Many people in the US have become aware, some more recently than others, of the antics of alleged separation of church and state group, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. They have formally existed since 1947 and claim to be non-partisan, non-sectarian advocates of the absolute separation of religion from politics. They also claim independence from any larger group or political body. See their director, Rev. Barry Lynn’s letter here explaining these points.
I question AU’s dedication to these points, however, as well as their claim to be unaffiliated with other groups. Rev. Lynn is a pastor from the liberal wing of the United Church of Christ, considered left-leaning in its approaches to theological and political issues. They have had numerous dust-ups with conservative groups and the Simon Wiesenthal Center whom the UCC accused of being involved in conspiracies. Lynn is also no simple man of the cloth, but rather a Georgetown trained attorney with a resume that includes working as legislative counsel for the UCC’s Washington, D.C. office, assistance to the UCC’s legal office in providing aid to draft dodgers, and a seven year stint as legislative counsel for the ACLU’s Washington, D.C. office. Clearly, this is a slick, sophisticated, “inside-the-beltway” player. Given the background of its director, it makes the claim that AU has no ties to the ACLU or the UCC seem questionable.
All of this to say that the AU is a great deal similar to Lynn’s former employer, the ACLU. It prides itself on being non-partisan and fighting only for separation of church and state, but, like the ACLU, is highly selective in its choice of battles. Students wanting prayer at graduations must be opposed tooth and claw (see Lynn’s statements here, here, here, and here ), but US church leaders demanding an end to the Iraq War, pressuring the United States government to adopt specific strategies in conducting said war, and throwing their support against a war which the United States Congress authorized is apparently kosher as far as Lynn and the AU are concerned.
Searches of the AU’s website produced no objections (or any reference at all for that matter) to any of the following official statements or position papers : US Council of Catholic Bishops, the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (a multi-denominational group), among others. Where is the AU’s vehement objection? Where is Barry Lynn’s fire and righteousness in condeming an outright push by organized religion to directly influence politics in the US? …crickets chirping…
Seems that maybe ole Rev Barry is a might bit selective in his choice of issues, eh? In fact, I find that many of the anti-religion leftist hit groups follow pretty much the same strategy as the non-partisan AU. When religious leaders and groups support issues that the left opposes such as pro-life activism, abstinence education, and opposition to euthanasia, the left howls and moans about the American theocracy and how the religious right is conquering America. On the other hand, when religious leaders voice their support for left-friendly issues such as ending the war in Iraq, banning the death penalty, and increasing funding for “social justice issues,” the usual hit groups are nowhere to be found.
This calls into question the integrity of the AU. Americans United for Separation of Church and State claim to be non-partisan. They claim to take no marching orders from, say the DNC or the ACLU, yet they seem overjoyed to attack issues that support conservative beliefs. At the same time, issues that clearly fall under the umbrella of separation of church and state that happen to be in support of leftist positions are totally untouched by the AU. I think it’s time that the good Reverend Lynn take an honest look at himself and his organization. It’s never too late to repent, right Reverend?
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