Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Supreme Court Decision in Mojave Cross Case Is Disappointing,

photo from

Justices Allow Congress To Circumvent Federal Court Order Requiring Removal Of Religious Symbol From Public Land

April 28, 2010

Today’s Supreme Court decision in a California cross case is disappointing, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“I’m very disappointed,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “The court majority was clearly determined to find any bogus reason to keep this religious symbol in a public park.”

Added Lynn,
“It’s alarming that the high court continues to undermine the separation of church and state. Nothing good can come from this trend.”

Lynn said the ruling in Salazar v. Buono will likely encourage further assaults on the church-state wall.

Read the full press release at

Saturday, April 24, 2010

OK AU Spring Dialogue Touches the Hot Button Issues

For Immediate Release

OKC Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Saturday, April 24, 2010

Contact: Mike Fuller, president, 405-570-3244
Nick Singer, vice-president, 405-416-3126

What: OKC Chapter of Americans United Spring Dialogue Event
When: Saturday, May 8, 2010, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm
Where: OKC Downtown Public Library, 300 Park Avenue, 4th floor
Who: OKC Chapter of Americans United for Church & State and the public!

Americans United for Separation of Church & State
Plans Spring Dialogue Event

(OKLAHOMA CITY) The Oklahoma City Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church & State ( has never sidestepped the hot button issues confronting the implementation of America's Constitution. The upcoming Spring Dialogue on Saturday, May 8, 2010 will be an example of defending the rule of law, regardless of faith belief or no belief, Christian or other beliefs, and regardless of sexual orientation.

This year's edition will bring two of those hot buttons to the forefront during a public meeting at the Downtown Public Library, located at 300 Park Avenue. We will convene in the 4th floor Friends of the Library Room.

During the morning session Reverend Dr. Scott Jones from the Cathedral of Hope located in Oklahoma City ( will discuss the latest book by Martha Nussbaum concerning the history of religious liberty. Rev. Jones has exercised his religious liberty by marrying his partner Michael Cich in the United Church of Christ denomination.

In the afternoon session, Razi Hashmi, Executive Director, CAIR Oklahoma, ( will share his experience of living in Oklahoma as a follower of Islam and what it means for the separation of mosque and state.

Speaking on the topic of “Reflections and Suggestions” will be former Oklahoma State Representative, Reverend Jeff Hamilton, who is associate pastor at First Christian Church ( and President, Interfaith Alliance, Oklahoma City Chapter. (

Keynote speaker in the afternoon will be Sandhya Bathija, Communications Associate from the Washington, DC office of Americans United ( She will be discussing current church/state issues from the national point of view.

The Spring Dialogue morning session will begin at 10:00am. Lunch will be served at 12:15 with the afternoon session starting at 1:00 and ending at 3:00pm.

There will be a registration fee of $15 that includes a box lunch The public is invited to participate.

For more information about the Oklahoma City Chapter of Americans for Separation of Church and State or if you would like to attend the Spring Dialogue event, please contact Mike Fuller at 405-570-3244 or Nick Singer at 405-416-3126.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Congressional Earmarks For Religious Groups Raise Church-State Concerns

Congressional Earmarks For Religious Groups Raise Church-State Concerns, Says Americans United

April 22, 2010

Watchdog Group Urges Obama Administration To Block Ten Grants Unless Constitutional Safeguards Can Be Enforced

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today called on the Obama administration to investigate ten earmarks for religious schools and ministries that raise constitutional issues about inappropriate public funding of religion.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and three other cabinet officers, Americans United urged the administration to examine the congressional earmarks and block the funding unless appropriate legal safeguards can be put in place.

“Taxpayers should never be forced to support religion,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “Congress should not approve earmark funding for projects that advance religion. Religious pork is bad for America’s constitutional health.”

The earmarks include:

• Atlanta Christian College (East Point, Ga.): $350,000 for curriculum development and technology upgrades. The college seeks to “educate students for Christ-centered service and leadership throughout the world” and “every degree includes a major or minor in Biblical Studies.”

• Beth Medrash Govoha (Lakewood, N.J.): $275,000 for an initiative to expand the rabbinical school’s job training and career counseling services. The services focus on preparing its students to be teachers and administrators in secondary Torah schools and institutions of higher Talmudic studies as practicing rabbis and as experts in rabbinical jurisprudence.

• Grace College and Theological Seminary (Winona Lake, Ind.): $150,000 for curriculum development, technology upgrades and additional course offerings. Grace College is an evangelical Christian liberal arts college that discriminates among applicants based on religion.

• Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch (Minot, N.D.): $475,000 to expand a program for high-risk elementary school students. The Christian ministry’s programs include prayer, Bible studies, counseling and discussion concerning God’s plan for participants.

• Men of Valor Academy (Oakland, Calif.): $100,000 to expand building trades instruction that can only be taken by individuals who first complete a program that includes Christian teachings.

• Team Focus, Inc. (Mobile, Ala.): four earmarks for mentoring projects in four states: $500,000 each for projects in South Carolina and Alabama, $400,000 for one in Mississippi, and $100,000 for one in Texas. Team Focus is a faith-based non-profit organization that apparently includes Bible study and prayer in its mentoring programs for young men.

• Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch (Minot, N.D.): In addition to the Department of Education earmark for high-risk youth intervention programs described above, this ministry was designated to receive a $200,000 Juvenile Justice grant from the Department of Justice to fund the same programs.

• Wesley Biblical Seminary (Jackson, Miss.): $250,000 to support programming costs associated with the Christian seminary’s effort to establish a “multi-cultural center.”

• United Methodist Children’s Home (Selma, Ala.): $150,000 for security and information technology improvements. The ministry Web site explains that part of its mission is to “teach [the children] about God, their heavenly Father” and notes that the Home provides spiritual life and development as an important part of its ministry by “connecting [the] children with local United Methodist Churches in their area so they may participate in worship services, Sunday school, and children and youth activities.”

• Tacoma Rescue Mission (Tacoma, Wash.): $350,000 to complete construction on a shelter building. The Mission’s activities include “shar[ing] our Christian faith.” Within the shelter building itself, the Mission offers “daily encouragement through counseling, spiritual guidance and assurance of hope.”

In the letter to the Obama administration, Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Alex Luchenitser wrote, “We ask that you carefully investigate these earmarks and that you impose any restrictions necessary to ensure that the earmarks satisfy all legal requirements. If such restrictions cannot feasibly be put in place for one or more of the earmarks, then, in order to comply with the law, please refrain from funding those earmarks.”

In addition to Holder, AU wrote to Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Luchenitser emphasized that AU’s concerns are focused on constitutional standards, not hostility to religion.

“We strongly believe,” he wrote, “that religious institutions play a vital role in American society, and we applaud the work that many such institutions perform in providing much-needed social services to our country’s most disadvantaged citizens. We emphasize, however, that in considering whether to fund the efforts of such organizations, the government must be mindful of the fundamental constitutional principle of separation of church and state.”

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.

Why religion could affect Obama's court nomination


Why religion could affect Obama's court nomination

With the exit of John Paul Stevens, the court will be without a Protestant for the first time. Catholics dominate. Does it matter?

April 21, 2010|By James Oliphant, Los Angeles Times

Legislature and the Senate are acting like an amateur gynecologist

The Legislature and the Senate are acting like an amateur gynecologist," State Sen. Jim Wilson (D-Tahlequah) said in an interview in the Tulsa World or

"This is not about abortion. This is about the Bible."

Oklahoma Senate Passes Five Controversial Abortion Bills
Grace Huang, Truthout: "The Oklahoma Senate passed five abortion bills Monday night, which opponents have said will severely limit a woman's ability to get an abortion and would entail some of the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country. One of the bills would force a woman to get an ultrasound at least one hour prior to an abortion and be shown the image and given a detailed explanation of it, even if she wishes otherwise."
Read the Article

complete at:

Judge’s ruling won’t stop prayer day, Oklahoma organizer says

Judge’s ruling won’t stop prayer day, Oklahoma organizer says

quotes from OK AU's president, Mike Fuller:

"I was in complete and total agreement with her ruling, but the fact that she ruled that way caught me totally by surprise,” said Mike Fuller, president of the Oklahoma City chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"The National Day of Prayer should never have been established, and I hope this ruling withstands any appeals which may occur.”

Congress established the day in 1952 and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray.


Meanwhile, Fuller and the Rev. Bruce Prescott said they are waiting to see what happens next regarding Crabb’s ruling.

"Our government does not have any business directing the citizens of this country on when, how or if to pray,” Fuller said.

Prescott, a Baptist minister and director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, shared similar sentiments. Prescott, who also is president of the Norman chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the country is better off if the government remains neutral in matters of religion.

"The government shouldn’t be telling people to pray. Let the preachers do that,” he said.

complete at:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

You Won't Believe What You Hear --

You Won't Believe What You Hear --
OKC Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church & State

Saturday, May 8, 2010, Downtown Public Library, 4th floor, Friends Event Room, 10am to 3pm

It's time for the 2010 edition of the OKC Americans United Spring Dialogue

We'll have speakers who will bring special viewpoints to their presentation of religious/civil separation issues : gay-- with Rev. Scott Jones of Cathedral of Hope in OKC, and Islam-- with Razi Hashmi, executive director, CAIR Oklahoma.

Additional presentations will be made by Rev. Jeff Hamilton of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma City and former state representative, and keynote speaker Sandhya Bathija – Communications Associate from the national office of Americans United for Separation of Church & State.

Registration will be needed and a small fee will be charged to offset expenses and provide a lunch for those so choosing.

More details will follow soon.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

This mythical individual -- hypothetical “reasonable person.”

Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (D.C.)

“A reasonable location for graduation” April 2010

The BJC and National AU work together on many Church & State legal issues.

authored by James Gibson, Staff Counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

One of the more intriguing concepts taught in law school is the hypothetical “reasonable person.” This mythical individual — who always acts properly, regardless of context — is a means of analyzing liability and other legal issues. The reasonable person does not remove the safety guard from a lawn mower when there are numerous, easily readable, large-print warnings not to do so. The reasonable person does not juggle butcher knives. The reasonable person does not believe that a carbolic smoke ball will cure the common cold.

The reasonable person also shows up in Establishment Clause jurisprudence. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that government entities cannot take actions that a reasonable person would interpret as an endorsement of religion. In this area, however, it is not always clear what a reasonable person would perceive. In recent years, a number of controversies — and some lawsuits — have risen in communities where public school graduations (as opposed to voluntary, non-school sponsored baccalaureate ceremonies) are held in religious venues, such as Christian churches.

Although having graduation exercises in a religious venue is commonplace in some communities — particularly in rural areas where a local church is the only place large enough to hold the crowd — it can sometimes place persons of faith, or no faith, in a difficult position. Recently, a Muslim high school student in New Jersey objected to his high school graduation taking place in a Christian church because entering a non-Islamic house of worship was anathema to his faith. Similar tenets would apply to graduates who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Reasonable minds can disagree; most likely for every Christian who would not be offended by attending graduation in a mosque, there is one who would be.

With reasonability in the eye of the beholder, what authority is there to guide the well-intentioned reasonable person? Unfortunately, very little. Although the Supreme Court has ruled on a number of cases involving graduation prayer, it has never heard a case on holding public school graduations in religious venues. A handful of federal trial and appellate courts have considered the issue, but no decision created a settled principle of law for these cases.

Lacking clear guidance from the courts, with only the Supreme Court’s general admonition that government shall not endorse or appear to endorse religion as a guide, where is the line of demarcation in these cases? The President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships recently grappled with a similar issue: whether religious organizations that receive government grants to carry out secular social services should be allowed to do so in rooms that contain religious art, Scripture, messages or symbols. After spirited debate, the Council ultimately voted to recommend that the president institute what is, essentially, a “reasonability standard”: that is, a religious service provider is not required to remove or cover up the accoutrements of faith, but is encouraged to do so whenever feasible if its beneficiaries object.

These concepts are equally applicable and administrable in the public school graduation setting. Our reasonable person would undoubtedly concede that although most graduations scheduled for religious venues are not veiled attempts to proselytize, graduation ceremonies should be held in a non-religious venue whenever possible. When a religious venue is the most suitable option, measures should be taken to ensure that there is no implicit or explicit linkage between the civic event and the host religious venue. For example, a church should not have to cover up its stained glass windows — our reasonable person would surely balk at the prospect of rising graduates and others having to fumble about in semidarkness. Nor does the religious venue need to remove a mounted cross or other religious imagery from the walls of the room being used. But easily achieved and painlessly reversed accommodations, such as covering up them elsewhere, should be items or temporarily removing portable religious objects or texts and storing made.

In any case, when a religious venue is to be the site of a public school graduation, it is incumbent upon school administrators and religious leaders to find a way to be good neighbors without unduly associating church and state. The school should not place unreasonable demands on its religious host, and the host should not take advantage of a community need to further its religious mission. There is always the potential for conflict when religious venues and public ceremonies — or vice versa — intersect, but as is the case in other areas of church-state relations, education and the willingness to be reasonable can go a long way toward avoiding controversy.

Federal Court Decision Striking Down National Day Of Prayer

Congress Has No Business Telling Americans When Or How To Pray, Says AU’s Lynn

April 15, 2010

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today praised a federal district court for striking down the congressionally mandated National Day of Prayer.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that the federal law violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Crabb held that the sole purpose of the federal law “is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.”

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, said, “This decision is a tremendous victory for religious liberty. Congress has no business telling Americans when or how to pray.

“The Constitution forbids the government to meddle in religious matters,” Lynn continued. “Decisions about worship should be made by individuals without direction from elected officials. That’s what freedom is all about.”

Lynn said the National Day of Prayer is of recent vintage. It was created by Congress in 1952. The scheduling of the event used to change, but it was codified by Congress in 1988 (after pressure from the Religious Right) as the first Thursday in May.

Lynn noted that America’s Founders did not intend for government to intrude in Americans’ individual religious choices. Thomas Jefferson, for example, refused to issue prayer proclamations, observing, “Fasting & prayer are religious exercises. The enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises, & the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the Constitution has deposited it.”

James Madison, considered the Father of the Constitution, issued a few prayer proclamations at the behest of Congress during the War of 1812. But he later wrote that he regretted the move.

Governmental religious proclamations, Madison observed, “seem to imply and certainly nourish the erroneous idea of a national religion.” He warned that there would always be a tendency “to narrow the recommendation to the standard of the predominant sect.”

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.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Americans United Praises Justice Stevens' Record On Church And State

Watchdog Group Says Justice’s Replacement Must Respect Church-State Separation And Religious Freedom

April 9, 2010

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today praised Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens for his record of support for church-state separation and expressed the hope that his replacement will hold similar views.
Stevens, the oldest member of the court, announced this morning that he will retire at the end of this term. President Barack Obama is expected to soon reveal his choice to replace Stevens.

“Justice Stevens is an icon -- a thoughtful, perceptive justice who understands the role of church-state separation in American life,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “It is vitally important that President Obama choose a high court nominee who understands that government may not meddle in matters of religion.

“The high court is deeply divided on church-state issues,” Lynn continued. “It is imperative that Stevens’ replacement be someone who understands and upholds the constitutional mandate of church-state separation.”

Read the full press release at

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Strange Bedfellows

Graphic from:

complete article here:

Strange Bedfellows
April 2010 Featured
By Rob Boston

Can The Mad Hatters Of The Religious Right Get An Invitation To The Tea

A few months after Barack Obama was sworn in as president, the American
Family Association (AFA) began blasting its members with e-mails promoting
events called “TEA parties.”

Opposition to Obama had coalesced quickly among the far right, and the AFA –
which loathes Obama because of his support for legal abortion, gay rights
and other social issues – was fast to join the cause.