Americans United for Separation of Church and State Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Private organization that, using legal channels, attempts to prevent any governmental aid to religious schools or social service providers.

After the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township[case]Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township[Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township] (1947), permitting states to provide bus transportation for parochial school children, a group led by Bromley Oxnam, a prominent Methodist bishop, and Paul Blanshard, the controversial author of polemical books warning that “Catholic power” was a threat to U.S. freedom, founded Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State. In recent years, the group renamed itself Americans United for Separation of Church and State and is often referred to simply as Americans United.Church and state, separation ofChurch and state, separation of

Americans United sponsors litigation, provides legal counsel, and submits friend-of-the-court briefs in an effort to persuade the Supreme Court to interpret the First Amendment’s prohibition of “laws respecting an establishment of religion” to prevent any governmental aid to religiously sponsored schools or social service providers. Its influence can be seen in Lemon v. Kurtzman[case]Lemon v. Kurtzman[Lemon v. Kurtzman] (1971), in which the Court set guidelines for interpreting cases on establishment clause grounds. The organization was more successful in opposing direct aid to parochial schools than in preventing indirect benefits, such as tax credits, to the families of parochial school children. Key tests of the organization’s strength are likely to come in future cases involving school vouchers and governmental support to religion-sponsored agencies to combat poverty, drug addiction, and other social evils.

From its beginning, Americans United has been controversial. Supporters contend that it is a nonpartisan champion of religious freedom. Critics insist that it pursues a secularist liberal political agenda motivated by animus against conservative religious believers, particularly Roman CatholicsRoman Catholics and evangelical Protestants.

Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township

First Amendment

Religion, establishment of

Religion, freedom of

School prayer

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