Friday, June 21, 2013

From the Desk of Barry Lynn

From the Desk of Barry Lynn

The United States Supreme Court recently announced it will hear an Americans United case that challenges government-sponsored, clergy-led sectarian prayers before meetings of the town board in Greece, New York.

It will be the first time the Supreme Court has weighed in on this issue in 30 years!

And if the justices rule the wrong way, it could set a terrible nationwide precedent.

You can help Americans United build the strongest argument possible by renewing your membership today!

AU took on the case in Greece in 2007 because what was happening there was an affront to many residents and a blatant violation of the separation of church and state. For years, local officials began their government meetings with prayers that were almost always Christian.

Local residents felt like second-class citizens in their own community but couldn’t get the city government to listen. When they asked Americans United to help, I knew we couldn’t say no.

Since then, battle lines have been drawn. AU represented the plaintiffs. Opposing us was the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a wealthy and powerful Religious Right legal group founded by TV and radio preachers that signed on to represent the town.
  Americans United lost the first round but won on appeal, leading the ADF to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now that the case is before the highest court in the land, we have to do all we can to bring it to a successful conclusion. AU’s legal director, Ayesha Khan, will personally argue this case before the Supreme Court.

Americans United urgently needs your renewed help to build up the resources that this effort will require.

This case is going to involve countless hours of work for AU’s dedicated legal team. They’ll be involved in research to frame the best possible arguments, lining up allies to stand with us by filing amicus briefs before the court, and engaging some of the country’s leading legal minds on this issue. And it comes at a time when our resources are already stretched thin.
Please renew today! Your continued support will ensure that AU has the funds it needs to support this lawsuit and our vitally important efforts to keep the church-state wall strong.
Let me be clear about one thing: This was not “voluntary” prayer in Greece. These prayers were offered as part of the official meetings of the town. Members of the town board could have engaged in truly voluntary prayers before the session got under way, but they insisted on making these public pronouncements of faith.

What's more, the governmental prayers were almost always Christian. In fact, during one 9-year period, every single one of the town’s prayer-givers was Christian.

You read that right: every single one! And over the 18-month period before the case was filed, almost 90 percent of the prayers were overtly Christian, referencing “Jesus Christ,” “Jesus,” “Your Son” or the “Holy Spirit.”

The town board was choosing sides on religion. They were sending a message: We have a favorite religion. It’s this one. If it’s not yours, too bad!

If the U.S. Supreme Court allows this, you can bet that there will be communities large and small all over America that will decide to adopt their “favorite religion” as well. A gaping hole will be blown in the wall of separation between church and state.

With your renewed help, Americans United will have the resources we need to present the best possible case to the Supreme Court to ensure that neither conservative Christianity, nor any single religion, becomes enshrined as a de facto state-supported faith.

Please renew as generously as you are able, so Americans United can craft the most powerful argument possible to make sure the Religious Right’s dream world doesn’t become our nightmare.

With thanks,

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