By: Charles Sumner Re: Religious Tyranny Amendment AMERICANS UNITED PRESS RELEASE Date: Th

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By: Charles Sumner Re: Religious Tyranny Amendment AMERICANS UNITED PRESS RELEASE Date: Thu, 8 Jun 1995 17:06:08 -0400 AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Joseph Conn June 8, 1995 Rob Boston RELIGIOUS RIGHT ASSAULT ON WALL OF SEPARATION BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE TO BEGIN IN CONGRESS TODAY, SAYS AMERICANS UNITED Today's congressional hearing on "religious liberty" is the opening salvo of a Religious Right campaign to erase the principle of church-state separation from the Constitution, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution is scheduled to hold the hearing on "Religious Liberty and the Bill of Rights." A series of related hearings around the country are planned for subsequent weeks, with the first to take place in Harrisonburg, Va., June 10. Although congressional sources deny that today's hearing will focus on a proposed "Religious Equality" Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, critics insist the event is clearly intended to kick off the long-delayed debate on that issue. "This hearing marks the beginning of the Religious Right's assault on the freedom of conscience of all Americans," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "TV preacher Pat Robertson and his allies want to gut the church- state separation protections in the Constitution as the first step toward merging religion and government in the United States. "Robertson's Christian Coalition calls this constitutional amendment the 'crown jewel' in its wish list for Congress," Lynn continued. "Congressional leaders are moving ahead on this radical scheme to satisfy the demands of the politically powerful Religious Right." According to an analysis by Americans United Legal Director Steven K. Green, the proposed "Religious Equality" Amendment would overturn or compromise over two dozen Supreme Court decisions concerning religious liberty. (The full text of the analysis is available from Americans United.) "The amendment would clearcut decades of landmark church-state decisions overnight," observed Lynn, who is both an attorney and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A coalition of Religious Right groups has been meeting behind closed doors with members of Congress in Washington to prepare the amendment. Although the final version has yet to be released, drafts that are said to be close to it have been circulating for several weeks. "The so-called 'Religious Equality' Amendment in reality is a 'religious tyranny' amendment," Lynn remarked. "Its purpose is not to foster fairness or equality but to gut the First Amendment's church-state protections. If passed, the amendment will allow public schools to coerce children to participate in daily religious exercises, tax all Americans to support sectarian instruction and permit government to impose religion on people against their will. "The Bill of Rights has never been altered in all of American history," Lynn noted. "It has worked well to protect individual freedom. Congress should be ashamed to tinker with our basic constitutional protections in a brazen pay-off to sectarian political interest groups." The amendment marks the third major attempt to rewrite the First Amendment since the Supreme Court struck down school- sanctioned prayer in 1962. (An Americans United background paper tracing the history of the school prayer controversy in America is available. For copies, call the Communications Department at 202-466-3234.) Founded in 1947, Americans United is the only national organization devoted solely to the preservation of church-state separation. With national offices in Washington, D.C., the group represents some 50,000 individual members and some 4,000 churches, synagogues, fraternal groups and other institutions. 1816 Jefferson Place NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-466-3234 ###

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