Today is Giving Tuesday, an international day of philanthropy that kicks off the charitable season. Thanks to generous gifts from supporters like you on Giving Tuesday and throughout the year, Americans United has continued to defend the wall of separation between church and state.
Although it’s been a challenging year for religious freedom advocates, we at Americans United have much to be thankful for. Not only do we have dedicated members and supporters, but there are so many brave people who’ve been willing to stand up to power when government officials – from the Trump-Pence administration to their public school officials – have trampled their rights.
Here are just some of the people we’ve been able to advocate for this year, thanks to the generous gifts from our members and supporters like you:
- Women: Americans United is proud to join with our allies to represent Irish 4 Reproductive Health, a group of graduate students at the University of Notre Dame. These students have been on the forefront of protesting the Trump-Pence administration’s rules that would allow employers and universities to cite religious beliefs to deny women access to birth control. In the lawsuit we filed in June, the students challenge the Trump rules as well as the unlawful, back-room settlement the university negotiated with the administration to circumvent the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit. Contraception is a vital component of women’s health care, and women should be solely in charge of their health care decisions – not their employers, not their universities and not their government.
- Public school students: A person’s faith is as deeply personal as their health care choices. What religion we believe, or the choice to believe no religion, whether and how we worship – all of these decisions should be made by individuals. But in Louisiana, Bossier Parish public school officials are taking those rights away from students and families by injecting widespread proselytism of Christianity in the school system – including Bible readings and creationism lessons in the classroom, school events opening with prayers and being held in churches, and athletic programs suffused with prayer, distribution of religious literature and coercion to attend church or religious activities. That’s why AU filed a federal lawsuit in February on behalf of several Bossier families who believe that it is their right and responsibility, not the school district’s, to oversee their children’s religious education.
- Non-believers and members of religious minorities: Elected officials elsewhere in the country also are disregarding the religious beliefs of their citizens, especially nontheists. Several government bodies that open their public meetings with invocations not only are refusing to allow non-believers to offer secular invocations, but some government officials are going the extra step of creating policies that explicitly exclude nontheists. That’s the case with the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the County Commission in Brevard County, Fla. That’s why AU filed two federal lawsuits protesting these practices on behalf of about a dozen people and several secular organizations who want equal representation in their government. Federal courts have ruled in our favor in both cases, but the elected officials have appealed these rulings, so our fight continues.
- Members of the LGBTQ community: Even more pervasive have been attempts by the Trump-Pence administration and some state officials to roll back the rights of the LGBTQ community. These officials are catering to the agenda of a small but vocal faction of evangelical Christians that seeks to misuse religious freedom as justification for discrimination. They want to allow businesses, health care providers and taxpayer-funded social service providers – even foster-care agencies – to cite religion to refuse to serve or hire LGBTQ people. They are working to erase the transgender community – by banning them from the military, refusing to let them use the bathrooms and other public facilities that align with their gender identity, and erasing federal protections for them. AU is fighting this agenda in the federal government, in statehouses and in the courts. Religious freedom is meant to be a shield that protects people, not a sword used to harm them.
These are just a few of the ways Americans United has been helping people protect their religious freedom and stand up for separation of religion and government this year. If you’re able to help us, we’d be most thankful for your support. Your donations are welcome any time at any amount. But today, on #GivingTuesday, your donations will be doubled up to $120,000 thanks to matching gifts from generous AU donors. To double your impact, you can donate here.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us this year. Just as we’ve done for the past 71 years, Americans United will continue to advocate for religious freedom.