Rachel Laser is a lawyer, advocate and strategist who has dedicated the last two decades of her life to fighting to make the country inclusive for all Americans. She has a proven track record of uniting both faith and secular leaders and advocacy organizations to make tangible progress on some of the most important issues of our time.
And as a religious minority – she was raised as a Reform Jew – she understands personally how much it matters that our laws treat everyone fairly and equally. She is an advocate for racial justice and has led workshops, given speeches and worked with schools and universities to challenge racism and expose privilege.
She knows the work of Americans United has never been more important than it is today. And she will work to continue our fight to defeat the many new and serious threats to religious freedom and the separation of church and state coming from the Trump-Pence Administration and across the country.
As the deputy director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (the RAC), Rachel worked to further its historic mission of strengthening the separation of religion and government. She also ran interfaith campaigns on a number of critical issues, including LGBTQ equality, immigration reform, gun violence prevention, and paid sick, family and medical leave.
Before the RAC, Rachel directed the Culture Program at Third Way, a Washington, D.C., progressive think tank specializing in understanding and reaching moderates. There, she launched the "Come Let Us Reason Together" Initiative, which mobilized evangelical Christians and liberals to work together on critical issues including women’s reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality. She also helped draft the first-of-its-kind common ground abortion bill to be introduced jointly by pro-life and pro-choice members of Congress.
As senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), Rachel founded and ran the Pharmacy Refusal Project which challenged pharmacists who were refusing to fill women’s birth control prescriptions in the name of religion. She also leveraged NWLC’s network to advocate for judicial appointments with a proven and positive record on women's issues, and lobbied in favor of reproductive health bills while working to educate members of Congress and NWLC members about the perils of anti-choice legislation.
Rachel is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Chicago Law School. She also serves as a national board member of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Her religion is an important part of her identity. “I believe that religion can provide guidance, ritual and structure for celebrating, reflecting on and dealing with life,” she says. At the same time, many in her immediate family identify as atheist or agnostic. “Some of the people I love and respect the most are non-believers. They are also some of the most moral, ethical and principled people I know.”
Rachel lives in Washington, D.C. She and her husband have three children and a dog, Teddy.
Rachel Laser, the new executive director of Americans United, sat down for an interview that will appear in the March 2018 issue of Church & State magazine. Here's a preview of what she had to say about church-state separation, her two decades of work to make America more inclusive, and how she'd prefer to spend a Saturday morning.
Q. What excites you about leading Americans United at this moment in history?