April 2017 Church & State - April 2017

Staff Members And Activists Support Separation

  AU admin

Americans United staff members and activists around the country have kept busy the past few weeks supporting separation of church and state in several ways.

Recent events include:

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, has an essay in a recently published book titled Religion and Law in Public Schools: History, Philosophy, Trends; Educational Practices; The Trump Administration – Looking Ahead. Published by the Education Law Association, the book examines a variety of issues related to religion in public schools. Lynn’s essay is titled, “Religion and Public Education: A ‘No Coercion’ Model.”

AU Legal Director Richard B. Katskee traveled to Carbondale, Ill., March 2 to speak at Southern Illinois University School of Law’s Diversity and Inclusion Week. Katskee addressed the topic, “Separation of Church and State and Secular Issues.”

Maggie Garrett, legislative director, spoke at a March 3 conference at Columbia Law School in New York City titled “Navigating Race & Religion in the Trump Administration.” On Feb. 27, Garrett took part in a panel discussion on religious freedom issues during a conference sponsored by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs in Washington, D.C.

On Feb. 2, Dena Sher, legislative assistant director, spoke on a briefing call for nearly 300 faith leaders on the draft “religious freedom” executive order that President Donald J. Trump might issue. The call was organized by Bend the Arc Jewish Action and Faith in Public Life. Sher and Kara Inglehart from Lambda Legal provided an analysis of the draft order’s many troubling provisions, and Dan Rafter from Freedom for All Americans shared messaging tips with the faith leaders.

Bill Mefford, faith outreach specialist, joined Erin Hagen, field associate, and Bradley Girard, legal fellow, March 1 for a Facebook Live dis­cussion on supporting the Muslim community. They were joined by Kristin Garrity Sekerci, a research fellow with Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative.

In late February, Mefford traveled to Texas for several events. He met with faith leaders in San Antonio and Houston, and spoke at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Texas in Austin.

Director of Communications Rob Boston met with a delegation of scholars from France March 10 to explain how church and state interact in America. The scholars were visiting the United States under a program sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

On March 8, the AU staff celebrated International Women’s Day with a staff photo. Many staff members wore red to show solidarity, and a special post on AU’s “Wall of Separation” blog explained the threat to women’s rights posed by the Religious Right.

AU’s Greater Houston Chapter on March 12 sponsored an event called “Becoming an Effective Activist.” Speakers included state Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) and Brad Pritchett, policy and advocacy strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.

The event was co-sponsored by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, National Council of Jewish Women, Houston GLBT Political Caucus, Council on American-Islamic Relations and the ACLU of Texas.

AU’s Orange County, Calif., Chapter on March 18 sponsored two events: taking part in the Great American Write-In, an annual event offered to the public to provide community members with the means to influence policy decisions by writing letters to their legislators, and a screening of the film “Hate.Com – Extremists on the Internet.” 

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