Barry W. Lynn

Barry W. Lynn

Reverend Barry W. Lynn (born 1948 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) has been the Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State since 1992. [ Man of Godlessness by Sean Higgins (Feb. 2006)] ] He is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and a prominent leader of the American religious left.

He is a strong advocate of separation of church and state and is considered a liberal Christian, both politically and theologically.


Lynn was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but his family moved to nearby Bethlehem when he was a child. Lynn's involvement in his family's church led him to march with Martin Luther King, Jr. while still very young. Fact|date=June 2007 He attended Bethlehem's Liberty High School, graduating in 1966. [ [ Barry Lynn - ] ]

He became a minister and had a small church in New Hampshire. Fact|date=June 2007 In 1970, Lynn received his B.A. from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and his theology degree from Boston University School of Theology in 1973. After attending law school at night, he graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center. [ Man of Godlessness by Sean Higgins (Feb. 2006)] ]

After law school, he continued to work with the United Church of Christ in their mission to gain amnesty for young men protesting the draft. Before accepting the post at Americans United, Lynn held a variety of positions related to religious liberty concerns. From 1984 to 1991 he was legislative counsel for the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union, where he frequently worked on church-state issues. From 1974 to 1980 Lynn served in a variety of positions with the national offices of the United Church of Christ, including a two-year stint as legislative counsel for the Church's Office of Church in Society in Washington, D.C. He left the ACLU position to respond to a medical crisis in his family before becoming director at Americans United. [ Man of Godlessness by Sean Higgins (Feb. 2006)] ]

An accomplished speaker and lecturer, Lynn has appeared frequently on radio broadcasts and television to debate and discuss First Amendment issues, including "MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour", NBC's "Today Show", "Nightline", "Fox Morning News" (Washington, D.C.), CNN's "Crossfire" and "Lou Dobbs Tonight", "The Phil Donahue Show", "Meet the Press", CBS Morning News, ABC's "Good Morning America", "NBC Nightly News", "ABC World News Tonight", "CBS Evening News", and "Larry King Live". He was formerly a weekly commentator on church-state issues for UPI Radio, and served for two years as regular co-host of "Pat Buchanan and Company" on the Mutual Broadcasting System.

Barry currently host the radio program "Culture Shocks", which can be heard on 1160 am in Washington D.C. and on several stations nationally including the syndicated Genesis Communications Network. [ [ Culture Shocks ] ] Past shows are also archived at its affiliate KCAA in California (

Lynn's first book, "Piety & Politics: The Right-Wing Assault on Religious Freedom" (ISBN 0-307-34654-4), was published in October 2006.

Controversy and Criticism

In an argument to the Internal Revenue Service, Lynn argued that Focus on the Family’s efforts to bring up moral issues in the 2004 election represented “a blatant effort by Dobson to build a partisan political machine based in churches . . . He has made it abundantly clear that electing Republicans is an integral part of his agenda and he doesn’t mind risking the tax-exemption of churches in the process.” [ [ AFF's Doublethink :: Man of Godlessness ] ]

A separate organization [ [ Focus on the Family refuses to make public its letter from IRS | Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington ] ] unrelated to Lynn's Americans United later filed a formal complaint with the IRS over Dobson's political endorsements. Lynn did not support this complaint, and the IRS determined that since the endorsements were given by Dobson as a private individual, they did not violate federal tax law.

Americans United filed suit against the Interchange Freedom Initiative (IFI), a program of Prison Fellowship Ministries. IFI's had contracted with the state of Iowa to provide in-prison rehabilitation programs. The suit alleged that the Iowa program violated the separation of church and state in the Constitution. Lynn asserted that the program was saturated with fundamentalist Christianity and treated non-fundamentalist inmates like second-class citizens. Prison Fellowship Ministries responded with claims of the program's alleged effectiveness in reduced recidivism, but objective research has failed to substantiate these assertions. [ [ Americans United: Jan. 08 Faith-Based Bias Banned ] ] Two federal courts agreed with Lynn that the program was unconstitutional. The state of Iowa joined with IFI in appealing the decisions. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals assembled a three-judge panel, including former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, to hear the appeal. On December 3, 2007, this panel overturned the major points of the lower court decisions. IFI was allowed to recommence their Iowa prison program, and they were not required to repay some 1.5 million dollars of expenses to the state. [ [ Eighth Circuit Issues Ruling - Prison Fellowship ] ]


* “Americans United Blasts Religious Right Leader Dobson’s Campaign to Build Church-Based Political Machine,” US Fed News, 14 August 2006

External links

* [ Barry Lynn - 2006 radio interview at WOTM Radio] .
* [ Biography of Barry Lynn at] .
* [ CNN 2000 Presentation of Lynn v. Bolick on School Vouchers] .
* [ O'Reilly to Lynn: "You're a paranoid crazy", at] .
* [ Short Biography of Rev. Barry W. Lynn at Kansas State University] .
* [ Live Prayer episode about Rev. Barry Lynn] .

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