Thursday, May 28, 2009

Liberty University revoked recognition of a student-run Democratic organization -- AU files IRS complaint

A group that backs the separation of church and state asked the Internal Revenue Service yesterday to review Liberty University's tax-exempt status because the university revoked recognition of a student-run Democratic organization.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State said Liberty University, as a tax-exempt institution, should not be allowed to support one political party over another.


Mathew Staver, dean of the Liberty University School of Law, described the complaint as "outrageous and bogus" and said Liberty is preparing an IRS complaint against Americans United for using its tax-exempt status to attack only those organizations it disagrees with.

"This was the straw that broke the camel's back," he said, accusing Americans United of harassment.

For the full article, visit

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Americans United Criticizes California Supreme Court For Ruling Allowing Ban On Same-Sex Marriage To Stand

Americans United Criticizes California Supreme Court For Ruling Allowing Ban On Same-Sex Marriage To Stand

National Watchdog Organization Says Right To Marry Must Not Be Nullified By Religious Groups


“Marriage is a civil right and should not be subject to majority rule or a religious litmus test,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United.

“It is a decision at odds with both the Constitution and basic decency,” Lynn continued. “History will judge that this was a step backward for religious freedom and civil rights.”

After a divisive campaign led largely by conservative religious groups, California voters narrowly approved Proposition 8 in November of 2008. The vote had the effect of nullifying a May 2008 ruling by the state high court legalizing same-sex marriage.

Gay-rights groups subsequently challenged the vote in court, arguing that fundamental changes to the California Constitution can be made only through a deliberative process that begins in the legislature, not ballot initiatives.

Americans United, the Anti-Defamation League and 30 other civil rights and civil liberties groups joined the effort, filing a friend-of-the-court brief asserting that a bare majority of voters should not be permitted to remove fundamental rights from a minority group.

“If Proposition 8 can strip fundamental rights from gay and lesbian people by a 52 percent majority, future amendments can strip away fundamental rights from other disfavored groups based on race, national origin, gender or religion,” read the brief.

“Today’s ruling is unfortunate, but it’s not the end of the fight,” Lynn said. “I’m confident that Californians will rise up and reject the divisive agenda of the Religious Right.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Oklahoma Constitution regarding tax money and religion

Section II-5: Public money or property - Use for sectarian purposes.

No public money or property shall ever be appropriated,
applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use,
benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system
of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest,
preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or
sectarian institution as such.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rev. Lynn discusses Gay Rights as Civil Rights

Three-part video available here

American Military Are Not Christian Soldiers

AU Executive Director Barry Lynn has spoken to a number of news outlets in the US and Europe about the recently reported practice within the Bush Administration of including Bible verses in Defense Dept. intelligence briefings about the Iraq war.

"[US troops] are not Christian crusaders, and they ought not be depicted as such. Depicting the Iraq conflict as some sort of holy war is completely outrageous. It's contrary to the constitutional separation of religion and government, and it's tremendously damaging to America's reputation in the world."

An article posted by The Daily Mail Online (London) shows several of the briefing covers that contain photos and Bible verses:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

PBS Weighs Separation Of Church & Stations

PBS stations are debating the limits of one of public television's basic commandments: Thou shalt not broadcast religious programming. The discussion, some station managers fear, could lead to a ban on broadcasts of local church services and other faith-oriented programs that have appeared on public stations for decades despite the prohibition.

The Public Broadcasting Service's board is to vote next month on a committee's recommendation to strip the affiliation of any station that carries "sectarian" content. Losing its PBS relationship would mean that a station could no longer broadcast programs that the service distributes, from "Sesame Street" to "Frontline."

complete at:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Gov. Henry signs Ten Commandments monument bill

Gov. Henry signs Ten Commandments monument bill
By Michael McNutt
Published: May 18, 2009

Gov. Brad Henry today signed a bill that places a Ten Commandments monument
on the state Capitol grounds.

He signed House Bill 1330 without comment. The measure easily passed both
chambers: 83-2 in the House and 38-8 in the Senate.

The bill was filed by Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow.

Ritze, a freshman legislator, said the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a
similar monument's existence on the Texas Capitol grounds.

Ritze, who was not at the Capitol today, has said his family would pay for
the design and construction of the 6-foot monolith as well as maintenance
costs. He estimated the statue’s cost about $10,000.

The State Capitol Preservation Commission is authorized to find a spot for
the monument, according to the bill.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ten Suggestions on the Ten Commandments

In no particular order, here follow a handful of reasons why Governor Henry ought to veto HB1330:

  1. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids it, both in theory and in practice. Applying the five criteria of Justice Breyer’s crucial concurring opinion in the case of Van Orden v. Perry, it should become clear that the proposed Oklahoma monument fails every prong of his five-pronged, highly-contextual test for the constitutionality of borderline cases of religious displays on public grounds. I gravely doubt whether any Constitutional scholar who does not wholly reject the principle of stare decisis can make a well-reasoned argument to the contrary conclusion.

  2. The Oklahoma Constitution Section II-5 expressly provides that “No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion.” It is only by the most rarefied and disingenuous sophistry that one can hope to claim that the solicitation and maintenance of a Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds should be seen as anything other than the indirect use of public property for the endorsement and benefit of the Hebrew and Christian systems of religion.

  3. The above two jurisprudential concerns indicate the eventuality of a lawsuit which the State of Oklahoma will most probably lose. Passing HB1330 will therefore waste the time and money of Oklahoma citizens during a period of pervasive financial difficulties, in which there are more than enough compelling needs affecting the lives of our people far more directly than our current lack of granite monuments to ancient moral codes.

  4. Contra HB1330, the Ten Commandments (taken as a whole) are not “an important component of the moral foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America” but rather consist primarily of religious injunctions intended originally for an ancient and theocratic people, most of which would be unconstitutional and unethical to enforce upon the citizens of a modern and pluralistic free people. One need look no further than the irreconcilable conflict between the unyielding religious orthodoxy of the First Commandment and the religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to see that this is so.

  5. Contra HB1330, this display does nothing to further the philosophy that “God has limited the authority of civil government, and that God has endowed people with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” neither does it provide the reasonable observer with any basis to guess that it was erected to honor these time-honored principles of American government. To the contrary, the message transmitted by this display is a straightforward endorsement of the divine moral code of the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

  6. Contra HB1330 Section 2(D), the display of this particular passage and translation of the Hebrew scriptures (the King James Version) clearly serves to endorse particular religious traditions and elevate a religious minority within Christendom to uniquely privileged status, a chosen few whose favored conception of holy writ has been set in stone and officially endorsed by the state government. It is widely known that Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics do not accept the validity of the KJV on account of its formation and promulgation as an Anglican response to Puritan concerns. Moreover, in light of the burgeoning King-James-only movement within modern Protestantism, this monument takes sides in an ongoing theological debate. For example, the congregation of Calvary Baptist of Edmond may rejoice that the State of Oklahoma has chosen to set in stone a passage from the only translation of the Bible which they consider to be the divinely “preserved Word of God for the English-speaking people.”

  7. Religious minorities, upon viewing this monument, will (rightly or wrongly) conclude that the State of Oklahoma does not intend to treat them as equal citizens before the law, because they do not recognize the Hebrew Scriptures or (as is the case of two-thirds of Christendom) do not recognize the validity of the King James Version of the Bible. This message is unmistakable and ineluctable, and can only be avoided by seeing the problem solely through the eyes of a member of the Protestant majority, without for a moment considering what it would be like to see a monument to a religion other than one’s own on the Capitol grounds. To fulfill the injunctions of Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 19:19 to love others as we love ourselves, we must consider the monument as if in the shoes of our neighbors who do not believe as we do.

  8. This monument will have political implications which are currently unforeseeable. For example, groups advocating broadening the death penalty as well as those in favor of strengthening the current Sabbath laws may cite to this monument as a morally exemplary statement of Oklahoma values, noting the relevant Scriptural punishments for breaking the Commandments, e.g. capital punishment for working on the Sabbath. This is an extreme example, of course, but it should be clear that posting this monument will open the door to the interjection of all manner of theologically informed and faith-based arguments into the legislative process.

  9. This monument will have theological implications which are currently unforeseeable. Just as the above examples demonstrate the possibility of having more church in the state, so also this monument suggests the propriety of having more state in the church, that is, more openly partisan politicking in the pews.  Surely churches will feel that they ought to take a more active role in getting people elected who share their faith commitments, now that the state has taken it upon itself to select particular religious dicta to be displayed prominently and exclusively on the Capitol grounds.  This will lead inevitably to a perverse admixture of religious and political orthodoxy, unnecessarily dividing congregations and other religious bodies.

  10. Finally, one must wonder whether the passage of this bill is (at least for some officials) nothing more than a cynical attempt to garner grassroots support from those who would happily tear down Jefferson’s wall of separation between church and state, and to thereby create an de facto religious test designed to exclude those politicians who care to preserve our national ethos of pluralism and religious tolerance. Such Machiavellian tactics are surely to be deplored, most especially when coupled with the flagrant hypocrisy of those politicians willing to take the name of the Lord’s in vain by cloaking themselves in an illusion of public piety in order to consolidate their power base and manipulate the electorate to serve their own ends. Of such politicians, the red-letter words of Matthew 23:27 spring inevitably to mind.

Given all of these reasons, it should be clear that it would be unwise, unethical, and almost undoubtedly unconstitutional to post this monument at the State Capitol. It takes a rare and courageous official to veto a popular bill in the face of uninformed but pervasive public support, but these are precisely the traits which may make someone into a great leader of a free people.

Suit filed to block public school graduation at church

Suit filed to block public school graduation at church
By 365gay Newscenter Staff
05.08.2009 5:14pm EDT
(Washington) A federal lawsuit has been filed to block a Wisconsin public school district from holding graduation ceremonies in the sanctuary of an evangelical church.

The suit was filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on behalf of a graduating senior and several families in the district, challenges the Elmbrook School District’s decision to hold graduation ceremonies for Brookfield Central High School and Brookfield East High School at Elmbrook Church.

“Public schools should schedule graduation ceremonies at public venues where families of all faiths or none will feel welcome,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Some parents and children do not feel comfortable attending commencement in this religious setting. Graduation is too important to leave some families out.”


Support D.C. Public Schools!

Support D.C. Public Schools!
Oppose Private School Vouchers

Congress is deliberating the fate of a federally funded school voucher “experiment” in the District of Columbia. The program, which pays for tuition at religious and other private schools, was originally funded for five years, and now that time is up. Yet some legislators want to extend the program.

Take Action!

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hold a hearing on the issue on Wednesday, May 13. The committee is chaired by U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an avid voucher supporter. It’s clear the hearing will be used as a vehicle to promote the D.C. scheme.

Click here to read more background information on voucher case rulings around the country.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

It's time for Obama to listen to his mama

The president has promised to increase religion's influence on policymaking. He should honor the late Ann Dunham by strengthening the wall between church and state instead.

By Frances Kissling

May. 10, 2009

I have a wish for Mother's Day: I'd like our president to listen to his mother and adopt a modicum of skepticism regarding the role of religion in government. Barack Obama's own religious background, as he noted at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in early February, includes a father who was a Muslim and became an atheist, "grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of religion." But I've watched with some alarm as the president engages in a full-court press to prove that Democrats can use religion just as inappropriately as Republicans. He seems hellbent on establishing in the West Wing of the White House a religious intrusion into public policy that would make Karl Rove proud.

Yes, it was a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who started it all. In his welfare reform bill, Clinton included an expanded opportunity for religious groups to win federal funds for social services without meeting standards for not discriminating in employment and not proselytizing the people they served. A Republican, the second President Bush, opened the gate wider. He established the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. It was controversial, and it was, transparently, an effort to steer money toward the GOP's religious base, but it had only one task, which it pursued aggressively. It guided religious groups through the federal funding process and ensured that they got a share of federal and state monies.

complete at:

Friday, May 8, 2009

Ten Commandments Bill passes OK House

Now might be a good time to bone up on persuasive arguments which Governor Henry might find moving enough to compel a veto of this bill.  I'd recommend starting with this podcast.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oklahoma Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection 2009

This year's Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection at the State Capitol was not overly crowded with hordes of interreligious ecumenicists, or really crowded in any sense at all.  It was, however, filled with hope and permeated with the aroma of an ideological melting pot, bubbling over with a distinctly Americanized mélange.  Where else in the world can you take in the wisdom of a 
Reverend, a Rabbi, an Imam, and a Priest, followed by a Sikh blessing, all in one sitting?  This is a rhetorical question, of course, but it merits some reflection.  Even today, few countries can boast such a degree of religious diversity, civil liberty, and socio-cultural toleration to pull this sort of thing off, and it is all to the credit of the Interfaith Alliance that they did so.

I was even more impressed than in previous years with the degree to which the interfaith ceremony explicitly endorsed our common commitment to religious liberty and freedom of conscience.  This stands in sharp contrast to the ceremony held within the Capitol, at which religious and political leaders affirmed their dedication to One Nation Under God and took pains to exclude anyone unwilling to sign up to their creed.

Altogether, it was a very positive experience and certainly worth giving up lunch.  See you guys again next year!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Thanks for adding me to the list of AUOK group blog contributors.  If you are looking for more bloggers, I would recommend this guy and this guy.  :)

Partisan Politicking By Anti-Gay D.C. Clergy Could Result In Loss Of Tax Exemption, Says Americans United

Partisan Politicking By Anti-Gay D.C. Clergy Could Result In Loss Of Tax Exemption, Says Americans United

Church-State Watchdog Group Reminds Religious Leaders That Federal Tax Law Prohibits Election Intervention By Churches

May 6, 2009

A small band of clergy in Washington, D.C., yesterday threatened to mobilize politically and remove several members of the city council from office, prompting Americans United for Separation of Church and State to issue a reminder that church-based partisan politicking is illegal.

Anti-gay clergy are angry over a 12-1 vote by the District of Columbia Council recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. The Washington Post reported that after the vote, a group of ministers “vowed that they will work to oust the members who supported the bill” and became so disruptive that police had to remove them.

“Religious leaders have the right to speak out for or against same-sex marriage, but they cannot use the resources of their churches to elect or defeat candidates,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Uniting houses of worship with partisan politics makes for a bad marriage and an unlawful one to boot.”
Lynn said Americans United will monitor the situation and will not hesitate to report churches to the Internal Revenue Service if they use their tax-exempt resources to intervene in any election by endorsing or opposing candidates.
Federal tax law says 501(c)(3) non-profit groups, including houses of worship, may not “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

Yet some ministers who attended the council meeting have vowed retaliation at the ballot box. The Washington Times reported that the Rev. Anthony Evans, an associate minister at Mount Zion Baptist Church, said of the 12 council members who supported the move, “Bottom line, they just kissed themselves goodbye.”

One minister reportedly even singled out a council member by name. “Catania first,” the Rev. Charlie Smith said of at-large Councilmember David Catania. “No matter what ward you’re in, you can vote Catania out.”

Americans United maintains a special effort called Project Fair Play, designed to educate clergy and the general public about the requirements of tax law. Since 1996, AU has reported 95 houses of worship and religious non-profits for violating the law.
In addition, the IRS has announced new efforts to make sure the no-politicking rule is followed. In 2008, the IRS issued a press release reminding churches that they may not intervene in partisan politics.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

HR 397 (federal)

New action alert from on H.R. 397 now moving through the House in D.C.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Americans United Commends Obama For Discontinuing Religious Right-Focused Prayer Event At White House

President Will Sign Proclamation, But Won’t Hold White House Event

May 5, 2009

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today commended President Barack Obama for discontinuing an annual Religious Right-focused prayer service held during the previous eight years at the White House.

Obama has indicated that he will sign a proclamation recognizing the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, but that no special White House prayer service will be held.
This stands in contrast to the George W. Bush administration that invited James and Shirley Dobson and other Religious Right leaders to the White House for an annual government-sponsored prayer service. The relationship appeared to give governmental endorsement to the Dobsons’ National Day of Prayer Task Force, a private fundamentalist group that sponsors Christians-only prayer meetings around the country.

Read the full press release at

Read more on why Americans do not need the National Day of Prayer

For more information, visit the AU Press Center.
Call (202) 466-3234—or email

Monday, May 4, 2009

US soldiers acting as Christian missionaries

US soldiers told to act as Christian missionaries in Afghanistan --'Witness for Jesus' in Afghanistan

04 May 2009

US soldiers have been encouraged to spread the message of their Christian faith among Afghanistan's predominantly Muslim population, video footage obtained by Al Jazeera appears to show. Military chaplains stationed in the US air base at Bagram were also filmed with bibles printed in the country's main Pashto and Dari languages. In one recorded sermon, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, is seen telling soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility "to be witnesses for him". "The special forces guys - they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down," he says. "Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

"Pomp & Circumstance" Gowns & Mortarboards Students & Prayer?

Get Local

May 1, 2009
"Pomp & Circumstance"
Gowns & Mortarboards
Students & Prayer?

Graduation ceremonies should welcome all.

All students should feel welcome at their graduation. It is a time to celebrate each student's accomplishments, regardless of their religious beliefs. Unfortunately, there are always some school districts that violate church-state separation in their graduation ceremonies.

Last year, the New York Times ran a story about a graduation ceremony in Delaware, where a minister told the students that Jesus was the only way to the truth.

And this year, Americans United has filed a suit to block a Wisconsin public school district from holding graduation ceremonies in the sanctuary of an evangelical church. If you have friends or family members who will be graduating from a public high school this spring, please take a moment to find out about the ceremony.

Report suspect religious/public school events here.

Remember to specify or include:
Date of graduation
School - name and location
Graduation venue (with specific details about any visible religious iconography)
Prayer giver's name, position, and place within the program schedule
Copies of graduation programs
Info about past history of prayer and/or venue
Plans to attend the graduation ceremony

Report suspect religious/public school events here.

Too often, students are forced to decide whether to a) attend their graduation and listen to religious message to which they do not agree or b) skip their graduation and miss this important moment in their lives and the lives of their friends. That is not a choice any student should have to make.
~AU Field Department

For more information on how to get involved, please contact our Field Department.
Call (202)466-3234 or email

Support events like this. Make a donation.
© 2009 Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Friday, May 1, 2009

What is wrong with the National Day of Prayer?

Americans United does not believe the American people need to be called to prayer or worship by the government. Decisions like this are personal and should be left to the individual's conscience. This year’s event is May 7, and AU has compiled a list of resources to help you respond to the question, "What's wrong with the National Day of Prayer?"

Click here for background