Members of the Americans United national staff have remained busy with media appearances and public events designed to raise awareness about church-state separation.
Here is a roundup of recent activities:
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, appeared on two segments on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” in early December. The segments by correspondent Tom Gjelten examined the ongoing controversy over the meaning of “religious freedom.”
“There is no war against the legitimate exercise of your rights as a religious person to express yourself,” Lynn said during one segment. “[The problem] is when you decide you want the government to bless it, fund it, or in some way support your particular ideas.”
Lynn was also quoted in a USA Today article Dec. 10. The story by Rick Jervis examined efforts by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to interject Christianity into his presidential campaign.
Lynn noted that Cruz had attended an event called the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, where Pastor Kevin Swanson quoted a biblical passage that he said justified the execution of homosexuals.
“This is over-the-top rhetoric, even for a conservative presidential candidate,” Lynn told the newspaper. “There is a lot of religious fervor going on in [Cruz’s] campaign.”
On Nov. 18, Alex J. Luchenitser, AU’s associate legal director, took part in a panel discussion about religious liberty issues at Bowie State University in Bowie, Md.
AU Director of Communications Rob Boston traveled to Naples, Fla., Jan. 20 to speak at an event sponsored by the Naples Chapter of Americans United and the Collier County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. Boston addressed the topic, “Is the United States a Christian Nation?”
Sarah Jones, AU’s communications associate, attended an interfaith briefing at the White House Dec. 17. Jones joined leaders from religious and secular communities to discuss ways believers and non-believers can engage in respectful dialogue and foster mutual understanding.
Changes are coming to Americans United’s grassroots organizing efforts, as AU last month welcomed a new staff member, Erin Taylor (pictured above), who has been hired as director of the Field Department. Taylor, who has an extensive background in grassroots and community organizing, will oversee AU’s network of state and local chapters and help activists be more effective in their local communities.
Most recently, Taylor served as a senior project manager for Grassroots Solutions, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. Before that she worked as political director for the Climate Reality Project. She also held positions at the American Association for Justice and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association.
Taylor holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Wellesley College, a master’s in public affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs in Austin, Texas, and a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.
Taylor succeeds Beth Corbin, who retired last year after 17 years of service to Americans United.
Finally, Americans United’s Protect Thy Neighbor project has unveiled some exciting new changes. The site has launched a new feature that will track legislation that deals with “religious refusals” in the states. The tracker will be updated every Tuesday and Thursday to ensure that AU activists have access to the most recent information.
Protect Thy Neighbor is a special project launched by Americans United after the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding marriage equality in June of 2015. AU knew that Religious Right groups would push back against that decision by attempting to pass bogus “religious freedom” laws that allow people to refuse service to and discriminate against LGBT Americans and others.