Be of Good Cheer: Remembering Dr. Robert Meneilly

Let it be made clear from the outset that this is a sermon on religion, not politics. What is good about religion is good for the republic, and good about a republic is good for religion. However, we believe fervently in the American way, which stands for the separation of religion and state. 

To love our neighbors as ourselves requires tolerance, but it also requires looking out for the best ultimate welfare of both state and church. It means being humble, not self-righteous.

– Dr. Robert Meneilly


How can you truly convey a person’s nature in just a few paragraphs – who they were, how they lived, the profound impact they had on everyone around them? It’s impossible, especially when reflecting on the life of someone as incredible as Dr. Robert H. Meneilly.

In 1993, Dr. Bob, as he was fondly known, preached a sermon entitled “The Dangers of Religion” which was later published in the New York Times. This sermon (listen to it here) and his message on separating religious extremism from politics led to the formation of the Mainstream Coalition, The Voter Network, and MainPAC. Dr. Bob may be gone, but his legacy lives on in our continued efforts to create a political system that respects the rights, beliefs, and freedoms of all individuals.   

We at Mainstream are saddened by the passing of our dear friend and co-founder.  Our deepest sympathies are with his family and all whose lives were changed because of his determination to make our world a better place for all of us. We know Dr. Bob is with us in spirit, and he will live on in our hearts forever.

As I did not have the opportunity to work directly with Dr. Bob, I asked those who knew him best in his role with Mainstream to share their reflections.


Michael Poppa
Executive Director


Carol Sader, Co-founder

Dr. Meneilly was one extraordinary human being whose leadership, moral guidance, sense of justice and caring friendship will live forever in those of us who were so privileged to have known him, worked with him, and benefited from his teachings.  Dr. Bob was a true inspiration to people of all faiths, political parties, and diverse lifestyles empowering us to work as one for the common good.

Of his multitude of accomplishments, I am so proud to have been associated with him in the formation and growth of the Mainstream Coalition, which is needed more than ever today, to offset extremism and preserve our democracy.  Dr, Bob's legacy is our treasured gift for all time.


Judy Hellman, Co-founder

It was my honor to know and work with Dr. Bob before the formation of the Mainstream Coalition, and when the organization was being created, he was the unanimous choice to be part of the leadership group.  His understanding, his dedication, his courage and his firm beliefs in the goals of Mainstream were a mainstay of the foundation of the group.  Along with those unequaled qualities, he was a friendly, generous and kind human being.  His loss leaves a hole in our hearts and in the community of thoughtful and open minded people who support his vision and efforts.


Rabbi Mark Levin, Co-founder

When we started the Mainstream Coalition, the vision was clearly Dr. Bob’s. It challenged Johnson County and the entire metro community to understand the vision in the United States should be a vision of equality, a vision of acceptance, and a vision of interfaith cooperation on the basis of respect for all religions. He would always be able to stand up and address us with inspired words that would keep people moving forward.

When you found out Dr. Bob was involved, you knew it was the right thing. He exemplified, personified a vision of what it meant to take the high road in principled social justice issues. You knew that if you got behind him, you were going to be ok. And, he had the unique combination of being a leader without being egotistical. He simply stated, in a beautiful fashion, the truth. 

Dr. Bob was an amazing man. He was right on every issue, just as nice and kind as he could be. I’m going to miss him. 


Brandi Fisher, former Executive Director, Mainstream Coalition

I’m grateful I was one of the many lucky individuals who had the opportunity to know and work with Dr. Bob. Leading an organization that was so closely tied to his name, meant that when I met new people and they learned I was with Mainstream, they often shared their Dr. Bob connection or personal story with me. I heard dozens of these stories from people of all ages and each of them highlighted his kindness, wisdom, courage and humility.

Dr. Bob and the other founders created something very special in Mainstream - a place where Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters could work together on shared values like separation of church and state, strong public schools, good government, equality and social justice. Their commitment, leadership and integrity is what enabled Mainstream to be more than a fly by night organization but to still be a political force nearly three decades later.

Dr. Bob embodied the heart of Mainstream’s work and as such, Mainstream’s long standing signature event was named in his honor. The Robert H. Meneilly Stand Up, Speak Out award was given to those who reflected the strengths personified by Dr. Bob: respects for the rights, belies, and freedom of all individuals, the courage to stand up for justice and equality, even when unpopular; and the importance of engaging in the political process to secure those rights.

In his later years when he was less involved with the day-to-day operations, he always stayed abreast of Mainstream’s work and never hesitated when called upon to assist though he would often initially decline so as to not hinder the opportunity for someone else to lead. 

Dr. Bob would end his emails and even many conversations with “Be of good cheer.” Even when dealing with the contentiousness of politics he never seemed to be dragged down by negativity. I always appreciated the positive directive but only recently learned it also meant “let us be courageous.” Fitting words for a man who lived his life with courage and led others in doing the same.

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published this page in Blog 2021-07-26 15:10:34 -0500
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