Barry Lynn: Fighting the Fundies

By Susan Gates of Sandy, Oregon. Susan is the Democratic Party's HD52 district leader. She's also the chairperson of the Oregon Trail Democrats.

My husband and I escaped Texas in late 2005 and really love it here in Oregon. But, having seen what the religious extremists can do, I was shocked that here, just like in Texas, there was a constitutional amendment passed that banned gay marriage.

One group that I support, along with the Democratic Party, is Americans United for Separation of Church & State. The fact that the religious sacrament of marriage, can now be controlled by the the state, tells you something about how this kind of thing works, even here.

And, if people who fervently believe in the importance of this issue have never heard AU's spokesperson and Chair, Barry Lynn, they have to come and see him here in Portland on Thursday night. I heard him for the first time in Houston, Texas, in the belly of the beast. And, he made a true believer (or not, if you choose), out of me, and countless others.

Americans United is the oldest (60 years old) and largest group in the US fighting the fundamentalists, taking them to court, and keeping them in check. And Barry is the best person I have ever heard on this issue.

Don't miss him, and don't sit by and let the religious fundamentalists go unchecked in Oregon!

Comments

  • (Show?)

    As a fellow escapee, I'd like to offer a (late) welcome to Oregon! I keep telling people there are a lot of great Democrats in Texas.

    Americans United is a group I support as well. I can't always support with my pocketbook, but I do pass along event notices, get their e-mails, participate in their action alerts, etc.

    I highly recommend reading a new book that's out: God On Trial: Dispatches from America's Religious Battlefields by Peter Irons. It's a good read. It goes over several of the most recent church-state cases that have been in the courts. The book gives the background of the case and then a one-on-one with a person from each side of the case.

    My hometown of Santa Fe is in the book. You can read about what all of us fighting for the separation of church and state went through. Peter did a really good job of covering our case, and I'm enjoying reading about the other cases as well.

  • Thomas Ware (unverified)
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    Duded up Texas "Cowboy" comes up to Eastern Oregon to see how it's done. Stops into the French Glen Hotel for a cold can of Coors. Puffs himself up and say's "I get up in the morning, get in my truck when the sun comes up and when the sun goes down I'm still on my ranch!"

    Old Eastern Oregon baquerro tips his hat back, drops his boots off the table to lean forward and take a long pull off his pint of Wildfire Code 24 Pale Ale, leans back, puts his boots back up on the table, pulls his chapeau back down over his eyes and say's... "EYup, I used to have a truck like that".

    Americans United for Separation of Church & State, like the International Workers of the World Party, has long enjoyed reception in Oregon. We've been "members" for three and four generations now. (I don't do this often) Welcome to Oregon - nice post.

  • Intercaust (unverified)
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    I'm a member of AU. Wish I could go see him speak. I would recommend seeing him if you can. The good Reverend has a lot of great info about how to save this country from religious extremism.

  • RKM (unverified)
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    Peter Irons is also the author of the superb <u>People’s History of the Supreme Court</u>. Anyone interested in the workings and history of SCOTUS should give it a read.

  • (Show?)

    Yea, that was my first introduction to him a while back. So when he contacted me about writing God on Trial, I was very interested in seeing the final outcome.

  • Gary Aknos (unverified)
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    From http://www.ucctruths.com:

    Barry Lynn and the Hypocrisy of Separation

    Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) purports to be a non-sectarian, non-partisan organization with no religious affiliation and its Executive Director, the Rev. Barry Lynn, is prominently featured on television news programs whenever issues of religion and government cross. Although Lynn prides himself as an independent arbiter of where the line between church and state meet, his silence on his own denomination’s encroachment on Jefferson’s wall of separation is not only hypocritical, it ultimately undermines his own mission.

    Lynn and Americans United issue dozens of statements each year regarding church and state conflicts and, at times, go as far as go as far as challenging the issues in court. Last May, Lynn chastised a $150,000 appropriation

    the Maryland General Assembly granted for the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education (NBCCE) conference held in Baltimore. Lynn claimed the grant was “totally inappropriate and clearly unconstitutional.” He further stated that “religious groups should pass the collection plate to their own members, not the taxpayers.”

    However, while Lynn was criticizing Maryland’s grant, his own denomination, the United Church of Christ (UCC), was busy securing a grant from the state of Connecticut for its convention (called a General Synod) which is being held later this month in Hartford. Lynn has been noticeably silent about the Connecticut grant even though it is clearly a greater offense to the Establishment Clause of the federal constitution than the Maryland grant.

    The differences between the Maryland and Connecticut grants are dramatic. After a careful legal review, the Maryland Department of Budget & Management clearly distinguished secular events the grant could support from religious events the grant could not support. The secular events supported by the grant included additional transportation resources to help ease the strain that 50,000 convention attendees would put on public transportation services. Explicitly, access to the subsidized transportation services was not “restricted to members of a particular sect.”

    In contrast to the Maryland grant, the Connecticut grant is being used exclusively to pay a $100,000 fee to the Hartford Civic Center for facilities to host the United Church of Christ General Synod which is clearly a religious event with worship services where the primary audience is UCC delegates and members.

    Some have argued that the Connecticut grant serves the secular purpose of promoting economic development that the approximately 8,000 attendees to the UCC General Synod will bring to Hartford. Constitutionally speaking, the distinction is not dependent on the residual economic benefit that the aid could bring but on the religious effect of the aid.

    The Maryland Department of Budget & Management defined the religious effect of their grant on similar court cases involving papal visits to Philadelphia and Washington D.C. In Gilfillan v. City of Philadelphia, the Third Circuit determined that aid for the building of a platform in a public park for a liturgical service rendered the religious effect of the aid “both plain and primary.” In contrast, O’Hair v. Andrus, the District of Columbia Circuit determined that the “provision of police, sanitation and related public services is a legitimate function of government and not an ‘establishment’ of religion.”

    The distinction between the Connecticut grant and the Maryland grant couldn’t be clearer. In the Maryland case, the grant was used to help ease the burden on public transportation. In the Connecticut case, the grant is being used to defray the cost of the facilities to host a clearly religious event for the United Church of Christ.

    When they were initially contacted last June about the Connecticut grant in light of Lynn’s public condemnation of the Maryland grant, Americans United promised that a complete investigation would be made. At a public church and state discussion forum in Columbus, Ohio last October, Lynn was asked specifically about the Americans United investigation. Lynn expressed concern about the grant but noted that further investigation was still needed.

    Now, within a week of the UCC General Synod in Hartford and nearly a year after Americans United began their investigation, Lynn has yet to publicly disclose the results of his investigation into the grant that will benefit his own denomination.

    Lynn is in a unique position on this issue. Part of his attraction as a public figure is his status as an ordained minister which he uses to legitimize his concern about the separation between church and state. However, if Lynn is incapable of addressing clear concerns that involve his own denomination, what credibility does he or Americans United have?

  • (Show?)

    Nice one Susan. Don't be a stranger.

    Hope to see more input from you in this forum.

  • Bruce Adams (unverified)
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    Regarding the Hypocrisy of Separation:

    Yes, Barry Lynn is involved in controversy; it comes with his job.

    This morning he responded to dot one, but two issues on the Americans United web site. Below is what he said about this criticism.

    A second critic attacked me yesterday on this very blog over the issue of the United Church of Christ (UCC) receiving a $150,000 subsidy from the state of Connecticut to bring a convention to Hartford.

    Since I am an ordained UCC minister, this issue was of great concern to me. I expressed those concerns to denominational officials, and I also asked AU’s Legal Department to research the matter. AU attorneys did extensive research. They found that government officials in Connecticut give discounts to any group that brings a large crowd to town. What’s offered is a rebate, not direct aid, and thus cannot be diverted to support religion. Our lawyers’ view was that the courts would not rule against this kind of aid.

    AU’s critic was upset because AU had blocked aid in a similar case involving a Baptist group that met in Baltimore last year. Why couldn’t we do the same for the UCC? The truth is, we were only able to block some of the aid in Baltimore – money that was intended to underwrite a proselytizing effort. An indirect subsidy consisting of reduced rent on the convention center was deemed “secular” and was permitted.

    To be clear, I disagree with court opinions that allow rebates and so-called “indirect” aid. AU opposes government subsidies to religious groups. Religious groups should pay for their own endeavors. But again, we did research the matter and acted according to the facts.

    Finally, I want to say that even though their language is not always kind, AU does appreciate its critics. They flatter us with their attention. AU strives to operate on principle, and we hope our critics do too.

  • Bruce Adams (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Regarding the Hypocrisy of Separation:

    Yes, Barry Lynn is involved in controversy; it comes with his job.

    This morning he responded to dot one, but two issues on the Americans United web site. Below is what he said about this criticism.

    A second critic attacked me yesterday on this very blog over the issue of the United Church of Christ (UCC) receiving a $150,000 subsidy from the state of Connecticut to bring a convention to Hartford.

    Since I am an ordained UCC minister, this issue was of great concern to me. I expressed those concerns to denominational officials, and I also asked AU’s Legal Department to research the matter. AU attorneys did extensive research. They found that government officials in Connecticut give discounts to any group that brings a large crowd to town. What’s offered is a rebate, not direct aid, and thus cannot be diverted to support religion. Our lawyers’ view was that the courts would not rule against this kind of aid.

    AU’s critic was upset because AU had blocked aid in a similar case involving a Baptist group that met in Baltimore last year. Why couldn’t we do the same for the UCC? The truth is, we were only able to block some of the aid in Baltimore – money that was intended to underwrite a proselytizing effort. An indirect subsidy consisting of reduced rent on the convention center was deemed “secular” and was permitted.

    To be clear, I disagree with court opinions that allow rebates and so-called “indirect” aid. AU opposes government subsidies to religious groups. Religious groups should pay for their own endeavors. But again, we did research the matter and acted according to the facts.

    Finally, I want to say that even though their language is not always kind, AU does appreciate its critics. They flatter us with their attention. AU strives to operate on principle, and we hope our critics do too.

  • Susan Gates (unverified)
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    Thank you Bruce for the clarification. I wasn't up on this issue and am very glad to know that, once again, Lynn stays true. Because his profile is so high, and his enemies and the opponents of "separation" so often vicious, I should have known this was no "smoking gun". Sounds like the UCC convention got a rebate like any big group would under those circumstances. It also looks like he had already addressed this concern in his own blog.

    I personally would hate having to explain every possible conflict or misfact like Barry Lynn does. But he is always approachable, open and passionate on his quest to keep our country out of the hands of groups that would turn us into a theocracy. Susan

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