Q&A with Eric Lane, president of the San Antonio Chapter for Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Published: April 25, 2012
When Americans United was founded in 1947, some in power were pushing to fund certain private religious institutions with public tax dollars. In a patriotic response, many AU chapters opened quickly across the country. It wasn't until 2006, however, that a group of five formed what would become a San Antonio chapter with local photographer Eric Lane serving as president. Lane — a former soccer star and world traveler who likes a good fight — has tangled with expressions of apparent religious favoritism at both Medina Valley High School (where an agnostic student successfully sued the district for supporting government-sponsored prayer) and Texas A&M at San Antonio (where the school was forced to take down crosses on its tower). But it's not anti-religion that motivates Lane or the AU. “The First Amendment doesn't simply defend individuals, it defends houses of worship, as well, from unnecessary intrusion and interference by government,” Lane said this week. “A lot of us feel this is one of the most fundamental issues facing our country. The Founders were not naive when they put that as the first of the First Amendment. Without separation of church and state you can't have any of the others.”
Lane spoke to the Current about his involvement with AU and the free 2nd annual First Amendment Day Celebration being held from 12:30-4:30 p.m. at the TriPoint Center (3233 N St. Mary's) Saturday, April 28.
What happened in your life that makes defending the First Amendment so vital?
What has happened to this country that a small but very vocal minority of religious right groups believe they can force their very narrow beliefs on the rest of us? It goes against everything the Founders stood for and bequeathed us with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. So the real question is, why isn’t every American standing up in defense of the First Amendment and especially the separation of church and state?
Do you think this city understands the First Amendment in ways that NYC or your hometown (San Francisco, Calif.) does?
I don’t think so. I can’t speak for NYC but certainly in Northern California keeping church and state separate is in our DNA. I think part of the problem here is that people believe that standing up for separation of church and state is somehow opposing Christianity or God or supporting atheism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Founders were brilliant men. For the first time in history, they created a government where true freedom of conscience was protected. You have the right to believe or not believe as your conscience dictates, not what government dictates. At Americans United we come together, people of deep faith and no faith, to defend each other’s right to believe or not believe as each one sees fit.
You are a photographer and a man of many trades, why do you care so much about the First Amendment?
You know, Barbara, I don’t think I would be a photographer or a “man of many trades” as you call me if the First Amendment did not exist. It is the First Amendment that gives me the greatest freedoms in human history. We all need to stand up and not only defend the First Amendment but celebrate its freedoms as well.