American Atheists has just released its third annual “State of the Secular States” report on how every state (and Puerto Rico and D.C.) are affected by laws concerning “separation of religion and government and religious equality.” With most states focused on COVID, that means paying special attention to bills dealing with religious exemptions and non-discrimination laws. 2021 also means paying attention to extreme legislation designed specifically to get in front of the Supreme Court’s conservative super-majority.
The full report functions as a benevolent cheat sheet, giving you details about which states let child welfare groups discriminate for religious reasons, require religious displays (like “In God We Trust”) in public buildings, permit “faith healing” as an excuse when a child is killed, etc.
“2020 was an unprecedented year for state legislatures. Beset by pandemic closures, budget shortfalls, and the politics of the election, few managed to pass many substantive bills,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy at American Atheists and author of the report. “However, 2021 will be different. The momentous Supreme Court rulings from last term, which attack church/state separation and promote a discriminatory vision of religious freedom, will shape state legislation in the coming year. Christian nationalists now have more time to introduce anti-equality legislation and take advantage of these harmful decisions.”
“For years, advocates of private education and religious schools have sought to get their hands on public education dollars. Because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Espinoza, public schools are now left undefended. Expect to see a widespread effort to transfer taxpayer dollars away from public schools and toward private, often religious, schools,” said Gill. “These schools are free to discriminate, and they serve a smaller number of comparatively wealthy students.”
Do yourself a favor and at least check out how your state is doing. And if there’s work to be done, get in touch with your AA affiliate or other like-minded group and see if there’s way to push for legislation to build up that wall of separation.