Americans United for Separation of Church and State is “one of the most dangerous organizations in America,” says a top lawyer for late TV preacher Jerry Falwell’s empire.
Mathew D. Staver, dean of Falwell’s LibertyUniversityLawSchool and president of Liberty Counsel, went on a tear about Americans United in the Aug. 26 edition of OneNewsNow, a daily right-wing spin on the news published on the Web by the Rev. Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association.
Staver got fired up after Americans United wrote to Illinois officials and demanded that $40 million in legislative earmarks for 97 “faith-based” groups be spent in accordance with the Constitution. In its letter, AU argued that clear provisions of the U.S. and Illinois state constitutions mean that none of that money may be spent on religion.
Staver was not pleased about the AU action.
“Barry Lynn and his ilk at Americans United don’t care about the people who need help,” Staver blustered. “They don’t care about the people who are freezing out in the streets in the city of Chicago who are not able to have their daily meals, who need medical care. They’re only concerned with literally erasing Christianity from the planet. They have absolutely no concern for the well-being of individuals. This organization, I think, is one of the most dangerous organizations in America.”
Writing on AU’s blog, “The Wall of Separation,” Director of Communications Joe Conn called Staver’s charges “a bubbling crock of sauerkraut!”
“We at Americans United care deeply about the dignity and well-being of all people,” Conn wrote. “That’s why we do the work we do. The grants in question are earmarked to a wide variety of churches, church schools, temples and other ‘faith-based’ organizations with no controls on how the money is going to be spent. Some of the grants may go to help poor people, but others may also go to a variety of construction and indoctrination projects that have nothing to do with assisting the disadvantaged.”
Continued Conn, “Who knows what Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School or the Holy Temple of Islam or Telshe Yeshiva Chicago or Great True Vine Baptist Church plan to do with their legislative windfall? The bill that assigned the tax funds doesn’t say.”
Conn also responded to Staver’s claim that AU is trying to erase Christianity from the planet, calling the charge “absurd.”
“Church-state separation ensures the right of all faiths, including Christianity to freely practice,” wrote Conn. “Is Staver really saying that Christianity will disappear if it doesn’t get a subsidy from the Illinois state legislature and other governmental bodies?!”
Concluded Conn, “As for Americans United being dangerous, Brother Mat, yes we are. We’re dangerous to the theocratic agenda of you and other Religious Right honchos who are plotting to tear down the wall of separation between church and state.”
Staver’s outburst was not the only salvo he has launched against AU recently. When Jerry Falwell Jr. denied recognition to a College Democrats club at LibertyUniversity in May, AU reported him to the Internal Revenue Service.
Falwell and Staver responded by filing a frivolous complaint with the IRS asserting that AU is a Democratic Party front group. The complaint contained numerous errors and included no evidence of AU endorsing or opposing candidates.