Wild About Harry: Schwartzbart Preaches The Gospel Of Church-State Separation

Harry Schwartzbart is a man with a mission.

"I am determined," he says, "to keep the United States from becoming a theocracy."

To achieve that goal, the 84-year-old San Fernando Valley, Calif., activist has devoted countless hours to educating people in his community about the religious liberty clauses of the First Amendment and promoting Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Schwartzbart's tireless civil liberties work is recognized this week in a profile in The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, and it is a truly inspirational read.

Observed The Journal, "He makes about 2,000 phone calls a year. He speaks two or three times a month at various houses of worship within a 100-mile radius of his Chatsworth home. And he books lunch or dinner engagements with any clergy member of any faith who will give him 90 minutes of his undivided attention.

"To date," the weekly reports, "he counts more than 500 meals with individual priests, rabbis and ministers."

Schwartzbart has been an Americans United member since the organization's early days, but he became an ardent activist in 1994 when the activities of Pat Robertson and other Religious Right leaders alarmed him.

Noted The Journal, "Schwartzbart's single, unstoppable focus has been to make as many Americans as possible aware of what he considers the 16 most important words in the English language, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.'"

Harry Schwartzbart is truly one of kind, but we need a million more Americans just like him.