We were very pleased to have had as our guest and speaker at the 2015 annual picnic, Rob Boston, from the national headquarters of Americans United. He provided an up-to-the-minute precis of church/state issues from the national perspective. The event was held at the Windegger Shelter in Tilles Park, Litzsinger and McKnight. The weather was as predicted – perfect – 75 degrees with a pleasant breeze. We made the scientific discovery that flies do not land on sauerkraut.
Rob Boston is the Director of Communications at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Rob, who has worked at Americans United since 1987, also serves as editor of AU’s Church & State magazine. He is the author of four books: Close Encounters with the Religious Right: Journeys into the Twilight Zone of Religion and Politics (Prometheus Books, 2000); The Most Dangerous Man in America? Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition (Prometheus Books, 1996); Why the Religious Right Is Wrong About Separation of Church and State (Prometheus Books, 1993; second edition, 2003) and, most recently, Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You The Right To Tell Other People What To Do (Prometheus Books, 2014).
Kerri Levine of St. Louis wrote a Letter to the Editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that was published on Saturday, May 2. It expresses the AU point of view perfectly. Here is the link: http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/mailbag/dangerous-to-mix-religion-and-government/article_0bf62fbf-d4e6-557f-9d8f-b14e2963d6f8.html
Many of our Board members were at the annual Earth Day celebration on a beautiful Sunday, April 26 in Forest Park (in front of the Muny), on Sunday, April 26. We have enjoyed interacting with members and non-members at Earth Day for several years now. It is always a positive experience, whether or not the weather cooperates. This year, it was a perfect day.
State Senator Jill Schupp, Missouri District 24, was unable to meet with us as we had planned on April 16, to update us on issues and happenings in Jefferson City, especially those that impinge on church/state separation. A capable replacement, State Representative Tracy McCreery (Missouri 88th District) took Jill’s place and provided an informative and lively discussion of happenings in the capital. We met at 7:00p at “The Heights”, the Richmond Heights Community Center, on April 16, 2015. The membership voted to adopt the revised Constitution and Bylaws, that were on the Web a month before the meeting.
Our friends at Interfaith Alliance have a convenient Web link to be used to contact your Representative about the threat to include language that would allow public school monies to be diverted to private schools when No Child Left Behind’s successor legislation is reauthorized. Their link is http://www.interfaithalliance.org/get-active/action-center/item/17-keep-public-money-out-of-private-parochial-schools. You may find other Actions that you will want to participate in, on their “Get Active” menu.
AU Board members have been reading a very interesting but very depressing (from our point of view) book, “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children“, by Katherine Stewart. Because of a 2001 Supreme Court ruling, Good News Club v. Milford Central School, public schools are largely defenseless against evangelical organizations (GNC being the most active, best-funded, and nefarious) who are taking over public schools for activities aimed primarily at children between 4 and 14. Even more alarming is that churches are being “planted” in public school buildings across the country, including here in St. Louis. If you are wondering what “planting” means, it is just as bad as it sounds. Public school buildings, including auditoriums and classrooms are taken over (at minimal ‘rent’, usually covering only utilities) for regular Sunday church services and Sunday schools. Katherine Stewart’s book describes these movements in detail, and the picture is not pretty. Read the book.
We viewed and discussed Vic Losick’s Award-winning documentary film, “In God We Teach” on Thursday evening, February 5 at 7:00p. Our host was again the Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Road.
Partially in response to our President, attorney Cynthia Holmes, (there were others also encouraging in this direction), the Ballwin City Council voted September 23, 2014 not to accept a “free” sign saying “In God We Trust” to be posted in their Board Room. The Post-Dispatch story on this can be found at http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/ballwin-rejects-in-god-we-trust-sign/article_ed39ceaf-242c-509d-aed6-1f9892489ae3.html
St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist and Donnybrook founding member Bill McClellan spoke at our annual picnic on September 21 in Shaw Park, Clayton. Bill also wrote an amusing commentary about our organization on July 4 (fittingly). The title was “Finally – A Group That Won’t Break My Heart” -that’s us! Click on the link to read the whole column.
We have photographs of some of the glamorous people in attendance. They will be posted in this space very soon.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on May 5 that sectarian (inevitably Christian) prayers before town hall meetings are not violations of the separation of church and state. It is hard to believe that a Jewish or Muslim citizen seeking a zoning change or a lodging a complaint with his local officials would not be disconcerted when the proceedings at which he is making a request are begun with a prayer to Jesus Christ. The AU national office has comments about this unfortunate development at https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-disappointed-that-us-supreme-court-ruled-in-favor-of-sectarian