Take Action On: Tuesday, February 25, 2014
The Great Plains Chapter of AU held its first Legislative Luncheon and Lobby Day in Topeka on February 25th, and it was a great success! This effort was the work of three organizations: the Great Plains Chapter of AU, the Kansas ACLU, and the Mainstream Coalition of Johnson County. The luncheon was named the “Brightline Legislative Luncheon” because all three organizations want to emphasize the bright line between church and state, and that this line should not be crossed by lawmakers.
AU is grateful for the opportunity to partner with two respected organizations in the church-state separation fight, and especially commend the members of the three organizations who attended the luncheon and showed their clear support for separation of church and state. Those who attended received packets with information for legislators, as well information on how to talk to legislators.
Held in the north wing off the rotunda on the second floor amid shining brass staircases and freshly painted walls in the capitol, over 80 supporters of the separation of church and state enjoyed a delicious catered lunch and listened to Rev. Kent Little, Vickie Stangl, and Holly Weatherford discuss their organizations and why it was necessary to bring this issue to the attention of legislators. Holly Weatherford reviewed current bills of concern before the legislature and Vickie Stangl discussed a voucher bill that that has popped up again this year regarding tax credits for scholarships to private schools.
AU is adamantly opposed to vouchers and tax credits since it destroys the most basic tenant of religious freedom, i.e., that taxpayer money should not fund religious education and indoctrination of students. Stangl also noted how there is “zero evidence” of vouchers actually improving students’ education.
More than 10 members of the House were scheduled to attend the luncheon but the House continued to be in session, so it ran late. Thus, we missed our two speakers who were scheduled to speak: Rep. Barbara Bollier (R) and Rep. Jim Ward (D), but we were honored to have Senator Marci Francisco step in to speak, as well as Senator Haley. Both clearly expressed their commitment to church-state separation. It was incredible to hear such support and we must continue to convince other legislators that this important principle must be upheld.
It was a bone-chillingly cold day, and the capitol was crowded with other groups visiting, especially due to the Lobby Day for Kansas Equality to protest HB 2453, but a crowd of over 100 people gathered at the foot of the south steps of the capitol at 1pm and braved the cold to listen to speakers deliver remarks in support of LGBT rights and demands that legislators stop passing discriminatory bills based upon their religious beliefs while ignoring true religious freedom.
In addition to the luncheon, AU members visited with lawmakers in the afternoon to bring awareness about AU and why the church-state separation principle is so important for lawmakers to uphold.