November 2019 Church & State Magazine | AU In Action

Members of Americans United’s staff and AU activists around the nation have kept busy defending separation of church and state on many fronts.

Here’s a look at some recent activities:

Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser took part in a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court Oct. 8. The high court heard three cases related to LGBTQ rights that day, and Laser joined representatives from dozens of other groups to express support for members of that community.

At issue is whether members of the LGBTQ community can be fired from their jobs due to who they are or who they love. The 1964 Civil Rights Act bans employment discrimination on the basis of sex, but conservative groups are arguing that the law does not cover LGBTQ people. Americans United argues that animosity toward LGBTQ people is often motivated by religious bias, not religious freedom.

The high court is expected to issue a ruling in the cases by the end of June.

“Today, we call on the Supreme Court to affirm that our equality and ability to fully participate in society should not hinge on our boss’s religious beliefs, or anyone else’s,” Laser told the crowd. “The religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution is meant to protect the right to practice any religion, or no religion at all, without harming others.”

Laser added, “But let’s call out the truth – emboldened religious extremists today are weaponizing this sacred idea of religious freedom to turn back the clock on equality. It’s relentless. It’s exhausting. And the court should make clear it’s against the law. Americans United is proud to join our many allies here today, and every day, to hold our country accountable to its promise of freedom and equality for all.” (Video of Laser’s remarks is available at www.au.org/blogs/AU-at-court.

Several members of the AU staff attended the rally. AU Design Associate Madelyn Kelly created colorful signs that read “Discrimination IS NOT Religious Freedom,” which AU distributed during the event.

AU Vice President for State Outreach and Engagement Sarah Gillooly was in Sacramento Oct. 13 for Freethought Day. The day-long event, sponsored by a coalition of non-theistic organizations, brings together speakers and entertainers at the state capitol building.

Rob Boston, AU senior advisor and editor of Church & State, met with two international delegations recently as part of an educational program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. On Oct. 2, Boston met with 12 Muslim government officials from the Middle East. On Oct. 9, Boston met with a delegation of Islamic, Jewish and Christian religious leaders from North Macedonia.  

Americans United’s St. Louis Chapter hosted Ken Warren, a political science professor at St. Louis University, as part of its annual picnic Sept. 15.

On Sept. 27, AU’s Orange-Durham Chapter in North Carolina held a concert featuring singer/songwriter Roy Zimmerman.

AU’s Orange County Chapter in California hosted the Rev. Dr. Sarah Halverson-Cano Sept. 21. She addressed the topic “The Importance of Church-State Separation to Religion.”

On Sept. 23, AU’s Rochester, N.Y., Chapter heard a lecture by Sarah Timmerman, president of the Rochester Chapter of the National Organization for Women. Timmerman discussed “Abortion Bans: What Happens When Church And State Are Not Kept Separate.”