Americans United for Separation of Church and State
|Area served||United States|
|Revenue||$6,921,251 USD (2007)|
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (Americans United or AU for short) is a group that advocates separation of church and state, a legal doctrine enshrined in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Americans United is officially non-sectarian and non-partisan. Its national headquarters are in Washington, D.C.. It has both religious and non-religious members, as well as members from various political parties. Many members of the clergy have been involved in the work of Americans United. Its current executive director, Barry W. Lynn, is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, as well as an attorney long active on behalf of civil liberties.
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Americans United for Separation of Church and State was founded in 1947 as Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State (POAU) by a broad coalition of religious, educational and civic leaders in response to proposals pending in the U.S. Congress to extend government aid to private religious schools. They believed that government support for religious education would violate church-state separation. The decision was made to form a national organization to promote this point of view and defend the separation principle.
The organization aimed to influence political leaders, and it began publishing Church & State magazine and other materials in support of church-state separation to educate the general public. These activities continue today and form the core of Americans United’s operations.
In its first years a main focus of AU's activity was opposition to the political agenda of the Roman Catholic Church and it was seen by critics as an anti-Catholic organization. In 1960 AU Executive Director Glenn L. Archer entered into a dialog with presidential candidate John F. Kennedy to assess his views on church-state relations.
In 1962 and 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down landmark rulings striking down government-sponsored prayer and Bible reading in public schools. Calls soon began emanating from Congress to amend the Constitution to protect the "right to pray in school." But Americans United defended the rulings, pointing out that no branch of government has the right to compel children to take part in religious worship and that truly voluntary student prayer remained legal.
In the late 1970s and the 1980s the "Religious Right", especially Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, attacked church-state separation, tried to introduce fundamentalist theology into the public schools and demanded tax subsidies for religious education. Americans United helped secure a string of court victories that turned back these attempts.
In the 1990s Religious Right forces regrouped under Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition of America. This organization demanded an end to public education and called for the “Christianization” of politics. Americans United publicized and opposed this agenda.
In recent years AU has continued to oppose religion in public schools, school voucher initiatives in the states, and “faith-based” initiatives in the federal government and in the states. AU participated in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which concerned the teaching of intelligent design in public school science classes.
Americans United has tried to ensure that houses of worship do not endorse or oppose candidates for public office, which would violate their religious tax exemption. AU has submitted reports of possible violations to the IRS. The organization encourages its members to monitor sermons and activities in local houses of worship for illegal politicking.
See also 
- James C. Corman (1920–2000), California politician, president of Americans United
- Paul Blanshard (1892-1980), editor, lawyer, special counsel and spokesman for Americans United; author of American Freedom and Catholic Power.
- Barry W. Lynn (b. 1948), lawyer, United Church of Christ minister, Executive Director of Americans United.
- Charity Navigator
- AU FAQs
- "The Wall of Separation", Time, 1949-02-07
- Americans United official website
- Local chapters of Americans United
- Why the Religious Right is Wrong About Separation of Church and State, Speech by Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State to the Freethought Association
- Allen Dulles Papers at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University