October 2020 Church & State Magazine | Featured

The coronavirus pandemic’s restrictions on large gatherings haven’t stopped Americans Uni­ted staff members from continuing to spread the word about separation of church and state. We’re doing it virtually! 

Here’s some information about recent activities:

 Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United, held an online conversation with Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, about Hogue’s new book The Lie That Binds Sept. 1. The book examines the question of how the formerly non-partisan issue of abortion rights was appropriated by Christian nationalists to maintain white, patriarchal control in a changing world. It also discusses strategies for defending reproductive rights.

Sabrina Dent, D.Min., AU’s senior faith adviser, delivered the Sixteenth Annual Tom E. Moses Memorial Lecture on the U.S. Constitution at the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W. Va., Sept. 17.

Dent’s lecture, titled “The Morality of Freedom: Re-imagining the Prom­ises of the U.S. Constitution,” was delivered virtually. A description of the talk on the Center’s website read, “On September 17, 1787, the Founding Framers gathered to sign the final draft of the U.S. Constitution. This would become a notable moment in history that would set a new trajectory for some in America. Two hundred thirty-three years later ‘We the People’ continue to wrestle with the moral imperative of freedom in the United States. This lecture will explore the questions: How do we understand freedom? To whom are these freedoms extended? What is our responsibility as citizens to protect religious freedom while re-imagining the promises of the U.S. Constitution?”

On Sept. 3, Dent moderated a panel discussion focused on the latest anti-transgender proposal from the Trump administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development. The event was sponsored by Americans United, along with the National Center for Transgender Equality, National Women’s Law Center and Center for American Progress.

Panelists included Sarah Hassmer, senior counsel, income security at the National Women’s Law Center; the Rev. Cedric Harmon, executive director of Many Voices; the Rev. Alex Patchin McNeill, executive director of More Light Presbyterians; the Rev. Cherisse Scott, founder and CEO of SisterReach; and Dr. Debbie Ojeda-Leitner, policy advocate at the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Rob Boston, senior adviser at AU and editor of Church & State, addressed the Memphis Freethought Alliance via Zoom Sept. 27. Boston’s speech was titled “Separation of Church and State: Where We’ve Been, Where Are Are and Where We’d Like To Be.”

On Sept. 19, AU’s Orange County, Calif., Chapter held a virtual event titled “A Pre-Election Look at the Intersection of Religion and Politics.” The speaker was Rebecca Sager, an associate professor in Loyola Marymount University’s Department of Sociology and author of the book Faith, Politics, and Power: The Politics of Faith-Based Initiatives.