Worth remembering: The dark origins of “Americans United”

“Americans United” is the preferred shorthand for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization which has labored for over sixty years to eliminate all forms of religious expression from the public square. The latest expedition by this militant band of anti-crusaders has taken them to the campus of East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, where a long-standing chapel on the grounds has raised their ire because it is adorned with <Gasp!> Bibles and other symbols of the Christian faith.

Pulling back from an initial knee-jerk reaction, university officials have rebuffed Americans United, at least for now.

A public university in Oklahoma says that it will halt, for now, its plans to remove Bibles and other Christian icons, like a cross, from its chapel.

East Central University in Ada announced last Friday that its administrators responded too quickly when they initially decided to remove religious icons from the school’s Kathryn P. Boswell Memorial Chapel.

The initial decision to remove the religious iconography from the chapel and the cross from its steeple came after one of the nation’s leading secularist groups, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, sent a letter on June 20 to school administrators arguing that it is unconstitutional for the school to endorse Christianity by having Christian-related icons in or on the chapel.

“We moved too quickly,” ECU president Katricia Pierson said in a statement. “We regret not taking time to pause and thoughtfully consider the request and the results of our actions on all of the students, faculty and community members who we serve.”

Pierson said that the school initially removed items from the chapel in order to show support for all cultures and religious beliefs, since the chapel is used for various religious gatherings and secular events.

“This requires a more thoughtful and deliberate approach to the request,” Pierson added. “That will be our next step.”

Pierson explained that the university is establishing a committee of students, faculty and community members to study the issue.

blanshardPerhaps in “studying the issue,” this new committee might want to look into the long and odious history of “Americans United.” At its inception, it was known by the even more cumbersome moniker of Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Its founder and first legal counsel was Paul Blanshard, whose treatise, American Freedom and Catholic Power, was a vile screed positing a bigoted and conspiratorial view of the Church of Rome’s alleged intentions to undermine liberty.

The dark origins of Americans United came to the surface briefly ten years ago after a Supreme Court decision upholding the federal ban on partial birth abortion. Criticism of the decision took an ugly turn, focusing on the Catholicism of the five justices in the majority (although not all of them were Catholic). A group of evangelical leaders, led by the late Charles W. Colson, issued a statement condemning such bigotry. Included in the text was this paragraph noting the sinister history behind Americans United.

We believe it is our particular duty to condemn the bigotry we are now witnessing in view of the history of anti-Catholicism in our nation. It is a stain on the Protestant Christian conscience that at one time many of our people accepted the vile teachings of Paul Blanshard in his book American Freedom and Catholic Power, and supported the anti-Catholic agenda of the group founded by Blanshard and others that now styles itself “Americans United for Separation of Church and State” (formerly known as Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State).

The media dutifully ignored this little history lesson. The administration of East Central University would do well to pay heed to pay heed to it.

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