The results of November's midterm elections provided a welcome shot of adrenaline for church-state separation advocates battling ongoing attacks on religious freedom around the country.
Rachel Laser, Americans United's CEO and president, said the switch of the U.S. House of Representatives from Republican to Democratic control will likely halt the more dangerous aspects of President Donald Trump's legislative agenda.
"The House flip provides an important check on the Trump administration's relentless attacks on separation of religion and government," Laser said.
One of the most striking victories for religious freedom was the historic diversity of the newly elected officials --including religious minorities, women, members of the LGBTQ community and people of color. Laser noted that without separation of religion and government, many of these candidates never would have been elected because they represent groups that traditionally have faced discrimination in the name of religion.
At least 100 women were elected or re-elected to Congress, including the chamber's first two Muslim women: Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Omar wears a hijab and came to America as a Somali refugee--traits that are also firsts for a member of Congress.
Also elected were the nation's first Native American women to serve in the House: Democrat Sharice Davids, who is also the first LGBTQ person to represent Kansas in Congress, and Deb Haaland (D-N.MJ.
These victories were noteworthy in the face of attack ads around the country that attempted to use anti-Muslim, xenophobic fears to discredit candidates and paint religious minorities and people of color as threats. Many of the ads were funded by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super-PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).
Other noteworthy women heading to the House include Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D-Texas), who defeated John Culberson; Kendra Horn (D-Okla.), who beat Steve Russell; and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), who unseated Barbara Comstock. Wexton is a welcome addition to the House because she has voiced opposition to legislation that would allow taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies to use religion to discriminate against prospective parents and children in need.
The defeat of Culberson, a Houston area Republican incumbent of more than 15 years, removes from office a frequent foe of the Johnson Amendment --the federal law that ensures houses of worship and other...