AU In Action

Staff Members And Activists Promote Church-State Separation Through Public Events And The Media

Staff members, chapter leaders and activists with Americans United remain busy around the country defending the separation of church and state.

Recent activities include:

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, traveled to San Francisco in late October to speak at the First Unitarian Universalist Church. His speech, titled “Why Is Separation of Church and State So Important?” was co-sponsored by the Bay Area Humanists and the Humanists and Non-Theists of the Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco.

Lynn in December wrote an opinion column about Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be Education Secretary, that appeared in newspapers nationwide.

“DeVos simply has no credentials to do this important job,” Lynn wrote. “Our country’s education secretary should focus on promoting and improving public education. Instead, DeVos wants to dismantle it.”

Faith Organizer Bill Mefford was in Iowa in late October taking part in an event at the Wesley Center at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Mefford spoke at the Center’s “Tuesday Table: Spiritual Biography” series.

Rob Boston, director of communications, addressed AU’s Sacramento Chapter on Dec. 11. Boston offered a talk titled, “A Positive Vision of Church-State Separation,” which included a discussion of the challenges AU will face under the Trump administration.

Days before the election, Brenda Weber, vice president of AU’s Oklahoma Chapter, did a podcast with KTOK radio in Oklahoma City about a proposal in that state to remove the “no-aid” provision from the state constitution. Appearing with her was Dwight Welch of the United Church of Norman, who is also an AU activist. (Oklahoma voters rejected the change.)

David Marcus, president of Join Us For Justice, the El Paso Chapter of Americans United, published an opinion column in the El Paso Times Nov. 28 urging citizens to stand up for real religious liberty.

“When the recently elected administration began to announce some of its agenda, which includes eroding equal rights for the LGBTQ community and finding ways to break down Thomas Jefferson’s ‘wall of separation’ between church and state, I grew alarmed,” Marcus wrote. “It’s hard to imagine how anyone can claim this government will be a government for everyone – it certainly won’t be the America our forefathers envisioned.”

Another Texas-based AU activist, Eric Lane, president of the San Antonio Chapter, placed an opinion column in the San Antonio Express-News designed to coincide with the convening of the Texas legislature.

“Religious oppression when religion and government are married is recorded throughout history,” Lane observed. “The founders gave us true freedom and, like all truth, it evolves and refines itself over time with growth and understanding. We all have a vested interest in keeping religion out of the state and the state out of religion. I hope our leaders in Austin will remember this lesson in the upcoming legislative session.”

Jeffrey Selman, co-president of AU’s Georgia Chapter, was profiled recently by the Atlanta Jewish Times. The newspaper, which called Selman “the Alarm Clock of Church-State Separation,” talked with him about his book, God Sent Me, a first-person account of his battle against creationism in Cobb County public schools.

In a review of the book, the paper observed, “Selman has created, if not a textbook, an invaluable resource for anyone who wants a reminder that science and religion can coexist, but not in the same classroom.”

Finally, the AU Communications Department has seen some changes. Simon Brown, assistant director of communications, left AU in November to take a job with the Small Business Majority. He is being replaced by Liz Hayes, formerly a reporter with the Valley News Dispatch, published in suburban Pittsburgh. 

In a farewell post for AU’s “Wall of Separation” blog, Brown observed, “Although I am leaving Americans United, the cause of church-state separation will remain deeply important to me and is something I will keep fighting for. The next four years could represent the most serious challenge to that constitutional principle perhaps in the history of the United States. I encourage everyone to stand up for the things that matter to you and to fight when you see bigotry and discrimination in the name of religion.”