Americans United for Separation of Church and State today announced its sponsorship of a nationwide series of grassroots house concerts and live shows that will defend and celebrate the vital principle of church-state separation.
“Voices United for Separation of Church and State,” a first-of-its-kind concert series, will take place Sept. 28 – Oct. 1. Over 75 events are scheduled, with at least one in all 50 states.
Performances will feature celebrity comedians Sarah Silverman and Russell Brand, as well as musicians such as Catie Curtis, Janis Ian, John McCutcheon, Mary Gauthier, Guy Davis, Roy Zimmerman and Natalia Zukerman.
Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “We are thrilled that such a diverse array of singers and entertainers has stepped forward to focus attention on the bedrock American values of fairness, equality and justice for all. They are all truly ‘voices united for separation of church and state.’
“This is a unique but timely event,” Lynn continued. “With a major national election approaching, we are sending a clear message: religion and government must be kept separate.”
AU’s Lynn says the United States faces unrelenting threats to individual freedom from the Religious Right and other sectarian forces. Well-funded groups, he asserts, are waging war on women, seeking to base health care policy on religious doctrine, trying to deny civil rights to the LGBT community, undermining public schools and attempting to turn churches into a political machine.
Lynn, a long-time folk music fan, says singers, songwriters and other performers have been a powerful driver of social justice since the founding of the United States, and this is one more example.
An array of concerts will be held in a diverse number of locations, including:
* Los Angeles: Sarah Silverman and Russell Brand will perform Oct. 1 at the historic El Ray Theatre, along with Mary Gauthier and Catie Curtis.
* Washington, D.C.: Folk singer and multi-instrumentalist John McCutcheon and Tret Fure, prominent in the women’s music scene, will perform at the Church of the Epiphany.
* New Orleans: Poet Chuck Perkins and accompanying musicians will perform his unique brand of slam poetry with a strong focus on social justice.
* New York City: Musicians Natalia Zukerman and Ed Romanoff and writer LaShonda Barnett will take the stage.
* Nashville: Three shows will take place Sept. 28-29 and Oct. 1, featuring a variety of artists. The Oct. 1 show at theBelcourt Theatre includes an appearance by the legendary Janis Ian.
* Montgomery, Ala.: Blues artist Guy Davis swill be performing at the home of Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Although Voices United features plenty of big-city venues, middle America is not forgotten. Shows will occur in Denali, Alaska; Laramie, Wyo.; Rehoboth Beach, Del.; Gates Mills, Ohio and Elkins Park, Pa., among others. (For the full list of concert performers and locations, visit the Voices United website.)
Voices United has received financial support from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation in North Carolina.
Said Todd Stiefel, founder and president of the foundation, "I chose to have my foundation partner with AU on Voices United because it brilliantly combines fun with activism. This is a way to use musical creativity to educate that secular government is a prerequisite for true freedom."
Voices United is being produced by Curtis, a heralded folk-pop singer-songwriter, and musician-producer John Jennings.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.