May 2020 Church & State Magazine | Perspective

Greetings, AU family! I’m sending healthy wishes and gratitude from my home to yours.

These days, I’ve been reflecting on the many strange dichotomies that have come with the coro­na­virus: We are more alone than ever, and yet many of us are exhausted by the number of virtual meet-ups, texts and phone calls we are responding to each day. We are scared, concerned and sad, but many of us are also cherishing the concentrated time with our immediate families, our pets and some solitude. We are flustered, out of sorts and on edge, but we still crave human connection and interaction, even if it can’t be in person. In fact, many of us are reaching out in unprecedented ways, whether it’s chatting with socially distanced strangers on a walk or checking in more with friends and family.

I have found myself wondering how you all have been doing – and then I realized, I could just ask. So, in some recent emails, I asked you to let us know how you are faring.

I cannot tell you how delighted I was to hear from nearly100 of you. So that you can get to know your fellow supporters better, I thought I would share some themes we heard.

Some of you are taking solace in your religious observances but practicing virtually and safely. A member from Oklahoma wrote that he is watching online church services every Sunday via Facebook and was even preparing to participate in communion remotely with directions from his church. Another member noted: “I’m doing fine. I agree, as does my Rabbi, that life is most important. We are using Zoom for services.”

Others of you expressed frustration with religious extremists’s behavior during the pandemic. One member bemoaned Franklin Graham appearing on her “secular TV reaching out to those who are scared and vulnerable to proselytize his evangelical fundamentalist dogma.” Another member, this one from Nashville, wrote: “I’m … infuriated at these Christians [who are] gathering, thinking that because they are ‘Washed in the blood of Christ’ that they are immune. They are putting the rest of us at risk. It’s nauseating.”

Almost all of you took the time to let us know that even – and especially – in these tough times, you value the work of AU. You told us to “keep on truckin’,” “keep up the amazing work” and that “you are just so proud to be a member of AU.” You thanked us for “keeping this issue very much alive and being a forceful voice in not letting the other side take over our constitution and our government.” You praised AU for keeping you “informed and inspired” for continuing “the ‘high watch’ regarding the bullying of the religious right” and for “doing a super job in catching these violations of scientific truths, logic, common sense and constitution law!” “I’m depending on you!” another member added.

One supporter, making the best of his quarantine, explained: “Sure there are a lot of downsides to being isolated (I live alone), but on the plus side, I have more time to catch up on the Church & State articles.” We love that.

Despite the very real challenges you are no doubt facing, you reassured us you are still very much with us. Many of you described having just renewed your sup­port for AU. One member, who described herself as having multiple sclerosis, wanted us to know: “On Friday, someone who shopped for me mailed the membership renewal form to you.”

In the midst of a great deal of well-deserved angst about our world, our country, our loved ones and our organization, your notes help sustain us. I am sure you will not mind that I shared your messages with our hard-working staff. Just to give you a sense of how much they appreciated them, one of our staffers wrote back: “My worry is that religious freedom would be at the bottom of our peoples’ priority lists right now, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all! That makes me feel like all the hard work we have been doing is being recognized by our supporters, and that’s a great feeling.”

We know that we could not do the work we love without your support, energy, activism and loyalty. Please stay in touch, and we will too.

Rachel K. Laser is president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.