Americans United for Separation of Church and State HQ

Freedom Without Favor, Equality Without Exception

aka Americans United   |   Washington, DC   |


Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit educational and advocacy organization that brings together people of all religions and none to protect the right of everyone to believe as they want — and stop anyone from using their beliefs to harm others. We fight in the courts, legislatures, and the public square for freedom without favor and equality without exception.

Ruling year info


President and CEO

Rachel K. Laser

Main address

1310 L Street, NW Ste 200

Washington, DC 20005 USA

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NTEE code info

Civil Liberties Advocacy (R60)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (I01)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

In many areas of daily life, First Amendment claims of religious freedom are being used as a sword to harm others rather than a shield to protect us. Protecting the two religion clauses of the Constitution’s First Amendment and keeping religion and government separate is the only way to ensure true religious freedom for all. Yet, there are powerful forces committed to distorting the narrative of religious freedom to accommodate a subset of extremist religious beliefs no matter its harmful impact. Religious freedom claims are also being used to target the rights of women, LGBTQ people, religious minorities, and the nonreligious. Americans United (AU) is the sole organization dedicated to protecting the separation of religion and government in a country where everyone is able to practice their religion or no religion at all, as long as they don’t harm others.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Non-Litigation Advocacy

Americans United is contacted every day by individuals across the country who have been subjected to, or have witnessed, constitutional violations in their communities. Believing that many of these matters are best resolved without litigation, in mid-1998 we launched a vigorous campaign to remedy violations by
non-adversarial means. The members of our legal department engage in informal advocacy — through letter-writing, telephone calls, and, on occasion, representation of individuals in non-courtroom settings — in an effort to remedy First Amendment violations and to educate school officials, legislators, and others about constitutional requirements.

Population(s) Served

State and Federal advocacy efforts aimed at preventing legislation, ballot initiatives or polices that undermine church - state separation.

Population(s) Served

Americans United conducts a vigorous litigation program in federal and state courts to strengthen and maintain the separation of religion and government. We fight to ensure that the public schools are not hijacked by religious agendas. We challenge the use of public money for religious purposes and the use of federal and state social-service programs to proselytize or enforce particular religious beliefs or practices. We advise public officials on how to comply with the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment. And we litigate to uphold the principle that the right of religious persons and entities to advance their religious mission must be balanced with the civil rights of the general public to have full access to needed healthcare and to be free from discrimination and oppression based on religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and other characteristics.

Population(s) Served

Our Outreach & Engagement Department connects with AU's supporters across the country to mobilize them to take action to protect separation of religion and government in Congress and in their own communities.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of press releases developed and distributed

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is the only national organization solely dedicated to church-state separation, the lynchpin of religious freedom for all. We have been leading this fight since 1947. Our primary goal is to move toward a bold vision of an America where the majority of our citizens, including the next generation of leaders, understands and values the separation of church and state and religious freedom. Our efforts confront and dismantle its misuse to discriminate and advance a doctrine of religious freedom that protects everyone. We do this through strategic litigation, public policy, movement-building, and increasing the visibility of our issue and AU. This allows us to protect our laws and policies from favoring religion, or any one religion, over nonreligion and from discrimination in the name of “religious liberty.”

Reversing the Misuse of Religious Freedom to Harm: AU’S legal and advocacy resources will challenge outright discrimination by the government while relentlessly defending against the misuse of religious exemptions and religious freedom arguments to, for example, deny social services, contraceptive coverage, or protections from discrimination in employment decisions and in schools. These harms disproportionately impact religious minorities, the nonreligious, LGBTQ people, women, and other marginalized communities.

Protecting Our Public Schools: AU is monitoring harmful legislation in the states such as Bible Class bills or student “Religious Liberty Acts” – we frequently provide talking points and analysis to state legislators and stakeholders and mobilize our ally groups and activist leaders around efforts to block these actions. In addition to filing lawsuits when necessary, we also engage in prelitigation work to remedy the overwhelming number of reports about impermissible school-sponsored religious activity.

Preventing Government Funding of Religion: Forcing taxpayers to fund religious activities violates fundamental principles of religious freedom. Each of us should get to decide how and whether to support religion. Since its founding, AU has fought to ensure taxpayer funds are not funneled to houses of worship for clergy salaries, upkeep, or other non-secular uses. AU is a leading voice on this issue, particularly on private school voucher programs.

Strengthening State Outreach and Grassroots Advocacy: AU’s outreach in the states is engaging the next generation and diverse audiences around our efforts as we raise our profile across the country. We seek to mobilize faith leaders as a critical, influential voice in support of religious freedom and to empower youth leaders to champion our issue in their communities.

High-Impact Litigation and Prelitigation: AU uses high-impact litigation and informal advocacy to address critical questions of religious freedom. Our legal team is known for its expertise on the wide-ranging, unique ways that preserving religious freedom and church-state separation substantially influences law and policy.

Public Policy Solutions: AU confronts federal and state policies that attempt to use religious freedom as a justification for discrimination or denials of service. We provide significant analysis and support to policymakers on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures, with the media, and for allies on church-state separation issues. Our policy team is recognized for its trusted expertise, and we lead a powerful coalition of diverse partners on shared goals.

State Outreach: AU is mobilizing the field to broaden and diversify our audience, reach out to younger generations, and equip faith leaders with powerful information and messaging. A key priority for our outreach and engagement program is to provide in-state volunteers with the tools they need to organize effectively and build campaigns that connect key audiences with our mission.

Strategic Communications: AU’s communications strategies aim to ignite a national movement and elevate our organization’s voice and the visibility of our issue. In addition to maintaining a strong traditional and digital media influence, our rapid response protocols to major events provide trusted public information for a broad range stakeholders.

Given our deep expertise and dedicated supporters across the country who care greatly about our nation’s founding principles of church-state separation, AU is singularly positioned to ignite a national movement and elevate the importance of this issue.

From leading powerful coalitions and educating a range of state and federal stakeholders to modernizing AU’s brand informed by strategic messaging and public opinion polling, we will effectively advocate for laws and policies that embody our country’s promise of religious freedom and equality. Our expertise and analysis are critical to advancing the core constitutional values of the First Amendment where everyone can freely choose a faith and support it voluntarily, or follow no religious or spiritual path at all, and where the government does not promote religion over non-religion or favor one faith over another.

In 2019, AU finalized a five-year growth strategy to ensure that the next generation of leaders understands and values church-state separation and true religious freedom, including the right not to be religious.

Over the years, our efforts have achieved important victories:
• Protected our public schools from impermissible religious instruction and fought against private school voucher programs that primarily fund religious education and can discriminate against students for their religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or disability.
• Guaranteed the display of religious emblems and memorial markers for everyone who serves in our military, including minority-faith veterans.
• Exposed the full-frontal assault by Christian nationalists to force a narrow set of religious beliefs into our shared secular laws through Project Blitz.
• Blocked a discriminatory policy that would allow healthcare providers and employees to refuse patients, particularly women and LGBTQ patients, on the basis of the providers’ religious or moral beliefs.
• Led national partnerships such as the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination and the National Coalition for Public Education as well as state partnerships to fight discrimination in the name of religion.
• Presented overwhelmingly successful First Amendment arguments in support of treating religious and secular gatherings the same in government COVID-19 public health orders.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    AU’s work is national in scope and therefore promotes freedom and equality for everyone in this country. Religious freedom protects every American’s right to practice the religion of their choice or no religion at all, as long as they don’t harm others. Religious freedom is for everyone, from the most devout believer to the committed atheist and everybody in between. It’s a fundamental human right that no government should violate and that must not be misused to discriminate or exclude.

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We act on the feedback we receive

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback


Americans United for Separation of Church and State

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Board of directors
as of 01/17/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Jim Winkler

Michele Henry

Mara Keisling

Jason Stewart

Jeff Sharlet

Nancy Friedman

Sam Weisman

Murali Balaji

Teresa Blaxton

Brian Kaylor

Daphne Lazar Price

Charles Taylor

Jim Winkler

Dwayne Leslie

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 11/13/2020

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation


Equity strategies

Last updated: 11/13/2020

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.