Editor’s Note: The constitutional principle of religious freedom has been undermined like never before under the Trump administration. This year we have seen unprecedented attacks on reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality, and an erosion of church-state separation that threatens religious minorities and the nonreligious in America.
As the new year approaches, we’re taking a look back at the Top 10 church-state separation issues of 2019 – and how AU has led the charge against these blatant violations of our Constitution.
Americans United raised the alarm that the unprecedented attacks on reproductive rights this year were directly linked to efforts to undermine church-state separation. Religious beliefs often are used to justify regressive reproductive policies such as the abortion bans that were proposed in several states and the Trump administration’s rules that would allow employers and universities to use religion to deny employees and students access to birth control.
In an op-ed published in the Chicago Tribune last May, AU President and CEO Rachel Laser laid out the connection between attacks on reproductive rights and religious freedom, pointing to comments from politicians like Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey and Missouri state Rep. Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston) that referenced their religious beliefs while passing restrictive abortion bills.
“These abortion bans are but one piece of a larger Christian nationalist effort sweeping America now,” wrote Laser, who went on to describe the Project Blitz campaign invading state legislatures to pass laws that misuse religious freedom to harm others, and President Donald Trump advancing a similar agenda at the federal level in order to pander to his white evangelical Christian voting base.
To combat Trump’s regressive agenda, AU appeared in court in June to fight for University of Notre Dame students who have lost insurance coverage for birth control because of a combination of the Trump administration’s illegal backdoor settlement with Notre Dame and the Trump birth control rules.
It was the first court hearing in Irish 4 Reproductive Health v. HHS, the lawsuit we filed alongside the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Women’s Law Center on behalf of a Notre Dame student group. The judge’s decision is still pending.
AU and allies also filed two federal lawsuits this year to challenge the Trump administration’s Denial of Care Rule, which invites any health care worker to deny care to any patient because of religious beliefs. Limiting access to reproductive health care is one of the goals of the rule. All three judges who have issued opinions on the rule have struck it down and blocked it from going into effect in November, including the judge in AU’s California case, who said, “The whole rule must go.”
We won’t let politicians, employers or universities dismantle reproductive freedom or religious freedom. Join us to protect these crucial freedoms and declare reproductive freedom IS religious freedom.
Photo: Activists rally in Washington, D.C., to protect access to birth control.