Jewish Woman First to Head Americans United

Rachel Laser

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on  a the first Jew and woman working to take a US group into the secularist world through advancement of the separation of religion and government.

Rachel Laser, who is 48-years-old, is the Executive Director of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Laser is working on something important to her, which is the cause of secularism. Through the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, she will work to separate religion and government.

She said, “I appreciate that ‘separation of church and state’ is a term of art, but as a Jewish person it doesn’t always work perfectly for me as a shorthand.” Barry Lynn, the previous director, retired from the organization.

Lynn was a United Church of Christ minister, which makes the switch to a Jewish woman bigger than either a non-Christian or a woman alone.

Laser comes from Chicago and is a lawyer. She has worked with “the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, Planned Parenthood and the National Women’s Law Center. Her work has centered on fighting for issues such as women’s rights, LGBTQ equality and promoting interfaith relations.”

She considers these federal policies and laws the most important and pressing issues of the day because these permit the discrimination against sexual minorities while also denying the safe and equitable access to reproductive health care. Often, religion restricts these.

Laser explained, “We’re witnessing an alarming moment in American history, where our country’s top leaders are failing to honor America’s promise to separate religion and government.”

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Americans United for Separation of Church and State is concerned about the newer policy from the government that permits taxpayer money to be used for the reconstruction or repair of houses of worship in the case of natural disasters.

Laser came from a home filled with social justice activism and work. She values building bridges between communities. “I entered that work with fear and trepidation, and I ended that work convinced that there is remarkable space to bring unusual bedfellows together,” Laser acknowledged.

As Laser is a member of the religious minorities, she works that much harder for the secular ideals of the separation between religion and government.

She has three children with her husband, Mark Davies. Interestingly, Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s membership came from the political conservative before. Now, the larger population of the membership comes from the progressives.

“I don’t think it’s intuitive anymore to a lot of Americans that what separation of religion and government is about is freedom of religion,” Laser opined. “[It] is your ability to believe what you want to believe and to practice your own faith or to choose no faith.”

Photo Credits: Rachel Laser

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