The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), an Americans United ally, has hired Amanda Tyler to be its executive director beginning in 2017.
When the Religious Right started to become a prominent force in American politics in the late 1970s, its advocates had a major impact on the country’s largest Protestant denomination: the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
Younger readers may be surprised to read that the SBC, which claims 16 million members, used to be fairly moderate on social issues. It strongly supported the separation of church and state, citing historical Baptist leaders like John Leland and Isaac Backus.
If the Rev. Fred Phelps’ hate-mongering Westboro Baptist Church gets swept away in a tornado, should the taxpayers be responsible for rebuilding it?
Some folks in Congress seem to think so. The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted overwhelmingly to require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to pay for reconstruction and repair of houses of worship damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013 (H.R. 592) passed 354-72.
Your calendar might not note this, but today is Religious Freedom Day, an event that celebrates passage of Thomas Jefferson’s pioneering Statute for Religious Freedom in Virginia.
Some quick background: In 1784, Patrick Henry introduced a bill in the Virginia legislature that would have required all residents to pay a tax “for the support of the Christian religion, or of some Christian church, denomination or communion of Christians, or for some form of Christian worship.”
Every year around this time the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) issues a memo asserting that public school officials can teach about the religious aspects of Easter in class.
Can public schools actually do this? Yes and no. Like any other discussion of religion in public schools, it all depends on what is being said in the classroom.
The law regarding prayer in public schools is settled: Public schools can’t promote prayer or religious worship. It is simply not their job. The Supreme Court first made this clear nearly 50 years ago in 1962’s Engel v. Vitale ruling.
The 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks is fast approaching, giving the Religious Right just a few more days to rant and rave about the lack of official prayers at the commemoration sponsored by New York City.
When I read about some of things the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has done over the years – calling for boycotts of Disney parks and products, passing resolutions telling wives to be submissive to husbands, bashing gay people, etc. – I must remind myself that there are still plenty of good people who bear the Baptist name.
Some of them work with at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty here in Washington. A host of others are across the Potomac River in Virginia.
Religious Right groups regularly insist that all devout Americans, especially Christians, must be against the separation of church and state.
As usual, they’re completely off the mark. In fact, many people of faith are among the strongest supporters of church-state separation. And we have a new piece of evidence.
Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, the third woman and the first Latina to ever serve as a justice.
It's a historical milestone, and Americans United is looking forward to watching the new justice in action, particularly when it comes to church-state issues.
As we have mentioned before, we know very little about Sotomayor's views on our issues. That will change in upcoming months.