Defending the separation of church and state in 2012.
This past year Americans United fought back as the aggressive, powerful and well-funded Religious Right assaulted church-state separation on all fronts.
And thanks to our generous donors, AU had the financial and moral support to stop the Religious Right from smuggling religion into our public schools, diverting tax dollars to sectarian groups and other unconstitutional activities.
Here’s a quick look at what we have accomplished in 2012:
AU worked to prevent taxpayer funding of religious schools and other ministries:
- In Florida, for example, the Religious Right and the Roman Catholic hierarchy pushed a ballot measure that would require taxpayers to fund religion and open the door to private school vouchers. AU and our allies worked to educate voters about this wrongheaded effort to strip important church-state protections from the Florida Constitution, and it was soundly defeated.
We fought the Catholic hierarchy’s efforts to limit public access to contraceptives:
- AU Executive Director Barry Lynn was invited to submit testimony to the House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee regarding existing religious liberty protections in the Affordable Care Act. In contrast to an argument made by Catholic lobbyists, he re-emphasized that women – not their employers – should be allowed to make decisions about their health care and their religious beliefs. Healthcare policy should reflect the public interest, not a sectarian agenda.
Americans United fought government preference toward religion:
- In Sussex County, Delaware, AU sued the county council over its practice of opening meetings with the Protestant version of the Lord’s Prayer. A U.S. District Court judge ruled that the prayers amounted to a government endorsement of Christianity, and the council dropped the sectarian invocations.
AU opposed public school graduations in houses of worship and the inclusion of religious dogma in public school curricula:
- We won court victories on behalf of families who objected to high school graduations at churches in Wisconsin and Connecticut. In Ohio, we urged the state’s Supreme Court not to allow teachers to teach creationism in its public school classrooms.
AU worked to prevent churches and other religious organizations from becoming cogs in the Religious Right’s political machine:
- The federal tax code prohibits houses of worship and other tax-exempt non-profit organizations from interfering in elections. Egged on by groups like the right-wing Alliance Defending Freedom, some clergy decided to disregard the law. AU alerted the IRS to church electioneering in Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida, Missouri, New York, Texas, Colorado, Maryland and other states.
As long as the Religious Right seeks to destroy the essential wall between church and state, we must keep working to maintain and strengthen it.