November 2011 Church & State | People & Events

Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn received the prestigious Freedom of Worship Award from the Roosevelt Institute during a recent ceremony in Hyde Park, N.Y.

The award is named in memory of a famous speech delivered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Jan. 6, 1941. Appearing before the U.S. Congress to deliver a State of the Union address, Roosevelt outlined four freedoms that he said were essential to democracy: freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

The foundation exists to carry on the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Past honorees have included Nelson Mandela, Tom Brokow, Hillary Clinton and the Dalai Lama.

Lynn was among five awardees recognized during the Sept. 17 event at St. James’ Episcopal Church. Former U.S. Sen. Russell Feingold received the overall Four Freedoms Award. Michael Copps, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, received the Freedom of Speech Award. Jacqueline Novogratz, a business leader and founder of the Acumen Fund, was given the Freedom from Want Award. Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who represents the poor and the mentally ill, received the Freedom from Fear Award.

During his remarks, Lynn noted that he was speaking at a time when “three presidential candidates claim God has chosen them to win. At least two are wrong, and I’m guessing all three are.”

Added Lynn, “The Roosevelts would, I suspect, be gravely disappointed today. The political process itself is being tainted by the corrosive effect some forms of religion are having on our greatest institutions of democracy. The schools, the judiciary, the social service net: all polluted by a kind of religion which claims to know all things and whose only complaint is that it does not run all things.”

He concluded, “I want to be free of the fear that some politician claiming to hear the voice of God will seek to impose her or his will on all, depriving the rest of Americans from exercising their own conscience. But for that freedom to be viable, all of us need to work to preserve it.”

A few days later, Lynn received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Boston University School of Theology. Lynn, who received a masters degree from the school in 1973 (graduating magna cum laude) was formally recognized Sept. 21 during the university’s Matriculation Day.

As part of the event, Lynn took part in a panel discussion titled “Three Greatest Challenges Facing Us in the Next Decade” and taught a class.