June was another busy month for members of Americans United’s staff and local activists. Here are some highlights:
Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser traveled to Houston June 17, where she addressed the AU Houston Chapter and met with local clergy. Laser’s speech was titled “Church-State Separation In Trump’s America: Where We Are And Where We’re Going.” Prior to the trip, Laser did a question-and-answer profile with the Houston Chronicle and once there appeared on a local NPR affiliate.
(PHOTO: AU President and CEO Rachel Laser speaking on the Houston public radio program "Houston Matters.")
The Chronicle asked Laser to outline the most pressing church-state issues. She replied: “We are witnessing unprecedented attacks on the wall of separation between religion and government. From the recent denial of care rule that allows anyone associated with the health care industry – from janitors, to schedulers to doctors – to deny patients even life-saving care based on their religious beliefs, to the South Carolina waiver allowing all taxpayer-funded South Carolina foster care agencies to turn away prospective parents who are the ‘wrong’ religion, the Trump administration is giving a license to discriminate to those who subscribe to one narrow set of religious beliefs.”
Maggie Garrett, AU’s vice president for public policy, spoke at the Anti-Defamation League’s National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., June 2. Garrett took part in a panel discussion on religious freedom issues.
AU Legal Director Richard B. Katskee was in Hammond, Ind., June 10 with Alison Tanner, an AU legal fellow, and Carmen Green, AU litigation counsel, for an oral argument before a federal court in an AU-sponsored lawsuit. The case, Irish 4 Reproductive Health v. HHS, challenges a backdoor arrangement the Trump-Pence administration made with officials at the University of Notre Dame that resulted in students and faculty losing access to birth control. Tanner presented the argument before the U.S. District Court in Northern Indiana.
Katskee traveled to Provo, Utah, June 19 to take part in a conference titled “Religious Freedom for a New Generation.” The event was sponsored by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at the J. Reuben Clark Law School of Brigham Young University.
On June 22, Katskee taught a session at the Street Law Supreme Court Summer Institute for Teachers in Washington, D.C. The Institute’s goal is to prepare social studies educators to use innovative techniques to teach about the Supreme Court.
Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser was in Philadelphia June 17 arguing AU’s case challenging the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ invocations policy that excludes non-theists. Luchenitser argued before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Rob Boston, AU senior adviser and editor of Church & State, met with a delegation of scholars from several nations June 6 under a program coordinated by the U.S. State Department. Boston offered an overview of the history of church-state separation, discussed current issues in the U.S. courts and took questions.
June was Pride Month, and several members of AU’s national staff celebrated it by tabling at the Capital Pride Celebration. The festival took place June 9 along Pennsylvania Avenue in the heart of Washington, D.C. Despite some intermittent rain, AU had a steady stream of visitors throughout the day and signed up hundreds of new supporters.
(PHOTO: AU staff Sam Sokol, Liz Hayes, Ken M'Bale, Kenneth Upton and Tali Israeli at Capital Pride.)
Members of AU’s Greater Naples, Fla., Chapter staffed a table at the Naples Pride Celebration on June 1. The festival was held in Cambier Park, Naples. More than 5,000 people attended the event, and members reported brisk interest in AU materials. Other AU chapters also tabled at Pride events in other cities.
(PHOTO: Terry Trimble and Rod Marco of the Greater Naples Chapter at the Naples Pride Celebration.)