The past few weeks have been productive ones for members of Americans United’s staff. Here is a round-up of recent activities:
Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn did a swing through Texas in mid-May. Lynn began in San Antonio May 17, where he addressed AU’s San Antonio Chapter on the topic of “Separation Anxiety: The Future of Church-State Separation.”
On May 18, Lynn was in Houston for the annual meeting of that city’s AU chapter. He capped things off with an event in El Paso May 19. Join Us For Justice, AU’s El Paso Chapter, sponsored “An Evening of Civil Discourse” at Temple Mount Sinai.
All of these events were open to the public.
On April 23, Lynn appeared on “Interfaith Voices,” a radio program that is carried by many NPR stations, to debate the spate of so-called “religious freedom” bills with Travis Weber of the Family Research Council. The show is hosted by Sister Maureen Fiedler.
Greg Lipper, AU’s senior litigation counsel, traveled to Cincinnati April 19 to participate in an oral argument in an important church-state case pending before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The case, Bormuth v. County of Jackson, is a challenge to government-sponsored prayers in Jackson County, Mich. The plaintiff, Peter Bormuth, asserts that the county commissioners begin most meetings with Christian prayers led by commissioners. Lipper handled part of the oral argument, asserting that the commissioners’ prayer policy is unconstitutional.
In May Lipper appeared on “Public Square,” a Virginia-based public-access television program, to debate birth control policy with Matthew Bowman of Alliance Defending Freedom.
AU Faith Outreach Specialist Bill Mefford wrote an opinion column for the website Ministry Matters recently that criticized Tennessee legislators for considering a bill to name the Bible the official state book.
Mefford’s piece, titled “Constantine in Tennessee,” noted that authentic faith does not need nor seek the prop of the state.
“Instead of utilizing the resources of Tennessee to care for the needs of the state’s most vulnerable populations, lawmakers tried to make the Bible the state book,” Mefford wrote. “Such symbolization of Christian objects and practices only serves to keep those objects and practices enshrined and untouchable, almost like being preserved in a museum. And what objects are placed in a museum? Those which we never use anymore but pause occasionally to remember the days long ago when they were put to good use.”
Mefford hosted a call with clergy from around the nation May 3. He briefed participants on state and federal legislation and shared strategies for faith communities that want to stop religion from being used to harm others.
On May 5, Mefford traveled to Philadelphia to speak to the Delaware Valley AU Chapter on the topic “Keeping Sacred Spaces Sacred: A Discussion on Pulpit Politicking.” On May 9, he was in Des Moines speaking at the 20th anniversary celebration of the Iowa Interfaith Alliance. The next day, Mefford led training on houses of worship and political activity at the First Christian Church.
In late April, Georgia Equality, a group that works on behalf of LGBT rights in the state, announced that it will honor AU Legislative Director Maggie Garrett during its 12th annual “Evening for Equality” banquet June 18.
Garrett will receive the group’s Allen Thornell Political Advancement Award. In an announcement about the award, the organization praised Garrett for being “the most responsive attorney Georgia Equality works with in reviewing legislative language” and for her willingness to “leave her home in DC at a moment’s notice to spend the day at the capitol supporting our work.”