Friday, September 21, 2012
Rev. Barry Lynn Challenges AU Members to Proudly Defend Our Secular Constitution
The Fourth Annual Meeting of The Great Plains Chapter of AU was brought to order by President Vickie Sandell Stangl, on Friday evening, September 21st, 2012
Another record crowd of members and supporters filled the Fellowship Hall at College Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita Kansas anxious to see and hear the Executive Director of AU, Rev. Barry Lynn.
It was exciting to see so many new faces and old friends come together to demonstrate the growing number of citizens supporting the work of AU. Stangl reminded those in attendance that four years ago there were a total of 4 members - excluding at-large members. Today there are over 90 members in Wichita. If at-large members are included in the total (those who joined National before the Great Plains chapter was created) membership increases to nearly 120 members.
Wichita is part of the Bible-belt where fundamentalist ministers and politicians work together to impose their worldview on Kansans. And yet, the Great Plains chapter is growing, which is phenomenal when one considers how joining AU was once seen as a personal and professional hazard. It was not unusual in 2009 when the local chapter first formed to hear sympathetic friends remark: "I would like to join AU but I'm afraid of jeopardizing my position at school.", or "I would be ostracized by my neighbors."
But the sun is still coming up and more and more citizens are tired of living in the shadows of a community that has for too long shown little regard for upholding the principle of church and state separation.
We grow because the stakes are too high to stay silent and that was essentially the message of Rev. Lynn. Lynn began his remarks by explaining his experiences at the recent Faith and Values Summit held in Washington DC.
Listening to his description of the speakers at the Summit (Michele Bachmann to Paul Ryan) was the realization that this fringe group of politicians and speakers are desperate to discredit the very principle that has prevented sectarian violence in America. The vehicle to discredit church and state separation begins with spreading a false history of America. Yes, thanks to such people as pseudo-historian David Barton, more and more Americans have no idea how crucial it was that the founders established a secular government and refused to allow religion and government to rule together as one. Unfortunately, the false history of David Barton has been spreading for years and has absorbed into the American culture as if it is a certifiable fact.
During the Q & A session, this very point was illustrated perfectly when one audience member remarked to Rev. Lynn: "My Dad thinks church and state means the government has to stay out of religion and not the other way around." Immediately Rev Lynn pointed out that this fabrication of the 1st Amendment was spread by Barton and is totally untrue.
Think about it. How would the government be stable and free of sectarian violence if religion could promote or established itself within government? Which religion? How much religious intrusion? Thus, why would the founders not make separation of church and state a two way street to ensure that each has their own sphere and not establish itself over the other?
Rev. Lynn also discussed the challenge by fundamentalist minsters to buck the prohibition of electioneering in church as a restriction on their freedom of speech. The problem with this mindset is that people go to church for spiritual reasons and not for political rallies. Another audience member expressed frustration that Wichita pastors, such as Terry Fox use their pulpit to encourage their flock to vote for specific candidates, and yet the IRS does not shut them down. This growing problem could jeopardize the very essence of religious worship in America, and it will take outspoken leaders from the faith community to stand against such action. Electioneering may also cause a backlash against those ministers wanting to turn churches into political houses of ideological worship. Citizens will stay home and refuse to attend a church that is more concerned with temporal matters rather than spiritual affairs of humankind.
It was a banner evening to have such a great turnout, as well as an honor for the chapter to have the Executive Director of AU visit Wichita. Rev. Lynn reminded friends and supporters that now is not the time to sit down or sit back. More than ever, we must speak out in support of our secular government and keep the wall high for separation of church and state.
The Great Plains Chapter of AU is ready to keep that wall strong and tall. Let's get to work!