Members of Americans United’s national staff and chapter activists spent the past few weeks hard at work promoting separation of church and state in many venues.
Here’s a round-up of recent activities:
AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn spoke at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., Sept. 6. Lynn, who graduated from Dickinson in 1970 with an undergraduate degree in English, addressed the topic “Celebrating a Dead Letter or a Living Document?” The event was part of Dickinson’s Winfield C. Cook Constitution Day celebration.
An opinion column that Lynn wrote on the intersection of religion and politics appeared in several newspapers in late August, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Tulsa World and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
In the op-ed, Lynn urged voters to pay attention to the stands candidates take on issues like religious freedom and separation of church and state.
Wrote Lynn, “[R]ather than trying to judge the depth of a candidate’s religious commitment, we’d do better to ask Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and others some pointed questions: What do you think the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom means? Do you support freedom of conscience for all – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Pagans, non-believers and so on? Is there anything about your faith that will make it hard for you to do your job as a public official? How do you interpret the separation of church and state?”
Legal Director Richard B. Katskee was invited by officials with the U.S. military to take part in the Fourth Annual Joint Appellate Advocacy Training seminar Sept. 14. The event is designed to keep military lawyers up to date on current issues. The seminar took place in Arlington, Va.
AU’s Indiana Chapter tabled at Pride Fest in Bloomington Aug. 27. Chapter activist William Sanders reported that the event was a great success.
“The crowd was unique at this Pride Fest,” Sanders wrote in an email message to AU’s national office. “It was dominated by Indiana University college students who showed great interest in stopping and conversing, often displaying their constitutional knowledge. They traveled about in groups of 8-12 and at times we found ourselves surrounded and overwhelmed with questions and comments from all directions.”
AU’s Southern Nevada Chapter hosted a panel discussion Sept. 8 titled “Why Separate Church and State?” at the Sahara West Library in Las Vegas.
Speakers included Michael Green, Ph.D., associate professor of history at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Mel Lipman, an attorney and humanist leader, and Teji Malik, a leader in the state’s Sikh community. The event was moderated by Jill Acree, Ph.D., a history professor at the College of Southern Nevada and president of the AU chapter.
The Greater Houston Area AU Chapter hosted screenings of the film “God & Governing,” Sept. 9 and 12 at two locations in Houston. The film, produced by the Texas Tribune, was made in 2015 after a number of church-state controversies roiled the Texas legislature. The Tribune invited several lawmakers to discuss how faith influenced their public policy decisions.
The 27-minute video was followed by discussion sessions.
Finally, Americans United welcomed two new staff members recently. Rokia Hassanein is serving as communications associate. Hassanein is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland.
Eric Rothschild is AU’s new senior litigation attorney. Rothschild, formerly with Pepper Hamilton LLP in Philadelphia, worked with AU in 2005 as lead trial counsel in the Pennsylvania “intelligent design” case Kitzmiller v. Dover.