Even as we keep physically distant from one another during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s important that we find ways to connect with people and stay engaged on the issues we care most about – including the separation of religion and government. During good times and bad, we remain committed to defending the Constitution and its promise of religious freedom.

That’s why, over the coming days and weeks, we’ll be sharing recommendations of books, articles, podcasts, movies, and other resources you can check out if you have some extra time on your hands and are trying to keep occupied. Some will be serious, some will be more light-hearted, but all of them are offerings from our staff, supporters and friends to help us all make the best of these trying times – and come out all the stronger for it in the end. Bookmark this page and keep checking back, as we plan to keep updating it. And share your own recommendations here!

Monday, April 6, 2020

This week, we’re going to focus on some content from recent issues of Americans United’s Church & State magazine:

  • The just-released April issue of the magazine takes a look at the question of religious tests for public office. At one time, many states had provisions requiring people to be Christians or even Protestants as a condition of holding public office. Learn what happened to these antiquated laws in this story.
  • Did you know that eight state constitutions still bar atheists from holding public office? While these provisions can’t be enforced anymore, they came from a time when prejudice against non-believers was common. Is your state one of them? Find out here.
  • Courtni Burleson and Ahmed Ali are Americans United’s newest employees. Find out what they do at AU and get to know them personally.
  • The Supreme Court has accepted a new case that could make it easier for religious employers to restrict access to birth control. Read about it here.
  • Like millions of others all over the country, the staff of Americans United has been working from home. That can present certain challenges. AU President and CEO Rachel Laser shares some reflections on that.
  • Education researcher/writer Diane Ravitch has a great new book out about the importance of public education and the threat of vouchers. We’ve got a review.  
  • Finally, if you’re interested in the question of religion in public schools, the March issue of Church & State took an in-depth look at the issue. The cover story provides a short history of religion in public education, looks at several efforts to amend the Constitution to require religious worship in public schools and takes a look at where we are now. Other articles examine occasions when violence has erupted over religion in schools and debunk common myths about the issue.

A subscription to Church & State is included with your membership in Americans United. If you’re not a member and you like what you read, sign up. We’d love to have you!

Monday, March 30, 2020:

  • Fans of podcasts might want to tune into this episode of NPR’s “Throughline” titled “Public Universal Friend.” It’s an intriguing story of religious freedom and a non-binary self-proclaimed prophet who challenged gender assumptions – in the late 1700s!
  • Another NPR podcast, “Unprecedented,” covers the waterfront of civil liberties issues, including some episodes that touch on religious freedom.
  • If you’re in the mood for a documentary, consider “We Believe in Dinosaurs,” which examines the conflict over taxpayer funding of creationist Ken Ham’s “replica” of Noah’s Ark in a small Kentucky town. The film’s website has information about how to stream it.
  • For a more historical look at church-state separation and how it has played out in public schools, try “The Lord Is Not On Trial Here Today.” This documentary takes an in-depth look at McCollum v. Board of Education, a 1948 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in one of the first legal battles over the role of religion in public schools. You can watch it here.

We hope you enjoy these resources. Stay safe!

Monday, March 23, 2020:

If it hadn’t been for the coronavirus, Americans United’s first-ever National Advocacy Summit (NAS) would have been well under way today. The event has been rescheduled for Sept. 13-15, but you can get a head start on things by checking out these resources from NAS speakers:

  • The Rev. Kentina Washington-Leapheart, an ordained minister who currently works as a writer and consultant, will join her wife, the Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart, and others for a panel on the connection between racial justice and religious freedom. She contributed to The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle, which the editor described as “conversation with the psalms in this season of child separation and climate change and #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter.”
  • Robert P. Jones, the CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, is another NAS speaker who has published books. Jones’s The End of White Christian America is an interesting dissection of demographic trends in America and where they are taking us. Jones’s newest book, the forthcoming White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, is a powerful look at the disturbing relationship between American Christianity and white supremacy. The book will be released in June, a few months before the NAS.
  • Take a break from all that reading by checking out singer-songwriter Scarlett Rabe, who will provide entertainment during the NAS. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter and check out her music on her YouTube channel.

We’ll be back on this blog from time to time with more ideas on how to school yourself about separation of church and state during this period of working from home, self-quarantining and sheltering in place. We’d love to have your ideas, too – send them to us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or send them to us via this form.