Our Policy Team Defends Religious Freedom

Our Constitution promises everyone the freedom to believe as they want, but doesn’t give anyone the right to use their religious beliefs to harm others. Americans United’s policy advocates protect the separation of church and state and fight for your rights in Congress, the White House, and state legislatures.

Keeping Public Funds in Public Schools

Public money should go to public schools. Public schools are open to all students regardless of race, religion, or ability. They are a unifying force in our society. But private school vouchers funnel desperately-needed public resources away from our public schools to fund the education of much fewer students at private, mostly religious schools.

AU opposes private school vouchers because they primarily fund religious education with public money. Each of us should get to decide how – and whether – to support religious education.

Since our founding in 1947, AU has fought against attempts to send public funds to private schools. Our policy experts monitor state and federal legislation, advise policymakers, offer expert testimony, and alert citizen activists when public education is at risk. We serve as co-chair of the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE), a national anti-voucher coalition that works to oppose private school vouchers in Congress and the Administration.

Learn more about our work fighting vouchers

Fighting the Use of Religion to Discriminate

Our Constitution promises everyone the freedom to believe as they want, but doesn’t give anyone the right to use their religious beliefs to harm others. Nonetheless, we often see individuals and institutions misuse religious freedom as a license to discriminate.

Some want to use their religious beliefs as an excuse to deny health care, refuse to provide goods and services, and disobey civil rights laws protecting us all from discrimination. Some organizations that receive tax dollars to provide social services are even trying to use religion as a reason to discriminate against others.

AU’s policy team opposes policies that would harm others in the name of religion. We fight these efforts in Congress, the presidential administration, and state legislatures. We lead the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination (CARD), which is a coalition of national groups that oppose government-funded religious discrimination. And we advocate for Congress to pass the Do No Harm Act, a vital piece of legislation that will help protect religious freedom for all while ensuring that it can’t be misused to harm others.

Learn more about our work fighting discrimination in the name of religion

Ensuring Government Does Not Fund or Favor Religion

Our Constitution promises that the government may not prefer or disfavor any one religion, or religion over nonreligion. It also means that we get to decide whether and how our money goes to support religion.

When government sponsors prayer, displays religious symbols, or gives taxpayer money to support certain religious activities, it sends the message that some faiths are preferred over others or that religion is preferred over nonreligion. No American should be made to feel excluded because of what they believe (or do not believe). Government promotion of religion divides, rather than unites, Americans.

Our policy team is there to counter unfair attempts to promote and pay for religion by Congress, presidential administrations, and state legislatures. For example, we oppose efforts to use taxpayer dollars to build houses of worship, pay for religious education at private schools, fund clergy salaries, or subsidize religious activities and programs carried out by social service providers.

Learn more about our work ensuring government does not promote religion

Guaranteeing Our Public Schools Are Welcoming to All

America’s public schools serve students from a wide array of backgrounds. Equality means that students should be able to attend their school without fear that they will be preached to or taught according to someone else’s faith. Public school students should be given evidence-based instruction — not religious teachings. And decisions about whether, when, or how to pray should be left to parents and students themselves.

AU’s policy team works to ensure that public schools remain inclusive for all students regardless of religion. We do this by fighting school-sponsored prayer and religious instruction. At the same time, we support the rights of public school students to voluntarily pray or express their religion — so long as they don’t disrupt the schools’ educational mission or infringe on the rights of their classmates.

Our policy experts fight legislation that would mandate classes on the Bible in public schools, encourage school-sponsored prayer, or exempt student religious clubs from nondiscrimination rules. We advise policymakers, offer expert testimony, and alert citizen activists to speak out whenever the religious freedom rights of public school students are at risk.

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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