February 2020 Church & State Magazine | Featured

Americans United staff members have kept busy lately educating Americans about the importance of church-state sep­aration.

Here’s a round up of some recent activities:

AU President and CEO Rachel Laser took part in a panel discussion at Public Religion Research Institute in Washington, D.C., Jan. 8. The event was designed for PRRI’s public fellows and sought to help them make their research more accessible. Also appearing on the panel were Jihad Saleh Williams, government and public affairs manager for Islamic Relief USA, and Victoria Kirby York, deputy director for the Advocacy & Action Department at the National LGBTQ Task Force.

PRRI panel

AU's Laser (l) with York and Williams

On Jan. 19, Laser was in the Phil­adelphia area to speak at Main Line Unitarian Church in Devon during services. Laser addressed the topic “Fighting for Freedom: Why Keeping Religion and Government Separate is an American Imperative.” The church’s senior minister is the Rev. Dr. Neal Jones, who serves as chairman of Americans United’s Board of Trustees.

Maggie Garrett, AU’s vice president for public policy, appeared on the Religious Studies Project’s podcast Jan. 6. Garrett joined two other experts in discussing the state of church-state separation at the Sup­reme Court. To listen, visit the Religious Studies Project’s homepage at: www.religiousstudiesproject.com.

The Project is a collaborative effort supported by the British Association for the Study of Religions, the North American Association for the Study of Religion, the International Association for the History of Religions, the European Association for the Study of Religions and the Australian Association for the Study of Religions.

On Jan. 15, Garrett was among the speakers at a Capitol Hill briefing for Senate staff discussing Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a voucher case currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Garrett and AU Vice President for State Outreach and Engagement Sarah Gillooly were in Georgia in mid-January. They met with lawmakers and public policy advocates.

 AU Legal Director Richard B. Katskee took part in a panel discussion about the Espinoza case at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Jan. 13. The discussion, titled “Why Tax-Supported Religious Schools Should Be Rejected in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue,” was sponsored by the American Humanist Association. The case deals with government funding of religious schools.

 Alicia Johnson, AU’s national organizer and student network manager, and Nik Nartowicz, state policy counsel, attended the Creating Change Conference in Dallas Jan. 15-19. Sponsored by the National LGBTQ Task Force, the event is one of the largest gatherings of progressive activists in the nation. Johnson distributed material about Americans United and networked with attendees. Nartowicz took part in a panel discussion about LGBTQ issues and public education. He discussed the threats voucher plans pose to public schools and LGBTQ rights.

Church & State Editor Rob Boston appeared on the “Free Thought Prophet” podcast in December, discussing church-state history and current issues. To listen, visit: thefree­thoughtprophet.podbean.com.