United for Separation of Church and State
Gainesville, Florida Chapter
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, ..."
Church-State issues are part of our local, as well as national, conversation. School prayer, faith-based programs for social services and rehabilitation of prisoners, government-sponsored displays of religious material such as the Ten Commandments, the teaching of Intelligent Design in high school biology, vouchers for private, religiously affiliated schools paid for by public tax dollars, banners across University Avenue proclaiming Thanksgiving to be Christian Heritage Week - challenges to the principle of separation can arise in our city, county and state, as well as in Washington. Americans United is the most visible and effective watchdog and educational organization at the national level devoted singularly to protecting the principle of separation. The Gainesville chapter strives to serve that role on a more local and regional level.
We encourage you to join us and help defend the principle of church-state separation in America and in our own community. National dues are currently $25 per year. Membership includes a subscription to the outstanding AU bulletin, Church & State. See the link to the national website below.
If you declare membership in the Gainesville chapter, half of your annual dues are returned to the local chapter to support our activities, which so far have included sponsoring local speakers, addressing church-state issues at city council meetings, regular chapter meetings, and presentations at informal discussion groups around town.
For more information or to get on our email list so you can learn of upcoming activities and local issues, please contact us by email.
Recent and Upcoming Events.
Separation of Church and State Week. For the past two years, the City of Gainesville has proclaimed the last week of January to be Separation of Church and State Week. This year, the Humanist Society of Gainesville has again sponsored this proclamation for 2007, and Gainesville will proclaim January 21-27 as Separation of Church and State Week.
In conjunction with that event, AU-Gainesville is sponsoring a public address, entitled What the Founding Fathers Meant by "Separation of Church and State," by David Schwam-Baird, Professor of Policital Science and Public Policy, University of North Florida. Dr. Schwam-Baird is a frequent commentator on WJXT in Jacksonville, discussing issues of national and international politics. The talk will be presented on Saturday, January 27, 12 noon to 1 pm, at the Millhopper Public Library in Gainesville (3145 NW 43rd St). It is free and open to the public. For a copy of the poster advertising the talk, click here.
Bill of Rights Day. On December 15, 2005, President Ira Fischler published a guest column in the Gainesville Sun on the celebration of the National Bill of Rights Day, tracing the development of the Bill of Rights and its role in protecting basic civil liberties in America. The text of the column is available here.
Letters to the Editor. We've also responded to a letter that appeared in the Sun on Dec. 20, 2006, claiming in effect that since the phrase "separation of church and state" doesn't appear in the Constitution, it is a creation of modern courts and liberals (or "preachers of tolerance," to use their wording). Our response stresses the clear intent of the Framers of the Constitution to provide for such a separation, and the specification of that principle in the First Amendment. The text of the letter can be read here.
"I contemplate with sovereign reverance that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptist congregation of Danbury, CT, Jan. 1, 1802
"[I have] always regarded the practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government as essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.."
-- James Madison, Letter to Baptist Churches in North Carolina, June 3, 1811
Since 1947, Americans United has worked to protect the
constitutional principle of church-state separation, a vital
cornerstone of religious liberty. Americans of many faiths and
political viewpoints have come together to defend our freedoms.
The Website of the National Office
has a wealth of information about current issues and activities,
background about separation of church and state, and updates about
challenges to the principle of separation that affect us all.