May 2016 Church & State - May 2016

Staff Members and Activists Support Church-State Separation Nationwide

  AU admin

Members of the Americans United staff were out in full force at the U.S. Supreme Court March 23. The justices heard oral arguments in Zubik v. Burwell, a case concerning access to birth control. (You can read more about the argument in the legal challenge in “People & Events.”)

AU worked with Catholics for Choice, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the National Women’s Law Center and other groups to put on a two-hour rally outside the court. Weeks of planning went into the event, and several AU staffers attended. Barry W. Lynn, AU executive director, addressed the crowd and did some media interviews in front of the court.

Alison Tanner, a student at Georgetown Law School and an AU legal intern, was interviewed by National Public Radio and NBC’s “Nightly News” about her activism on behalf of students at religiously affiliated colleges who want to ensure access to contraceptives.

Erin Hagen, field associate, helped organize the rally and led the crowd in several spirited chants. Many participants waved signs reading, “Hands Off My Birth Control” that were designed by Tim Ritz, AU’s web and graphics manager. Some participants made their own signs, and a photo of Kate Perelman, AU’s digital campaign specialist, hoisting a homemade sign was sent nationwide by the Associated Press and appeared in dozens of newspapers and websites.

Inside the court, Simon Brown, assistant director of communications, covered the argument for Church & State. Senior Litigation Counsel Greg Lipper and Associate Legal Director Alex Luchenitser attended the argument as well, and Lipper later wrote a detailed analysis for the site Rewire, which focuses on reproductive rights.

On April 13, Tanner and Lipper took part in a panel discussion about reproductive-justice issues at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington.

In other news about AU activities:

AU Legislative Director Maggie Garrett spoke at an April 5 rally at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta to celebrate the defeat of H.B. 757, a bogus “religious freedom” bill that would have fostered discrimination against LGBT residents and others. Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the measure, which Americans United strongly opposed, on March 28. That evening, Lynn appeared on the RT Network’s “News with Ed Schultz” to discuss the bill’s veto.

Rob Boston, director of communications, met with a delegation of religious leaders from the former Soviet republic of Georgia on March 22. The event was coordinated by the U.S. Department of State. On March 30, Boston met with 12 college students from the Washington Internship Institute and briefed them on church-state issues and AU’s work.

AU’s Lynn made a speaking swing through Louisiana and Tennessee last month. On April 6 he spoke at a “Freedom for All Faiths” panel sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans. The event was repeated the next day at the Lafayette Public Library in Lafayette, La.

Other panelists at the events included the Rev. Walton Gaddy, former president of the Interfaith Alliance; Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Foundation; Pedro L. Irigonegaray, a civil liberties attorney, and historian John Barry.

On April 10 Lynn addressed a Sunday Assembly service in Nashville and later that day gave a talk to the local AU chapter. The next day, he spoke to a political science class at Vanderbilt University.

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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