Rachel Laser Became President And CEO Of Americans United One Year Ago. Here Are Her Thoughts About Where The Group Is Headed.
Editor's Note: Rachel Laser's appointment as Americans United's new president and CEO was announced on Feb. 21, 2018. She succeeded the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, who led Americans United from 1992-2017. In this Q&A, Laser reflects on her first year and offers a vision for the future.
Q. You've been leading Americans United for a year now. Can you share some personal highlights from the past 12 months?
Laser: In my first months on the job, the Masterpiece Cakeshop and Muslim ban decisions came down, and by the summer, the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was announced. These were dark moments, but I will never forget speaking on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court alongside leaders from civil rights, religious minority, LGBTQ, Black Lives Matter, immigrant rights and so many other affected communities. In those moments, I felt proud to represent AU and to be insisting that our issue was front and center, motivated by how strongly receptive the diverse crowd was to our message and inspired by the tangible hope, raw power and fierce camaraderie in the air.
Q. You've been on the road and have addressed some AU chapters. What have you noticed about AU members?
Laser: I wrote a column about this called "My Favorite Group of Insubordinates," (December 2018 Church & State) because, at some point in my travels, I saw with real clarity that one strong unifying theme among our members is that they all consider themselves to be defiant of, or at least resistant to, authority--and are proud of that characteristic! My sense is this stems at least in part from the fact that many of us consider ourselves different in certain ways from the "norm" or baseline and thus need to fight to be seen and accepted as equals.
Our members are also passionate, informed and indefatigable and have reliably been extremely welcoming to me as AU's new leader!
Q. We face some serious challenges as the Trump-Pence administration continues to undermine religious freedom and kowtow to the Religious Right and from Project Blitz. What gives you hope?
Laser: I feel hopeful when I see my entire staff willing to work late night after late night for months on end to fight the Kavanaugh nomination, despite the fact that the odds were against us. They knew our fundamental freedoms were at stake. I feel hopeful when AU hosts a meeting to fight Project...