As Florida faces some of its most challenging church-state separation battles, Americans United members in the state will do so without one of our best advocates. It is with great sadness that I share with you news that AU member Sidney Goetz of St. Petersburg has died.
Sid passed on June 23 at age 94. An attorney from Long Island, N.Y., he retired to Florida in 1981. His professional life included stints as a professor at Stetson Law School and at St. Pete Junior College.
As Field Director of Americans United, I had the privilege of working with Sid over the past 10 years and often marveled at his energy. Sid was 84 when we met; yet at 45, I could barely keep up with him! His passion for church-state separation kept him active well after some of his peers had settled into their retirement.
And Sid's passion for church-state separation was infectious. He served on AU's National Advisory Council, helped start numerous AU chapters in the state, gave speeches and conducted workshops when he was well into his 90s. Sid would often call with his next "big idea" for promoting church-state separation to law school students. Or he would contact me with ideas on how and where to start the next AU chapter.
Sid wrote letters to the editor, spoke with elected officials and even traveled to Tallahassee to lobby state officials in person. In 2004, Sid sent me a faxed photo of himself, standing in front of half a dozen placards, protesting "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Sid helped organized the demonstration that took place outside the St. Petersburg City Hall.
Sid came to activism before email and the internet. He could accomplish more using a simple fax machine than some organizers today with all the new technology. The hand-written notes, press clippings and copies of Sid's letters to various leaders fill a huge file folder in my office.
Ten years ago, the correspondence I received from him would usually be signed "Sidney." One of the last messages I received from him was signed "Love Sidney." And I do.