This week, Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn announced that he will retire at the end of 2017.

AU Communications Director Rob Boston, who has been with AU throughout Barry’s remarkable 25 years serving AU, reflected on Barry’s many accomplishments.

Rob noted: “As Barry moves on to the next phase of his personal life, AU will move on to the next phase of its institutional life. I look forward to watching both of them prosper.”

Barry’s accomplishments, which include significantly growing the organization, have set a strong foundation for the future of AU, and we’re looking forward to building on his impact. Barry’s openness to social justice made him a popular figure for young church-state separation and religious freedom advocates.

Today, some of our younger staff members explain why Barry’s impact will keep AU’s future bright,

Samantha Sokol, legislative assistant: Long before I began working at Americans United or had even met Barry, I saw the viral Youtube video in which Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) began grilling Barry about his Christian beliefs in a congressional hearing.

Barry's response stuck with me. He said: “What I believe is not necessarily what I think ought to justify the creation of public policy for everybody.”

More than ever, opponents of LGBTQ equality and reproductive rights seek to use their religion as an excuse to harm and discriminate against others. But religious freedom means we have the right to believe or not as we see fit – not that we have the right to impose our religious beliefs on all through the creation of public policy.

Barry has made that a fundamental principle of our work at Americans United. Under Barry's guidance, we've created the Protect Thy Neighbor project and expanded our reach to fight the use of religion as an excuse to harm and discriminate.

We've fought for (and won) the fundamental right to marriage for LGBTQ people and the right to access essential healthcare for women. We’ll miss Barry’s vision on these key issues, but lucky for us, he’s set us on the right track moving forward.

Erin Hagen, field associate: I have the privilege of working with young people who care about church-state separation and religious freedom. Indeed, the majority of young people I come into contact with, no matter their political affiliation, see the separation of church and state as a common-sense way to protect the civil liberties of people living in the United States. They are passionate and bright and bring new insights to our organization and the issues we work on.

Many young people are already familiar with Barry Lynn and his books when they come to Americans United. They’re always excited to meet him, take photos with him and talk with him.

The wonderful thing about Barry is that he truly values young people’s participation in the fight to preserve church-state separation and protect religious liberty. He’s carved out a space at Americans United that is dedicated to youth outreach, and, just as he helped grow the organization in many other ways, his dedication to bringing young supporters to AU has ensured that we will stay forward-facing even after he retires.

Rokia Hassanein, communications associate: When I first met Barry, I was excited with how receptive he was to young church-state separation activists. Despite his iconic experience with church-state separation, I always felt like my voice was heard whenever I had a conversation with him.

Barry sought new ways to expand AU’s outreach to the younger community, and he was always encouraging about the different platforms we use to reach them. As a young activist and communicator, I appreciate that.

I’ve noticed that under Barry’s tenure, AU adapted to finding new ways to fight against imminent threats such as discrimination against the LGBTQ community, women, religious minorities and more. Whether that comes through digital media, such as our Protect Thy Neighbor project, or through social action, such as becoming a partner for the Women’s March on Washington, AU continues to have a diverse presence within the advocacy community.

While I will miss Barry, I know that he set an activism mindset within the organization that guides AU in the best direction, and I’m excited to witness AU’s continued success.

You can read more about Barry’s many accomplishments here.