March 2021 Church & State Magazine | Featured

Americans United staff members and grassroots activists continue to support separation of church and state through a variety of virtual events.

Here is a roundup of some recent activities:

Sabrina E. Dent, DMin., AU’s senior faith adviser, was among the speakers for a Jan. 12 event sponsored by Faith 2020 and Union Theological Seminary in New York. The event, titled “Laying a New Foundation for Religious Liberty in the First 100 Days,” focused on domestic and international religious liberty matters such as health care access, nondiscrimination in education and the workplace, trends in the courts, preserving the safety and welfare of minority religious communities, religious persecution abroad and immigration and refugee resettlement.

That same day, Dent was one of the speakers at the event sponsored by the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum to mark the release of a new book edited by Dent and Corey D.B. Walker, a humanities professor at Wake Forest University, titled African Americans and Religious Freedom: New Perspectives for Congregations and Communities.

AU President and CEO Rachel Laser was quoted by the Associated Press in a Feb. 4 story about the National Prayer Breakfast.

Richard B. Katskee, AU legal director, was part of a legal team offering oral arguments via Zoom before a federal appeals court recently in a long-running case over school prayer. Kat­skee argued Jan. 25 before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, taking the position that officials at a public school in Bremerton, Wash., had the right to curb a football coach who engaged in religious activity with students.

 On Feb. 9, Katskee took part in a webinar titled “Religion and the Constitution: A Discussion of Contemporary Issues” at Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C. Joining Kat­skee on the panel was Dan Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

Sarah Gillooly, AU’s vice president for state outreach and engagement, did a video for Brut Media Jan. 22. Gillooly talked about the role of religion in the presidential inauguration. To see the video, visit www.au.org/au-speaks.

Gillooly joined Nik Nartowicz, AU state policy counsel, Feb. 16 for a webinar titled “2021 States Legislative Preview.” The two offered a rundown on bills AU is tracking in the states that might affect church-state separation.

Maggie Garrett, AU’s vice president for public policy, took part in a Feb. 23 webinar titled “Post-Espinoza: How School Leaders Can Continue To Oppose Private School Vouchers.” The event was sponsored jointly by the AASA, the School Superintendents Association; the National Association of Elementary School Principals; and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

 Rob Boston, AU senior adviser and editor of Church & State, spoke as part of the Brotherhood Speaker Series at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Jan. 10. Boston discussed ways to buttress church-state separation during the Biden administration.

Boston also delivered a guest sermon on religious freedom to Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Md., Feb. 21.

Americans United’s Orange County, Calif., Chapter held an online screening of the film “White Noise” on Jan. 16. The documentary explores the rise of white supremacist groups during the past four years.

On Dec. 17, AU’s Houston Chapter held a post-election discussion via Zoom that featured three AU speakers: Garrett, Katskee and Gillooly.

The Houston Chapter joined forces with AU’s Rochester (N.Y.) Chapter Feb. 1 to hear a speech by Eddie Ta­bash, an attorney and a member of AU’s Board of Trustees. Tabash’s talk was titled “A Two-Thirds Religious Right Majority on the Supreme Court: Can We Salvage Church-State Separation At All?”

Tabash also delivered the talk to the Atlanta Freethought Society Jan. 10.

Americans United’s Maryland Chapter met online Dec. 1 to review 2020 and discuss activities for 2021.

Finally, some Americans United members have recently experienced delivery delays for Church & State. We mail issues near the first of the month. Recent delays are due to the U.S. Postal Service, which is dealing with high volumes of mail and an employee shortage. We hope that delivery will return to normal soon. Readers who miss an issue should email americansunited@au.org for a replacement. Church & State can also be read online at www.au.org/church-state.