The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/blogs/feed en Lawmakers In Two States Consider Mean-Spirited ‘Parody Marriage’ Bills https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/lawmakers-in-two-states-consider-mean-spirited-parody-marriage-bills <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Lawmakers In Two States Consider Mean-Spirited ‘Parody Marriage’ Bills </span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 02/22/2018 - 10:32</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/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/images/blog_post/same%20sex%20men%20wedding%20cropped.jpg" width="6720" height="4480" alt="same sex wedding " typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The U.S. Supreme Court upheld marriage equality a little less than three years ago, <a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf">ruling</a> that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is a violation of the <a href="https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/equal_protection">Equal Protection Clause</a> of the Fourteenth Amendment.</p> <p>The Religious Right predicted that this ruling would usher in <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/december-2014-church-state/featured/apocalypse-now">the end of Western Civilization</a>. That hasn’t happened, and most people, even those who might have disagreed with the high court’s decision, have moved on. But a remnant of Religious Right activists refuses to accept that they lost and are trying to stir up trouble in the states. Their latest stunt is evidence of how low they’re willing to go.</p> <p>A man named Chris Sevier has managed <a href="https://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/TheBattery/archives/2018/02/19/sc-house-introduces-parody-marriage-bill-written-by-man-who-wanted-to-marry-his-computer">to persuade</a> legislators in <a href="http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess122_2017-2018/bills/4949.htm">South Carolina</a> and <a href="http://lso.wyoleg.gov/Legislation/2018/HB0167">Wyoming</a> to introduce bills that would declare marriage as existing only between one man and one woman. Under these bills, which Sevier claims are under consideration in other states, all marriages that are not between one man and one woman would be classified as “parody marriages.” Such marriages would, in turn, be illegal because they are allegedly “non-secular” and part of the “religion of Secular Humanism.”</p> <p>None of this makes any sense. First off, Religious Right groups spent years talking about how marriage is grounded in religion, and now we’re supposed to believe that it’s not – except when it applies to same-gender couples?</p> <p>Secondly, courts have repeatedly rejected arguments that just because a teaching or activity happens to be supported by secular humanists makes the teaching or activity a religious one that the government cannot present or aid. This is an old Religious Right canard that has been floating around for years. Back in the 1980s, some people tried using that argument to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1987/03/07/us/judge-who-banned-textbooks-hero-of-the-right.html">remove certain books</a> from public schools. They failed.</p> <p>So what’s really going on here? For the past few years, same-sex couples have been enjoying the benefits of marriage. Most Americans don’t see this as a big deal, but some people just can’t wrap their heads around the idea that someone else’s marriage doesn’t really affect them. Rather than accept reality, they keep looking for ways to turn back the clock.</p> <p>Hence the “parody marriage” bills. But no one should make the mistake of assuming that proposals like this are just jokes. They’re introduced to make a point, and they send a real message of harm to an entire segment of our population. They openly ridicule and mock people for seeking something that most folks want – a loving relationship with a partner that is legally recognized by the government. It’s sad to see legislators wasting time and taxpayer money on such mean-spirited efforts, and it’s even sadder to see them align with Sevier, a man who trades in crude forms of homophobia. (He has in the past <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/just-in-case-you-were-wondering-yes-the-religious-right-is-still-mad-over">filed unsuccessful lawsuits</a> demanding the right to marry a parrot and a laptop computer.)</p> <p>Proposals like this create an atmosphere that leads some people to believe that it’s all right to treat others like second-class citizens because they don’t measure up to someone else’s dogma. We’ve seen the results of this. Across the country, the rights of the LGBTQ community are under relentless assault, and so-called “religious freedom” bills that would sanction discrimination in the name of religion <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/state-legislation-2018">continue to surface</a> in the states.</p> <p>Religious freedom is about fairness, and bills labeling a loving couple’s relationship as a “parody” are anything but fair. They’re simply cruel. We’re fighting them. <a href="https://www.au.org/action">You can help us</a>.</p> <p> </p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/marriage-equality" hreflang="en">Marriage Equality</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/chris-sevier" hreflang="en">Chris Sevier</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/south-carolina" hreflang="en">South Carolina</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/wyoming" hreflang="en">Wyoming</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/secular-humanism" hreflang="en">secular humanism</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 22 Feb 2018 15:32:54 +0000 boston 13703 at https://www.au.org Standing Together For The Separation Of Church And State https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/standing-together-for-the-separation-of-church-and-state <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Standing Together For The 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/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 02/21/2018 - 09:56</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rachel-laser" hreflang="en">Rachel Laser</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/Rachel%20Banner%203%20cropped.jpg" width="1383" height="672" alt="Rachel Laser" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>I recently spent some time with an old friend of mine from college, John Sparks, who is now a state senator in Oklahoma. He was passing through Washington, D.C., and we made plans to catch up.</p> <p>At the time, I was a candidate for the job I now hold. I told John about Americans United and quipped: “I bet I know how these issues play in Oklahoma – not well! Am I right?”</p> <p>“You’d be surprised,” John replied. Then he told me about a 2016 ballot initiative intended to allow a Ten Commandments monument on the capitol grounds – formally called State Question 790 (SQ 790). It had <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/a-little-good-news-we-won-all-three-ballot-initiatives">failed</a>, 57 percent to 43 percent, in the same election in which Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton 65 percent to 29 percent in Oklahoma.</p> <p>SQ 790 targeted Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution. This provision prohibits taxpayer money from being used to support religious activity. Lawmakers had put SQ 790 on the ballot in response to the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling that a government-sponsored Ten Commandments monument violated this provision of the state constitution – and I’m sure they thought they had a good shot of passing it.  </p> <p>The voters had other ideas. They rejected SQ790.</p> <p>I was intrigued. Support for separation of church and state in deep red Oklahoma? How did this happen? John connected me with the Rev. Lori Walke, associate minister at <a href="http://www.mayflowerucc.org/">Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ</a> in Oklahoma City, who offered valuable insight.</p> <p>“The message that people most responded to was that we don’t want to sell the church so cheap. That’s a really important argument and a universal value around here,” she explained. She added that church-state separation ensures the independence of both government and houses of worship, so eliminating this protection in order for churches to get taxpayer dollars or religious monuments on government property would compromise the integrity of the church.</p> <p>I’m writing about John, Rev. Walke and Oklahoma voters on AU’s blog today because this story represents the hope and optimism I have about our ability to win broadly on our issue, if we put time into educating Americans about the principles behind church-state separation and pause to figure out how to speak to different audiences in a language that will most powerfully resonate with them.</p> <blockquote> <p>We need to explain that entangling religion and government hurts even those who belong to the culturally dominant religion because it compromises churches’ integrity – as well as the Christian (and American) values of hospitality and equality.</p> </blockquote> <p>We need to remember that it’s not intuitive to everyone that separation of church and state is the foundation of religious freedom. We must make clear that despite our ideals, Christianity has often held a special cultural status in our country, and minority religions and atheism have often been disadvantaged.</p> <p>We need to explain, as folks did in Oklahoma, that entangling religion and government hurts even those who belong to the culturally dominant religion because it compromises churches’ integrity – as well as the Christian (and American) values of hospitality and equality.</p> <p>We need to forge strong collaborations with communities of color, who know all too well the playbook where religion is used as a basis to discriminate. And we must continue to make clear how inextricably tied our issue is to so many others that are under attack today – including reproductive freedom, LGBTQ equality and racial justice – and continue to grow our coalitions to reflect this reality.</p> <p>I’m honored to be joining Americans United on the great shoulders of the Rev. Barry W. Lynn. He left in place a skilled, committed staff. I’m also looking forward to hitting the road to meet you and hear about your reasons for proudly supporting Americans United.  </p> <p>Together, we will stay true to our principles and find winning strategies. United, we will amass the power to win the hearts and minds of policymakers, the courts and importantly, our fellow citizens. With our beautiful medley of faces on full display, we will make clear what’s at stake.</p> <p>We have a lot of work to do, but our diversity makes us unconquerable, and our voices carry the conviction of righteousness. We are on not just on the winning side of history. Our ideals <em>are </em>American history.</p> <p>P.S. To learn about my background, visit <a href="https://www.au.org/introducing-rachel-laser">this special section</a> of Americans United’s website.</p></div> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 14:56:34 +0000 LHayes 13702 at https://www.au.org Texas Councilman Called Out For Anti-Muslim Rhetoric https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/texas-councilman-called-out-for-anti-muslim-rhetoric <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Texas Councilman Called Out For Anti-Muslim Rhetoric</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 02/20/2018 - 10:58</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/liz-hayes" hreflang="und">Liz Hayes</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/Muslim%20student%20cropped_0.jpg" width="7290" height="2786" alt="Muslim student" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Residents and city officials in Plano, Texas, are calling out the anti-Muslim rhetoric of one of Plano’s council members.</p> <p>According to news <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/02/19/a-texas-council-member-advocated-for-banning-islam-in-schools-he-refuses-to-resign/?utm_term=.bd04b6c55470">reports</a>, Councilman Tom Harrison, 73, last week shared on his personal Facebook page an anti-Muslim <a href="https://www.facebook.com/joinedhandsacrossamericafortrump/videos/209573419620017/">meme</a> that read, “Share if you think Trump should ban Islam in American schools.” The meme, originally posted by a Facebook page that supports President Donald Trump, cycles through several images of young schoolchildren wearing hijabs and praying.</p> <p><img alt="Anti-Muslim meme shared by Plano councilman" data-entity-type="file" data-entity-uuid="00f3f46f-2272-41d9-8493-a7196f00a1ed" src="/sites/default/files/inline-images/Plano%20Anti-Muslim%20Meme.png" /></p> <p><em>This is the anti-Muslim meme shared by Plano Councilman Tom Harrison. (screenshot from Religion News Service)</em></p> <p>Consider this the trickle-down effect of Trump’s own anti-Muslim rhetoric. If the president of the United States advances xenophobic views about Muslims, immigrants, people of color and other minorities, it should come as no surprise that other elected officials would feel emboldened to do the same. (Just last week a federal appeals court that struck down Trump’s Muslim ban <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/striking-down-the-muslim-ban-a-federal-appeals-court-has-landed-an">noted</a> his animus toward Muslims.)</p> <p>Fortunately, the public outcry was swift in Plano. Council members <a href="https://www.dallasnews.com/news/plano/2018/02/18/plano-council-member-says-wont-resign-anti-islam-post-despite-backlash-colleagues-censure">called</a> a special meeting on Sunday to censure Harrison. Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere said it was the only official action council could take.</p> <p>“Mr. Harrison’s conduct is unbefitting a council member to serve our diverse community. I find this Facebook post abhorrent and believe this is a stain on our city and does not represent who we are,” LaRosiliere said in a statement to <em>The Washington Post</em>.</p> <p><a>Plano </a>Mayor Pro Tem Rick Grady also was upset by Harrison’s rhetoric.</p> <p>“I have fought my entire life for this hatred to go away, for this stereotype to go away, for bigotry to go away, and it seems to continue,” Grady said at Sunday’s meeting, according to <em>The Post</em>. “This kind of intolerant behavior, this insensitivity for people, needs to cease.”</p> <p>City officials encouraged Harrison to resign but said they don’t have the authority to forcibly remove him from office. Some residents expressed an interest in gathering signatures for a recall election.</p> <p>Harrison has said he won’t resign. A day after posting the anti-Islam meme (which he has since deleted), he posted a <a href="http://www.wfaa.com/news/education/plano-council-to-address-anti-islam-social-media-post-shared-by-councilman/518743080">statement</a> on his Facebook page which tried to excuse his actions. He made the incredulous claim that his intent in sharing the meme was to raise awareness of religious diversity.</p> <p>“My intent on inputting this on my personal Facebook page was to emphasize that Christianity is not the only religion being targeted for exclusion in our public school. It was not meant as a personal attack against the Islamic faith. As a Christian, it is my belief that all should be free to worship as they choose, but we live in a time where any practice of religious expression in public schools is rarely tolerated. My hope is that due to the rightful negative response to my post, that it will spark a renewed discussion about all religions and their place in our public schools.”</p> <p>It strains credibility that Harrison’s true intent with the hateful post was to encourage Muslim children to freely express their faith in public schools – especially since the meme promotes the exact opposite idea. News reports have cited other racist and xenophobic posts Harrison has shared on social media. As Harrison repeatedly mentions Christianity in his lame apology, I suspect he’s perfectly fine with Christian students expressing their faith, but would condemn anyone of a minority faith or of no faith expressing those views in the public square.</p> <blockquote> <p>Religious freedom is about fairness. It means no one should be discriminated against or made to feel like a second-class citizen because of his or her faith or beliefs.</p> </blockquote> <p>The one thing his “apology” got right was the renewed discussion about religion and diversity in Plano. More than 500 people reportedly crammed into Plano council chambers on Sunday, many demanding Harrison’s resignation.</p> <p>Mariam Khan, a Muslim mother of four, held a sign that said, “No Hate! Makes Plano Great!,” according to <a href="https://religionnews.com/2018/02/18/texas-city-council-members-censure-colleague-over-anti-islam-facebook-post/">Religion News Service</a> (RNS). Her 14-year-old daughter Iman Siddiqui’s sign declared, “Stop Pretending Your Racism Is Patriotism.”</p> <p>“The growing hate in our community is a concern. Plano is a welcoming place, but after the recent election … we always face racism because of the headscarf,” Khan said, referring to the election of Trump.</p> <p>“So this is a time for everybody who wants to live in peace and make America great again … to stop the racism,” added Khan, who immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in 2000.</p> <p>“Six years ago or 10 years ago, I would have given him the benefit of the doubt,” said Plano resident Gans Subramanian, a Hindu immigrant from India who attended the meeting, according to RNS. “But in the current political context, we are all very, very careful about things. … If you have a councilman make an incorrect statement like that, it breaks the trust in the community.”</p> <p>Religious freedom is about fairness. It means no one should be discriminated against or made to feel like a second-class citizen because of his or her faith or beliefs. Elected officials like Harrison and Trump should be ensuring that all Americans, regardless of their beliefs, are treated with fairness, equality and respect.</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/texas" hreflang="en">Texas</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/anti-muslim-discrimination" hreflang="en">Anti-Muslim Discrimination</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 15:58:53 +0000 LHayes 13695 at https://www.au.org Georgia Adoption Bill Harms Children In The Name Of ‘Religious Freedom' https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/georgia-adoption-bill-harms-children-in-the-name-of-religious-freedom <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Georgia Adoption Bill Harms Children In The Name Of ‘Religious Freedom&#039;</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 02/19/2018 - 17:28</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/maggie-garrett" hreflang="und">Maggie Garrett</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/Lesbian%20couple%20with%20baby%203.jpg" width="3208" height="1439" alt="couple with baby" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>In Georgia, there are <a href="http://fostergeorgia.com/demographics-of-children-in-foster-care/">more than 14,000 children in foster care</a>. Tomorrow morning at 8, legislators there will debate a bill that would make it even harder for these children to find safe, stable and loving homes.</p> <p><a href="http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/SB/375">SB 375</a>, introduced by Georgia Sen. William Ligon, would allow taxpayer-funded adoption or foster care providers to cite religion to justify discriminating against the kids in their care and the parents who want to provide them homes. Most often, LGBTQ kids and parents will be the targets of the discrimination; but, so long as the provider cites a “sincerely-held religious belief,” it can discriminate against anyone or deny any service it doesn’t want to provide.</p> <p>Religious freedom is a fundamental American value, but it doesn’t give anyone – especially not an entity funded by the government – the right to ignore laws and policies that protect children and families.</p> <p>How would the bill affect the kids in foster care? First, the provider could cite religion to refuse to serve some children at all.  For example, a provider could say it won’t take in a child because he is gay, belongs to the “wrong” religion, or is the “wrong” gender. Such rejection is unconscionable, and would compound the already difficult circumstances these children face.</p> <p>Second, the provider could name religion as a reason to refuse to provide children with the services they need. The provider could claim a right to deny mental health counseling to a child who was a victim of abuse because its religion rejects psychiatric treatment. An agency could also claim a right to refuse to provide a teenager who is a victim of sexual abuse needed healthcare services – something that she would have no other way to obtain. This could cause real damage to the children in these providers’ care.</p> <p>Third, the bill would allow providers to discriminate against qualified prospective parents. For example, an agency could refuse to allow a child to be adopted by his aunt because she has been divorced, has used birth control or is married to her same-sex partner. This would not just harm the human dignity of the parents, but also would deny children an opportunity to find their forever family.</p> <p>The state is already partnering – and has always partnered – with faith-based groups to provide these services. If passed, however, this bill would allow providers to put their religious beliefs above the best interests of the children in their care. They could ignore the laws and contractual obligations that apply to every other organization that serves children in the adoption and foster care system. That is unacceptable.</p> <p>This bill isn’t new. Sen. Ligon <a href="https://thegavoice.com/georgia-senate-adjourns-session-without-voting-adoption-bill/">tried to add this language</a> to a different adoption bill during the last minutes of last year’s legislative session. That attempt failed and so he is back again this year with SB 375. <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/state-rfra-lessons/?rq=georgia%20RFRA">The backlash</a> to bills like SB 375 by businesses and sports leagues across the country has been strong and swift, including in Georgia when it was considering passing a different “religious freedom bill” a few years ago. So passing SB 375 seems like a bad move for anyone trying to lure Amazon to their state. It seems unlikely Amazon would want to rollout its new campus in a state that’s just passed a discriminatory bill like this.</p> <p>If you want more information about SB 375, you can check out our <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2018-02/GA%20SB%20375%20Adoption%20Bill%202.14.18.pdf">memo</a>. If you want to watch the livestream of the hearing, you can do that <a href="https://livestream.com/accounts/25225487/events/7946935">here</a>. And if you live in Georgia, please <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/jzo-Kf49C0uo1wIp71f_7w2">take action</a> today!</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/denials-of-service" hreflang="en">Denials of Service</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/georgia" hreflang="en">Georgia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/adoption" hreflang="en">Adoption</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/amazon" hreflang="en">Amazon</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 19 Feb 2018 22:28:01 +0000 boston 13694 at https://www.au.org Religious Freedom Is Under Attack In Florida – You Can Help AU Protect It https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/religious-freedom-is-under-attack-in-florida-you-can-help-au-protect-it <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Religious Freedom Is Under Attack In Florida – You Can Help AU Protect 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">Mon, 02/19/2018 - 08:03</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/bill-mefford" hreflang="und">Bill Mefford</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/public%20school%20cropped_0.jpg" width="723" height="287" alt="public school " title="public school" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Every 20 years, the state of Florida reviews its constitution for any changes it believes should be made. To begin this process the state has convened the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). Members of the CRC are appointed by the governor, the president of the Senate, the speaker of the House, and the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court. Because those positions are all filled by Republicans, the commission has recommended some interesting changes to the constitution.</p> <p>There are two proposals in particular that, if passed by the full Commission in May, would strip away significant religious freedom protections that have been a vital part of Florida’s constitution for more than 130 years. (That’s a long time!) Further, these proposals would threaten the integrity and autonomy of our houses of worship and religious schools. They simply are not needed, nor wanted by the majority of Florida residents.</p> <p>These proposals would undermine religious freedom in Florida:</p> <ul><li>Proposal 4 would fully repeal the No-Aid Provision of the Florida Constitution, which ensures that taxpayer dollars do not fund religion.</li> <li>Proposal 45 would effectively repeal the Uniform Public Education Provision, which ensures that public dollars fund public schools that serve all our students and are not funneled into private and religious schools.</li> </ul><p>Changing these provisions would be disastrous. Removing the No-Aid Provision could lead to a broad expansion of private school voucher programs in Florida. Vouchers hurt public education by diverting critical funding away from Florida public schools and directing it to unregulated schools operated by religious organizations that are allowed to discriminate and indoctrinate faith.</p> <p>But Proposal 4 can do even more. For example, the passage of Proposal 4 could erode the valuable safeguards that currently apply when the government partners with faith-based organizations to perform social services. These safeguards include the nondiscrimination protections that prohibit state-funded organizations from discriminating against employees based on religion or discriminating against the Floridians they serve.</p> <p>Proposal 45 is just as troubling. This proposal would allow taxpayer dollars to fund private and religious educational programs, again undermining public education. This proposal is designed to allow a sweeping expansion of private school voucher programs in our state; voucher programs which benefit private religious schools that are allowed to discriminate against and proselytize to their students. Taxing Floridians to fund the religious education of others violates core principles of religious freedom.</p> <p>On Feb. 6 in Ft. Lauderdale, the CRC began to host a series of <a href="https://www.flcrc.gov/Meetings/PublicHearings">public meetings</a>, which will run through March 13 in St. Petersburg. It is vitally important for those who want to ensure that government funds not be used to support religion and religiously affiliated organizations to be there and to speak out against any effort to repeal the No-Aid Provision or the Uniform Public Education Provision.</p> <p>The forces seeking to undermine religious freedom for all people in Florida will not succeed if we get organized. Florida’s AU chapters are passionate about blocking these efforts and are working together to stop the power grab by well-funded right wing extremists. I met with leaders from all of our chapters in late January as we strategized about these public meetings, and now we are beginning to implement these strategies. We are joined by allies organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the American Civil Liberties Union.</p> <p>But we need Floridians to be there! Though the CRC is likely to pass these proposals when it convenes for a final vote in May, it is enormously important for commissioners and members of the media, who are already reporting on these meetings, to know that there is strong and coordinated opposition to these proposals.</p> <p>So, my question to everyone in Florida is, will you show up? Here are the dates left:</p> <p>Feb. 19 in Melbourne</p> <p>Feb. 20 in Jacksonville</p> <p>Feb. 27 in Pensacola</p> <p>March 13 in St. Petersburg</p> <p>You can find all of the relevant information for each of the meetings as to times and places <a href="https://www.flcrc.gov/Meetings/PublicHearings">here</a>.</p> <p>To get talking points for your statements as well as to connect with other folks who might be attending, please email me at mefford@au.org. Together we can make a strong showing at the public hearings and ensure that Florida continues to protect religious liberty for all people.</p> <p>P.S. Even if you don’t live in Florida, I urge you to keep an eye on developments there. <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/september-2002-church-state/featured/the-blaine-game">Almost 40 states</a> have no-aid provisions in their constitutions, which are often attacked by voucher proponents. This fight could come to your state as well.</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/schools" hreflang="en">Schools</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/private-school-vouchers" hreflang="en">Private School Vouchers</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/taxpayer-funding-of-religion" hreflang="en">Taxpayer Funding Of Religion</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/florida" hreflang="en">Florida</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/no-aid-clauses" hreflang="en">no-aid clauses</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 19 Feb 2018 13:03:03 +0000 boston 13693 at https://www.au.org Black History Month Spotlight: U.S. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/black-history-month-spotlight-us-del-eleanor-holmes-norton <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Black History Month Spotlight: U.S. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton </span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/67749" lang="" about="/user/67749" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">Hassanein</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 02/16/2018 - 10:08</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/rokia-hassanein" hreflang="und">Rokia Hassanein</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/eleanorholmes_edit.jpg" width="629" height="247" alt="eleanor speech" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p><em>February marks </em><a href="http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month"><em>Black History Month</em></a><em>, a month to appreciate the accomplishments that African-Americans have made throughout American history. This month, we are highlighting the important role African-American figures have played, and continue to play, in promoting true religious freedom and church-state separation</em>.</p> <p>Among the biggest advocates of church-state separation and religious freedom is civil rights icon <a href="https://norton.house.gov/">U.S. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton</a> (D-D.C.). Holmes Norton was the first woman appointed as chair of the <a href="https://www.eeoc.gov/">Equal Employment Opportunity Commission</a>, and during her time there she worked on immensely important issues, including combatting religious discrimination, to protect the civil rights of all Americans, regardless of race, gender, religion and the like.</p> <p>With her hefty resume of civil rights, it’s no surprise that Holmes Norton is a strong anti-voucher advocate in Congress. Voucher <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/facts#Rights">schemes remain a threat to civil rights</a> and <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/facts#ReligiousFreedom">religious freedom</a> because they don’t provide the same rights and protections to students as public schools, and selectively choose which students to serve. Studies also revealed that <a href="https://tcf.org/content/report/private-school-vouchers-pose-threat-integration/">racial segregation is higher in private schools</a> and that school voucher schemes favor white children.</p> <blockquote> <p>With her hefty resume of civil rights, it’s no surprise that Holmes Norton is a strong anti-voucher advocate in Congress.</p> </blockquote> <p>Vouchers have a <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/reports/2017/07/12/435629/racist-origins-private-school-vouchers/">troubling history</a>. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregation in public schools in 1954’s <a href="http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/history-brown-v-board-education-re-enactment"><em>Brown v. Board of Education</em></a>, officials in some counties, notably in Virginia, closed their public schools and gave white parents financial assistance to send their children to private academies that practiced segregation. In Congress, Holmes Norton has strongly <a href="https://norton.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/norton-releases-opening-statement-for-markup-of-dc-private-school">opposed the D.C. voucher program</a>, which is the only federally funded voucher program in the country.</p> <p>In addition to pushing back against voucher programs that pick and choose which students to serve, Holmes Norton is also a critic of the government picking and choosing which religious groups they deem worthy of entering the country. She co-sponsored the Freedom of Religion Act, which would ensure that immigrants, refugees and international travelers are not barred from entering the United States solely because of their religion.</p> <p>“The very first Americans were refugees from religious oppression. It is unthinkable that in the 21st century a religion bar would be considered,” Holmes <a href="http://mondoweiss.net/2016/05/interfaith-coalition-religion/">Norton said</a> of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entry to America. “Virtually every American believes there can be no religious test or exclusion of an immigrant to our country. That was the very first principle and it’s time we put that very first principle into law.”</p> <p>More recently, Holmes Norton fought for women to protect a D.C. anti-discrimination law, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health care decisions – a law that the far-right has been attempting to prevent from being enforced by claiming “religious freedom” objections.</p> <p>“No employer has the right to know, much less interfere, with the most private of health decisions of their employees,” she <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/house-republican-seeks-to-quash-dc-law-banning-reproductive-discrimination/2017/08/25/03c758e0-89b6-11e7-a94f-3139abce39f5_story.html?utm_term=.a3791159f5c6">said</a>.</p> <p>Holmes Norton is also a fierce defender of the Johnson Amendment, a federal law that protects the integrity of houses of worship and nonprofits from politicians using them as campaign tools for endorsement. Throughout her defense of the law, which Trump vowed to “totally destroy,” Holmes Norton emphasized that houses of worship serve communities, not candidates. </p> <p>“Clergy are among our most powerful groups and know how to make their voices heard to protect their unique place in American society, and the overwhelming majority of clergy oppose repealing the Johnson Amendment,” she said in a May statement after Trump signed a “religious freedom” executive order that he claimed (incorrectly) would weaken enforcement of the Johnson Amendment. “Clergy already enjoy great leeway in their houses of worship when it comes to political speech, and some of the most political figures in our country are ministers and rabbis.”</p> <p>Holmes Norton’s contributions to civil rights and social justice in the United States are impressive, and we appreciate her including church-state separation and religious freedom among the important issues she continues to champion. </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/eleanor-holmes-norton" hreflang="en">Eleanor Holmes Norton</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 16 Feb 2018 15:08:43 +0000 Hassanein 13692 at https://www.au.org Striking Down The Muslim Ban, A Federal Appeals Court Has Landed An Important Blow For Religious Freedom https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/striking-down-the-muslim-ban-a-federal-appeals-court-has-landed-an <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Striking Down The Muslim Ban, A Federal Appeals Court Has Landed An Important Blow For Religious Freedom </span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/67749" lang="" about="/user/67749" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">Hassanein</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 02/15/2018 - 14:57</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/andrew-nellis" hreflang="und">Andrew Nellis</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/muslimcropped.jpg" width="2108" height="1060" alt="Muslim Woman " typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>At long last, the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today issued <a href="https://www.muslimadvocates.org/wp-content/uploads/172231.pdf">its ruling</a> in <em>IAAB v. Trump</em>, the challenge brought by Americans United and its allies to the current iteration of President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.</p> <p>As we hoped, the court ruled in our favor, agreeing with us that the ban likely violates the Constitution because of the strong evidence that President Donald Trump’s purpose was to exclude Muslims from the United States.</p> <p>But it may feel like Groundhog Day to faithful readers of this blog.  Trump’s Muslim ban, in one form or another, <a href="https://www.au.org/content/au-fights-trumps-muslim-ban">has been litigated</a> up and down the courts all around the country for more than a year now. And indeed, the courts have repeatedly blocked it for one reason or another, including for violating the First Amendment’s promise of governmental neutrality toward religion.</p> <p>So rather than recite once more the gross litany of anti-Muslim statements that Trump has made or rehash the many ways that the ban violates the Constitution, let’s talk about what’s different this time.</p> <blockquote> <p>The majority of the 4th Circuit declared that the ban is “not only a likely Establishment Clause violation, but also strikes at the basic notion that the government may not act based on ‘religious animosity.’”</p> </blockquote> <p>Today was the first time that a federal court of appeals ruled that the <em>current</em> version of the ban, released in September, is a Muslim ban – and  thus that it violates the Constitution by targeting Muslims for disfavor. Another court of appeals – the  9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – previously  ruled that the ban could not stand, but on different grounds; that court determined that the ban violates our country’s immigration laws. But today’s majority opinion, written by Chief Judge Roger Gregory on behalf of a nine-judge majority, decides the constitutional question. (Five judges on the 4th Circuit in today’s decision believe that the ban <em>also </em>violates the immigration laws.)</p> <p>That the court today ruled on the constitutional question matters for a couple of reasons. First, the Supreme Court has already decided to review the 9th Circuit’s decision and thus is expected to issue an opinion by late June on the legality of the Muslim ban. And though the court stated that it would consider not only whether the Muslim ban violates the immigration laws but also whether it violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause – the  part of the Constitution that prevents the government from favoring certain religions over others, or all religions over none – until  today, the high court wouldn’t have had the benefit of a well-reasoned appellate decision explaining how  Trump’s actions trample that critical constitutional protection of religious freedom.</p> <p>And second, as Judge Pamela Harris pointed out today in a concurring opinion, the Muslim ban is an “extraordinary” case. Most often, church-state  cases center on governmental favoritism toward a particular faith or toward religion generally, both of which are, of course, unconstitutional. But the Muslim ban is the other side of the coin: The president acted “on the basis of <em>animus</em> toward a disfavored religious minority.” As Judge Harris put it: “The principle that government decision-making should not be informed by religious animus is so well and deeply understood in this country that there are few violations recorded.”</p> <p>That’s exactly right, and the majority of the 4th Circuit seems to agree, declaring that the ban is “not only a likely Establishment Clause violation, but also strikes at the basic notion that the government may not act based on ‘religious animosity.’”</p> <p>Today’s ruling is so important because it is imperative that the Supreme Court understands how far the Muslim ban falls short of our fundamental constitutional commitments. The Supreme Court justices, like the rest of us, have been living in a country in which a Muslim ban has been official government policy for over a year. It’s only natural that the outrage that this idea <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/this-weekend-at-dulles-international-airport">originally provoked</a> may dull somewhat in the face of a constant rush of newer shocks and provocations from the Trump–Pence administration. But we – and  the Supreme Court – must  not lose sight of how truly outrageous and antithetical to the basic promises of the Constitution a “Muslim ban” is.</p> <p>To quote today’s ruling again, “on a fundamental level, the Proclamation second-guesses our nation’s dedication to religious freedom and tolerance. . . . When we compromise our values as to some, we shake the foundation as to all.”</p> <p>That’s why Americans United will not stop fighting this ban. When it comes time for the Supreme Court to hear this issue, you can be sure that we will be there to say that, in America, there can be no Muslim ban, ever. </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/muslim-ban" hreflang="en">Muslim Ban</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-lawsuits field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Lawsuits</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/lawsuit/iranian-alliances-across-borders-v-trump" hreflang="en">Iranian Alliances Across Borders v. Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/lawsuit/iaab-v-trump" hreflang="en">IAAB v. Trump</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 15 Feb 2018 19:57:32 +0000 Hassanein 13691 at https://www.au.org State Legislatures Are Considering More Bills Than Ever to Allow College Student Groups to Use Religion to Discriminate https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/state-legislatures-are-considering-more-bills-than-ever-to-allow-college <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden"> State Legislatures Are Considering More Bills Than Ever to Allow College Student Groups to Use Religion to Discriminate</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/67749" lang="" about="/user/67749" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">Hassanein</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:15</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/samantha-sokol" hreflang="und">Samantha Sokol</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/studentgroupscropped_0.jpg" width="2097" height="1039" alt="student groups" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>It’s February, and that means students across the country are back on college and university campuses for a new semester.  One of the highlights of campus life is joining student groups. But in some states, students at public universities could be denied the opportunity to participate in a student club because of who they are.</p> <p>Across the country, state legislatures are <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/state-legislation-2018#2018Student">considering bills</a> that exempt religious clubs from nondiscrimination policies. Many colleges have “all-comers” policies that require officially recognized student groups to allow any student to join, participate in, and seek leadership in those groups. These policies ensure that your taxpayer dollars and students’ tuition fees don’t subsidize discrimination. But legislators across the country have introduced bills that would create a massive loophole in these nondiscrimination safeguards for religious groups. The result: student groups could discriminate against anyone who doesn’t adhere to their sincerely held religious beliefs, all while getting school funding and official recognition.</p> <p>Initially aimed at excluding LGBTQ students from the leadership of campus Christian clubs, these bills allow religious student groups at public universities to also exclude students from membership or leadership positions because:</p> <ul><li>They are the “wrong” religion, or;</li> <li>They don’t adhere to an organization’s statement of faith or standards of conduct. This could allow discrimination against nearly anyone for nearly any reason—for instance, because they don’t attend church often enough or because they are a single mom.</li> </ul><blockquote> <p>Religious freedom is the right to believe—or not—as we see fit. It doesn’t include a right to discriminate—and especially not while using taxpayer dollars or using the tuition fees of the very students who are being excluded. Religious student groups, of course, still have First Amendment rights on campus. They have been able to access school facilities for their meetings and use school bulletin boards to advertise their events like any other group. But they don’t have the right to force public universities to subsidize discrimination. If student groups want to discriminate, they shouldn’t receive public university recognition, tuition fees, or state taxpayer money to do so.</p> </blockquote> <p>This isn’t the first time we’re seeing these bills in state legislatures. Both <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/posts/2016/5/12/1fd5mfso920ua8czbgouw5nw5ev4in">Kansas</a> and <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/2017-state-legislation/2017/3/17/kentuckyhb-17">Kentucky</a> have passed similar bills in past years. But the number of bills has doubled in 2018 since last year, with 10 bills introduced already, compared to <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/state-legislation-2017#2017Student">5 in 2017</a> and <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/state-legislation-2016#2016Student">3 in 2016</a>. Why has the number of student groups bills skyrocketed this year? We can’t be sure, but some are tied to bills pushed by legislators to respond to <a href="http://time.com/4955245/milo-yiannopoulos-berkeley-free-speech-week/">protests that shut down some alt-right and conservative speakers</a> on campus in 2017. But sanctioning discrimination in the name of religion is never the right thing to do.</p> <p>There’s one state in particular we’ve been watching closely: in Virginia, one of these bills, <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/2018-state-legislation/2018/1/12/virginiahb-1274">HB 1274</a>, passed a subcommittee by a vote of 8-0. This bill would have allow discrimination by student groups against nearly anyone for nearly any reason that doesn’t conform with the group’s mission—it was as bad as it gets. But we have good news: this week, the House Education Committee left HB 1274 in committee, which means it’s most likely dead for the rest of the year.</p> <p>But there are still nine more bills alive in other states. You can join us too in fighting these student groups bills that allow discrimination in the name of religion on public university campuses. <a href="https://www.au.org/get-involved/updates">Sign up for our emails </a>and we’ll notify you if a bill like this one that uses religion to discriminate is moving in your state, and give you opportunities to fight back. We need your help to ensure that religious freedom is not used to as an excuse to exclude and discriminate on our state university campuses!</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> <div 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/state-legislation" hreflang="en">state legislation</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 15 Feb 2018 16:15:23 +0000 Hassanein 13689 at https://www.au.org Notre Dame Flip-Flops Again, Will Deny Women Access To Some Forms Of Birth Control https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/notre-dame-flip-flops-again-will-deny-women-access-to-some-forms-of-birth <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Notre Dame Flip-Flops Again, Will Deny Women Access To Some Forms Of Birth Control</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 02/14/2018 - 14:01</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/author/liz-hayes" hreflang="und">Liz Hayes</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/Birth%20Control%20Pills%20cropped.jpg" width="1199" height="460" alt="Birth Control Pills" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The University of Notre Dame has flip-flopped again: Notre Dame President the Rev. John Jenkins <a href="http://president.nd.edu/writings-addresses/2018-writings/letter-on-health-care-coverage/">announced</a> this month that university-sponsored health insurance plans for students and staff will stop covering some forms of birth control. The decision will affect more than 17,000 people who rely on the school for health insurance.</p> <p>That’s yet another reversal in course from the university in less than six months. In November, Notre Dame <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/11/notre-dame-birth-control-obamacare-reversal/545282/">promised</a> that its plans would continue to provide students and employees with a method for accessing birth control.</p> <p>A few weeks before that, Notre Dame was one of the first and most prominent organizations <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/10/notre-dame-pulls-contraceptive-coverage-following-new-trump-administration-rule/">to announce</a> it would take advantage of <a href="http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/contraception-coverage-litigation#TrumpRegs">new rules</a> proposed on Oct. 6 by the Trump administration that would allow employers and universities to cite religious beliefs as justification for denying women access to birth control.</p> <p>Religious freedom is about fairness. It’s not fair for an employer or university to deny women access to crucial health care – a benefit guaranteed by law. Stripping insurance coverage for birth control is discrimination, plain and simple.</p> <p>Americans United has been monitoring this situation closely. In October, AU, joined by the National Women’s Law Center and the law firm Dentons, filed a <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/americans-united-sues-trump-administration-over-rules-that-threaten-women-s">federal lawsuit</a>, <em>Shiraef v. Hargan</em>, challenging the Trump rules because they discriminate against women and violate religious freedom. We represented several Notre Dame students whose access to contraception was in jeopardy.</p> <blockquote> <p>Religious freedom is about fairness. It’s not fair for an employer or university to deny women access to crucial health care – a benefit guaranteed by law. Stripping insurance coverage for birth control is discrimination, plain and simple.</p> </blockquote> <p>After we filed our lawsuit, Notre Dame reversed course and promised its insurance plans would include birth control. Since our plaintiffs now had access to birth control, AU and the NWLC on Feb. 2 <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/declaring-victory-for-plaintiffs-groups-withdraw-lawsuit-against-trump">withdrew</a> the case. (Meanwhile, in related lawsuits, federal judges in California and Pennsylvania <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/february-2018-church-state/people-events/two-federal-courts-block-trump">have blocked</a> the Trump rules from going into effect).</p> <p>Days after we withdrew the case, Jenkins issued a letter to the Notre Dame community with a new position: While the university will continue to provide coverage for “simple contraceptives (i.e., drugs designed to prevent conception),” it will <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/notre-dame-switches-its-position-on-contraception-coverage-again/552605/">stop covering</a> some forms of birth control it considers “abortion-inducing.”</p> <p>It is not immediately clear what forms of birth control Notre Dame will refuse to cover in its plans, but it could include IUDs, the morning-after pill or other long-acting contraceptives – types of FDA-approved birth control that women depend upon.</p> <p>Notre Dame is supposed to clarify its latest position next month and Americans United will be watching the situation closely. We will continue to fight to ensure our plaintiffs – and all women – have seamless, low-cost access to birth control to protect their health and equality.</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/reproductive-rights" hreflang="en">Reproductive Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/contraception" hreflang="en">Contraception</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/notre-dame" hreflang="en">Notre Dame</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-lawsuits field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Lawsuits</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/lawsuit/shiraef-v-hargan" hreflang="en">Shiraef v. Hargan</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 14 Feb 2018 19:01:39 +0000 LHayes 13683 at https://www.au.org North Carolina Gov. Cooper Should Veto The Voucher Expansion https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/north-carolina-gov-cooper-should-veto-the-voucher-expansion <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">North Carolina Gov. Cooper Should Veto The Voucher Expansion</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 02/14/2018 - 11:11</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/nik-nartowicz" hreflang="en">Nik Nartowicz</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/images/blog_post/Empty%20Classroom%202%20cropped.jpg" width="5586" height="1593" alt="Empty classroom" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>There’s a <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/facts">long list</a> of reasons why private school vouchers are problematic. Even though these reasons are <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/facts">well-documented</a>, state legislatures keep trying to funnel more money away from public schools to private, religious schools. Unfortunately, North Carolina is no different. Legislators in that state just tried to sneak a provision into an education bill, <a href="https://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2017&amp;BillID=H90">HB 90</a>, that would expand one of their voucher programs. We are <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2018-02/NC%20Vouchers%20Veto%20Letter%202.14.18.pdf">urging</a> Gov. Roy Cooper (D) to veto it.</p> <p>Last year, North Carolina legislators decided that the state’s two voucher programs weren’t enough, so they created a new program called the Personal Education Savings Account (PESA) for students with disabilities. The PESAs are set to begin in the 2018-2019 school year. Legislators couldn’t wait for the program to even begin before trying to expand eligibility.</p> <p>They must have known this move would be unpopular though, because they tried to sneak the voucher expansion into an unrelated education bill, HB 90. The House and Senate both passed HB 90 last year. Then last Thursday, legislators met in conference to work out the differences in the versions they passed. By the time they were done that evening, they had created an entirely new – and <a href="https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/north-carolina/articles/2018-02-08/bill-fixing-north-carolinas-class-size-challenge-loaded-up">controversial</a> – bill. Among other things, it now contains the voucher expansion. Both chambers then acted very quickly: The Senate approved this new bill by Friday afternoon, and the House approved it yesterday.</p> <p>To qualify under the current program, students must have a disability and meet one other criteria from a set list, such as being a full-time student at a public school, entering kindergarten or first grade or being in foster care. If HB 90 passes, the program would be open to all students with disabilities who are eligible to attend a public school. This is a significant expansion.</p> <blockquote> <p>Students who leave public schools with a voucher forfeit many of the protections provided to students under IDEA. As a result, students with disabilities have been systematically excluded from voucher programs around the country.</p> </blockquote> <p>Although we support the goal of improving educational opportunities for <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/students-with-disabilities">students with disabilities</a>, vouchers harm rather than improve <a href="https://www.ncpecoalition.org/academic-achievement">educational outcomes</a>. And private voucher schools <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/690/688444.pdf">are not required to adhere to the federal civil rights laws</a> that protect those students. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that students with disabilities are provided with a free appropriate public education that is tailored to their individual needs. Students who leave public schools with a voucher forfeit many of the protections provided to students under IDEA. As a result, students with disabilities have been systematically excluded from voucher programs around the country.  In fact, under the North Carolina program, voucher schools are not even prohibited from refusing to admit students based upon a disability. That just doesn’t make sense.</p> <p>North Carolina’s already existing voucher programs demonstrate that vouchers don’t work. <a href="https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/docs/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf">One analysis</a> shows that a majority of voucher students scored below the 50th percentile on standardized tests two years in a row. Voucher schools in North Carolina also are unaccountable: They don’t have to be accredited or adhere to state curricular or graduation standards. And they can discriminate in their admission process, meaning they can refuse students because of their disability status, religion, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.</p> <p>Unfortunately, in North Carolina’s existing voucher programs, the vast majority of public funding goes to private religious schools: 93 percent of vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools. And, like all private schools, they can take taxpayer dollars and then reject students because they are the “wrong” religion or because they have a disability. Government funding of religious discrimination violates the religious freedom of all North Carolinians.</p> <p>You can let Gov. Cooper know that you oppose this bill, too. <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/STkaEq3hTUSDm5diDrXPXg2">Click here</a> for our action alert.</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/schools" hreflang="en">Schools</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/north-carolina" hreflang="en">North Carolina</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 14 Feb 2018 16:11:12 +0000 LHayes 13681 at https://www.au.org