I am very excited to be working at Americans United as the summer writing intern. When I thought about how to spend my summer, I knew I wanted to work for an organization that strives to protect the fundamental rights of American citizens. Freedom of religion is at the forefront of the American experience; it’s a precious right that every citizen enjoys. Furthermore, the separation of church and state reflects our country’s necessary mission to ensure that religion does not dictate policymaking.
Unfortunately, we see that in many instances, issues over the separation of church and state have become especially contentious. One important example of this that I am personally very passionate about is in the area of women’s reproductive rights and the freedom to get a legal abortion. Despite the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, many states have enacted restrictions that make it nearly impossible for women to access abortion. And many of the anti-abortion views that have led to these tough restrictions are rooted in religion. Allowing religious beliefs to interfere in reproductive policy threatens to undermine church-state separation in this country.
As a history and global studies student, I know that the freedom of religion and the separation of religion and government are essential rights that have too often been ignored or neglected, leading to political and religious tensions all over the world. Americans United’s work is, therefore, all the more meaningful as we try to create an inclusive country that champions religious diversity and freedom while fighting against religious discrimination in all aspects of life.
It’s not the job of our government to tell its citizens what to believe, but rather to protect an individual’s right to believe or not to believe. At the same time, however, it is necessary that we keep religious and policy spheres separate, as it is not the place of religious beliefs to dictate the laws of this country.
There’s no time more important to work on these issues than during a global health crisis that threatens our normal way of life – and that’s another reason I wanted to work at AU this summer. Even during times of uncertainty, our country and government must continue to uphold the laws and principles of the Constitution. These issues have become extremely complicated as the coronavirus spreads and quarantine closures have been met with opposition from those insisting that they have the right to meet for in-person worship even in the face of orders from state officials limiting large gatherings of all types.
I want to witness firsthand the work that goes into grappling with this important topic. As a rising junior in college with plans to eventually go to law school and work in the nonprofit world, I look forward this summer to learning more about the complexities at the heart of AU’s vital mission.