Members of the Americans United staff spent the last few weeks hard at work promoting separation of church and state. Here’s some news about recent activities:
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, did a swing through two Southern states in late September and early October.
Lynn spoke at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C., Sept. 30. His speech was titled “God and Government.”
Lynn’s visit to the school was sponsored by several organizations: American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, Circular Congregational Church, College of Charleston Pre-Law Program, College of Charleston Secular Student Alliance, Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry and the Charleston Americans United Chapter. It was part of the College of Charleston’s Constitution Day program.
The evening of that same day, Lynn addressed AU’s Charleston Chapter at Circular Congregational Church on the topic “Separation Anxiety: How Religion Has Ruined the Presidential Race.”
On Oct. 2, Lynn traveled to Atlanta, where he addressed an event sponsored jointly by the Americans United Atlanta Chapter and the Atlanta Freethought Society. The public lecture at Atlanta Freethought Hall was titled, “Imagine a Day Without Separation of Church and State.”
Lynn gave the same talk in Phoenix Oct. 16, where he addressed the Greater Phoenix Chapter of Americans United.
Faith Organizer Bill Mefford has been traveling in several states. He was in Elliotsburg, Pa., Oct. 4 to discuss issues related to church politicking with a band of Lutheran clergy. Mefford traveled to California in mid-October, where he spoke at the First United Methodist Church of Pasadena Oct. 13 on the topic of “Keeping Sacred Spaces Sacred,” a primer on churches and politics. On Oct. 15, Mefford spoke to AU’s Orange County Chapter on “Politics and the Pulpit.” From there, Mefford traveled to Jacksonville, Fla., Oct. 17, where he addressed the First Coast Freethought Society on the topic “How to Talk to a Person of Faith About Church-State Separation, If You Have To!” The event took place at the Buckman Bridge Unitarian Universalist Church.
Rob Boston, AU’s director of communications, spoke at Beth Chai, a humanistic Jewish synagogue in Bethesda, Md., on Oct. 9. Boston addressed the topic, “Freedom of Conscience and the Necessity of Doubt.”
Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser published a paper titled “‘Religious Freedom’ as a Tool to Oppress: The Explosion in Religion-Based Attacks on Civil Rights in Litigation” in Social Sciences, an online, open-access journal based in Switzerland.
“Over the last half-decade, there has been an explosion in the U.S. of litigation in which claims of religious freedom have been used not to defend the rights of believers to practice their faiths without interference from others, but to override laws and regulations intended to protect the rights of women, gay and lesbian people, and other minorities,” Luchenitser observed. “Such arguments are not new, but they had never before been made as frequently or as prominently. ‘Religious freedom’ has been wielded as a sword aimed at cutting away civil rights in areas such as health-insurance coverage, healthcare services, marriage-related services, employment, and housing.”
AU’s Triad Chapter in Winston-Salem, N.C., held a meeting Sept. 27 featuring a talk by Elizabeth Freeze, director of philanthropy for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. Freeze discussed efforts by far-right religious groups to interfere with women’s healthcare.
The Rochester, N.Y., Chapter of Americans United hosted “An Interfaith Dialogue on Church-State Separation” Oct. 17. Panelists included Dr. Marvin McMickle, president of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School; The Rev. Richard Gilbert, minister emeritus of the First Unitarian Church of Rochester; Hamid Malik, imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Rochester and Dr. Marvin Mich, director of advocacy at the Catholic Family Center of Rochester.