- Carl Wells
- Staff Writer
After graduating, Robert Boston, a 1985 journalism alumnus and former editor at The Penn, went on to work for a newspaper, but found himself looking for more.
His intention was to engage in policy work that would allow him to make an impact.
It wasn’t long before he found himself with a magazine that has since allowed him to reach his goals.
“I found the perfect job at Americans United,” Boston said.
“I’ve worked here for 30 years. I was the assistant director [of] communications from 1987 to 2013, and I was promoted to director of communications when my boss retired.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State was created in 1947 by concerned individuals who wanted to address the issue of government funding being primarily funnelled toward private religious schools.
Since then, the organization has grown to become one of the leading voices in policy coverage today.
The group also publishes a magazine that educates both members of the public and Congress about the importance of protecting the right of Americans to practice whichever religion or belief system they choose.
Boston has served as a spokesman for Americans United on NBC’s “Nightly News,” CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” and Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor.”
Boston discussed tax-exemption, the importance of the separation of church and state and, briefly, President Donald Trump’s travel ban with CNN host Michael Smerconish Feb. 4.
“The dark money aspect of this has not been fully explored,” Boston said on the show. “I think it’s extremely troubling. We don’t want our houses of worship turned into political action committees.”
Boston said all the polling data he has seen shows that the American people are “absolutely against the idea of churches being able to endorse or oppose candidates and being partisan because they don’t think that’s what churches are for.”
“You have to remember tax exemption is extended to lots of different types of organizations,” he said. “Obviously, lots of different houses of worship, but it’s also given to artistic societies, literary societies, various types of advocacy organizations.
“My own organization is tax-exempt. We are not supposed to be telling people that they ought to be voting for or against a certain candidate.”
Boston said there are certain lobbying restrictions and many controlled factors that come with the tax exemption “because it is a benefit.”
Before he became a spokesperson for tax exemptions and separation of church and state, Boston said he “worked briefly” for a newspaper in Clearfield after graduating.
“For various reasons, I decided I’d like to try my hand in Washington, D.C., and do policy work, so I left Pennsylvania and found some writing and editing work at a trade association while I looked for a policy position,” he said.
Two years later, Boston found himself with Americans United.
Prior to graduating from IUP, Boston said he was influenced by a number of faculty that helped him navigate his years as an undergraduate.
“Bob Russell, a retired journalism professor, was a mentor to me,” Boston said. “I can’t tell you how much I learned from him. I would also cite Pat Heilman, Randy Jesick and David Truby as important influences.”
Boston also mentioned a course he took while at IUP that still helps him today.
“One of the best courses I took at IUP was in the English department,” he said. “It was a public speaking course taught by a professor named Dr. Cook.
“This course helped me get over the fear of public speaking that many people have.”
Despite his success as director of AU magazine, Boston still remembers much from IUP and makes it a central part of his life.
Apart from his annual donation, Boston makes on-campus appearances from time to time.
“I was on campus in March 2012 to speak to journalism students,” he said. “During that visit, I also taught two classes.
“I grew up in a family of modest means, and I appreciate the opportunities IUP gave me. I think it’s important to give back.”