April 2019 Church & State Magazine - April 2019

AU In Action: Staff Members And Activists Spread The Word About Separation

  Rob Boston

Americans United staff members and chapter activists have been hard at work supporting separation of church and state. Here are some highlights:

Rachel Laser, AU president and CEO, was in Michigan March 7 to deliver a keynote address to the Glazer Institute. Laser’s talk, “The Power of Faith in America,” took place at the 77th Annual Rabbi Benedict and Ada S. Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills.

The Glazer Institute is the longest-running interfaith institute in the country. The event, which was free and open to the public, was co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Com­mittee-Detroit, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit.

To watch Laser’s speech online, click here:

Senior Adviser and Church & State Editor Rob Boston addressed the New Jersey Humanist Network March 30 in Somerset, N.J. The next day, Boston traveled to Willow Grove, Pa., where he spoke to the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia. In both places. Boston delivered a talk titled “Separation of Church and State: Where We’ve Been, Where We Are, And Where We’d Like To Be.”

Alex J. Luchenitser, AU’s associate legal director, was in Miami March 12 to argue one of Americans United’s legal cases before a federal appeals court. Luchenitser told the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners is discriminating against nontheists in their community by refusing to allow them to deliver invocations, even though that right is often extended to members of religious groups.

Americans United is litigating the case, Williamson v. Brevard County, alongside the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida.

In a story on the argument, Courthouse News Service reported, “The proceedings in the 11th Circuit’s Miami division touched on everything from metaphysics to Supreme Court case law. Up for debate is whether the secular philosophy known as humanism is a religion, and whether the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway cleared the way for Brevard County’s exclusionary policy.”

AU’s Upstate South Carolina Chapter held its quarterly chapter meeting Feb. 23 in Greenville. The speaker was Dr. Andrew Whitehead, an assistant professor of Sociology at Clemson University, whose speech was titled “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States.”

On March 16, AU’s Orange County, Calif. Chapter hosted an event tilted “Creating LGBTQ Dialogue within Evangelical Spaces” in Irvine. The speaker was Justin Massey, a program associate for Equality California.

Americans United is also pleased to announce the appointment of a new member to its Board of Trustees. Jim Winkler, president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC), was named to the Board in March.

Winkler, a United Methodist, has served as head of the NCC since 2013. The group represents 38 member communions and over 40 million individuals from Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical and other faith traditions.

“These are challenging times for the separation of church and state,” Winkler said. “Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, the church should not be the master of the state nor should it be the servant of the state. Rather, the faith community has a prophetic role to play in regard to the state, and Americans United helps keep us on point, on task and honest as we speak truth to the state. I’m looking forward to helping to ensure the continued vitality and health of this critical organization.”

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