June 2017 Church & State - June 2016

Staff Members And Activists Support Church-State Separation

  AU admin

Americans United staff members and chapter activists continue spreading the word about separation of church and state. Here’s a roundup of recent activities:

AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn recently was recognized for his lifelong commitment to social justice and individual rights. Lynn was awarded an honorary degree by Chi­cago Theological Seminary during a ceremony on May 12. On April 20, Lynn received a Distinguished Service Award from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based group that is one of the nation’s oldest LGBTQ rights organizations.

Lynn also took part in the Anti-Defamation League’s National Leadership Conference May 7-9 in Washington, D.C., and he spoke at a judi­cial conference sponsored by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals May 15-16 in Deer Valley, Utah. 

Rob Boston, AU director of communications, addressed the Sunday Assembly in San Diego April 23. On May 3, Boston was in Jacksonville, Fla., where he spoke to First Coast Freethought Society and AU’s Northeast Florida Chapter about his 2014 book, Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You The Right To Tell Other People What To Do.

On May 1, Boston addressed a delegation of visiting scholars from African and Middle Eastern nations as part of a program sponsored by the U.S. State Department.             

On April 29, AU’s Upstate South Carolina Chapter hosted a talk by Katherine Stewart, an investigative reporter and author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children. Stewart’s address was titled “Unholy Alliance: How Proselytizers And Privatizers Seek To Break Our Schools And Undermine Our Democracy.”

The Greater Houston Chapter held a panel discussion April 24 titled “The Future of Public Education in the Era of Betsy DeVos.” Panelists included Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers; Richard Carranza, superintendent of the Houston Independent School District; and Dr. John D. Ogletree Jr., of Pastors for Texas Children.   

Also in Texas, Eric Lane, president of the San Antonio Chapter, penned an opinion column for the San Antonio Express-News April 30 expressing opposition to the idea that candidates for public office should be compelled or pressured to hold certain religious beliefs. (The issue recently came up in a city mayoral election.)

“For the first time in human history, the founders of our nation created a Constitution where religious tests to hold office were explicitly forbidden,” Lane observed. “Yet, the religious right in our city and across the country cannot accept the brilliance of the founders.”                

In California, AU’s Orange County Chapter hosted a public lecture by Dr. Eugenie Scott, former executive director of the National Center for Science Education and current member of AU’s Board of Trustees, May 20. Scott’s talk was titled “Fighting Young Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design in 2017.”

Finally, many members of Americans United’s national staff took part in the March for Science April 22 in Washington, D.C., and chapter activists participated in satellite events in other cities. In Philadelphia, Janice Rael, president of the Delaware Valley Chapter told a local TV station, “[W]e find ourselves in a time where facts are optional, and the Philadelphia March For Science is a big way to show our elected officials and others that we value science and have no intention of starting a new Dark Ages.”

An American Original

Is the separation of church and state in the Constitution?

Absolutely. The separation of church and state is baked into our founding documents and our system of government.

The “wall of separation between church and state” is an American original. It’s an American invention. We should be proud of that fact. And we should fight any disinformation that threatens this ideal.

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