Thursday, November 10, 2011

Back from Americans United

I'm back but feeling kind of look-what-the-cat-dragged-in. It seems to take a lot out of me any more to make those transcontinental plane trips. One of those inevitable signs of becoming a "Wise Elder". Plus it didn't help that on the Denver to Seattle leg, I was forced to sit in a middle seat, my least favorite spot on a crowded airliner. Fortunately that's what they make Xanax, $8 drinks and iPods for...

My trip to DC, which you may recall, was for the annual meeting of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization which I am proud to be a member of and whose praises I have often sung on this blog. As always, I come away reinvigorated after spending a couple of days with Barry Lynn, our executive director, my counterparts (i.e., other chapter leaders and regular members) from across the country and with my fellow members of AU's National Advisory Council.

A special high point of this year was meeting and listening to Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who was there to receive AU's Person of the Year award for all the work that he does in furthering the cause of church-state separation in the military. I was astonished to learn a couple things about Mikey and the FFRF. The first is that his organization is so small in terms of actual people doing the work, and second, which is even more astounding, that they currently have over 25,000 active cases in the four branches of the military service. That means that over 25,000 active duty or recently separated service members have complained to the MMRF about the illegal proselytizing activities from not only chaplains but also their chain-of-command superiors.

Mikey is a hard-charging in-your-face kind of guy, and that's a good thing because he said that it usually takes only a phone call to straighten a lot of these issues out. He's not afraid to make threats to the offenders, including lawsuits, and that most-feared tactic, publicly calling them out. Nobody likes bad publicity, not even the Jesus Freaks in the military. Given that, it didn't come as a surprise that he regularly receives some serious death threats and that he travels with a group of security guys -- bodyguards, really -- who look as stern and alert as any Secret Service agent as they constantly scanned the room as he spoke.

Another high point was being able to meet, listen to, and honor recent high school graduate Corwyn Schultz, who led the fight against school prayer at his Texas high school. This case was taken up by Americans United and is still working its way through the appeals process, with the likely result that it will eventually end up on the US Supreme Court. It was an honor to meet him and hear his inspiring story of the "lone wolf" standing up to the forces of religious fascism.

Why did he keep at it in the face of what you can imagine was some Big Time peer pressure and ostracization? In his own words: "I'm stubborn."

Corwyn received AU's new Religious Liberty Award, which will be an annual award to a young person who is willing to make a principled stand for what he or she believes is right.

See the story of the awards along with photos on the MMRF page.

Pardon me if I launch into another "commercial" -- If you are already a member of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, good on you. If you are not, please consider becoming a member. It's fast, it's easy, and it's inexpensive. As little as $25 will get you a year's membership along with our mostly-monthly publication, Church and State. If you live in an area with a local chapter, you can always contact someone there for more information and an opportunity to meet with like-minded people where you live.

Don't delay. Do it today. With three presidential candidates claiming that god told them to run for the office, we have to push back. (For the Republicans who read this blog, I know you don't believe in simple arithmetic, but trust me, the odds are really stacked against at least two of them actually getting The Word from that abstract old man in the sky.)


Beach Bum said...

I was forced to sit in a middle seat, my least favorite spot on a crowded airliner.

Did a REFORGER back in 1987 and on the return flight was in a similar position. What made it worse was the SOB in front of me who suddenly reclined his seat backward which about crushed my kneecaps.

Anthony Pitman said...

Are drinks eight bucks on an airplane now? I take a long time to get anywhere nowadays, but I can't face the security dog and pony show anymore. Glad you're back safe F-man.

Farnsworth68 said...

Thanks guys. Yeah, eight bucks and you have to mix your own. Which is kind of similar to a hamburger I got during my layover at the Denver airport. It was nearly $12 and when it came it had the lettuce and tomato and onion strewn on the edge of the plate, so I had to put it together.
Think of it, for a simple hamburger I paid twice the price and had to do half of the work myself. It's a funny world...
--The F Man