Americans United staff members, board members and activists hit the ground running in 2016 and are already hard at work defending church-state separation.
Recent activities include:
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, traveled to Sarasota, Fla., Jan. 25 to speak to the Sarasota-Manatee Chapter of Americans United. Lynn’s talk at Temple Sinai was titled “Separation Anxiety: How Safe Is True Religious Freedom?”
Days later, Lynn flew to Ames, Iowa, where he spoke at Iowa State University. His Jan. 31 talk, titled “God and Government,” took place in Memorial Union Great Hall and was part of the university’s “National Affairs Series: When American Values are in Conflict.”
While in Iowa, Lynn also served as a weekend theologian in residence for the Ames United Church of Christ and led a worship service on the topic “Proof Texting with Passion: How the Bible Lends Itself to Political Manipulation.”
AU Legal Director Richard B. Katskee has been teaching a class of first-year law students at American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C. The course is titled “Introduction to Public Law: Religion, Law and the State” and runs through May. On Feb. 9, Katskee traveled to Hofstra School of Law in Hempstead, N.Y., where he taught a course on church-state relations.
Katskee also took part in a panel discussion about creationism in public schools during a national conference sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. The Feb. 13 panel was titled “Why It Mattered in Court That Intelligent Design Isn’t Science.” Other panelists included Genie C. Scott, former executive director of the National Center for Science Education and a member of the AU Board of Trustees, and U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, who oversaw litigation in the Dover, Pa., intelligent design lawsuit.
Director of Communications Rob Boston in late January spoke to an interfaith delegation of Muslim and Christian religious leaders from Middle Eastern and African nations. The event was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and was designed to give the visitors a look at how religion and government relate in the United States.
On Feb. 22, Boston met with a delegation of students from Calvin College, a Michigan institution affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church.
AU Legislative Director Maggie Garrett was in Indianapolis Feb. 20 speaking at Civic Day, an event sponsored by the Center for Inquiry-Indiana.
Also on Feb. 20, Field Director Erin Taylor and Elise Helgesen Aguilar, federal legislative counsel, offered a seminar on lobbying and local activism for AU members in the Chapel Hill area of North Carolina.
AU Communications Associate Sarah Jones helped organize the D.C. Young Adult Interfaith Leadership Summit, a project of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, in Washington, D.C., Feb. 7. The event, held at Howard University’s School of Divinity, included an interfaith discussion night and a panel on welcoming non-religious activists to interfaith work, both of which Jones helped coordinate. Erin Hagen, AU’s field associate, and Claire Brainard, an intern in AU’s Field Department, distributed AU material at the event, which drew a crowd of more than 200.
The Rev. Harry Parrott, president of the Clay County, Fla., Chapter of Americans United, placed a letter to the editor in the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union Jan. 26, warning about the dangers of school vouchers.
Parrott pointed out that many of the schools taking part in Florida’s tax-credit scheme teach controversial ideas such as creationism and inaccurate views of American history.
“We should turn away from voucher schemes and insist on fulfilling the mandate in the Florida Constitution which calls for ‘a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools’ as the ‘paramount duty’ of the Legislature,” Parrott wrote.
Janice Rael, an AU chapter activist in New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, spoke at Mercer County (N.J.) Community College as part of the school’s Distinguished Lecture Series on Feb. 3. Rael addressed the topic, “Why Should I Care About the Separation Between Church and State?”