About The Columbia Chapter
Who We Are
Our chapter membership includes religious and non- religious people who come together to work locally in support of religious liberty and church/state separation.
Chapter Officers 2012 - 2013
President: Bruce Adams
Vice President: Steve Eltinge
Secretary: Ed Fredenburg (Also Meetup manager)
Treasurer: Anita Brown
Board Members: Susan Gates and William Ames
What We Believe
We believe that separation of church and state is essential to our democracy. It prevents government interference in religious practice and belief and prohibits government from favoring any particular religion or religion in general. These ideas strengthen both our democracy and religious liberty.
What We Do
Our chapter strives to be an effective voice, locally, in matters of church/state separation. We meet regularly to discuss issues and to plan educational programs and events. In addition, we work with our national organization to advance their programs and to alert them to problems that may arise in our area.
We facilitate discussion of church/state issues and work to keep our members and our community informed about them.
We engage and inform our elected leaders and citizens as they make decisions that may impact church/state separation.
We work to preserve religious rights that are guaranteed by the US or state constitution.
We encourage you to join us! Become a member!
About Americans United
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) was founded in 1947 by a broad coalition of religious, educational and civic leaders. At that time, proposals were pending in the U.S. Congress to extend government aid to private religious schools. Many Americans opposed this idea, insisting that government support for religious education would violate church-state separation. The decision was made to form a national organization to promote this point of view and defend the separation principle.
Since 1947, Americans United has led the way in defending the separation of church and state, the cornerstone of religious liberty in America, as a non-sectarian, non-partisan organization.
Today AU has 75,000 members, including Christians, Jews, Buddhists, people with no religious affiliation and others. Democrats, Republicans and independents have joined our ranks.
AU does not take positions on theological questions and does not oppose any group because of its religious beliefs. AU works to defend the free exercise of all religions as protected by the U.S. Constitution. We oppose any effort to use government power to force anyone to support, take part in or fund religion.
AU opposes efforts by the Religious Right to impose its theological views on the public by governmental action. The Religious Right's attempt to force all Americans to accept its religious doctrines as law is one of the greatest threats to religious freedom today.
Our Mission Statement
About Columbia Chapter Members
Tragic Death of a Young Activist
Columbia Chapter Board member Dustin Finney was hit by an intoxicated driver while he was riding in a bike lane early Friday morning, August 12th 2011. He died at the scene.
Dustin was a 28 year old Vancouver native who was living in Portland while attending Portland Community College. He depended on his bike for transportation.
Dustin was committed activist who was out to make a better world. He got involved with the Columbia Chapter early in 2011. Right away he volunteered to help. He worked on mailing our chapter newsletter and he designed our chapter T-shirts. We were impressed with his enthusiasm, ability and commitment, so we put him in charge of organizing our participation in the Portland Pride Parade. He did a great job and recruited several other young people to march with us.
Our chapter leaders took to Dustin right way. We liked him and recognized his potential. At our annual chapter meeting in May 2011, we elected Dustin to the Columbia Chapter Board. At the time of his death, he was in charge of organizing our participation in the Vancouver Peace and Justice Fair. Unfortunately, he did not have a chance to finish that work.
What a loss! He was so young and energetic. Now he has been deprived of his future. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.
For more information on the crash, click here and here.
Photo by Steve Eltinge
Bruce Adams President
Bruce was raised in a Quaker family in Portland, where he attended public schools. He was a teacher in the Beaverton School District, teaching mostly middle grades. He taught Social Studies, English and special programs for talented and gifted. During this time he served as president of the Beaverton Education Association, the Oregon Education Association and the Oregon Association for Talented and Gifted. He was also on the Oregon Commission on Children and Families.
Bruce has always valued the freedoms we have in this country. Several years ago he heard AU’s Executive Director, Barry Lynn speak to the National Education Association Board of Directors, and was reminded of the value of religious freedom in the United States under the First Amendment. When he retired, he looked back on that experience and got involved with the Columbia Chapter. He has been president of the chapter since 2005.
He says:” There have been major changes in the United States in my lifetime. We have become the most religiously diverse county in the world.” President Obama addressed this in his inaugural speech when he said: “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and nonbelievers.” Bruce agrees with that and thinks it reinforces what Americans United has been saying all along.
In addition to working with the chapter, Bruce enjoys bike riding, hiking, jogging and yard work. He and his wife, Susan, also enjoy international travel.
Susan Gates Board Member
Susan Gates moved to Oregon in 2005 after living all over the country with her husband, Bob's, job. She worked too, in wholesale electrical sales. But, along the way, the difficulty of starting over again every couple of years, in a career based on commission earnings, seemed fruitless. So she started volunteering. And, after a final transfer to Houston, she discovered her true passion: politics.
Susan worked on campaigns and in the Democratic Party in several capacities. She was also, in 1994, one of the founding members of the Houston Chapter of AU. As Susan aptly puts it, "I grew up a Southern Baptist in the South. When I saw how influential and downright intimidating far right religions like that were getting in the political process, it scared me to death!"
After years of volunteering, Susan was hired as the Executive Director of the Harris County Democratic Party (Houston). She enjoyed her tenure in that position. But, once her husband retired, the couple looked for a permanent home elsewhere. After looking at many cities, they chose the Portland area.
Once she unpacked in her, hopefully, final home, Susan did three things. She got involved in politics, started volunteering at the Sandy Library, and joined the Columbia Chapter of AU. On the political front, she became the Chair of the Oregon Trail Democrats, a group in Sandy, where she lives. And she was elected an Oregon delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. At the library, Susan was elected to the Sandy Library Board in 2006. And in AU, she became the Vice President of the Chapter in 2006, and chaired two of the chapter's annual events before stepping down to serve on the Board in 2010.
Alice Bartelt - Active in Our Chapter from Day One
Alice graduated from Lewis & Clark Law School and passed the bar examination in 1981. She practiced workers compensation law and was a staff attorney at SAIF Corporation for a number of years.
Alice has a long history of very active involvement in many organizations. She is currently President of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon and of the Oregon Association of Parliamentarians. She is also very active in the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and, during the legislative session, spends many days of the week at the Oregon legislature volunteering on their behalf. She is also very involved at the local, state and national level in a number of other organizations.
Alice became involved in the issue of separation of church and state in the late 80’s when there was a movement in the country to take over school boards. People who had fundamentalist views and sent their own children to private religious schools were recruited to run for public school boards. Alice and others were concerned about their lack of experience and their motives. This concern led them to Americans United and to form the Columbia Chapter in 1994. Alice was elected treasurer and continued in that role until 2011.
Alice says “Keeping religious teachings out of public schools is one of the main reasons that I became involved in AU.”
Alice’s husband Dick died in 2006. They had been married for over 39 years and have two daughters. Alice retired from SAIF in 2007 and has recently been blessed with twin grandsons.
Earle White - Over Fifty Years of Activism!
Earle White became involved with Americans United in the mid 1950's, a time when the idea of supporting private and religious schools with tax money was being hotly debated. A meeting on the issue was held at Portland’s Civic Auditorium (Now Keller Auditorium). Glenn Archer, AU’s first executive director and Stanley Lowell spoke to a packed house! At that time Earle White was a young attorney. He filed the papers to form Oregonians United for Separation of Church and State and affiliated with the national organization.
In 1957, a law was passed in Oregon that would use tax money for textbooks for private and religious schools. The law was challenged as a violation of church/state separation and headed to the Oregon Supreme Court. Earle asked AU for help and they arranged for Leo Pfeiffer, the General Council of the American Jewish Congress to take the case. The law was struck down. Over the years, the legal climate changed as the courts decided more cases in support of church/state separation and Oregonians United for Separation of Church and State declined. More recently, Earle learned about the Columbia Chapter and, at the age of 91, began attending chapter meetings. In the summer of 2007, the Rev. Berry Lynn was scheduled to speak in Portland, so Earle arranged for us to hold the event at the First Baptist Church where he has been an active member for several decades.
Photo By Dan Domenigoni
Bonnie Tinker, Rest in Peace
We were shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Bonnie Tinker on July 2, 2009. She was killed in a tragic bicycle accident while she was attending a Quaker conference in Virginia.
Although Bonnie had only recently become involved with our chapter, we got to know her quickly as she worked with us on the symposium on same-sex marriage. Working with her was a joy and her wise advice was indispensable. She will be greatly missed.
Our condolences go to Bonnie’s partner, Sara Graham and their children.
To watch a short video of Bonnie's talk at our Same-Sex Marriage Symposium, click here.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) www.au.org
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
The Columbia Chapter of AU is based in the greater Portland/Vancouver area, and is the only chapter in Oregon and S.W. Washington.
You may join our chapter or be on our email list no matter where you live. Contact us: email@example.com
last updated 3/21/2013