From the Desk of Barry Lynn
|This has been an especially busy year for the Religious Right, as the movement’s dogmatic defenders launched attack after attack on the wall of separation between church and state.
Thanks to the support of our members, Americans United was able to match them every step of the way by working tirelessly to protect your First Amendment freedoms in 2013. And now that the year is drawing to a close, it’s important to reflect on the most significant battles that we faced so you can see just how much this kind of support means to our country and its guarantee of religious freedom.I hope you’ll be persuaded by the achievements we accomplished in 2013 to become a member of Americans United this year-end
, which will provide critical funding so that AU can keep up the fight.
- AU argued before the United States Supreme Court that the town board of Greece, NY, violated the First Amendment by holding sectarian invocations at public meetings for nearly a decade.
- Americans United urged the US Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services to protect the rights of non-Christians after the office told an atheist applicant she must register with a local church in order to exempt herself from the citizenship oath’s requirement to promise to bear arms on behalf of the United States. USCIS reversed its decision.
- AU joined allied groups in a lawsuit opposing New Hampshire’s proposed program that gives taxpayer aid to private sectarian schools. A court ruled in our favor; however, sectarian groups then appealed the decision, and the case is now pending before the state Supreme Court.
- Our Legislative team submitted comments to the Obama administrationcombating claims that newly issued non-discrimination standards for non-profits violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The proposed standards have been upheld.
- In a friend-of-the-court brief filed by AU and the Anti-Defamation League, we told the US Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. AU takes the position that anti-equality statutes are rooted in theology and violate the First Amendment.
- Americans United staffers attended the Family Research Council’s annual Values Voter Summit to monitor the latest Religious Right rhetoric regarding church-state separation. Speakers throughout the weekend insisted that America is a “Christian Nation” and that their faith is under attack.
- We settled a decade-long lawsuit with the state of Kentucky. With the ACLU, we originally filed suit on behalf of plaintiffs who alleged that a sectarian agency used public funds to coerce children into religious observance. The settlement subjects the Baptist children’s agency to more rigorous oversight.
- Americans United told the US Senate Subcommittee on National Parksthat proposed legislation to add a prayer to the national World War II memorial would violate the First Amendment. The bill has not moved from the subcommittee.
- In a legal victory, the Brentwood, Md. town council agreed to stop hosting sectarian prayers at its meetings. The agreement settled a lawsuit first brought by AU in February 2013.
- Americans United’s Legal Department filed briefs in two cases, in Nevada and Hawaii, arguing that the states’ bans on same-sex marriage are rooted in theology and must be struck down as unconsitutional.
- After a Colorado appeals court upheld a voucher program in Johnson County, AU appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, arguing that public funding of religious schools violates the state constitution. The case is still pending review.
This list of highlights just scratches the surface. I’m proud of these incredible victories for the separation of church and state that Americans United accomplished across the country in 2013, and grateful to our members, who helped make them possible.I hope we can count on you to join us. Please become an AU member today!