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Barry W. Lynn: Wikis


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Barry W. Lynn (born 1948) has been the Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State since 1992.[1] He is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and a prominent leader of the American religious left. He is known to be a strong advocate of separation of church and state.



Lynn was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but his family moved to nearby Bethlehem when he was a child. He attended Bethlehem's Liberty High School, graduating in 1966. [2]

In 1970, Lynn received his B.A. from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and his theology degree from Boston University School of Theology in 1973. After attending law school at night, he graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center.[1]

After law school, he continued to work with the United Church of Christ in their mission to gain amnesty for young men who chose self-exile as a means of protesting the Vietnam War. Before accepting the post at Americans United, Lynn held a variety of positions related to religious liberty concerns. From 1984 to 1991 he was legislative counsel for the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union, where he frequently worked on church-state issues. From 1974 to 1980 Lynn served in a variety of positions with the national offices of the United Church of Christ, including a two-year stint as legislative counsel for the Church's Office of Church in Society in Washington, D.C. He left the ACLU position to respond to a medical crisis in his family before becoming director at Americans United.[1]

An accomplished speaker and lecturer, Lynn has appeared frequently on radio broadcasts and television to debate and discuss First Amendment issues, including MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, NBC's Today Show, Nightline, Fox Morning News (Washington, D.C.), CNN's Crossfire and Lou Dobbs Tonight, The Phil Donahue Show, Meet the Press, CBS Morning News, ABC's Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and Larry King Live. He was formerly a weekly commentator on church-state issues for UPI Radio, and served for two years as regular co-host of Pat Buchanan and Company on the Mutual Broadcasting System.

Barry currently hosts the radio program Culture Shocks, which can be heard on 1160 am in Washington D.C. and on several stations nationally including the syndicated Genesis Communications Network.[3] Past shows are also archived at its affiliate KCAA in California (

Lynn's first book, Piety & Politics: The Right-Wing Assault on Religious Freedom (ISBN 0-307-34654-4), was published in October 2006.

Legal actions

In an argument to the Internal Revenue Service, Lynn argued that Focus on the Family’s efforts to bring up moral issues in the 2004 election represented “a blatant effort by Dobson to build a partisan political machine based in churches . . . He has made it abundantly clear that electing Republicans is an integral part of his agenda and he doesn’t mind risking the tax-exemption of churches in the process.”[1]

A separate organization[4] unrelated to Lynn's Americans United later filed a formal complaint with the IRS over Dobson's political endorsements. Lynn did not support this complaint, and the IRS determined that since the endorsements were given by Dobson as a private individual, they did not violate federal tax law.

Americans United filed suit against the Interchange Freedom Initiative (IFI), a program of Prison Fellowship Ministries. IFI's had contracted with the state of Iowa to provide in-prison rehabilitation programs. The suit alleged that the Iowa program violated the separation of church and state in the Constitution. Lynn asserted that the program was saturated with fundamentalist Christianity and treated non-fundamentalist inmates like second-class citizens.

Prison Fellowship Ministries responded with claims of the program's alleged effectiveness in reduced recidivism (two studies - one by the State of Texas [5] and one by the University of Pennsylvania [6] - support these claims, while according to the Americans United website, a professor at UCLA has "debunked" one of the studies as "statistically flawed.")[7] Two federal courts agreed with Lynn that the program was unconstitutional.

After a federal court struck down the program, Prison Fellowship appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The state of Iowa joined with IFI in appealing the decision. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals assembled a three-judge panel, including former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, to hear the appeal. On December 3, 2007, this panel affirmed the lower court decision, and the IFI program was removed from the Iowa prison.

Lynn was very critical of the Stupak–Pitts Amendment, which was supported by the Catholic Church, and which aims to restrict the federal funding of abortion in recent health care legislation.[8]

Controversial Eulogy for AU's Founder

On November 21, 2002, Lynn, through the AU Web site, issued a press release eulogizing Glenn L. Archer, who died on November 15 at age 96. In 1948, Archer founded Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (POAU), which eventually became Americans United for the Separation of Church and State today. Lynn said: "Glenn Archer was a figure of towering energy and intellect. During his professional career, he interacted with presidents, U.S. senators and leaders of national religious denominations. But he never forgot that Americans United was created to protect the religious liberty of the average person and to be a voice for those who would otherwise have no influence in the nation's capital. These principles -- religious freedom for all and a fierce determination to stick up for the rights of the underdog--guided his tenure."[9] Lynn's statement prompted a response from William A. Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Donohue accused Lynn of ignoring Archer's anti-Catholicism. Donohue said: "It was under Archer's tutelage that the Roman Catholic hierarchy was dubbed in 1949 as being 'more dangerous and clever than communism.' That this was said after Stalin had murdered tens of millions of his own people—starving the Ukrainians to death in the world's first man-made famine—is truly astonishing. It was Archer who petitioned the FCC to deny TV licenses to Jesuits because they were 'an alien organization.' It was Archer who demanded that cardinals in the Catholic Church have their citizenship revoked. And it was Archer who asked the House Un-American Activities Committee to investigate 'the intentions, scope and achievements of Vatican espionage here,’ charging that the Catholic clergy had learned 'American secrets hardly anyone except the president knows.'"[10][11]


  1. ^ a b c d Man of Godlessness by Sean Higgins (Feb. 2006)
  2. ^ Barry Lynn -
  3. ^ Culture Shocks
  4. ^ Focus on the Family refuses to make public its letter from IRS | Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ Americans United: Jan. 08 Faith-Based Bias Banned
  8. ^ Unhealthy Trend: House Action On Abortion Showcases Power Of Bishops’ Lobby
  9. ^ Statement on Death of Glenn L. Archer, November 21, 2002
  10. ^ AU Washes the Face of a Bigot, November 22, 2002
  11. ^ Washington Post, "Glenn L. Archer Sir; Church-State Activist" November 20, 2002, p. B06

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