Americans United staff members and activists have remained busy shoring up the church-state wall. Here is some information about recent activities:
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, traveled to North Carolina in March where he spoke in three cities. Lynn addressed the East Carolina Chapter of Americans United in New Bern March 7. The following day he went to Raleigh to speak to the Raleigh/Wake County Chapter of AU. On March 9, Lynn was in Hendersonville for an event sponsored by the Western North Carolina AU Chapter. At that event, Lynn spoke alongside J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.
AU Legislative Director Maggie Garrett recently spoke at two national conferences. On March 13, Garrett took part in the National Council for Jewish Women’s Washington Institute in Washington, D.C. She addressed the topic “Elections 2016: What’s at Stake for Religious Liberty.”
Garrett also spoke at the Campaign for Southern Equality’s “LGBT in the South” conference March 18-20 in Asheville, N.C., addressing the topic, “Staffing the Backlash: Strategies to Defend and Defeat Looming Legislation Targeting the LGBT Community.”
Rob Boston, AU’s director of communications, spoke to the Fredericksburg, Va., Secular Humanists on March 13. Boston’s topic was “What Do You People Want?: A Positive Vision of Secularism.”
AU’s Delaware Valley Chapter in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey hosted Senior Litigation Counsel Greg Lipper on March 6. Lipper briefed the group on the legal battles to secure employees’ and students’ access to birth control.
Sarah Jones, AU’s communications associate, addressed the Heights-Hillcrest-Lyndhurst (Ohio) branch of the American Association of University Women March 23. Jones’ speech was titled, “Do Vouchers Violate Separation of Church and State?”
On March 7, Assistant Director of Communications Simon Brown met with a delegation of students from Georgetown University, briefing them on AU’s work and current church-state issues.
Americans United’s Field Department has unveiled a new website aimed at young people and students. You can visit the site, “Students for Church-State Separation,” at www. austudents.org/#students.
Eric Lane, president of the San Antonio, Texas, Chapter of Americans United, wrote an opinion column for the San Antonio Express-News on Feb. 24. Lane noted that the city has recently been roiled by disputes over official prayers before city council meetings. He recommended that one way to resolve the controversy would be to discontinue the prayers entirely.
“You cannot have freedom of conscience, you cannot have a true democracy, you cannot have freedom of any sort if the government is run and the laws are written by a particular religion,” asserted Lane.
In North Carolina, Allison Mahaley, president of Orange/Durham Chapter of Americans United, wrote an opinion column opposing vouchers that was published in the Raleigh News & Observer March 2.
“I believe parents should be able to choose to send their children to parochial schools if they want,” Mahaley asserted. “I believe parents have the right to indoctrinate their children into any religious belief they choose. But my tax dollars should not be used to promote someone else’s religious beliefs. I happily pay my taxes to promote the common good, and I want my locally elected officials to oversee what happens in the schools my tax dollars support.”
Vickie Sandell Stangl, president of the Great Plains Chapter of Americans United, placed a letter to the editor in the Wichita Eagle March 4 reminding religious leaders that they may not use church resources to endorse or oppose candidates for public office.
Americans United also recently welcomed two new staff members. Bill Mefford will serve as faith outreach specialist and work to solidify AU’s ties with religious communities. Mefford previously worked as the director of civil and human rights for the General Board of Church & Society for the United Methodist Church’s Washington, D.C., office. Samantha Sokol has been hired as AU’s new legislative assistant. Sokol is a 2014 graduate of Tufts University, where she majored in political science. She will help Americans United track and respond to proposed legislation that threatens church-state separation at the state and federal levels.