At Americans United, we venerate the Constitution, which became the foundation of a nation determined to preserve freedom of religion, along with freedom of speech, assembly and the press.
But we also acknowledge that the Founders who gave us these principles gravely compromised their legacy by condoning the enslavement of millions of black people. A Civil War was fought partially to free them, and yet, almost 250 years after our founding, we are still struggling with that legacy of oppression and systemic racism. Religious ideals were also distorted. While The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and thousands of other clergy fought for abolition and civil rights, others cited the Bible as permission for slave-holding and white supremacy, an “article of faith” in Christian Nationalist quarters even today.
Many of us are supporting the peaceful protests across the nation against racism and police brutality. It is all of a piece with our values, which could be summed up by Maya Angelou’s words that no one of us can be free until everybody is free. The issue of racial equality is also intertwined with our work: for example, when we fight against private school vouchers used to fund religious education, we are also fighting taxpayer support for hundreds of schools that at best exclude and at worst were founded as segregationist academies, specifically designed to keep white and black children apart.
This week, we continue to file legal briefs supporting governors and others who are lawfully restricting both religious and secular gatherings to protect public health. With the Trump administration issuing new regulations allowing discrimination in the name of religion and taking every opportunity to pander to religious extremists, our to-do list is constantly growing.
But we realize that for AU to succeed, we must do our part in building an inclusive movement that can change this country for the better. So we are asking you, this week, to also reach out to the civil rights organization of your choice, whether it’s national, or local to your own city or state, or a coalition like the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, to which AU belongs. Learn from them how you can help build our movement.
Right now, as hundreds of thousands of people are in the street to call for justice, we can do nothing more important than support them and the ideals of a country in which everyone is free.