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AU Student Essay Contest

There’s still time to send in your submission: ends on March 1st, 2016, and there is a $500 prize for first place!

Write an essay that explains why the separation of church and state is integral to preserving religious freedom in America’s pluralistic society. Include at least one primary source to support your thesis. You may also reference current events, U.S. history, and your personal experiences.

More details available here

Posner on Scalia’s dangerous “majoritarian theocracy”

Richard Posner, judge on the  United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School has published this commentary on the problems with Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s theocratic inclinations.  It could have been taken from a pamphlet published by AU on why Separation of Church and State is a good thing.
 
“The suggestion that the Constitution cannot override the religious beliefs of many American citizens is radical. It would imply, contrary to the provision that forbids religious tests for public office, that religious majorities are special wards of the Constitution. Justice Scalia seems to want to turn the Constitution upside down when it comes to government and religion; his political ideal verges on majoritarian theocracy.”
 
Apparently Scalia feels that the ability of the Supreme Court to overturn laws passed by Congress or state legislatures. on the grounds that they are unconstitutional (which he has supported from the Court on countless occasions before), only applies if they are not based on religion… exactly the kind of distinction that requires us to insist on separation of secular law and religious issues.

It’s #GivingTuesday!

Giving Tuesday is all about generosity and giving back.  AU started participating in 2013, and last year, we raised over $35,000 from current and new AU donors!  Our goal this year is $50,000 and we hope you’ll do what you can to help us reach it.

Here are a few ways that we would love for you to participate in AU’s 2015 Giving Tuesday campaign.

  • First, please make a donation!  Even a modest donation will help build the momentum.  Click here: we are excited that some generous donors have provided matching funds, so your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar!
  • Visit AU’s Facebook page –here – and the Minnesota chapter’s page – here – and on Twitter – @americansunited and @mnauscs – and if you use social media, please share our posts and tweets with your friends and family!  This will go a long way to extending our reach and getting our message out to even more people this year.

Wadena, MN: Nativity scene on city park grounds to come down

After complaints from the FFRF the Wadena city council voted to remove a nativity scene from a city park last week.

Mayor George Deiss says for as long as anyone in Wadena can remember the nativity scene has been displayed at Burlington Northern Park. It used to be in the band shell, but was moved to the heart of the park last year and caught the eye of a resident.

“They were offended that we had put it out on city property,” Deiss said.

We would suggest that the issue is not about being offended, it’s about the promotion of one particular religion by a government entity.  That’s no so much about “offense” as it is about “unconstitutionality”.  When courts find that a particular action by the government is unconstitutional, we don’t describe the cause of that finding to be a response to someone being offended.

He argues the display is not about religion.

“When something is put up that many years it becomes a tradition to the city,” he said.

To claim that a nativity scene featuring the birth of the principal religious figure in one religion is somehow not religious seems to be a rather bizarre claim, but one that is not atypical when this type of issue arises.  In addition, the “it’s a tradition” response is not a great defense either: “we’ve always done it this way” says nothing about whether we should indeed be doing it this way in the future.

The national chapter of AU sent a letter to the city council in Wadena to address this issue, and we are pleased to see it get resolved.

Have you heard of similar issues in your town?  Americans United is here to help: send us an email at info@mnau.org

Thanks to an AU member JH who sent in the link to this article.

Supreme Court news: religious objections to birth control will come before the court

Big news on the Supreme Court front today, on continued challenges to the Affordable Care Act because of religious objections to a law that should apply equally to all.

Today, the high court agreed to hear seven cases, including Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington v. Burwell and Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell, that concern challenges brought by religiously affiliated institutions. Although the plaintiffs are not required to include birth control in the insurance plans that they provide to their employees, they object to their employees receiving that coverage from a third party.

To be clear, the plaintiffs do not have to include nor pay for birth control for their employees.  They only have to sign an affidavit indicating their religious opposition to including this birth control, and the third party will provide it to their employees at no cost.

But this is somehow still seen as a burden on their religious freedom.

Americans United says that objection is baseless, and seven of eight federal appeals courts have agreed and rejected such claims.  We will see what the Supreme Court has to say.

Senator Hatch and a misunderstanding of church/state separation

Looks like the “War on Christmas” myth is rearing its head again… ’tis the season, after all.

It’s one of the arguments that Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) used in his speech on Nov 4th on the Senate floor as part of his speech addressing… well, nothing really related to Senate business, but apparently it’s a big enough deal that he feels the need to spend time discussing how church and state separation is just another example of religions being persecuted in the US today.

And he also raises the myth of “no prayer in schools”.  Sen. Hatch needs to actually go to a public school one of these days and provide us some documentation on how these kids are forbidden from praying, because they seem to be doing fine without his help, especially before math tests.  He just needs to make sure he doesn’t force any of the kids to pray, because as a public official, that wouldn’t be appropriate.

“The erroneous wall-of-separation doctrine has narrowed the role of religion in public discourse, fueling the view that religion is a private matter rather than a fundamental precept of American civil society”

See, one’s religion IS a private matter, Senator: one in which the government generally has no say other than to make sure you are not infringing anyone else’s rights (and no one is infringing yours) while practicing it.  When you talk about a “fundamental precept of American civil society”, the concept you are really thinking about is “religious freedom”, which the concept of separation of church and state is there to protect.

One person can free Kim Davis…

…and that’s Kim Davis herself.

See this link for an article from AU’s very own Rob Boston on how the KY county clerk has chosen the path of martyrdom rather than comply with the law.

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