Staff Members And Activists Work To Build Support For Church-State Separation

Americans United staff members and activists continue speaking and organizing to defend the church-state wall.


Here is a roundup of some recent activities:

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, traveled to the Bay Area of California in mid-September, where he met with AU supporters during two luncheon meetings. Events were held in Palo Alto Sept. 13 and San Francisco Sept. 14. Lynn, who plans to retire next month, has been embarking on a farewell tour. AU Development Director Betsy Pursell and AU Legislative Director Maggie Garrett accompanied Lynn on the trip. Garrett offered attendees an update on legislative threats to church-state separation.

AU Director of Communications Rob Boston recently addressed three international delegations at the behest of the U.S. State Department. Boston gave scholars from Malaysia a briefing on U.S. church-state relations Aug. 30. On Sept. 12, he met with a delegation from the country of Georgia, and on Sept. 13, he talked with educators from Indonesia.

Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, a member of Americans United’s Board of Trustees, spoke to the First Coast Freethought Society Sept. 18 at Buckman Bridge Unitarian Universalist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. Shapiro’s talk was titled “Let’s Preserve, Protect, and Defend Florida’s Constitution!” It focused on an upcoming meeting of Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission, which by law must convene every 20 years to examine the state constitution and suggest possible changes. The constitution contains a “no-aid-to-religion” clause that could be targeted.

On Sept. 14, Shapiro appeared on WJCT-FM, a public radio station in Jacksonville, to discuss this issue.

AU’s Field Department helped sponsor a series of trainings across North Carolina last month. These trainings, titled “Faith in Democracy,” focused on how to build effective local movements to address how gerrymandering affects a variety of issues, including support for public education.

Four North Carolina AU chapters joined the effort – Raleigh-Wake County, Orange-Durham, Western North Carolina and Triad. Trainings took place Sept. 18-21 in Wilmington, Fayetteville, Winston-Salem and Char­lotte. Other groups involved in the effort were the North Carolina Council of Churches and Democracy North Carolina.

Carol Velarde, president of AU’s Sacramento Chapter, was honored on Aug. 22 by the California Assembly. Assemblymember Jim Cooper of Elk Grove sponsored a resolution that saluted Velarde for, among other things, her “leadership and expertise by serving as President of the Sacramento Chapter of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State.”

 The Indiana Chapter of Americans United held an event in Ft. Wayne Sept. 10. Titled “Strength in Separation: The State of Church and State in Indiana,” the event took place at Unity of Ft. Wayne Spiritual Center and featured an opportunity for attendees to learn about the work of Americans United and ask questions.

David Williamson, a plaintiff in a lawsuit Americans United filed challenging an overtly religious invocation policy in Brevard County, Fla., was the guest speaker at a meeting held by the Atlantic Coast Chapter of Americans United Sept. 26.

Williamson, founder and president of the Central Florida Freethought Community, talked about the issues raised by the case during the event, which took place at the County Public Library Main Branch in Palm Coast.