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Every denomination needs one of these...

Stirring it up

Thursday, January 03, 2008

I'm getting a kick out of seeing a couple of people pester the bloggers at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State by repeatedly referencing UCCtruths to demonstrate AU's suspiciously selective defense of church-state issues.

Well... here's a little fuel for the fire.

Back in June, 2006 when the Hartford Courant announced that the state of Connecticut gave the United Church of Christ a tax-payer supported subsidy of $100,000 to offset the costs of the Civic Center to host the 2007 General Synod, I thought this might be an issue that Americans United and it's executive Director, Rev. Barry Lynn, would explore. In June, 2007, I recapped the issue and contrasted it to other state grants for religious conventions that prompted Americans United to complain.

I emailed a handful of staff at Americans United directly to see if a complaint had been filed and whether or not they were investigating the issue. Rather than respond to my email, AU's Director of Communications, Joe Conn, unwittingly clicked the 'reply all' button (without removing my email address) to alert other AU staff that "Until we hear from Barry and Richard, I suggest we avoid communicating with this right-wing UCC guy. If he calls, put him in voice mail."

Keep in mind, I've never said much about my politics on this blog beyond claiming to be a Libertarian... which you would think would be a welcome thing to Americans United. I openly support the principles of the Separation of Church and State but, unlike Americans United, I believe the first amendment should be protected regardless of the politics.

Conn's email wasn't the final word on this. Yet again, another AU genius, Renee Collins, clicked the 'reply all' button (again without removing my email address) to declare to the rest of the AU team that "There aren’t many right-wingers in the UCC, but due to their small numbers they try to make up for it in sheer nastiness. Been there, burned the t-shirt."

This is the mindset at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Conflicts of church and state aren't viewed through an independent lens to determine if there is a legitimate infringement on the wall of separation - they are viewed in political terms. While Americans United repeatedly claims to be a nonpartisan organization (presumably a criteria of their own tax-exempt status), their actions (and emails) say otherwise. In fact, I couldn't find a single complaint to the IRS in 2007 on the Americans United web site that didn't target conservative or "right wing" organizations.

After I fired an email back to them, I ended up having a great conversation with Conn and eventually met briefly with Rev. Barry Lynn and both stated that Americans United was investigating the United Church of Christ deal with the State of Connecticut. At the same time, Americans United was publicly complaining about a $150,000 grant that a Baptist group received from the State of Maryland to hold their convention in Baltimore. In contrast, no announcement was ever made about the Connecticut deal.

If Americans United wants to target groups based on their politics rather than the non-partisan principle of separation, then they should drop the facade of being a non-partisan group.
posted by UCCtruths, Thursday, January 03, 2008


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