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October Surprise: The Day Sen. Kennedy Laid Down The (Church-State) Law At Liberty University

U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy certainly led an interesting life. Known as a champion of the poor and downtrodden, he was also a powerful advocate for religious liberty and church-state separation who was adept at forging unlikely alliances with conservative Republicans.

One of the more unusual episodes in Kennedy's life occurred on Oct. 3, 1983, when the senator spoke at what was then known as Liberty Baptist College in Lynchburg, Va. -- now Liberty University.

That's right – Kennedy once gave a major address at the Rev. Jerry Falwell's school! Read more

Amen To Abington: High Court Decision Preserved Children's Religious Liberty

I grew up in Ohio in late '80s through the '90s. My parents, sisters and I were one of the few South Asian families in town, and I was one of only two Hindu students in my graduating class of nearly 350 students.

Fortunately for me, it mattered little that I was Hindu and most of my classmates were Christian. I can't really remember any time the school brought in religion -- a rarity I appreciated living so close to the Bible belt.

But had I been in sixth grade in 1962 rather than 1992, things might have been different. Read more

Jefferson & Obama v. Hannity & Rove: You Know Who's Gonna Win This Bout

The partisan pugilists over at Fox News Channel have been howling about President Barack Obama's insistence that America is a pluralistic nation that respects all faiths.

Obama, you may recall, said during his recent visit to Turkey that the United States is "a secular country that is respectful of religious freedom, respectful of rule of law, respectful of freedom...." Read more

Rolling Back Religious Liberty: Virginia Group Attacks Church-State Separation

Does the Virginia Statute for Religious Liberty need updating?

As many of you probably know, the Virginia Statute, approved by the state legislature in 1786, ended the Anglican Established Church and guaranteed broad freedom of religion in the commonwealth for the first time.

In ringing language written by Thomas Jefferson, the Statute proclaimed that "no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever." Read more

Veto Power: What James Madison Can Teach Barack Obama

In the history of church-state separation, certain dates are special: On Dec. 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights was officially ratified. On Jan. 1, 1802, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury (Conn.) Baptists containing the famous "wall of separation between church and state" metaphor. The U.S. Supreme Court spoke strongly in favor of separation in Everson v. Board of Education, issued on Feb. 10, 1947. Read more

A New Year's Greeting For The Ages: Jefferson's Jan. 1 Letter To The Danbury Baptists Still Rings True

I love Thomas Jefferson's New Year's Day greeting to the Danbury Baptists in part because it drives the Religious Right into such paroxysms of paranoia, ignorance and intemperance.

As I'm sure most of you know, President Jefferson sent a friendly missive to his Baptist admirers in Connecticut on Jan. 1, 1802. He thanked them for their support of him and of religious liberty. He also celebrated the First Amendment's religious liberty provisions and expressed sympathy for the Baptists' plight in a state where religious minorities still faced government hostility. Read more

Thanksgiving 2008: Be Thankful For Religious Liberty

Note: This post is a re-publication of one that originally appeared on Thanksgiving Day 2007. Enjoy the holiday!

When you sit down to your Thanksgiving dinner today, do you plan to say grace?

If so, what religious tradition will the prayer come from? Will it be a blessing from the Jewish, Muslim or Hindu faiths? Will it be Catholic, Mormon or one of the infinite varieties of Protestant denominations?

Maybe you won't offer a prayer at all, instead simply thanking the cook for the bounteous meal set before you rather than a deity of any sort. Read more

Hell In Little Axe: An Oklahoma Mom's Chilling Battle With Religious Bigotry

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight a story that reminds me why I am thankful to work for Americans United and the cause of church-state separation.

Last Sunday, Dr. Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists interviewed Joann Bell on his radio show. Read more

Faith-Based Advice: Coalition Urges Presidential Candidates To Change Bush's Initiative

In February of 1811, President James Madison vetoed a congressional bill incorporating an Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. Citing the First Amendment, Madison said the measure "exceeds the rightful authority to which governments are limited by the essential distinction between civil and religious functions." Read more

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