June 2024 Church & State Magazine - June 2024

Staff members and activists support separation of church and state in nationwide events


Youth outreach: AU leader Laser (fourth from right) speaks to N.M. college students

Americans United staff members and local activists have been busy promoting separation of church and state and AU’s work in events across the country.

Here’s a roundup of some recent events:

Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser delivered the baccalaureate address at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., May 18.

“The reason I’m proud to lead Americans United for Separation of Church and State is because this separation allows people of all religious beliefs, the nonreligious and all of us who do not pass one religion’s litmus test, to be ourselves no matter our religion, race, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity,” Laser told the students.

She added, “Communities that invite everyone to be their authentic selves are communities that thrive.”

On May 23, Laser was in Pasadena, Calif., for a panel discussion on Christian Nationalism. The event, “Christian Nationalism: American Democracy’s Looming Threat,” was held at All Saints Episcopal Church and was hosted by actor and activist Bradley Whitford. Panelists included Laser; the Rev. Traci Blackmon, AU Board of Trustees member and former associate general minister of justice and local church ministries for the United Church of Christ; Eddie Tabash, Esq., AU Board of Trustees member, constitutional lawyer, expert in church-state separation and atheist advocate; the Rev. Mike Kinman, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena; Salam al-Marayati, president and co-founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council; and Rabbi Susan Goldberg, founder of Nefesh, a progressive spiritual community in Los Angeles.

Members of AU’s Youth Organizing Fellowship have organized several events over the past few months. On Feb. 3, at the University of Texas-Austin, Leland Murphy put on a panel discussion that included participation by Rick McClatchy, president of AU’s San Antonio Chapter. The panel focused on threats to church-state separation in Texas.

On Feb. 29, Aidan Scully organized an event at Harvard University featuring Bradley Girard, AU’s litigation counsel. Girard discussed the ministerial exception and the rights of workers at religious institutions. 

Laila Salaam arranged a screening of a documentary and moderated a panel about “crisis pregnancy centers” April 4 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The event explained how these clinics are part of the Shadow Network undermining reproductive freedom. Alicia Johnson, AU’s national organizer and student network manager, took part in the event.

On May 1, Ivan Torres hosted AU’s Laser for a conversation about church-state separation on his campus, St. John’s College in Santa Fe, N.M. 

Andrew L. Seidel, AU’s vice president of strategic communications, was in Raleigh, N.C., May 23 for an event sponsored by the Triangle Freethought Society. Seidel discussed his recent book, American Crusade: How the Supreme Court is Weaponizing Religious Freedom. A book signing followed the talk.

Church & State Editor Rob Boston spoke virtually on an April 7 panel at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bozeman, Mont. The event focused on abortion rights in the state. Boston addressed the Secular Community of SW Florida via Zoom May 26 on the threat of Christian Nationalism. 

AU’s Orange County, Calif., Chapter held an event May 18 featuring Judge Mary Beth O’Connor (ret.) titled, “From Junkie to Judge: Recovery without God.” O’Connor discussed her years as a drug addict, how she was compelled to attend a faith-based rehabilitation program and how she overcame addiction by building a personalized secular recovery program. 

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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