We are pleased to announce that the St. Louis Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State provided a free forum to leaders of religious organizations about what the law allows them to do, or precludes them from doing, with regard to political support for candidates and issues. Religious organizations that have tax-exempt status risk losing those privileges if they transgress the law. The forum was held at the Mid-County Library in Clayton on September 1, 2016 (just in time for the election!) at 7:00p. Information was by our President, Cynthia Holmes, and distinguished attorney Leonard Frankel (pictured left). This was not be a MeetUp event, because we are targeting religious leaders rather than our own membership.
The proposed law that would have enshrined religious discrimination in our state constitution died, mercifully, in the Missouri House committee that was considering it. It had been passed by the Republican majority in the Senate, after receiving no Democratic Party support there. The vote was 4-4 in the committee, which will kill the bill, not allowing it to go to a floor vote, that could have put it on the November ballot. The public outpouring of opposition to the bill, including unusual public statements by corporations in the state finally led to its defeat. Read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch story in the April 28 issue.
Many of our Board members were at our booth at the annual Earth Day celebration in front of the Muny Opera in Forest Park on Sunday, April 24. It was a sunny and warm day, and a huge crowd showed up. Parking was very tight for those who drove, but not much a problem for those like me who biked! Special thanks to Board member Richard Haar, who got us organized and stayed at the booth all day. He is the handsome fellow shown with (left to right) New Treasurer Helene Sherman, Old Treasurer Carol Bartell, and Secretary Mary O’Reilly in the photo.
Under the headline “Constitutional Balancing Act Topples Under SJR 39”, Tony Messenger’s column for Sunday, April 24, 2016, describes a report by law professors from Washington University, St. Louis University, UMKC and UMC on the constitutionality of this controversial measure. We are pleased to see that some of the best constitutional experts in the state have come to the same conclusion that we reached weeks ago. Read Messenger’s column, and also our remarks and those of our national office about this issue that were posted on March 10.
Our Annual meeting was held April 14 at the Center of Clayton. The featured speaker, Missouri Senator Jill Schupp drew a good crowd of about 40. Senator Schupp has been in the news recently because of her actions relative to SJR 39, as you can read in the Post-Dispatch story about it.
Senator Schupp is shown seated with long-time former ACLU Executive Director Joyce Armstrong. In the background are, from left to right, our Secretary, Mary O’Reilly, and Directors Richard Haar, Chris Guinther, and Keith Hubbard (with his wife).
Another view of the meeting in its early stages. As usual, Board member Ann Pollack is making good use of a spare moment to work on a knitting project. After her more prepared remarks, Senator Shupp (center, in white) entertained questions from the group.
An Op-Ed against SJR 39, “SJR 39 will hurt Missourians and Missouri companies” appeared in the April 12 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It was signed by the top executives of Monsanto, MasterCard, KC Southern, Civic Progress, Washington University, StL Regional Chamber, Express Scripts, Dow Chemical, and Edward Jones. The link will take you to the complete essay.
We were pleased to be able to provide on March 16 the expertise of our President, Cynthia Holmes and Board members Chris Guinther and Helene Sherman in a webinar, “Faith And Our Public Schools”, for the Missouri chapter of the National Education Association. The MNEA staff attorney, Vincenzo Iuppa, also participated. The session, including questions from participants, is archived online, but is available only to MNEA members. The MNEA Website is http://www.mnea.org.
After using a drastic procedural maneuver to end a 36-hour Democratic filibuster, Republicans in the Missouri Senate yesterday (3/9/2016) voted for SJR 39, that would allow discrimination against same-sex wedding ceremonies, in direct contravention to recent US Supreme Court rulings. The action has drawn criticism and derision for Missouri across the country, including a scathing commentary from AU’s national headquarters.
On Thursday evening, February 11, we met at 7:00p to view the award-winning video, “In God We Trust?”, by Scott Burdick. It is an account of what happened after a returning Afghanistan veteran sued his home town of King, North Carolina, for the removal of a Christian flag from the public Veteran’s Memorial. The video presents a wide-ranging overview of church/state issues, but it was too long for us to view in its entirety (one can find it on YouTube). We saw selected portions of it that focus on the issues that most directly the legal and social aspects of the suit, and we had a good discussion afterward.
By all accounts, it was a very successful evening, with 33 people in attendance
Three of our Board members attended the recent (November, 2015) Annual Meeting of AU in Washington, DC. Two of the highlights occurred on the last afternoon of the meeting, when Executive Director Rev. Barry Lynn introduced Bishop John Shelby Spong, who was recognized as AU’s Person of the Year for 2015. The remarks of both of these men are linked below.
We enjoyed the hospitality of one of our Board members at a private residence for a Holiday Get-Together on Friday evening, December 4. Wine and light hors d’oevres were provided. RSVP’s were handled through our Meetup Group at http://www.meetup.com which we encourage everyone interested to join, as it will be where other activities will be announced . Joining the Meetup is free and without obligation – you should already have joined us, anyway! If you are not familiar with the process, it could not be easier. Just navigate to that URL, search for Americans United within 25 miles of St. Louis, go through the brief registration. You might even find another group in St. Louis with which you have affinity!