Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Columbia Chapter

Reports on Activities, Action & Activism



Alberta Street Fair

We had a very successful booth at the Alberta Street Fair.  Vice-president Linda Bley organized AU’s participation, complete with fortune cookies with a Separation message, balloons, prizes for kids and much information on Church/State issues.  We asked fair attendees to sign a Petition and collected hundreds of signatures that were forwarded to officials in Washington DC.  Since 2015 Street Fairs have become an important part of our public outreach, helping us make new friends and share our ideas.  We plan on having tables at two Street Fairs in 2017.  It’s always a fun day (4 hour shift) please consider volunteering


NO to “In God We Trust” in the County Public Hearing Room – February 2015

Craig Dewey of the Columbia Chapter Board represented Americans United at a protest rally and public hearing against the Clark County proposal to place an “In God We Trust” display in their main public meeting room.  After much negative comment at that meeting the motion for the display died for lack of a second.  On Tuesday, February 24, Craig Dewey and Bruce Adams joined representatives from local secular groups held another rally before the meeting.   Craig Dewey once again spoke to the County Council (formerly the Clark County Board of Commissioners) and outlined our concerns about the potentially divisive and non-inclusive nature of the display.  Unfortunately the motion passed 2 to 1. 


Presentation – December 7, 2014

On December 7, 2014 Don Leadroot, the newly elected President of the Columbia Chapter, spoke to members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver. Don highlighted current and anticipated legal and legislative issues at both the national and chapter levels.  The thirty minute talk was followed by questions related to Church/State separation issues, a call to action for the church members to remain vigilant to Church – State issues they may encounter and to join Americans United.

Testimony Against Prayer before Public Meetings – November 2014

In November 2014, at the behest of a City Council member of the City of Estacada, OR, the Columbia Chapter provided written testimony to the City Council regarding the potentially divisive and negative impacts of City sanctioned prayer as part of their meetings.  Members of the Columbia Chapter Board attended the November 10, Estacada City Council meeting to provide testimony and support to those in opposition.  The matter was briefly discussed and tabled indefinitely.

NO to Inappropriate Church Politicking  -  October 2014

In late October 2014, a member of the Columbia Chapter in Clark County, WA alerted Chapter leadership as to a possible violation of the prohibition against church politicking in the upcoming elections.  After a series of Emails between Chapter leaders and Church officials, a temporary political sign related to the Church’s sign was removed. 


Presentation - May 22, 2013

Steve Eltinge, Columbia Chapter's Vice President, spoke to members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver. Steve's presentation focused on the life of James Madison and his role as the principal architect of Church & State Separation. The thirty minute talk was followed by questions related to Church/State separation issues, as well as questions about the awaited Supreme Court case on prayer at government functions.

Saying NO to Tax Credits for Religious Schooling – April 4, 2013

Our chapter president wrote an op-ed about Oregon HB 2994 and tuition tax credits in the Salem Weekly newspaper. He pointed out that HB 2994 “creates tax credit for educational expenses paid for special needs student attending private school or public school charging tuition.” Though this may at first sound reasonable, it is a tax credit and not just a tax deduction, so the government is, in effect reimbursing the taxpayer for the tuition. This leaves less money for public schools and other public programs.

To read the article, click here:

Update: HB 2994 was refered to the Ways and Means Committee, where it died.

No to Prayer to Begin County Commission Meetings – March 19, 2013

Columbia Chapter President Bruce Adams along with members Craig Dewey and Don Leadroot gave written as well as oral testimony to the Clark County Board of Commissioners against the resolution to begin each County Commission meeting with a prayer invocation.  The AU representatives outlined concerns about the potentially divisive and non-inclusive nature of county mandated prayer.  The motion for the prayers eventually passed but only after County assurances that future prayer leaders and their invocations would meet all legal standards.

Presentation – Feb. 7, 2013

Columbia Chapter vice president Steve Eltinge spoke about Separation of Church and State at the Cedar Hills Kiwanis Club luncheon. Following a 20 minute talk he took questions from an audience of 40 attendees.


Marching in the Portland Pride Parade – June 18, 2012

Photos by Steve Eltinge

A few dozen of our chapter leaders, members and friends marched in the Portland Pride Parade on June 18. It was a lot of fun and we were very well received! Onlookers clapped and shouted words of encouragement. It was clear that many of them understood the connection between church-state separation and LGBTQ issues. Perhaps they have witnessed some groups' efforts to impose their narrow religious views on same-sex marriage and job discrimination on everyone else.

Presentation – May 6, 2012

Bruce Adams gave a presentation at the Sunday service of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of McMinnville Oregon. He spoke about current church-state issues and trends. To listen to an audio recording of the talk, click here.

On the "Think Out Loud" Radio Program - Feb. 24, 2012

Our chapter president, Bruce Adams was on Oregon Public Broadcasting's radio program, "Think Out Loud." The topic was Government Partnerships with Faith-Based Groups. The other guests were Alexia Kelly, Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the US Dept. of Health and Human Services; David Leslie, Executive director of Ecumenical Ministries Oregon; and Arif Humayun, President and co-founder of Circle of Peace, an interfaith group.

The program is available as a podcast.


Presentation – Dec. 3, 2011

Bruce Adams gave a presentation entitled “Church/State Separation in Today’s World” to an enthusiastic group at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver, Washington. After the presentation, the well – informed audience had many questions and comments.

Church/State Separation and the Humanist Film Fest – Nov. 13, 2011

We are delighted to have been invited to participate in a special part of the Humanist Film Fest that was about the separation of church and state and featured the film, The Lord is Not On Trial Here Today. This Peabody Award winning documentary tells the story of a young mother who objected to religion being taught in her sons’ public school. She took her case to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in her favor in the landmark 1948 decision McCollum v. Board of Education.

After the film, our chapter president, gave a talk about religious programs in public schools and other church/state issues.

Religious Proselytizing in Public Schools – Sept. 22, 2011

We were invited to participate in a special event in Seattle, which examined efforts to promote religion to public elementary school children. Columbia Chapter members Bruce Adams and Dani Tofte gave a presentation on our efforts regarding the released time program in the Sherwood, Oregon school district. Presenters from the Seattle area reported on the Child Evangelism Fellowship and others who attempt to promote religion in public schools.

“The purpose of the presentations is to make people aware of the sometimes aggressive tactics of child evangelism groups to entice public-school students into their folds, as well as to explore ways to assist schools in maintaining the proper separation of church and state,” said Dave Miller, president of the Greater Seattle Chapter of AU. “We don’t believe parents or citizens want to see our public schools become recruiting grounds for religious denominations.”

The event was sponsored by three Seattle groups; the Greater Seattle Chapter of AU, the Secular Jewish Circle and the University Unitarian Humanists.

The Vancouver Peace and Justice Fair 2011 - Sept. 10, 2011

For the second year in a row we had a booth at the Vancouver Peace and Justice Fair. Again this year we handed out brochures and newsletters and had many good discussions about church –state issues.

Photo by Marleen Wallingford

This year’s participation was marred by the recent death of Dustin Finney, who was a member of our chapter board of directors. He was in charge of our chapter’s planning for the fair until he was struck and killed by a hit and run driver while he was riding his bike. Dustin was raised in Vancouver, so many of the people who visited our booth came by to and talk about Dustin and the tragedy

Marching in the 2011 Portland Pride Parade – June 19, 2011

Photo by Steve Eltinge

Speaking at NW Freethinkers Regional Conference at PSU – Mar 26, 2011

We spoke at the NW Freethinkers Regional Conference about pulling students out of class for religious instruction. For more information on this topic, go to our Local Issues page.

(Note: AU is nonpartisan and non-denominational; we are glad to speak to groups of any party or belief. If you would like us to speak at your meeting, please contact us at

Debate at Lewis and Clark Law School – Feb. 27, 2011

The Lewis and Clark student chapter of the Federalist Society invited our chapter president, Bruce Adams to debate law professor John Kunich of the Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina. Professor Kunich argued that Intelligent Design should be taught in public school science classes and Bruce argued that it should not be taught. They both made their points and then students asked questions. About 50 students attended the event.

Speaking at a Clark College Class – Feb. 27, 2011

Photo by Steve Eltinge

Our chapter was invited to make a presentation on church state issues to a class at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington. The first hour, Bruce Adams spoke about recent trends in church/state issues and he examined some experts’ opinions about what to expect in the coming year and decade. The second hour was a report on an issue that happened at Heritage High School sometime ago. Chapter members, Juanita Greenway and Hugh Shuford, told about their involvement. They also presided over a discussion of the issue. (See more on this story Busted for Praying In School? on our Local Issues page.)


The Vancouver Peace and Justice Fair 2010 - Sept. 11, 2010

clark county

Photo by Steve Eltinge

For several years the Clark County Chapter of AU participated in the Vancouver Peace and Justice Fair. When the Clark County Chapter dissolved, they asked the Columbia Chapter to continue this participation, so this year we staffed our booth with AU members from both sides of the river and had a great time!

We had many meaningful discussions with Fair visitors, several of whom signed up to be on the Columbia Chapter email list and/or joined our chapter.

We had a great experience and are looking forward to next year’s Fair.


Lobbying and Meeting in Washington DC Nov. 8 - 10, 2009

Once a year AU chapter leaders from all over America meet in Washington, D.C. for training. This year the meeting coincided with the reconsideration of the Washington D.C. Voucher Program. Over 80% of the students receiving taxpayer-supported vouchers are using them to attend religious schools! Our chapter president visited the offices of Oregon Senators Wyden and Merkley to speak with members of their staff about the importance of voting against refunding this failed program.

In the Oregonian Newspaper – Sept. 18, 2009

The Oregonian ran a story about the PREP4Kids program, which is now pulling Sherwood, Oregon School District students out of their classrooms for religious instruction. Our chapter president, Bruce Adams, who had been working with some local parents with concerns about the program, was interviewed by the Oregonian and was quoted in the article.

To see The Oregonian article, click here.

To read more about our chapter meeting on this topic, click here.

To read more about this issue from a parent’s personal perspective, click here.

Press Release – August 20, 2009

According to a statement on the Aumsville, Oregon city web site, some of their employees value their “Belief in God.” We thought that statement should not be posted on a government website, so we contacted the city and asked them to remove it. When they refused, we issued a press release about it. As a result, the Salem Statesman Journal published an article about the issue on August 7, 2009. They also published letters to the editor about the article and hundreds of readers posted comments about it on their blog.

For more information on this issue, click here.

On KATU Evening News July 29, 2009

We were asked by KATU, Channel 6 evening news to comment on the trial of parents who did not seek medical help for their dying child, but relied instead on spiritual healing. We told the reporter that this tragic case involved more than just separation of church/state issues, and that we could not comment directly on it. However, we did offer to provide some background on Oregon and national precedents. The reporter agreed, and our chapter president, Bruce Adams appeared briefly on the evening news on July 14, 2009.

In Portland's Willamette Week Newspaper July 29, 2009

The Willamette Week asked us to comment on a major religious volunteer effort called "Season of Service," which plans to involve thousands of religious volunteers working in partnership with the city of Portland and in public schools. We told Willamette Week it was great to see so many religious groups recruiting volunteers, but also warned that the volunteers could not mix religion in with their help.

On May 20, 2009 Willamette Week’s feature article, "Undercover Jesus," included this cautionary statement: "Bruce Adams, president of the Columbia chapter of Americans United, is more wary. 'I think there's some risk,' he says. 'I think the city needs to be careful, because it could very easily appear that the city is promoting religion.'"
Click here to see the article.

On Public Access Television – April 10, 2009
Our chapter president was a guest on the live television program "A Growing Concern." He talked about the Symposium we were offering on Same-Sex Marriage and the 1st Amendment. Click here for information about the Symposium.

Speaking at Darwin@200 (And Other Matters) March 29, 2009

Our Chapter had a table at the Darwin @ 200 conference which was presented by the Humanists of Greater Portland and the Northwest Freethought Alliance. We also spoke at one of the break-out sessions about some of the local interventions our chapter has done.


AU Annual Meeting in Washington DC – Nov. 9 -10, 2008
We were glad to be able once again to send our chapter president to the annual meeting of Americans United. He attended sessions on chapter leadership, the impact of the election on church/state issues, and NeoVouchers (A tax scheme which reduces tax revenue by conveying the money to religious and other private schools.) While there he also attended the annual meeting of AU’s National Advisory Council, of which he is a member.

Speaking at a Community Discussion in Lincoln City, Oregon – Oct. 27, 2008
When the Driftwood Public Library in Lincoln City decided to host a community discussion on the separation of church and state, they asked our chapter president, Bruce Adams, to give a presentation to open the event. He gave a short history of c/s separation and some current issues to provide a factual, unbiased background for the discussion, which was moderated by city council member Doug Holbrook. The library plans to host similar community discussions on other topics in the future.

Speaking to Retired Oregon Educators – October 6, 2008
Bruce Adams gave a talk at the Oregon Education Association's Fall Conference for retired members on the topic: Church and State -- Current Issues in Public Schools.

Jefferson, Oregon School District Rejects Intelligent Design – Sept. 9, 2008
Our chapter helped a teacher resist an Intelligent Design proposal at her school. For more information, click here and here.

Presentation in Polk County, Oregon – March 13, 2008
Bruce Adams gave a presentation at the Polk County Democratic Central Committee meeting about the role of religion in the 2008 election and church/state separation in public schools. (Note: AU is nonpartisan; we are glad to speak to groups of any party.)

The Humanists of Greater Portland – January 27, 2008
Bruce Adams gave a talk to the Humanists of Greater Portland about current church/state issues. Our chapter and the Clark County, Washington chapter used the occasion to set up a table to distribute flyers and engage individuals in discussions about church/state separation. Thanks to Jerry Wilkins, Hugh Shuford and Jaunita Greenway for working at the table.


AU Annual Meeting in Washington DC - Nov. 11 – 13, 2007
Bruce Adams attended AU's annual meeting of AU leaders, where he became a member of AU's National Advisory Council.

Oregon Council for the Social Studies Fall Conference - October 12, 2007
We had a table at the Oregon Social Studies teachers conference, where Jerry Wilkins, Dan Domenigoni and Bruce Adams handed out literature, introduced people to Americans United and collected signatures on First Freedom First petitions.

Training Session In Olympia, Washington - July 7th, 2007
Columbia Chapter officers Susan Gates, Alice Bartelt and Jerry Wilkins attended a training session conducted by the national office of Americans United. Leaders from the Clark County, Seattle, and Eastside (Seattle) chapters also participated.

National Conferences in Portland, Oregon – June 2007
We had a table at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly and at the 66th Annual Meeting of the American Humanists, both of which were held in Portland. Several of our chapter members took shifts talking with the delegates and collecting signatures on the First Freedom First petition. Jerry Wilkins was in charge of our chapter's participation at these events.

Our Chapter President on the Dr. Don Show - February 14, 2007
Bruce Adams, appeared on the Conversations with Dr. Don public access television program, where he spoke about the importance of separation and church and state. The hour long show was taped on February 14 and aired several times in following weeks.


Americans United Activist Training – Nov. 2006
Columbia Chapter member Jerry Wilkins attended an Americans United Activist Training in Washington, DC.

Oregon Science Teachers Association Fall Conference - October 13, 2006

Jerry Wilkins, Stephen Hillis and Bruce Adams worked our table at the Oregon Science Teachers Association Fall Conference in Roseburg. We handed out information about AU and collected signatures for the First Freedom First petition.

Our Chapter President on the Radio - April 13, 2006
Bruce Adams, was a guest on “Danuta Time,” a program on KOPT, 1600 AM in Eugene. Several listeners called in, creating a lively discussion of a variety of church/state issues that lasted for almost an hour

Supreme Court Nominee Anthony Alito - January 17 – 19, 2006
Two Columbia Chapter members went to Washington, DC to register concerns with Oregon senators Smith and Wyden about Supreme Court nominee Anthony Alito.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU)

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:

last updated 2/10/2017