We are writing you because you are either a member of Americans United, or a friend who has given us your email and asked us for information. There are about 150 of you altogether in Collier County.
That's enough to accomplish some good things. The problem is, we don't know what you're up for. So this is, in part, a survey.
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Some of you just want information. You want to be kept informed about what's happening with church and state issues.
Some of you want to be called on, but only in an emergency. You might be willing to write a letter or do more.
Some of you want to be more active, but don't know what there is for you to do.
So please reply to this email and tell us which category you fit into. Or some other category we haven't thought of.
But before you do, let's talk about . . .
WHY AMERICANS UNITED IS IMPORTANT
We believe that the wall of strict separation of church and state maximizes religious freedom, and has given America the most religious freedom of any country in the world. We believe that any weakening of that wall means one religious view will use government to oppress others. We believe that those who want more religion in government will continue to press for that, and that others will be oppressed as a result.
One example that is very much alive currently is the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby case, which held that a business, whose owners believed that discrimination against gay customers was required by their religious beliefs, was protected in that discrimination by the religious freedom clause of the First Amendment. This might result in massive discrimination by a great many businesses across the country, and worse, it opens a Pandora's box as to how many religious views might excuse noncompliance with all manner of laws, and oppression of others.
But just last week, the supreme court of the state of Washington issued a decision which navigated around Hobby Lobby so as to avoid such sporadic oppression of others based on personal religious views that were not themselves compromised. This was an AU case, and may lead the U.S. Supreme Court to limit the scope of Hobby Lobby.
It's important for AU members to be aware of such developments, to share that information with others for their protection, and to support remedial litigation so as to protect the wall of separation -- not only here in Collier County but elsewhere. Every finger in the dike can stop the flood.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
So, with that in mind, here are some of the things that we need help with:
Eyes and ears. We need people to let us know when they see or hear about things whichseem to violate the principle of church-state separation.
Helpers. We need volunteers to help with projects that arise now and then. For example, one regular event is the annual Religious Freedom Day in Collier County high schools, the result of a federal lawsuit by a Christian organization wanting to hand out Bibles to students. We need volunteers to put out materials from AU, ACLU, PFLAG, the Unitarians, the Muslims and others.
Event supporters. From time to time there are meetings, presentations, speeches, dinners, etc., that need support, encouragement and participation. As Woody Allen famously said, 80% of success is just showing up. Help us be successful!
Committee members. As we grow, we expect that committees will emerge that will focus on particular areas of activity, working on such things as coordinating with other groups on issues, identifying what those issues might be, and developing action strategies. We want you to be on those committees along with our board members.
Board members. Some of you are qualified to serve on our board right now. Others would be when you have accumulated some experience working on our issues. Either way, we need you to step up to that position when you're ready.
GET AND SHARE INFORMATION
We'll be sending you letters every month, but there is more for you to get, and share. Sharing AU information is important. You have many friends, and it's likely that many of them share your views about separation of church and state. Movements like this grow only when supporters reach out to others.
If you're not already receiving emails from the national office of Americans United, go here and sign up.
Those emails will often report news that can be shared. Either click on the story links or go directly to the two AU blogs, here and here. Their stories have share links you can click on easily.
Another way to access and share current AU information is to Like the national and local Facebook page.
If you are a Twitter person, go here to follow AU and tweet supportively.
And if you like videos, AU even has those posted on its YouTube channel.
But AU chapters may use their own social media, and our Collier chapter is taking advantage of that policy. Our Facebook page is here. You can post your input or questions there and share with other Collier members and friends.
We hope this information is helpful to you, and encourages you to get involved more actively. So please do email us back with your survey responses. And feel free to send us your thoughts, and to join us at our monthly board meetings.
AU Greater Naples Board of Directors:
President - Jim Swonk
Vice President - Barbara Glasgow
Treasurer - Bill Korson
Past President - John Lynch
Board Members: Bernie Turner, Stan Lipp, Doug Wilson, Terry Trimble, John Lynch