Americans United Named ‘Human Rights Hero’ By Lawyers’ Magazine

A magazine published by the American Bar Association (ABA) bestowed honors on Americans United recently when it named the organization a “Human Rights Hero.”

The ABA’s Human Rights magazine, which is published by the organization’s Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, published a special issue on religious liberty and church-state issues in January. The publication included a guest column by Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn, who is an attorney as well as an ordained minister.

“Religious liberty is vitally important to the American people,” Lynn wrote. “But a misunderstood right can never be properly exercised. Religious liberty does not mean being handed state sanctions to force your theology on other people. It does not mean being given a free pass from laws you do not like. It does not mean your faith gets a little help from the state.”

The publication included a number of articles examining current issues in religious liberty, including the ongoing efforts by the Catholic bishops and the Religious Right to end the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

Alexander Wohl, an adjunct professor at American University Law School, penned a column singling out the work of Americans United.

Wrote Wohl, “For more than sixty-five years Americans United has taken on the toughest issues in the area of religious freedom: defending both an individual’s right to practice his or her religion and the right to abstain from the practice of religion; countering the politicization of religion and belief; and never shying from the battle against those who have sought to chip away at what Thomas Jefferson so famously identified as the wall of separation between church and state.”

Wohl added, “Today, Americans United’s docket includes cases ranging from efforts to prevent public schools from holding commencements in churches, to ensuring that government bodies do not include prayers in public meetings, to opposition to public funding for activities endorsing religion, such as state-funded repair of a giant cross in Illinois. When it comes to the principles and precedents of church-state litigation, no case or issue related to the protection of religious liberty is too minor for the organization’s focus and advocacy.”