With twenty-five years of lawsuits, elections, lobbying, and propagandizing behind it, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) is still not convinced that its message is getting through. At its silver anniversary celebration in St. Louis last month, the group’s first and only executive director, Glenn L. Archer, warned that AU plans to exercise “eternal vigilance” in the coming twenty-five years to keep church and state segregated.
Primary issues for group members are parochaid and prayer in public schools. In both they see religious liberty at stake. They want religiously minded people to run their own shop without government involvement or finances—a principle they believe is inherent in the first amendment to the Constitution.
Archer, a native of Kansas, joined the fledgling group shortly after its founding in 1947. He was then a lawyer and budding politician. Much of the St. Louis convention was a tribute to Archer’s efforts over the years; the tribute culminated in the presentation to him of a $6,500 Cadillac on the last night of the convention.
Now claiming support from nearly 90,000 members and 4,000 supporting churches, AU is a conglomerate of evangelicals, liberal Protestants, Christian Scientists, Seventh-day Adventists, atheists, and humanists, all united around the church-state separation cause, said a staff member. The organization works out of its own modern building in suburban Washington, D. C., a far cry from the early days when it had only $19 worth of furniture in a rented downtown garage.
Over the years, Archer said, the group has concentrated on legal activities: testing parochaid laws in court and forcing strict interpretations of the first amendment’s establishment-of-religion clause. ...1
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