Americans United
For Separation of Church and State
Massachusetts Chapter
12 Pine Tree Drive -  Worcester, MA 01609
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Know Your Rights

A show about civil liberties on WCCW TV13 hosted by our President, Ron Madnick


Ron Madnick, President of the Massachusetts AU Chapter, was part of a panel at MIT on October 3rd on the subject of
"What's At Stake -- Separation of Religion and State Today"

The panel discussed efforts to drop the Johnson Amendment, FEMA policy changes benefiting houses of worship, and the SCOTUS drift jeopardizing women's bodily autonomy, and how these have presented challenges to American secular governance, threatening to stall or reverse much of the progress made by the historical struggle for separation of religion and state.

Members of the panel included:

Ronal Madnick, President, AU Massachusetts Chapter
Carol Rose, Executive Director American Civil Liberties Union, Massachusetts Chapter
Zachary Bos, Co-Chair, Secular Coalition for America, Massachusetts Chapter

Starting in 2010, Ron Madnick, President of the Massachusetts AU Chapter, and now one of the fifteen National Trustees, taped a series of shows on the topic of Church & State. The videos, "Know Your Rights" are available on WCCA TV and can be viewed HERE

Americans United lawsuit to stop the town of Acton, Mass. from spending taxpayer funds to support two local churches has been decided by the Supreme Judicial Court

The court has handed down a split decision, ruling that public money can indeed be used to support religious activities, but under strict guidelines and with rigid scrutiny. More details are available HERE

Town Should Not Use Public Funds to Support It's Churches, Americans United Says In Lawsuit

Historic Status Of Buildings Is Not An Excuse To Subsidize Religion With Taxpayer Funds, Group Says

The Massachusetts Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State was first contacted by a member on the issue described below. After gathering information we sent the information to the AU Legal Department. The AU-MA Chapter also worked to recruit some of the plaintiffs and supplied the name of the attorney from Massachusetts, Russell Chernin.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has filed a lawsuit to stop the town of Acton, Mass., from spending taxpayer funds to support two local churches. In legal action filed on behalf of 13 Acton taxpayers, Americans United says officials in Acton violated the Massachusetts Constitution when they approved Community Preservation Act grants for Acton Congregational Church and South Acton Congregational Church. “Government should not use tax funds to support churches,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “The fact that a house of worship is old doesn’t mean taxpayers should be forced to subsidize a religious group to which they don’t belong. If a church needs money to preserve or restore its buildings, it should raise that money from its own members.” In April, Acton approved the grants for the two churches. One grant would pay for the restoration of stained-glass windows at Acton Congregational Church, including a large window depicting Jesus. The second grant would pay for a master plan for extensive work at the same church. The third grant would pay for roof work at South Acton Congregational Church.
The three grants total $115,000. In its Caplan v. Town of Acton lawsuit, Americans United asserts that the Anti-Aid Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution prohibits this sort of direct government payment to sectarian institutions. “The Anti-Aid Amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution protects the religious liberty of all citizens of the Commonwealth by prohibiting the use of public funds to support active houses of worship. Defendant Town of Acton is threatening that religious liberty,” the lawsuit says. Added Alex J. Luchenitser, Americans United’s associate legal director: “Historical p reservation is a worthy goal, but it doesn’t justify violating the Constitution. Public funds should support buildings that can benefit all members of a community equally, not ones that are mainly used by members of one particular faith.” Attorney Douglas B. Mishkin of the national law firm Venable LLP is providing pro bono representation on behalf of Americans United to the plaintiffs. The thirteen Acton taxpayer plaintiffs include George Caplan, Jim Conboy, Del Friedman, Daniel Gilfix, Maria Greene, Jesse Levine, Dave Lunger, Allen Nitschelm, Scott Smyers, William Alstrom, and David Caplan (no relation to George Caplan).

Along with Mishkin and Luchenitser, the case is being litigated by Americans United’s legal director Richard B. Katskee; Venable attorneys Joshua C. Cumby, Jamie L. Edmonson, and Xochitl S. Strobehn; and Massachusetts attorney Russell S. Chernin.

AU Massachusetts Supports Supreme Court Ruling Extending Marriage Equality Nationwide

The Massachusetts Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State welcomes today’s Supreme Court ruling extending marriage equality nationwide. The high court ruled 5-4 that it is unconstitutional for states to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. States will also be required to recognize all legal marriage licenses issued by other states, including those given to gay couples. Ronal Madnick, President of the Massachusetts Chapter and one of the fifteen national trustees of AU said today that "Americans United will continue to oppose any effort to use the principle of religious freedom as a tool to deny the rights of others."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Strongly Urges Opposition to Massachusetts House Bill H369
Similar to House Bills H.391, H.2715, and H.317, in previous years!! (See Below)

Americans United for Separation of Church and State supports the right of students to voluntarily profess their religious beliefs, where that expression falls within the confines of constitutionally-protected speech. However, neither the state legislature nor the public school system should be in the business of promoting speech that violates the First Amendment, nor should they seek to promote policies that would coerce school children into particular beliefs. The Massachusetts legislature should not encourage schools to create policies which will lead to unconstitutional state promotion of religion.

Ronal Madnick, the President of the Massachusetts Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State spoke in Opposition to House Bill H369 "Promoting Unconstitutional Religious Expression in Public Schools", before the Joint Committee on Education May 5, 2015 in Boston. The letter and testimony can be viewed HERE.

How A High School Student Working with AU National and
AU Massachusetts Changed A Fifty Year Tradition

Just a little before 9:00PM on Tuesday night (2/24/2015) the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School Committee voted to strike the Baccalaureate Service from the student handbook, and replace it with an "Evening of Reflection".

On Wednesday morning the principal and student Douglas J. Ciampi, Jr.I had a sit down interview on the issue, and the next morning (Thursday) the local newspaper, The Gardner News, carried the headline "Oakmont Ending Tradition" on the front page of both their print and online editions.

The change has already been formalized, and the next morning all Senior Class parents were sent an email alerting them of the change.

According to student Douglas J. Ciampi, Jr. It cannot be said enough how much Americans United assisted in this matter. It took the knowledge and information that AU provided to swing this from an issue for the Student Council to an issue for the School Committee, and bring it to a level where it was discussed community wide.

Douglas J. Ciampi, Jr. thanked AU very much for all of our assistance and advice over the past several months, Douglas J. Ciampi, Jr. said that we surely wouldn't be in the same position we are today if it wasn't for AU.

From The Gardner News - 2/26/2015
Oakmont Ending Tradition
By Joseph Benavidez

After 50 years of hosting a senior baccalaureate, Oakmont Regional High School will end the religious tradition. Instead, a more inclusive, student-driven program will take place this spring.
“Some people were resistant to the change,” Oakmont senior Douglas Ciampi said.
“In the end, we were able to come to a reasonable decision and agreement.”
“There will be aspects of the old tradition and we’ll create new traditions,” said Oakmont Principal David Uminski. Mr. Ciampi had suggested that school officials might want to replace the baccalaureate with an evening of reflection, saying the wording in the Oakmont handbook could be interpreted as a First Amendment violation.

According to the school handbook, the baccalaureate is "a non-denominational religious service. ...All seniors, parents and guests are welcome to attend. Semiformal attire is requested." This is a violation of the Establishment Clause in the Constitution, Mr. Uminski stated. The First Amendment, which prevents Congress from making laws enforcing a religious belief, also prohibits government and public organizations - including public schools - from sponsoring religious services. Since a graduation counselor with the high school had the responsibility of coordination the church-held baccalaureate, the event was said to have violated the students' Constitutional rights. "The first time (I read the handbook)," Mr. Ciampi said, "I didn't really think about it, but after remembering some Constitutional information something clicked."

Read the full story at:

Ellery Schempp at Harvard Divinity School

Following is an article about Ellery Schempp, Vice-President of the Massachusetts Chapter of AU, highlighting his recent talk at the Harvard Divinity School. The article, "Bypassing the Bible" appeared in the Harvard Gazette. It points out that "For years, Dr. Moore and her students have debated the implications of landmark Supreme Court decisions in her “Religion, Democracy, and Education” course but they rarely get to dig past the scholarship to the actual names attached to those decisions - people like Ellery Schempp, a freethinking 16-year-old who, more than 50 years ago, decided to protest his suburban Pennsylvania high school’s mandatory daily Bible readings....“There are very few people who have won a Supreme Court case about First Amendment topics who come to Harvard Divinity School, and most of us are dead,” Schempp told his audience with characteristic bluntness. Schempp’s case, Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), effectively overturned laws in more than 30 states that endorsed or required Bible readings in public schools. You can read the entire article at:



AU-MA table at Worcester City Hall

Ron Madnick (President AU-MA) at the AU-MA table during Worcester Pride Celabration set up behind Worcester City Commons, September 17, 2011.

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should `make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State."  Thomas Jefferson, Danbury Letter, 1802

"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."
-- James Madison, letter objecting to the use of government land for churches, 1803

"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical."
--Thomas Jefferson: Bill for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers 2:545

Copyright © Americans United for Separation of Church and State, MA Chapter

Last updated:6/25/2018



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