This has been an exceptionally active year for the Delaware Valley Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and I want to highlight some of the ways in which we put your generous support to good use in 2011.
Winter Gala Fundraiser: First off, I wish to extend a hearty thanks to those supporters who attended our event on Rittenhouse Square last week. Those who did not attend missed one of the most moving solo piano performances I’ve ever experienced. Laurent Levy is a pianist extraordinaire! We’ll do it again next year so don’t miss it.
Church/State Issues Symposium: In April we held our 2nd Church/State Issues Symposium at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The event was a real success. We were able to draw an all-star lineup of speakers offering a wide range of views on church/state separation issues. Along with Barry Lynn as the keynote speaker, other contributors included constitutional attorneys, clergy, political scientists, and historians. One speaker, a historian, came all the way from Montana to participate. Events such as our symposia are excellent ways of exchanging ideas and keeping church/state issues lively. Also, Americans United has a mandate to insure that the wisdom of church/state separation is passed on to successive generations. Religious freedoms don’t automatically renew – AU is critical to passing on this wisdom to future generations.
Anti-Voucher Initiatives: DVAU can proudly claim partial responsibility for the defeat of SB 1, the PA voucher bill. On December 14 the PA House voted NO to vouchers, killing the bill for the time being at least (there are legislative rumblings that the bill will be resurrected again next year). Our chapter took part in an anti-voucher march on Washington, D.C.; we hosted and took part in several voucher debates including one with Senator Anthony Williams, co-sponsor of the bill. We also wrote letters to editors and legislatures. In 2012, our efforts will continue to block the voucher scheme in NJ.
Debates with the Religious Right: This year we took part in two debates with the religious right at Temple University and at Philadelphia’s Central Library. Both events were well attended. A sampling of topics included “The U.S. is a Christian Nation,” “Evolution is not a viable Science,” and “U.S. Law is based on the Ten Commandments.” It was pretty much unanimous, the good guys won! DVAU was better prepared and, most importantly, we drew on science and facts to support our arguments – the other side referenced scripture.
Monthly Meetings: We continued holding monthly meetings in center city Philadelphia, Bucks County, and South Jersey. Despite relatively small turn-outs, we consistently host excellent speakers. For example, speaking at our last meeting in Bucks County was John Seager, president and CEO of Population Connection an advocacy group for population stabilization. John is no light-weight. Prior to joining Population Connection, John served at the EPA during the Clinton Administration and was Chief of Staff for former US Rep. Peter H. Kostmayer. John will speak again at our next meeting in Philadelphia on January 19 at 7pm in the Parkway Central Library (see dvau.org for details). Don’t miss this one – John is an excellent speaker addressing important and timely issues.
In Conclusion: DVAU relies on you to be active in defending Church/State separation. If you see a problem in your community, please contact us. Speak out on behalf of separation of church & state in your community. Write letters to the editor. Let your legislatures know how you feel about religious freedom issues. Share church/state news on our Facebook wall, or Tweet stories to us @delvalau on Twitter. There is much you can do to help!
Thanks again for your support and best wishes for the New Year!
Ed Joyce, President, Delaware Valley Americans United