Americans United for Separation of Church and State

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Logo of Americans United For Separation of Church and State, updated in 2014.png
Founded 1947
Area served
United States
Method Litigation, education
Over 75,000[1]
$6,921,251 USD (2007)[2]

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 set forth in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"


Americans United describes itself as officially non-sectarian and non-partisan. According to The Praeger Handbook of Religion and Education in the United States "It includes members from a broad religious, and non-religious, spectrum, including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists." Its national headquarters are in Washington, D.C.. Its current executive director, Barry W. Lynn, is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ,[3] as well as an attorney involved with civil liberties issues.


Americans United for Separation of Church and State was founded in 1947 as an anti-Catholic nativist organization known as Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State (POAU) by a 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, particularly Catholic parochial schools, which was at the time, and continues to be, the largest system of private schools in the United States.[4] They believed that government support for religious education would violate church-state separation and advance the social position of the ethnic Catholic minority. The decision was made to form a national organization to promote and defend this point of view.

The organization aimed to influence political leaders, and began publishing Church & State magazine in 1952 and other materials in support of church-state separation to educate the general public.[5]

Its original founding members were Charles Clayton Morrison, Glenn L. Archer,[6] Edwin McNeill Poteat, G. Bromley Oxnam, and Joseph Martin Dawson.[7]

Recent work[edit]

In May 2013, Americans United released a parody video starring Jane Lynch and Jordan Peele as "Church" and "State", respectively, undergoing a humorous musical breakup.[8]

In March 2015, Americans United filed a motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit filed in the state of Kentucky. In the lawsuit,[9] Ark Encounter LLC, a subsidiary of Answers in Genesis, is requesting the state of Kentucky approve its application for a tourism incentive program that would offset some of the development costs of a Noah's Ark-based theme park by deferring sales taxes generated from ticket sales. Barry Lynn, the director of Americans United, has stated that he believes the suit lacks merit.[10]

Reception by religious community[edit]

In its first years, a main focus of AU's activity was opposition to the political activities of the Roman Catholic Church and was thus seen by critics as a Protestant-based anti-Catholic organization.[11]

Other critics in the Evangelical Christian community have described Americans United as "atheistic" and "anti-Christian."[12] The executive director of Americans United, Rev. Barry W. Lynn, is an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ,[13] and a "critic" of religious fundamentalism on the Christian right.[14] Lynn self-describes as a member of the Christian left.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ AU FAQs
  2. ^ "Charity Navigator Rating - Americans United for Separation of Church and State". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Americans United for Separation of Church and State Records (MC185) -- Americans United for Separation of Church and State Records". Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  5. ^ OCLC 752009655 and 235992965; ISSN 0009-6334
  6. ^ "Biography: Americans United for Separation of Church and State". Princeton. 
  7. ^ Embattled Wall: Americans United, an Idea and a Man. Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State. 1966. p. 27. 
  8. ^ Jane Lynch and Jordan Peele's Epic Church-State Breakup!. YouTube. 30 May 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  9. ^ The Associated Press (5 February 2015). "Kentucky Sued Over Lost Tax Incentive for Noah's Ark Park". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  10. ^ BITTENBENDER, STEVE (5 February 2015). "Noah's Ark theme park developers sue Kentucky over lost tax rebates". Reuters News. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  11. ^ "The Wall of Separation", Time, 1949-02-07 
  12. ^ Lysen, Paul (15 March 2015). "Letter: Collin Peterson is not one of us". Park Rapids Enterprise. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  13. ^ "Barry Lynn". Americans United. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  14. ^ Chumley, Cheryl (13 June 2014). "Rep. Louie Gohmert challenges the Rev. Barry Lynn on Christian beliefs". The Washington Times. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  15. ^ Clarkson, Frederick (2008). Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America. Ig Publishing. ISBN 978-0978843182. 

External links[edit]