I recently had the opportunity to meet with a group of students from Georgetown University at Americans United’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C., to discuss the intersection of religion and politics in the United States. This bright group of students had chosen to spend their Spring Break visiting several D.C. non-profits.
This group of undergraduates was accompanied by Georgetown’s Interreligious Coordinator for Campus Ministry and its Assistant Director for Student Engagement in Campus Ministry as part of a study program called “Magis: Faith, Policy and Politics,” which offers students an in-depth look at various aspects of religious life in America.
We began by discussing how difficult it is for an openly atheist candidate to win an election in the United States – even in 2016. I informed them of the specific challenges atheists face and noted that much of the American electorate still views non-theists with suspicion. In fact, I informed the group, surveys have shown that many voters are far more comfortable voting for Muslims and LGBT persons than atheists. We also delved into most of AU’s core issues, such as religion in public schools, legislative prayer, marriage equality, birth control access and religion-based discrimination.
The conversation was lively, and almost all of them asked at least one question (many asked more than one). The Georgetown Students were particularly interested in AU's unique position as an interfaith organization protecting church-state separation.
It was especially rewarding to learn that some in the group had the impression before meeting with me that Americans United is an anti-religion organization, but realized that church-state separation is a multi-faith issue and we work to protect all beliefs. I explained that we believe church-state separation is the best way to protect all viewpoints in America.
If you are a student who would like to get involved with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, please visit our new student website. There are a multitude of ways for young people to protect church-state separation both individually and with their student organizations!