AU Staff Members And Activists Support Separation Of Church And State Nationwide

Last month’s issue of Church & State went to press just days before the Women’s March on Washington took place. Americans United was an official partner of the march. Several AU staff members took part in the historic event in Washington, D.C., and chapter activists participated in the “sister marches” that took place all over the country.

AU staffers Rokia Hassanein, Eric Rothschild, Rebecca Davis-Nord, Christine Colburn, Rob Boston, Samantha Sokol, Bill Mefford and Sarah Stevenson were among those on staff who marched in D.C., and offered reflections about their experiences on AU’s “Wall of Separation” blog.

“It was encouraging for me to see so many marchers around the country throw their support behind ideals we fight for at Americans United every single day,” observed Sokol. “Religi­ous freedom is a fundamental Am­er­ican value that gives us the right to believe or not as we see fit, but it doesn’t give us the right to use religion to harm or discriminate against others.”

Shortly after the march, AU received reports from several chapters that had taken part in local events. Among those marching were AU chapter activists in El Paso, Texas; Durham-Orange County, N.C.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Nash­ville, Tenn., and Philadelphia. 

Allison Mahaley, president of AU’s Durham-Orange County Chapter, took part in a march in Raleigh, N.C. She was quoted by the Raleigh News & Observer criticizing Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for education secretary.

“This country was founded on the principle of freedom of religion,” Mahaley told the newspaper. “Government money, taxpayer dollars, should not be spent on private, religious schools. She wants to privatize everything and give taxpayer dollars to religious schools that indoctrinate children.”

In other news:

  • AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn appeared on “The Thom Hartmann Show” Feb. 6 to discuss Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The show appears on several cable and satellite television networks. On Feb. 7, Lynn discussed the issue of churches and politics on Louisiana Radio Network’s “Jim Eng­ster Show.” On Feb. 9, he discussed the same issue on Hartmann’s syndicated radio show
     
  • Mefford, who serves as AU’s faith organizer, has taken part in several demonstrations and inter-faith events in Washington designed to express opposition to President Donald J. Trump’s executive order restricting Muslim immigration and refugees. In late January, Mefford traveled to Arkansas where he addressed the state AU chapter and met with clergy.
     
  • Boston, AU’s director of communications, appeared on CNN’s “Smerconish” show Feb. 4 to discuss Trump’s vow to repeal the federal law that bars pulpit politicking. On Feb. 13, Boston traveled to Raleigh, N.C., to address AU’s Ral­eigh/Wake County Chapter. Boston offered an update on the challenges posed by the Trump administration.
     
  • AU Legislative Director Maggie Garrett addressed AU’s Sarasota-Manatee Chapter in Florida Feb. 25. Garrett’s talk was titled, “Fighting Laws That Use Religion To Discriminate.”
     
  • AU staffers Chelsea Collings, Kate Perelman, Erin Taylor, Rebecca Davis-Nord and Erin Hagen were among those protesting Betsy DeVos’ nomination as secretary of education during a rally in Washington, D.C., Feb. 6.
     
  • Erin Taylor, AU’s field director, spoke at Indiana Civic Day Feb. 11. The event in Indianapolis was sponsored jointly by the local chapters of Americans United and the Center for Inquiry.
     
  • Americans United’s Orange County, Calif., Chapter hosted a talk by Michele Goodwin, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine’s School of Law Feb. 18. Goodwin, an authority on the regulation of medicine, science and