Editor’s Note: This post by Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of AU’s Church & State magazine. To subscribe and get Church & State delivered to your door every month, become a member of AU.
There’s a new AU.org in town! It shares a lot with the old one, but it’s revitalized, up with the times and relatable. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, please find some time to visit our new website at au.org.
Let me tell you what you will find there: First and foremost, you will see faces. Faces that represent different backgrounds, races, religions and ages. The faces of the beautiful mosaic that makes our country unique. Faces that you might even see yourself among if we got it right. The faces of Americans United!
You will also notice that these faces are rotating in a window that is in the shape of a shield. That’s because church-state separation operates as a shield that protects our right to live as ourselves and believe as we choose.
Featured on the site is our new tagline: “Freedom without Favor, Equality without Exception.”
Scroll down a bit, and you can watch a short video called “Why Religious Freedom Matters.” Click on it and you will meet many of AU’s plaintiffs and supporters and understand from what they are saying how many issues are implicated by church-state separation – from religious freedom to LGBTQ equality to racial justice.
Want to see the latest from AU? There is a drop-down menu at the top of the home page called “The Latest.” There you can read the most recent blog posts, press releases and other AU statements. Want to get active? There is a “Get Involved” drop-down menu that offers many options – and it’s right next to a bright, colorful “Donate” button that makes giving to AU easy.
Click on “How We Protect Religious Freedom” at the top of the page, and you can choose “Litigation” to visit our case library of AU legal cases. You can even search it by topic. The “How We Protect Religious Freedom” tab will also take you to “Advocacy,” where you can engage with our public policy efforts in Congress and the states and also share your own story about why church-state separation is important to you.
Meanwhile, as you scroll through the website, I hope you will be thinking things like, “This is pretty easy to navigate” and “I’m enjoying spending time on this website” and “This group is incredibly substantive.” We hope one of our key goals for our new “look and feel” will resonate, and that’s the idea that AU is a place where “still waters run deep.” In other words, we are your stable, calm and trustworthy defenders, and underneath that surface, we are deeply and fiercely passionate about protecting your freedom to practice any religion or none as you choose. Please feel free to share your feedback on this and other features of the website.
Since we all know that good things, generally speaking, don’t just happen, I would like to tell you about the three main building blocks for this successful rebrand. First, there was the strategic roadmap that AU’s Board of Trustees and staff created together during my first year here. AU was already playing a leadership role in shaping and enforcing the law to protect the principles of church-state separation and religious freedom, but the roadmap clarified that in order to maximize our ability to do this, AU needed to enhance our profile, brand and visibility and expand and diversify our support. That drove us to prioritize rebranding ourselves to attract greater and broader attention.
Second, we conducted probing public opinion research in an effort to understand how exactly to connect better with different and more diverse audiences. This research, which included large polls and also smaller focus groups, gave us rich insights. It confirmed that for many of our expansion audiences, including women, younger people and people of color, we need to lean into the idea that our issue is about equality as much as it’s about freedom. That epiphany played a formative role in our new tagline: “Freedom without Favor, Equality without Exception.”
The research illuminated that people gravitate strongly toward the idea of AU as a shield, so the shield will be a new theme for AU. And it clarified that people’s support for church-state separation increases if they better understand that the freedom and equality of their neighbors and even their own selves are at stake. Hence, our website is filled with images of real people and explains how we are protected by the separation of religion and government.
Third, and certainly not least, we had phenomenal people giving their blood, sweat and tears to this project. Really, our entire staff gets kudos because you don’t produce a product like this without countless hours from each AU department. But I would like to give a special shout-out to our Communications staff. So here it goes: Naomi, Liz, Amy, Madelyn and Rob, you treated this project like it was your own child you were birthing, and it shows! (By the way, just like babies need a little time to adjust after they emerge, so our website will need some tweaks and corrections in this first phase.) The woman-run firm we worked with, Teal Media (“Creative with a Conscience”), also deserves its own recognition for excellent work and keeping everyone on task and on time.
Our website and rebrand debuts just as I hit my four-year mark leading Americans United, so allow me to reflect on that for a moment, too.
When I started, I hoped that AU would modernize so we could make clear our issue was relevant to people’s lives today and we could reach more Americans. And here’s our rebrand and new website. Wow! I’m in awe of the immense work and generous support it took to make this happen.
Back to the concept of “real people”: For the past four years, the people I have gotten to know best on a personal level are our talented staff, our incredible board, some of our wonderful, brave plaintiffs and many of YOU. Some people ask me how I keep my energy up and hope alive. All you real people I work with and on behalf of every day have been the most powerful motivator for me.
Looking forward to all to come – and to your many visits to our new website!