as the schools meet a few criteria, so they are really grants.</p> <p><strong><em>Private schools often received more money than nearby public schools:</em></strong> Public schools were not eligible for PPP, but they were able to receive funds from a separate coronavirus relief program called ESSER. The ESSER fund allocated $13.2 billion in pandemic recovery funds for public school districts. But we know that private schools might have received as much as $6.47 billion under PPP. That’s nearly half of the ESSER fund – even though private schools serve only 10 percent of the student population.</p> <p>Furthermore, AU’s report documents several cases where local public schools came up on the short end of the stick. In New Orleans, for example, the public school district, which serves more than 44,000 children, received a total of about $8 million in ESSER funds. Yet two private schools in that city, which serve a combined total of 2,400 students, received PPP funds of between $2 million and $5 million <em>each</em>.</p> <p><strong><em>Well-heeled private schools walked away with a bundle</em></strong><strong>:</strong> PPP money was supposed to help small businesses and nonprofits that might have experienced difficulty meeting payroll. Yet millions of tax dollars ended up in the coffers of wealthy private institutions.</p> <p>Choate-Rosemary Hall, a private boarding and day school in Connecticut that has an endowment of $318 million and yearly tuition of $60,000, received from $5 million to $10 million in PPP funds. St. Andrew’s School, an Episcopal institution in Florida, received $2 million to $5 million in PPP aid, even though it has an endowment totaling more than $19 million. In Kentucky, St. Xavier High School in Louisville got $2 million to $5 million – yet it recently raised $42.7 million from private donors for renovations and scholarships.</p> <p><strong><em>Institutions that openly discriminate got your tax dollars</em></strong><strong>: </strong>AU found numerous instances of private schools with discriminatory policies getting PPP money. Indiana’s Cathedral High School has expelled a student for identifying as transgender and refuses to hire teachers who are married to same-sex spouses. In Virginia, Timberlake Christian Schools’ website states that it will refuse admission to any student whose “conduct within a particular home is counter to or in opposition to the biblical lifestyle that the school teaches….” Liberty Christian School in Indiana notes in its admissions policies that the school may not admit students with a “physical handicap, which would impair the learning process under normal education conditions,” or a “learning disability.” Each of these schools received PPP funding ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions.</p> <p>If you’re angry over this, prepare to get angrier: The giveaway to private schools isn’t over yet. President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are calling for even more public funding of private schools in the next pandemic relief bill, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seems eager to appease them.</p> <p>Had enough?<a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">Join Americans United</a> and help us ensure that public funds support public schools.</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 class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/private-school-vouchers" hreflang="en">Private School Vouchers</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/paycheck-protection-program" hreflang="en">Paycheck Protection Program</a></div> <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/betsy-devos" hreflang="en">Betsy DeVos</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/neo-vouchers" hreflang="en">neo-vouchers</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/mitch-mcconnell" hreflang="en">Mitch McConnell</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 30 Jul 2020 15:29:14 +0000 boston 16306 at https://www.au.org Trump Adviser Unleashes Error-Filled Attack On Separation Of Church And State https://www.au.org/blogs/attacks-on-separation <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Trump Adviser Unleashes Error-Filled Attack On Separation Of Church And State</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, 07/29/2020 - 11:54</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/First%20Amendment.jpg?h=f2c3a362&amp;itok=x2XaeLBh" width="1700" height="525" alt="First Amendment" title="Bill of Rights" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>During a recent campaign event, Jenna Ellis, an adviser to President Donald Trump, cut loose with the old Religious Right chestnut that separation of church and state isn’t part of the Constitution.</p> <p>“The left is going to tell you there’s this separation of church and state, and that’s just nowhere in the Constitution, nowhere in American law,” <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-campaign-adviser-jenna-ellis-says-the-separation-of-church-and-state-is-a-liberal-lie">Ellis said during a Zoom meeting</a> hosted by Asian Pacific Americans for Trump. “That’s nothing that our founding principles ever, uh, derived whatsoever.”</p> <p>She added that church-state separation comes from “twisting a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Church that was simply talking about the three tiers of authority that God himself ordained – the church government, the civil government, and the family government.” </p> <p>Ellis would have done well to actually read <a href="https://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danpre.html">Jefferson’s letter</a> to the Danbury, Conn., Baptist Association before popping off on it because that famous missive doesn’t say what she seems to think it does. The Daily Beast helpfully pointed out what Ellis got wrong and even quoted <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/the-religious-right-says-church-state-separation-isnt-in-the-constitution">a blog post</a> by Americans United Assistant Director of Communications Liz Hayes making it clear that key founders like Jefferson and James Madison supported separation of church and state. (Madison, it is worth noting, was one of the primary authors of the Constitution’s religious freedom protections, which were inspired by Jefferson's <a href="https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-02-02-0132-0004-0082">Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom</a>.)</p> <p>History is important, but there’s another reason why the term "separation of church and state" came into existence: It’s a convenient way of explaining what the religious freedom provisions of the First Amendment do.</p> <p>The first 16 words of the First Amendment are, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” People who work in the legal community call the first part of that the “Establishment Clause” and the second part the “Free Exercise Clause.”</p> <p>These are not terms that smoothly roll off the tongues of non-lawyers, though. Even in pre-Twitter days, people often looked for shortcuts when communicating complex ideas. The phrase “separation of church and state” nicely summarizes the scope and effect of the First Amendment.</p> <p>In his classic book <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Church-State-Freedom-Leo-Pfeffer/dp/1532644523">Church, State and Freedom</a></em>, eminent church-state scholar Leo Pfeffer put it well. Pfeffer noted that the literal words “separation of church and state” don’t appear in the Constitution but added, “But it was inevitable that some convenient term should come into existence to verbalize a principle so clearly and widely held by the American people.”</p> <p>Pfeffer pointed out that the phrases “fair trial” and “religious liberty” are found nowhere in the Constitution, yet few would doubt that our founding charter protects those principles. He wrote, “The universal acceptance which all these terms, including ‘separation of church and state,’ have received in America would seem to confirm rather than disparage their reality as basic American principles.”</p> <p>Pfeffer was right. Separation of church and state is an American principle. We pioneered it, and we should be proud of it. It’s a shame to see a vital American ideal subjected to ignorant attacks -- and that's why  Americans United defends separation every day.</p> <p>We’d love to have <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">your support</a>!</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/history-and-origins-of-church-state-separation" hreflang="en">History and Origins of Church-State Separation</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/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/letter-danbury-baptists" hreflang="en">Letter to the Danbury Baptists</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/leo-pfeffer" hreflang="en">Leo Pfeffer</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 29 Jul 2020 15:54:52 +0000 boston 16304 at https://www.au.org The Proof Is In The Ballot Box: Voters Don’t Like Private School Vouchers https://www.au.org/blogs/vouchers-fail-ballot-box <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">The Proof Is In The Ballot Box: Voters Don’t Like Private School Vouchers</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, 07/28/2020 - 09:43</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rebecca-rifkind-brown" hreflang="en">Rebecca Rifkind-Brown</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/public%20school%20kids%20.jpg?h=a85030a4&amp;itok=cq1fTIp2" width="1700" height="525" alt="school bus" title="students at school bus" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans are scheming to use the new coronavirus relief bill as a vehicle to push private school vouchers. Trump seems to believe this will boost his flagging standing with the American people, and Republicans have argued that promoting vouchers will attract suburban women, as well Black and Latino voters. Trump has even made remarks like, “Frankly, school choice is the civil rights statement of the year” and “There is nothing that the African American community wants more than school choice.”</p> <p>These comments reflect a disconnect from political reality. Although Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Republican officials believe that vouchers are an issue worth pursuing to gain support, the voting record on this matter shows otherwise: Vouchers are not popular with voters. AU has compiled<a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/january-2019-church-state/featured/the-people-have-spoken-private-school-vouchers-have"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/january-2019-church-state/featured/the-people-have-spoken-private-school-vouchers-have">a list of ballot initiatives</a> from states all over the country dating back to the 1960s that planned to use public taxpayer funding to support private schools. In all of these instances, voters rejected voucher schemes, proving that policies like school vouchers actually have very little support among the American electorate. (In Arizona, voters went to the polls in 2018 and<a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/january-2019-church-state/cover-story/saving-arizona-far-right-forces-were-eager-to"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/january-2019-church-state/cover-story/saving-arizona-far-right-forces-were-eager-to">rolled back</a> an expansion to that state’s voucher plan that had been approved by the legislature – 65 percent to 35 percent.)</p> <p>The National Coalition for Public Education, an umbrella organization of defenders of public education that AU co-chairs, points out that there are<a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/facts"> </a><a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/facts">several reasons why people do not support school vouchers</a> and why vouchers are actually largely ineffective at helping to improve the education system. For instance, school vouchers take needed assistance away from public school systems to fund the private education of a much smaller population of students.</p> <p>Private school vouchers also do not save taxpayers dollars in the long run. The number of students using private school vouchers to leave public schools is so minimal that it does not affect the operating costs of public schools. Therefore, public schools are only losing out on necessary funding at the hands of the voucher system. In addition, many pro-voucher supporters have argued that they help give education options and opportunities to low-income students. However, as <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/low-income-students">NCPE notes</a>, studies have found that “private school vouchers do not adequately serve low-income students.” This is because the price of private school tuition and fees often exceed the amount of the voucher itself.</p> <p>Since private school vouchers are ineffective, take necessary funding away from public schools and have little support among voters, Trump’s focus on this issue will likely not give him the support he craves and will only end up harming the public education system.</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/private-school-vouchers" hreflang="en">Private School Vouchers</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/taxpayer-funding-of-religion" hreflang="en">Taxpayer Funding Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/betsy-devos" hreflang="en">Betsy DeVos</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/education" hreflang="en">Education</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 28 Jul 2020 13:43:51 +0000 boston 16303 at https://www.au.org Supreme Court Wisely Refuses To Intervene In Nevada Church’s Challenge To State Public-Health Order https://www.au.org/blogs/supreme-court-nevada-church <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Supreme Court Wisely Refuses To Intervene In Nevada Church’s Challenge To State Public-Health Order</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, 07/27/2020 - 08:56</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/alex-luchenitser" hreflang="en">Alex Luchenitser</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/us%20supreme%20court%20_0.jpg?h=c81e2d46&amp;itok=09C3knBc" width="1700" height="525" alt="Supreme Court" title="U.S. Supreme Court " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>On Friday evening, by a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court <a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/19a1070_08l1.pdf">declined</a> a request by a Nevada church for an emergency injunction against a state public-health order that limits attendance at religious services to 50 people. In late May, also by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court <a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/19a1044_pok0.pdf">rejected</a> a similar request from a California church that contested a state order restricting religious services to the lesser of 100 people or 25 percent of a building’s fire-code capacity.</p> <p>The Supreme Court acted properly in refusing to intervene in either case. The constitutional right to worship freely is precious. But religious freedom should never be used as a justification for imposing harm on people. In the midst of a pandemic, a court decision overriding a public-health order could do exactly that.  Numerous coronavirus outbreaks have been <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/08/us/coronavirus-churches-outbreaks.html">traced</a> to religious services.</p> <p>Courts that have considered challenges to public-health orders that restrict religious services have generally asked whether similar restrictions are imposed on comparable nonreligious institutions. These kinds of cases should be decided on detailed factual records, with the benefit of scientific evidence on what kinds of institutions and activities pose the greatest risk of infection. Overriding the judgments of elected officials by suspending a public-health order in an expedited legal proceeding like the Nevada and California cases would risk making a bad call -- one that could cost people their lives.</p> <p>Americans United has been defending public-health orders against religion-based challenges around the country, filing <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic">26 briefs</a> in courts in 11 states and presenting <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/federal-court-protects-religious-freedom-and-public-health-by-allowing-new">oral argument</a> by videoconference in one of those cases. We’ll continue this work so that more Americans can worship safely -- and are around to do so once the pandemic is over.</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/nevada" hreflang="en">Nevada</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/california" hreflang="en">California</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 27 Jul 2020 12:56:50 +0000 boston 16302 at https://www.au.org