November 2018 Church & State - November 2018

Americans United In Action: Staff Members, Chapter Leaders And Activists Spread The Word About Church-State Separation

  Rob Boston

Americans United staff members and activists have kept busy lately promoting separation of church and state in a variety of events.

Here’s some information about recent happenings:

Rachel Laser, AU president and CEO, traveled to Nashville Oct. 11 for a meeting with faith leaders. The next day, Laser was in Tulsa, where she spoke at Congregation B’nai Emunah on the topic “Religious Liberty in the Era of Trump: Where We Are and Where We’re Going.”

Rachel Laser with Nashville Chapter members and faith leaders

(Photo: AU President and CEO Rachel Laser, center, with AU Nashville Chapter members and local faith leaders.)

On Oct. 15, Laser took part in the National Council of Churches’ “Christian Unity Gathering” conference in College Park, Md. Laser led a workshop for seminary students on the intersection between efforts to distort religious freedom and racism.

Elise Helgesen Aguilar, AU’s federal legislative counsel, was honored for her work opposing vouchers by the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools Sept. 24. The group, which ensures adequate funding for public schools located on federal property, gave Helgesen Aguilar a “Special Recognition Award” for her work to defeat a proposal to convert federal Impact Aid into a voucher plan. Sasha Pudelski, advocacy director for the American Association of School Administrators, and Eileen Huck, government relations deputy director of the National Military Family Association, were also honored.

Elise Helgesen Aguilar and others get award

(Photo: Elise Helgesen Aguilar, second from left, is among the awardees from the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools.)

AU Legislative Director Maggie Garrett addressed the Liberal Ladies and Men of the Lowcountry Oct. 5 in Hilton Head, S.C. Garrett briefed the group on current threats to religious freedom.

Alex J. Luchenitser, AU’s associate legal director, participated in a Sept. 18 panel discussion at the Jones Day law firm in Washington, D.C. The panel focused on church-state cases that might reach the Supreme Court. It was moderated by Amy Howe of the popular site “SCOTUSBlog.”

Americans United welcomed a new staff member Oct. 10. Tali Israeli will serve as the organization’s director of strategic communications. Israeli, a veteran of several Washington, D.C., nonprofits and Capitol Hill offices, will shape an aggressive communications strategy to boost AU’s visibility as the nation’s leading organization defending the separation of church and state. Employing traditional and social media platforms, she will guide the organization’s messaging strategies to the media, political leaders, the legal community and the public.

Tali Israeli

(Photo: Tali Israeli, AU’s new Director of Strategic Communications.)

Americans United’s Clay County Chapter in Florida held an event Oct. 6 titled “Understand the Ballot Amend­ments Before You Vote on Nov. 6.” A speaker from the League of Women Voters focused on various ballot measures in that state.

Ronal Madnick, president of Americans United’s Massachusetts Chapter and an outgoing member of AU’s Board of Trustees, took part in an Oct. 3 panel sponsored by the Secular Society of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Titled “What’s At Stake: Sep­aration of Religion and State Today,” the event also featured Carol Rose, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union, Massachusetts Chapter, and Zachary Bos, co-chair, Sec­ular Coalition for America, Massa­chusetts Chapter.

AU’s Orange County Chapter in Cal­ifornia held an event on Oct. 20 in Irvine featuring Lubna Yaseen, who addressed the topic, “An Atheist’s Escape to Freedom.” Yaseen, a native of Baghdad, was targeted by extremists because of her secular beliefs. She escaped from the area in 2017 with help from Secular Rescue. She now lives in Cal­ifornia.

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