Get ready for the Delaware Valley Americans United Chapter’s Third Church-State Issues Symposium, to be held at the National Constitution Center in the Kirby Auditorium on Saturday April 20, 2013, from 9am to 5pm. Onsite parking is $9, and the NCC has a cafeteria for lunch (on your own).
Here is the complete program, with abstracts, for DVAU’s Third Church-State Issues Symposium. We’re thrilled to have this amazing lineup, featuring keynote speaker, Reverend Barry Lynn, Executive Director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Delaware Valley Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State
THIRD CHURCH/STATE ISSUES SYMPOSIUM
20 APRIL 2013
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
National Constitution Center
525 Arch Street Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106
9:00 – 9:20 INTRODUCTION
Ed Joyce, President, Delaware Valley Chapter Americans United for Separation of Church & State
9:20 – 9:45 THE USE AND ABUSE OF RELIGION IN POLITICS AND THE 2012 ELECTIONS
J. Brent Walker, Executive Director, Baptist Joint Committee, Washington, D.C.
Walker will explore how we can at once uphold the separation of church and state, affirm the relevance of religion to public life, and honor the ban on religious tests for public office in our political culture. He will sketch out two overarching principles to follow and three specific caveats to heed. Finally, he will comment on the role of religion, for better or worse, in the 2012 election cycle.
9:50 – 10:15 THE PROPER ROLE FOR RELIGION IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE
Sara Hutchinson, Domestic Programs Director, Catholics for Choice, Washington, D.C.
Religion undoubtedly has a place in the public sphere. For policymakers and citizens, faith can be an important part of moral decision-making, helping people know who they are and what their responsibilities to the community should be. In a pluralistic society like the United States, however, it requires some expertise to treat faith communities with respect, on the one hand, and know what to do with specific suggestions from lobbyists claiming to have religion on their side, on the other. After all, legislators may receive input from several different faith groups with opposing viewpoints, or even different requests from within the same religious tradition. Balancing competing interests is always difficult, but this is even more the case when some claim that policy should conform to their religious viewpoints.
Giving religious groups their due respect doesn’t exempt them from the same kind of evaluation that we give to proposals from any other group: well-thought-out, balanced and practical suggestions are still the best ones. When deciding what weight to give to such requests, we should ask ourselves four basic questions.
- Evaluate the group suggesting a policy: who does it represent, and does it accurately reflect these individuals’ views on the issue?
- Is the group presenting a valid, ethical, well-supported viewpoint?
- Does the suggested policy respect not just the rights of the group, but those of the larger society?
- Will the policy position work? What will be the results of adopting the policy in the real world?
It’s not only appropriate to ask questions about a policy promoted by a religious group; other constituents with other beliefs count on it so that their interests are weighed as well.
10:15 – 10:25 Break
10:25 – 10:50 CONTRACEPTION AND THE COURTS
Greg Lipper, Senior Litigation Counsel, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Washington, D.C.
Since the Obama administration issued regulations requiring employers to offer comprehensive health insurance – including coverage for contraception – dozens of employers across the country have challenged these regulations in court. The legal challenges arise under both the Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the plaintiffs argue that their religious beliefs require exemptions from the requirements. Some of these challenges have come from religiously-affiliated universities or social-service providers; others from secular, for-profit corporations. Some of these plaintiffs have received preliminary relief; other have not; and the cases are now working their way up to the federal Courts of Appeals – with a trip to the Supreme Court almost certain to follow.
My speech will summarize the federal contraception regulations, the types and nature of legal challenges to these regulations, and the arguments made by Americans United in their defense. As we have described in a series of friend-of-the-court briefs, federal law does not entitle employers to impose their owners’ religious beliefs on their employees, and it does not give employers or owners a religiously-based veto over their employees’ access to healthcare. To learn more about these and other church/state issues, follow me on Twitter at @theglipper.
10:55 – 11:20 GOD V. SEBELIUS: HOW THE SHIELD OF LIBERTY BECAME A SWORD
Rev. Nathan C. Walker, Columbia University and First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia
The New Freedom Movement is a post-Religious-Right political campaign that believes that the constitutional rights of religiously affiliated institutions are infringed upon when the federal government enacts general neutral laws.
Using a constitutional analysis, I survey the court cases brought forward by those who claim that the contraception mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act violates their “religious freedom.” I begin by outlining the characteristics of the New Freedom Movement in the United States and its misunderstanding of the legal meaning of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause. Federal Judge Carol Jackson clarifies that religious freedom “is a shield, not a sword. It protects individuals from substantial burdens on religious exercise that occur when the government coerces action one’s religion forbids, or forbids action one’s religion requires; it is not a means to force one’s religious practices upon others.”
I address the legal question of whether the Free Exercise rights of religiously governed hospitals and universities are violated when the employees and students at these federally funded institutions opt into government-funded health care coverage. I argue that these institutions should not receive accommodations on religious grounds because their First Amendment rights are not substantially burdened. If anything the constitution shields religious actors from legally infringing on the rights of others.
I recommend that rather than seek exemptions on religious grounds, these employers should file for a divorce between the church and state and become purely private institutions by refusing federal funding and revoking their nonprofit tax status, as the U.S. Supreme Court recommended in Bob Jones University v. United States.
I conclude by asking whether actors in the New Freedom Movement are perceived as effective facilitators of public deliberation or “theolegal” actors driven by creedal coercion.
11:25 – 12:30 KEYNOTE ADDRESS: THREE 800 POUND GORILLAS HAVE ATTACKED CHURCH/STATE SEPARATION
Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director, Americans United for Separation of Church & State, Washington, D.C.
Although there are literally scores of violations of the principle of church/state separation every day in America, there are three issues that overshadow all others in 2013. First, the White House has refused to change the policies of the Bush Administration that allow hundreds of millions of dollars to go to religious groups that engage in discriminatory hiring practices. Second, the Administration has allowed extraordinary and flagrant violations of tax law involving churches engaging in partisan political activities to go uninvestigated. Third, courts are now grappling with a high number of cases where religiously motivated for profit employers have demanded exemptions from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act to have large companies cover birth control in health insurance.
If these are not resolved in a manner favorable to the principles of the Establishment Clause, we could face a future where bigotry is officially sanctioned in government grants and contracts; where churches become indistinguishable from Political Action Committees; and where corporations not only possess “free speech” rights but also gain a legally recognized “corporate conscience” to override the moral decision making of employees and students associated with those corporations.
In this world, claims about the “free exercise of religion” would essentially trump all kinds of other considerations and would have widespread implications for enforcement of civil rights laws, tax policies and social service networks. Although there are plenty of legitimate claims of “free exercise” of religion, the issues to be discussed today expand the scope to unconstitutional proportions more akin to a theocratic culture than a secular society.
12:30 – 1:15 Lunch
1:15 – 1:40 ABORTION, PERSONHOOD AND CHURCH-STATE SEPARATION
Lloyd Steffen, Professor, Department of Religion Studies, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA
Justice Blackmun’s opinion for the majority in Roe v. Wade considered religious arguments about “when life begins” but then offered that if the philosophers and theologians could not agree on an answer to so basic a question, the Court was not going to enter that fray. This paper will argue that the very fact of such disagreement over a moral—not a scientific—question about the meaning of personhood makes the core issue in the so-called abortion debate akin to a religious question that the government should not “decide” for fear of violating the spirit of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Given the diversity of views on the question of fetal personhood in America’s religiously pluralistic society, the argument will be made that the diverse religious views on the question of fetal personhood deserve protection but not endorsement. The paper will specifically consider the teaching of the Roman Catholic hierarchy on the question of fetal personhood to show how it proposes a metaphysical view much at odds with both science and even ordinary moral thinking on the meaning of personhood. The point of the examination will be to argue that such a viewpoint ought to be protected under Free Exercise but not endorsed by any legal authority since that would establish a sectarian religious-metaphysical view and thus violate Church-State separation
1:45 – 2:10 THE CRISIS PREGNANCY CENTER MOVEMENT: TAXPAYER-FUNDED PROSELYTIZATION?
Sofia Resnick, Investigative Reporter, The American Independent, Washington, D.C.
The proliferation of government funding for faith-based charities has resulted in millions of taxpayer dollars going to Christian anti-abortion nonprofits commonly known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). Recently, a CPC in rural Vermont sued a federal agency after being denied a loan that would have supported incentivized Bible study. The results of that case could spell more government funding opportunities for all religious organizations. Beyond money, these centers have seen more power and recognition from state governments, like South Dakota’s, which has been defending in federal court a law that would require abortion seekers to first visit a CPC.
These centers, which spread across America after abortion was legalized in 1973 and now outnumber abortion clinics, have in recent years received federal grants for abstinence-only programming and state grants for so-called “alternative to abortion” services. These largely unregulated centers are often lauded by lawmakers for providing free services to pregnant women in need. But many American taxpayers, and likely many lawmakers, are unaware of the central roles religion and anti-abortion politics play at CPCs. In addition to providing charitable services, many CPCs also offer misinformation about abortion and contraception, as well as straight-up proselytization. And many of these centers – including those that receive government money – only hire Christians.
What we’ve seen in the last couple of years is a trend of Planned Parenthood being vilified in the public square and kicked out of state-based Medicaid programs, while crisis pregnancy centers are receiving financial aid and in some cases being treated as state-approved medical organizations, even when they do not provide medical services.
This discussion will review more examples of how crisis pregnancy centers are creeping deeper into the public sector, further blurring the separation between church and state.
2:15 – 2:40 THE DECLINE OF THE REAGAN COALITION AND STRUGGLES OVER RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Rogers Smith, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor, Political Science Department, University of Pennsylvania
The 2012 election signaled that the Reagan coalition that has been predominant in American politics for three decades, aided by its mobilization of a New Religious Right, is not likely to be able to win national electoral majorities in the future. One reason is the declining percentages of Americans attending fundamentalist churches, so it is likely that a reconfigured conservative coalition will push less strongly for reinterpretations of constitutional doctrines to favor religious organizations. Even so, as the election year controversy over the health plans provided to employees to Catholic organizations showed, contests that set religious liberties as obstacles to efforts to expand rights of women, GLBT Americans, freedoms of expression and more are likely to continue.
2:40 – 2:50 Break
2:50 – 3:15 ARE WE ALL REALLY MOSTLY RELIGIOUS?
Bruce Ledewitz, Professor, Duquesne Law School, Pittsburg, PA
Americans are fighting today over religion. We always have. But today, that fighting contributes to the partisanship and anger, even hatred, in American political life. On one level, we are fighting over government use of religion as a violation of the Establishment Clause and over laws that burden religious belief as a violation of the Free Exercise Clause.
But, at a deeper level, we are fighting over religion itself: whether it is good or bad, rational or irrational, reliable or illusion. We are struggling over whether we will be a religious or a secular nation. That fight cannot be settled. It can only be fruitlessly fought. I hope that through my question—are we all really mostly religious?—that fight can be transcended.
My question is tendentious. As someone who left Judaism, I know that, for many secularists, not being religious is crucial. Similarly, many liberal believers know they are religious, but still want strict separation of church and state and limits on religious exemptions.
But if we recognize religion as the matrix from which the questions surrounding the meaning of existence emerge, we will have more empathy for the differing paths that our questioning takes. Our hatreds may lessen.
The scope of religion requires that in the context of Free Exercise, practices that are not traditionally religious, must be protected. The Supreme Court has recognized this. But this same broad scope of religion also requires that some forms of religion must be permissible under the Establishment Clause.
Once, contesting an anti-abortion law, Ronald Dworkin called the law unconstitutionally religious because the government was claiming that human life is inherently valuable. That is a religious claim. But such a claim embraces almost all of us and cannot be banished from political life.
3:20 – 3:45 FREEDOM OF, FOR, AND FROM RELIGION
Rev. Thomas Beers, Pastoral Partner, Central Baptist Church, Wayne, PA
Voices from the Christian Right have been attacking the principle of separation of church and atate, arguing that the principle is a misuse of the intentions of the framers of the constitution, and a product of anti-church sentiment. Given this highly visible challenge some may find it surprising to learn that it was precisely “church people” who pushed for a clear and strong boundary between church and state in the US Constitution.
In 1788, Elder John Leland (a Baptist clergy-person) famously held an afternoon meeting with James Madison, at Leland’s estate in Orange County, VA. Leland agreed to support Madison for the VA delegation to the Constitutional Convention if, and only if, Madison added a strong amendment securing the separation of church and state to the Bill of Rights.
Why would religious, church-people like Leland be so ardently for the separation of church and state? There are two main reasons. First, Leland and others had a lucid distrust of institutions of power, and the dangerous subverting affect they have on organized religion. Secondly, the separation of church and state is that it is the necessary vehicle for living out the deeper principle of Religious Liberty.
Historically, Baptists have believed that the only authentic faith is a free faith. Individual conscience is “competent” to choose and express faith, and therefore freedom of individual conscience must be safeguarded. This means that freedom of, for, and especially from religion must be structurally secured and safeguarded.
It is important to remember that these people of faith were not threatened by a constitution that puts firm limits on the power of institutions, and even cultures of faith. Quite to the contrary, they were threatened by the notion of a constitution that allows religion to be imbued with the power of the state.
3:50 – 4:15 RECLAIMING THE FOUNDERS
Michael Meyerson, Wilson H. Elkins Professor of Law and Piper & Marbury Faculty Fellow, University of Baltimore School of Law, Baltimore, MD
Those who framed our Constitution and founded our nation were not simplistic thinkers. Their complex wisdom concerning the proper relationship between government and religion has been largely lost to the imperative of contemporary partisan politics. The Framers knew that if religion was to unite, and not divide, the new nation, liberty of conscience would have to be fully and enthusiastically protected. It was not enough to “tolerate” those whose views on religion differed from the majority; the inherent right for each individual to his or her beliefs was to be respected and celebrated.
The Framers refused to establish a Christian nation, and the national Government was prohibited from either funding religious activity or endorsing sectarian messages. Nonetheless, these same Framers did not envision cleansing public dialogue of all religious references. Through careful non-sectarian language, the framers attempted to be “theologically bilingual”. Phrases such as “endowed by their creator” were deliberately chosen. This language certainly could be understood as consistent with the beliefs of those with the dominant religious views. It could simultaneously be viewed, however, as speaking directly to every other American: those, in the words of Daniel Shute, an 18th century Congregationalist minister from Hingham, Massachusetts, “of every denomination–among the Quakers–the Baptists–the Church of England–the Papists–and even among those who have no other guide, in the way to virtue and heaven, than the dictates of natural religion.”
4:15 – 5:00 Open Discussion with the Speakers
ABOUT AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH & STATE
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church/state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
Americans United is the only national organization devoting one-hundred percent of its time and resources to church/state separation. The Delaware Valley AU Chapter, DVAU, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization whose primary mission is to provide a grassroots presence for the education and advocacy work of the national organization.
We provide speakers to churches, civic organizations, and other community groups to discuss church/state separation issues. AU seeks to unite people from all faiths or religious outlooks to work together to support Jefferson’s Wall of Separation.
Please join or renew your membership in Americans United and support the DVAU chapter. Your contributions make our activism possible.
Delaware Valley Americans United
PO Box 574
Yardley, PA, 19067-8574