AU was founded in 1947 under the name Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State (POAU); the chief object of its derision at that time was the Catholic Church. Eventually POAU shortened its name -- first to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and then to its current name, Americans United.
AU’s founders included members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the American Secular Humanist Association, and the American Ethical Union, along with other leading liberals of the day. They created AU in reaction to a 1947 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Everson v. Board of Education of the Township of Ewing, where the Court ruled that a New Jersey law authorizing school boards to reimburse parents for the bus transportation of children attending parochial schools did not violate the Constitution.
AU's first executive secretary was Joseph Martin Dawson, a Baptist pastor and social activist who opposed federal aid to church hospitals and sectarian instruction in public schools. The organization's general counsel, Paul Blanshard, penned American Freedom and Catholic Power, a best-selling anti-Catholic screed which claimed that parochial schools threatened to subvert America’s common culture. And its first president, Methodist Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, was a past president of Planned Parenthood and chaired the Massachusetts branch of the pro-communist Council of American-Soviet Friendship.
AU identifies itself as a non-sectarian and non-partisan organization that “refrain[s] from making any statements supporting or opposing any candidate or party, including publishing voter guides about candidate stances on church-state issues.”
Based on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, the AU staff consists of more than 40 employees. The organization has more than 75,000 members distributed across all 50 states. It is funded by donations from members and others who support its objectives, and by grants from such entities as the Deer Creek Foundation, the Foundation for the Carolinas, and the Esther A. & Joseph Klingenstein Fund. AU receives no government funding.
2001-APR-10: Faith-based initiatives: A poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that:
|68% of American adults are concerned that faith-based programs might lead to too much government involvement with religion.|
|60% are concerned that religious groups funded with public money would proselytize recipients of social services, as allowed in President Bush's faith-based initiative program.|
|78% were opposed to another major component in Bush's proposal which would have allowed religious groups to discriminate in hiring staff by only hiring people who share their beliefs.|
|Most approve in principle of government funding of social programs run by religious groups|