Racial Equality

After My Internship At AU, I’m More Anxious About Church-State Separation Than Ever – And That’s A Good Thing

  Ethan Magistro

For the past eight weeks, I’ve been working with the Americans United Communications Department to spread the word about the importance of church-state separation. I’ve learned a colossal amount about the issue during my time here, but, as I prepare to leave, I’m more concerned about the separation of church and state than I ever have been – and that’s the way it should be. It means that AU has successfully impressed upon me how serious the fight for the wall of separation is, and it drives me to spread the word and get others involved in church-state activism. More than anything, I’m eager to share information about Americans United and support its work long after my internship.

Of course, I’m sure much of my passion for AU comes from the nurturing and educational environment my colleagues created for interns. I can’t gush enough about how great of an organization AU is. From day one, my colleagues welcomed me warmly, shared their stories and impressed upon me how important church-state separation is. Even while working virtual, I had the chance to speak to members of each department and even Rachel Laser herself. Speaking with the CEO of an organization is something I figured an intern never did, yet she was happy to talk with all the interns. It was plain from the start that AU cares about its interns, and that made for an immensely rewarding experience.

Through my research for the blog posts and my conversations with AU experts, I’ve become cautiously optimistic about the future of church-state separation, although the pragmatic side of me knows that many threats challenge the wall and that widening cracks have been inflicted upon it. I know that defending the wall is an unending duty. Nonetheless, my time here has made me ready and willing to accept that duty. It has fired me up about issues that more need to know about, issues that make me lean back in my chair, put my hands on my head and go “Ohhhhh my gosh” in awe at the kind of dystopia religious extremists envision. A few people here at AU have probably witnessed me do that as we discussed upcoming legal battles, Supreme Court cases or the extent Christian nationalists will go to get their way.

Above all, I want to echo the sentiments of Allie, one of my fellow interns, who called for more of our generation to get involved in church-state separation. The issue is the hidden keystone of most civil rights work that Gen-Zers are passionate about. The efforts of other activists to secure equality for LGBTQ people, minorities and others all depend on the ability of church-state separation advocates to prevent religious institutions from weakening civil rights protections. Any progress that champions of cultural equality have made would be quickly neutralized if the law carves out a religious freedom bunker for bigotry to hide behind. Be it from Project Blitz in the state legislature, the federal courts or simple misinformation about religion’s role in our nation, Christian nationalists are mobilizing to attack the wall of separation on all fronts. My generation must be ready to defend it from all sides, or else it will lose the battle for equality before it even began.

As I wrap up my summer at Americans United, I feel overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to learn and develop this internship provided me. I am even more grateful for the connections I have made here at AU and the many people who have helped me succeed as a young advocate. Most of all, I’m grateful to the many members of AU who make our good work possible. Without you all, the wall would already be destroyed, the fight already over. Americans United has an impact because of your support.

I can only hope that my blog posts have helped make an impact and spread the word about church-state separation. To quote George Washington’s Farewell Address, “I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize without alloy the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government.”

I am only excited to see how Americans United defends our good laws and defends my fellow citizens.

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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