The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/ en What’s At Stake At The Supreme Court: Your Right To Be Free From Discrimination Based On Someone Else’s Religion https://www.au.org/blogs/court-religious-freedom-stake <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">What’s At Stake At The Supreme Court: Your Right To Be Free From Discrimination Based On Someone Else’s Religion</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, 09/22/2020 - 11:50</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/RBG%20honored.jpg?h=71976bb4&amp;itok=1Ecs-A8y" width="1700" height="525" alt="honoring RBG" title="remembering RBG" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p><strong><em>Editor’s Note:</em></strong><em> Americans United staff members have been pulling together material to illustrate what’s at stake in the battle over filling Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat. We’ll be exploring these issues over the next few days. Today’s installment looks at the question of religious freedom being used to discriminate against or to harm others.</em></p> <p>The Supreme Court may be on the verge of adopting a new definition of religious freedom, one that grants sweeping powers to use that principle to discriminate against others and cause them harm by denying people health care, employment or services.</p> <p>Religious freedom is a cherished right, but it is not absolute. Over the years, the high court has grappled with the question of the limits on religious freedom but, generally speaking, has rejected arguments that the Constitution requires religious exemptions that result in harm to others. For example, in 1968 the Supreme Court refused to entertain the notion that a restaurant owner in South Carolina could refuse to serve non-whites, even if he claimed that it was his sincere belief that the Bible called for segregation of the races. The court called the argument<a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/religious-freedom-should-not-be-a-license-to-discriminate"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/religious-freedom-should-not-be-a-license-to-discriminate">“patently frivolous.”</a></p> <p>This standard is now being eroded. In recent years, for example, business owners have demanded a “religious freedom” right to deny their employees access to no-cost birth control guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act (even though the employers are not required to pay for it). Some owners of stores and small businesses have insisted that, due to their religious beliefs, they will not serve certain classes of people, such as LBGTQ customers, non-believers, Muslims, etc.</p> <p>The Supreme Court has not yet ruled that the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom grants an affirmative right to discriminate in secular settings, but it has issued a series of rulings that chip away at the idea that religious freedom should “do no harm.”</p> <p>Religious Right legal groups have brought several cases in the hopes of securing a religious-freedom-based right to discriminate. In November, the Supreme Court will hear<a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/Fulton-Brief-Supreme-Court"> </a><em><a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/Fulton-Brief-Supreme-Court">Fulton v. City of Philadelphia</a></em>, in which a taxpayer-funded, faith-based foster care agency wants the court to create a constitutional right to discriminate against qualified families because they are LGBTQ or otherwise don’t follow an agency’s religious tenets.</p> <p>An adverse ruling in this case could have far-reaching ramifications and could extend beyond foster care agencies and create a sweeping license to use religion to discriminate in other taxpayer-funded services.</p> <p>Justice Ginsburg was a strong proponent of the idea that religious freedom should never be used to harm others. As she observed in one case, “[y]our right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.”</p> <p>The next Supreme Court justice must also acknowledge the “do no harm principle” and apply it correctly. Our civil rights, health care and religious freedom are at stake.</p> <p>Americans United will be on the front lines advocating for a new Supreme Court justice who respects the constitutional principle of church-state separation.<a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">Become a member</a> to join us in this battle.</p> <p><em>Photo: People gather outside the Supreme Court to honor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> <div 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-in-health-care" hreflang="en">Discrimination In Health Care</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-minorities-rights" hreflang="en">Religious Minorities&#039; Rights</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/justice-ruth-bader-ginsburg" hreflang="en">Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/honor-rbg-hold-the-seat" hreflang="en">Honor RBG, Hold the Seat</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 22 Sep 2020 15:50:31 +0000 boston 16384 at https://www.au.org Trump Wants To Fill The Supreme Court Vacancy Quickly. Americans United Is On The Case. https://www.au.org/blogs/trump-judicial-nominee <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Trump Wants To Fill The Supreme Court Vacancy Quickly. Americans United Is On The Case.</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, 09/21/2020 - 12:58</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/us%20supreme%20court%20_1.jpg?h=c81e2d46&amp;itok=lu6H3Cor" width="1700" height="525" alt="Supreme Court" title="US Supreme Court" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Media reports indicate that President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans are moving swiftly to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat – and that means Americans United is acting fast, too.</p> <p>Trump has said he plans to nominate a woman to the seat and that he might announce a name as early as<a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/supreme-court/trump-says-he-ll-probably-name-supreme-court-pick-friday-n1240590"> </a><a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/supreme-court/trump-says-he-ll-probably-name-supreme-court-pick-friday-n1240590">the end of this week</a>. Four names have been floated on Trump’s short list: Amy Coney Barrett, Allison Jones Rushing, Barbara Lagoa and Kathryn L. Todd. Barrett, Rushing and Lagoa are currently judges who sit on federal courts of appeals (all three are Trump appointees). Todd is deputy counsel to Trump in the White House.</p> <p>Americans United has conducted detailed research on all of these potential candidates and more than two dozen others whom Trump has identified as potential nominees. Barrett, for example, was on the short list for the seat that went to Brett Kavanaugh, and during that process, we collected a lot of information about her record on church-state issues.  (Spoiler: It’s not good.) We’ve combed through the others’ records as well, and rest  assured that we’ll keep digging. If there’s relevant information out there, we will find it and be ready to share it with legislators on Capitol Hill, the media and the public when an announcement is made.</p> <p>Much is at stake in this nomination. Freedom of religion and our rights are at risk. As the only national organization dedicated solely to defending the separation of religion and government, Americans United intends to play a leading role as this process plays out.</p> <p>We’ll keep you updated. Watch this space, <a href="https://www.au.org/get-involved/updates">sign up for our emails</a> and follow us on social media @americansunited to stay informed throughout this process.</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/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/justice-ruth-bader-ginsburg" hreflang="en">Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/brett-kavanaugh" hreflang="en">Brett Kavanaugh</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/honor-rbg-hold-the-seat" hreflang="en">Honor RBG, Hold the Seat</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 21 Sep 2020 16:58:55 +0000 boston 16383 at https://www.au.org Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Justice For All https://www.au.org/blogs/justice-ruth-bader-ginsburg <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Justice For All</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">Sat, 09/19/2020 - 15:53</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/RBG%20Screenshot%20NPR.png?h=7520e89c&amp;itok=4KEdOtvd" width="1700" height="525" alt="RBG" title="Justice Ginsburg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>When President Bill Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993, the response was, on balance, positive. The nominee process was not always so politicized back then, and most Senators reacted favorably.</p> <p>There were a handful of exceptions. Among them was U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who noted that Ginsburg had done some work for the American Civil Liberties Union and said he would not support her. At the time, I remember thinking, “If Helms, a consistent opponent of civil rights, is against this judge, she must be all right.”</p> <p>Ginsburg, who won confirmation on a 96-3 vote, turned out to be more than all right. She was a veritable champion of church-state separation and individual freedom, and she’ll be remembered as one of the strongest advocates for that cause ever to grace the high court bench.</p> <p>Over the years, I had the privilege of watching Ginsburg in action while I was covering oral arguments in church-state cases at the Supreme Court. I’m not a lawyer, but even I could tell that her questions were succinct and right to the point. She had a way of cutting through the fog that can surround legal arguments. I often got the impression that she was putting things through a simple filter: Would this policy advance human rights or take them away? Would it make anyone feel like a lesser part of the American experiment?</p> <p>Indeed, <a href="https://forward.com/news/obituaries/454773/ruth-bader-ginsburg-in-her-own-words-highlights-from-the-forwards-2018/">Ginsburg told <em>The Forward</em></a> in 2018, that her experiences in life had led her to understand the plight of anyone deemed to be an “outsider.”</p> <p>“Perhaps I should start by saying, I grew up in the shadow of World War II,” she said. “And we came to know more and more what was happening to the Jews in Europe. The sense of being an outsider – of being one of the people who had suffered oppression for no … no sensible reason … it’s the sense of being part of a minority. It makes you more empathetic to other people who are not insiders, who are outsiders.”</p> <p>A statement of her church-state philosophy is perhaps best summed up in her dissent in <em>American Legion v. American Humanist Association </em>(2019), the case involving the towering <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-condemns-us-supreme-courts-decision-to-allow-bladensburg">Bladensburg Cross </a>on public land near Washington, D.C., in which she observed that church-state separation “protects the integrity of individual conscience in religious matters” and “guards against the anguish, hardship, and bitter strife that can occur when the government weighs in on one side of religious debate.” As she put it, “separating the two preserves the legitimacy of each.”</p> <p>Ginsburg understood that religious freedom should not be used to take away the rights of others or cause them harm. As the Trump administration, a handful of employers and a lot of Christian nationalists attacked the birth control benefit in  the Affordable Care Act, Ginsburg supported it every time. Most recently, she wrote in her final dissent, in <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/supreme-court-decision-in-birth-control-cases-undermines-both-religious-and"><em>Trump v. Pennsylvania</em></a> this summer, “Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the <em>nth </em>degree.”</p> <p>Our nation is a poorer place today because Justice Ginsburg is no longer with us. By all means, take some time to mourn her passing, but bear in mind that her death is sure to spark a bruising partisan battle over her replacement. Although Republican leaders in the Senate refused to consider allowing President Barack Obama to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016, arguing that nine months was too close to an election, they’ve already said they won’t impose that condition this time. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed there will be a vote on a Trump nominee this fall.</p> <p>Let’s get to work: The fate of separation of church and state has never been in a more precarious position, and we’re going to have to fight with all we’ve got to preserve it. <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">Join us.</a></p> <p>I have a feeling Justice Ginsburg would approve.</p> <p><em>Photo: Screenshot from an NPR video</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-minorities-rights" hreflang="en">Religious Minorities&#039; Rights</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/supreme-court" hreflang="en">Supreme Court</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/justice-ruth-bader-ginsburg" hreflang="en">Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/bill-clinton" hreflang="en">Bill Clinton</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/antonin-scalia" hreflang="en">Antonin Scalia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/mitch-mcconnell" hreflang="en">Mitch McConnell</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/display-of-religious-symbols" hreflang="en">display of religious symbols</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/honor-rbg-hold-the-seat" hreflang="en">Honor RBG, Hold the Seat</a></div> </div> </div> Sat, 19 Sep 2020 19:53:07 +0000 boston 16382 at https://www.au.org On Constitution Day, Let’s Celebrate Secular Government – And Vow To Defend It https://www.au.org/blogs/constitution-day-secular <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">On Constitution Day, Let’s Celebrate Secular Government – And Vow To Defend It </span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 09/17/2020 - 08:48</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/constitution_0.jpg?h=51a72048&amp;itok=zQZU1Al8" width="1700" height="525" alt="constitution" title="US Constitution" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Alexander Hamilton, as the story goes, was once accosted by a man who was outraged that the governing document Hamilton had helped create, the U.S. Constitution, contained no references to God. A rather flippant Hamilton is said to have cheekily replied, “I declare, we forgot it!”</p> <p>The tale is considered apocryphal, but beneath it lurks an intriguing fact that is well worth celebrating on this <a href="https://loc.gov/law/help/commemorative-observations/constitution-day.php">Constitution Day</a>: Our national charter’s wholly secular nature.</p> <p>In the late 18th century, it was common for government documents to contain religious language. Many early state constitutions, for example, include appeals to God – yet such pious platitudes are absent from the federal Constitution.</p> <p>The Bill of Rights and the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom and church-state separation were added to the Constitution a few years after the signing of that document in 1787. But one could argue that the Constitution’s secular nature is itself an affirmation of the principle of separation of religion and government. The new American government saw no need to include appeals to the divine its foundational charter, a powerful signal that when it came to religion, this nation wouldn’t presume to tell people what to believe or not to believe.  </p> <p>Conservative pastors at the time understood that the Constitution was in no way Christian. After ratification, many of them attacked the document from their pulpits, blasting its “godless” nature. One New York minister called the lack of references to God in the Constitution “an omission which no pretext whatever can palliate.” He opined that an angry deity would soon seek vengeance for the slight and “overturn from its foundations the fabric we have been rearing and crush us to atoms in the wreck.”</p> <p>This drumbeat continued, reaching a peak during the Civil War when a band of conservative pastors joined forces to create a kind of proto-Christian nationalist organization called the National Reform Association. The group had many goals, but chief among them was correcting what they saw as the founders’ mistake by rewriting the Preamble to the Constitution to add references to God, Jesus Christ and Christianity.</p> <p>The National Reform Association’s proposed Preamble read: “We, the people of the United States, humbly acknowledging Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Ruler among the nations, His revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government, and in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the inalienable rights and blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.”</p> <p>The proposal languished in Congress for several years until the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives agreed to vote on it in 1874. The committee rejected it, pointing out in a statement that unions of church and state had done great damage in “so many nations of the Old World.”</p> <p>Despite this history, today’s advocates of “Christian nation” mythology insist, against all available evidence, that our Constitution somehow officially established a Christian government. They say it over and over and some may even believe it, but they can’t get around the one thing that is fatal to their claim: the actual text of the Constitution.</p> <p>But that doesn’t mean we can be complacent. We know that Christian nationalists won’t stop their efforts to insert their narrow interpretation of Christianity into America’s laws; look no further than the <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/project-blitz">Project Blitz</a> campaign in the states and the Trump administration’s catering to far-right evangelicals’ policy demands. Americans United won’t stop protecting our shared secular laws that are based on our secular Constitution – and we need your support. <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">Join us</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/founding-fathers" hreflang="en">Founding Fathers</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/foundations-of-american-law-and-government" hreflang="en">Foundations of American Law and Government</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/project-blitz" hreflang="en">Project Blitz</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/constitution" hreflang="en">Constitution</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/christian-nation-myth" hreflang="en">Christian nation myth</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 17 Sep 2020 12:48:58 +0000 boston 16380 at https://www.au.org Americans United’s National Advocacy Summit Is Over – But Your Activism Must Continue https://www.au.org/blogs/get-active-ideas <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Americans United’s National Advocacy Summit Is Over – But Your Activism Must Continue</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, 09/16/2020 - 09:54</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/Rachel%20and%20JeffHorizontal%202.png?h=1b8f9d90&amp;itok=kL8GkQ4S" width="1700" height="525" alt="NAS" title="NAS panel" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Americans United’s first-ever National Advocacy Summit concluded yesterday. It was an amazing virtual event that drew more than 800 participants. Our goal was to help people learn, connect and advocate. Mission accomplished!</p> <p>Whether you attended the Summit or not, we urge you to get active to defend the separation of religion and government – the only principle that can protect the right to worship or not as you see fit as long as you don’t harm others.</p> <p>Here are five easy things you can do to boost your activism:</p> <ul> <li><strong>JOIN Americans United.</strong> If you’re not a member, <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">please sign up</a>. We’d love to have your support; we need it to continue our important work. Being a member of Americans United is a great way to stay informed and amplify your voice as you join in solidarity with others who want to protect the bedrock principle of church-state separation. With your membership, you’ll receive a subscription to AU’s <em><a href="https://www.au.org/church-state">Church &amp; State magazine</a></em>.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>SIGN up for Americans United’s alerts.</strong> You’ll get emails about breaking news, special alerts on actions you can take and a weekly newsletter. It’s the best way to stay on top of things in a fast-moving world. You can sign up on <a href="https://www.au.org/">AU’s homepage</a>.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>REPORT a potential church-state violation</strong>. Is there something going on in your community or state that you believe might violate separation of church and state? Does something look just not quite right? Let us know about it using <a href="https://www.au.org/get-involved/report-a-violation/form">this form</a>. Our attorneys will check it out.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>LEARN more about the history</strong> of religious freedom in America. Boning up on the critical role church-state separation plays in protecting religious freedom gives you the tools to debunk the Christian nationalists’ bogus claims about our past – and it will inspire you to defend our legacy of freedom. A great place to start is <a href="https://www.au.org/issues/foundations-of-church-state-separation">this page of historical resources</a>.  Additional resources were listed in the <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/june-2020-church-state-magazine/cover-story/inside-information-spending-more-time">June issue</a> of <em>Church &amp; State</em>.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>SPEAK out.</strong> Defend separation of church and state with whatever tools you’re comfortable using. That includes social media, letters to the editor, discussion groups or other forums. Follow us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/americansunited">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/americansunited">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/americansunited/">Instagram</a> and share our content with your friends and family. As several speakers stressed during the National Advocacy Summit, separation of religion and government is under assault today like never before. That principle needs defenders. Be one of them!</li> </ul> <p>If you missed the summit, you can still watch all the sessions online at AU’s <a href="https://www.facebook.com/americansunited">Facebook</a> page – including Monday’s opening session on religious freedom being at the intersection of many social justice issues; the keynote conversation between AU President and CEO Rachel Laser and literary journalist Jeff Sharlet; and Tuesday’s kickoff rally to launch our <a href="https://www.au.org/DayofAction">National Day of Action</a> around getting Congress to pass the Do No Harm Act.</p> <p><em>Photo: Rachel Laser and Jeff Sharlet at AU's National Advocacy Summit</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/rachel-laser" hreflang="en">Rachel Laser</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/jeff-sharlet" hreflang="en">Jeff Sharlet</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/do-no-harm-act" hreflang="en">Do No Harm Act</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/congress" hreflang="en">Congress</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 16 Sep 2020 13:54:27 +0000 boston 16379 at https://www.au.org On This Day Of Action, Help Americans United Pass The Do No Harm Act https://www.au.org/blogs/day-of-action <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">On This Day Of Action, Help Americans United Pass The Do No Harm 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">Tue, 09/15/2020 - 08:52</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/day%20of%20action.png?h=1b7b0745&amp;itok=UoWvJuPY" width="1700" height="525" alt="Day of Action" title="Day of Action " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>As part of Americans United’s <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?extid=uhrmWLMSAld7QtLw&amp;v=2702913609997232&amp;ref=watch_permalink">National Advocacy Summit</a>, we are rallying today to press Congress to pass the Do No Harm Act.</p> <p>This critical legislation will make changes to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a 1993 law that was intended to protect religious minorities but that has been misinterpreted by federal courts to allow religious freedom to be misused in ways that harm others.</p> <p>The Do No Harm Act will restore RFRA to its original intent by making it clear that RFRA cannot be used to allow for discrimination or harm. The Do No Harm Act will protect the rights of women, LGBTQ people, religious minorities and others in cases like health care, employment discrimination and access to government-funded services. More than 200 members of the House of Representatives and 30 in the Senate are co-sponsoring the bill.</p> <p>Many Summit attendees today are virtually visiting members of Congress and their staffs to express their support for the Do No Harm Act. Even if you aren’t signed up for virtually lobbying with AU, you can still take action to show your support for the Do No Harm Act.</p> <p><a href="https://www.au.org/DayofAction">This special section of AU’s site</a> has toolkits you can use to take action to support the Do No Harm Act, such as by posting about it on social media. writing a letter to the editor and using a convenient form that makes it possible for you to contact your members of Congress.</p> <p>Check out these resources and help AU make the Do No Harm Act law!</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/do-no-harm-act" hreflang="en">Do No Harm Act</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/rfra-0" hreflang="en">RFRA</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 15 Sep 2020 12:52:20 +0000 boston 16378 at https://www.au.org AU’s National Advocacy Summit Will Carry Forth The Real Spirit Of Religious Freedom https://www.au.org/blogs/JFK-speech-at-sixty <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">AU’s National Advocacy Summit Will Carry Forth The Real Spirit Of 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">Mon, 09/14/2020 - 09:51</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/JFK%20II%20.png?h=0ce4a408&amp;itok=Tgf_aLVH" width="1700" height="525" alt="John F. Kennedy" title="JFK in Houston " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Saturday marked the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/october-2010-church-state/featured/john-f-kennedy-on-religion-and-politics">famous speech</a> to a group of religious leaders in Houston during which he strongly endorsed the separation of church and state.</p> <p>Kennedy, the first (and so far only) Roman Catholic to win the presidency, had been under scrutiny by some members of the clergy who worried that he might use the nation’s highest office to elevate the public policy goals of his church.</p> <p>Kennedy defused those fears with a masterful speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association at the Rice Hotel in Houston the evening of Sept. 12, 1960. Some scholars believe the speech gave Kennedy the momentum he needed to eke out a narrow victory over Richard M. Nixon two months later.</p> <p>This eloquent passage is often cited: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute – where no Catholic prelate would tell the President, should he be Catholic, how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote – where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference – and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.</p> <p>“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish – where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source – where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials – and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”</p> <p>Stirring words indeed. But there’s another passage that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially in today’s climate. JFK made it clear that if he were ever challenged to reconcile his personal faith with the public interest, he would choose the latter.</p> <p>“Whatever issue may come before me as president, if I should be elected – on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject – I will make my decision in accordance … with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates,” Kennedy said. “And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise. But if the time should ever come – and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible – when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any other conscientious public servant would do likewise.”</p> <p>Americans United’s National Advocacy Summit kicks off today. (You can watch it <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?extid=uhrmWLMSAld7QtLw&amp;v=2702913609997232&amp;ref=watch_permalink">online here</a>.) Among the issues we’ll be discussing is efforts by Christian nationalists to misuse religious freedom as an instrument of discrimination and a device to take away the right of others.</p> <p>Tomorrow we’ll rally for a National Day of Action. We’ll urge members of Congress to pass the <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/DNHA%20Talking%20Points%209.9.20.pdf">Do No Harm Act</a>, key legislation that will make it clear that freedom can’t be used to harm others. (Among the speakers will be U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, the grandson of JFK’s brother Robert F. Kennedy.)</p> <p>President Kennedy understood that religious freedom was meant to be a shield to protect your beliefs, not a sword to lash out at others; he made that case powerfully 60 years ago. Americans United will be carrying that spirit forward during the National Advocacy Summit. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?extid=uhrmWLMSAld7QtLw&amp;v=2702913609997232&amp;ref=watch_permalink">Please join us!</a></p> <p><em>Photo: John F. Kennedy speaks to religious leaders in Houston, Sept. 12, 1960</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> <div 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/john-f-kennedy" hreflang="en">John F. Kennedy</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/joe-kennedy" hreflang="en">Joe Kennedy</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 14 Sep 2020 13:51:10 +0000 boston 16376 at https://www.au.org Join Us Monday For Americans United’s Virtual National Advocacy Summit! https://www.au.org/blogs/Americans-United-NAS <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Join Us Monday For Americans United’s Virtual National Advocacy Summit!</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, 09/10/2020 - 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/NAS%20banner.png?h=1b7b0745&amp;itok=Tw7CPo7J" width="1700" height="525" alt="NAS " title="summit" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Americans United’s first-ever National Advocacy Summit kicks off in just a few days. On Monday, Sept. 14, you can join us online for a free two-day event that will empower and inspire you and give you the tools you need to defend religious freedom and separation of church and state:</p> <p>Highlights include:</p> <ul> <li>Welcoming remarks by Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>A conversation between Laser and Jeff Sharlet, an award-winning literary journalist, author of The New York Times bestseller <em>The Family</em>: <em>The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power</em> and <em>C Street</em>: <em>The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy,</em> and executive producer of the Netflix documentary series based on the books. They’ll be joined by Aimee Maddonna, a mother from South Carolina and a plaintiff in an AU lawsuit who will share her story of how her rights were violated by a twisted definition of “religious freedom.” You’ll also enjoy a dynamic musical performance by singer-songwriter Scarlett Rabe.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Powerful and thought-provoking breakout sessions, among them “Do No Harm: Fighting for Religious Freedom for All,” “Religious Freedom in the States: Perspectives from Local Advocates,” “The Remaking of the Courts (and Why You Should Care),” “Dismantling White Privilege: Race, Religious Freedom &amp; Christian Nationalism” and “Fight for Your Rights in School.” These panels will feature top experts from Americans United and other thought leaders.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>A special rally on Tuesday to kick off Americans United’s National Day of Action, when we will urge members of Congress to pass the Do No Harm Act – critical legislation that will protect religious freedom while also clarifying that it may not be used to harm others. The rally will feature two congressional champions of church-state separation – U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) and U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.).</li> </ul> <p>Our Lobby Day visits are full, but the rest of the Summit is wide open. We’d love to see you there! <a href="https://www.au.org/conference">Click here to register</a> and view the full schedule of events.</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/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/americans-united" hreflang="en">Americans United</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/rep-bobby-scott" hreflang="en">Rep. Bobby Scott</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/rep-joseph-kennedy" hreflang="en">Rep. Joseph Kennedy</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/jeff-sharlet" hreflang="en">Jeff Sharlet</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 10 Sep 2020 13:43:00 +0000 boston 16374 at https://www.au.org Christian Nationalist Pastors Continue Fighting Pandemic Health Orders https://www.au.org/blogs/california-pastors-pandemic <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Christian Nationalist Pastors Continue Fighting Pandemic Health 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, 09/09/2020 - 11:52</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/church%20is%20closed.jpg?h=4684bf95&amp;itok=8HtGJS2I" width="1700" height="525" alt="closed church" title="church is closed" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Americans have been living under restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic for six months now. When the country began shutting down in the spring, we saw a flurry of legal cases brought by houses of worship that resisted public health orders requiring them to cease holding in-person services.</p> <p>Many courts – <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/supreme-court-nevada-church">including the U.S. Supreme Court</a> – upheld these orders, ruling that state officials have the right to protect people from a potentially fatal illness. But that doesn’t mean the issue has died down. We’re still seeing resistance, particularly in California.</p> <p>A mega-church there has been <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/12/us/pastor-macarthur-church-california/index.html">openly defying state orders</a> to limit the number of people who attend its indoor services. Grace Community Church in Sun Valley has ignored public health orders by hosting services featuring more than 6,000 attendees. Under an order issued by Los Angeles County, houses of worship are limited to 100 people or 25% of the building’s capacity, whichever is lower. Video of the church’s services shows people standing close together, and few are wearing masks.</p> <p>The church’s pastor, John MacArthur, is facing fines and a lawsuit by county officials but says he won’t back down.</p> <p>“We open the doors because that’s what we are,” MacArthur told CNN. “We’re a church, and we’re going to trust those people to make adult decisions about the reality of their physical and spiritual health.”</p> <p>MacArthur isn’t alone. In Redding, Pastor Sean Feucht has been holding mass worship services in defiance of the law. A few days ago, Feucht <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/california-pastor-coronavirus-health-guidelines-prayer-rally/">held a large rally</a> that drew thousands to the state capitol in Sacramento. Media outlets reported that most attendees didn’t wear masks and didn’t engage in social distancing. (<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/09/08/worst-case-scenerios-sturgis-rally-may-be-linked-266000-coronavirus-cases-study-says/">Rallies that are held mostly outdoors</a> can still become “superspreader” events if proper precautions aren’t followed.)</p> <p>Feucht, MacArthur and other defiant religious leaders like them are being <a href="https://donotlink.it/vK1NM6">egged on by Religious Right legal groups</a>. These organizations are representing the pastors in court for free and portraying them as folk heroes in slick P.R. campaigns.</p> <p>Americans deserve to know the truth: Far from being heroes, these misguided pastors don’t care about the health and well-being of their communities. They in no way represent mainstream religious leaders, most of whom have done the right thing by temporarily suspending services or moving them online.</p> <p>If you’re looking for heroes during this pandemic, you can find them on the front lines of the medical profession, on the staffs of nursing homes, in public school classrooms, in labs where men and women labor to create a vaccine,  behind the counter at your local grocery store – and in the houses of worship and faith leaders who are finding innovative ways to meet their communities’ spiritual and physical needs while still following public health guidelines.</p> <p>You won’t find them hanging out with Christian nationalists who believe that their desire to meet for large, in-person religious services should give them the power to expose everyone else to a serious illness. </p> <p>P.S. Americans United is hard at work ensuring that Christian nationalist groups don’t win the right to use religious freedom as a weapon to lash out at others during the pandemic. Read about <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/protecting-religious-freedom-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic">our 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/california" hreflang="en">California</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 09 Sep 2020 15:52:59 +0000 boston 16373 at https://www.au.org Partisan ‘Voter Guides’ Are Making The Rounds In Houses Of Worship https://www.au.org/blogs/slanted-voter-guides <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Partisan ‘Voter Guides’ Are Making The Rounds In Houses Of Worship</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 09/08/2020 - 09:40</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/voter%20guides%20.jpg?h=5512bace&amp;itok=rQ_-VTPT" width="1700" height="525" alt="voting" title="voters " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>As summer winds down and the election season begins in earnest, we can expect to see a proliferation of an unfortunate trend: houses of worship distributing biased “voter guides.”</p> <p>Last week, the Rev. Angela Denker, a Lutheran pastor in Minnesota, <a href="https://religionnews.com/2020/09/03/voter-guides-show-the-power-and-duplicity-of-american-evangelicalism/">wrote a column for Religion News Service</a> recounting the first time she encountered one of these guides in 2008 while pastoring a church in Florida.</p> <p>Denker pointed out that while the guides claimed to be non-partisan, its “veneer of nonpartisanship, however, was razor thin.” She noted that guides are now being sent to churches all over America, especially in swing states.</p> <p>These guides haven’t gotten better over time. Produced by Christian nationalist groups like the Faith &amp; Freedom Coalition, the Family Research Council and others, the guides are clearly stacked to promote conservative candidates.</p> <p>In the 1990s, the Christian Coalition, a Religious Right group founded by TV preacher Pat Robertson, turned the production of the guides into an art form. The Coalition supposedly based the guides on questionnaires they mailed to candidates. But if a candidate didn’t fill it out – and most liberals and Democrats, knowing they would never get a fair shake from the organization, didn’t bother – the group would base the candidate’s answers on other factors.</p> <p>One of the Coalition’s favorite tricks was to issue a guide with, say, 10 issues on it. The Republican candidate would have answers for all 10, and more often than not, they’d echo the far-right line. His or her Democratic opponent would have seven or eight answers with the remaining two or three – often the most hot-button issues – listed as “No Reply.” In fact, the Democrat hadn’t replied to any of the questions. The Christian Coalition simply made up answers for the seven or eight issues and listed “No Reply” for the others to make it look like the Democrat was too scared to answer or was trying to hide something.</p> <p>The group used other tactics to slant the guides. Sometimes they would claim that candidates’ positions were based on votes in Congress, but the vote the group cited might have been on a procedural matter that failed to tell the whole story of why a candidate voted a certain way. (These guides, with their simplistic “Support” or “Oppose” dichotomy on complex issues, are not the place for nuance.)</p> <p>Although the Christian Coalition collapsed some years ago, its sleazy tactics live on in the voter guides that are being produced by other Christian nationalist groups today.</p> <p>In her column, Denker asks, “What would Jesus think of this mailing, of these pastors who have jumped fully on-board a deeply partisan agenda?”</p> <p>That’s an important question for a religious leader to ask. In the secular realm, we might ask a different one: What does the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) think about material like this? These guides are clearly partisan in nature, and, under current law, houses of worship and other tax-exempt, nonprofit entities may not engage in partisan politicking. Doing so undermines both the integrity of our elections and the religious mission of houses of worship.</p> <p>It’s time for the IRS to make it clear that these biased and partisan “voter guides” have no place in any house of worship. </p> <p>P.S. You can learn more about this issue by visiting AU’s <a href="http://projectfairplay.org/">Project Fair Play site</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/churches-and-elections" hreflang="en">Churches and Elections</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/johnson-amendment" hreflang="en">Johnson Amendment</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/christian-coalition" hreflang="en">Christian Coalition</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/pat-robertson" hreflang="en">Pat Robertson</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/faith-freedom-coalition" hreflang="en">Faith &amp; Freedom Coalition</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/frc-0" hreflang="en">FRC</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/voter-guides" hreflang="en">voter guides</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 08 Sep 2020 13:40:35 +0000 boston 16372 at https://www.au.org