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Call to Action: Secular Students and Social Justice

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Dear SSA members, leaders, and supporters:

The trend of unarmed black men and boys dying at the hands of U.S. law enforcement is troubling and frightening. Furthermore, the lack of due process, suppression of freedom of the press, and militaristic response of law enforcement to peaceful protests in the city of Ferguson, Missouri have been very disturbing. 

SSA @ UCF students
Students from the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Central Florida

We have no reason to believe that Michael Brown was secular, nor do we believe that any of the behavior of local law enforcement was based on explicitly religious grounds. However, there are black men and boys who are secular students. We stand beside them. Furthermore, we want to live in a society where due process, freedom of the press, and peaceful protest are allowed. These are values that humanity reached not by divine revelation, but by imagining how to make this life better for all people. These are values that we see as critical for humans living together in a free society.

We have heard from many of you that you are eager to engage on social justice issues while embracing your secular identity. If you or your group are interested in engaging on these topics, make it so! We want to see you make the world a better place and we want to see you be open about who you are as you do it. We want you to focus your critical inquiry on all kinds of questions.

We know that social justice issues are tricky. We believe it’s incredibly important to be able to articulate the connection between the missions of our groups and the social justice issues with which we choose to engage. We have just released resources on engaging social justice issues. We look forward to offering more specific guidance, but we also want to hear from you about what issues you see as most important to engage with and why. Please let us know what you are doing and what you would like help doing.

We Are So Proud of Amanda Scott

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Standing up for your rights can be a very difficult and brave thing to do. However, no one should ever be vilified and harassed the way that many secular people are when they speak up for their rights.

Amanda Scott is a student at Faulkner State Community College. On June 19th, she testified before her local county commission against a resolution to display a plaque with "In God We Trust" on it at the Mobile Government Plaza. However, her voice was not listened to, and the commission voted 2-1 to approve the plaque.

Amanda.ScottAmanda wasn't done standing up for what she knew was right. She stood up once again on August 7th for a proposal to allow other individuals and groups to put up their own plaques. The one proposed by Amanda the Mobile Atheist Community, had "In Reason We Trust" written on it. Once again, the commission ignored her voice.

However, Amanda knew she could still get her perspective listened to. So when the largest local TV station requested an interview after her second testimony, she accepted. This news station, rather than focusing on the presence of the plaque, asked their audience what they thought about Amanda speaking up for her rights.

The results were horrific and beyond what anyone should have to deal with. Her community posted death threats, told her to leave the country, attacked her character, and attacked her appearance.

After a different news outlet ran a story about the hate mail she had received, more people stepped up to tell Amanda that she deserved the harassment and even accused her of lying about receiving them.

This is atrocious behavior; anyone should be able to stand up for their rights and their belief without receiving death threats.

We are so proud of the work Amanda has done towards advancing equality in her community, in spite of the hatred and harassment that has been directed towards her. We want to recognize Amanda's bravery in standing up for her fellow secular people in Mobile, Alabama, and are thrilled to be able to recognize her courage with an Award for Outstanding Activism.

Amanda, please know that you have the full support of the Secular Student Alliance. We know that an award from us doesn't make up for the harassment, but we hope it can serve as a reminder that you are doing fantastic work, and we are proud to have you as a part of the secular student movement.

Our Annual Conference Was Awesome!

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Hello Everyone!

What an incredible couple of weeks it has been.

As you heard last week, the Secular Student Alliance Annual Conference has drawn to a close. Over the past few weeks, over 300 students gathered to gain knowledge, network, and become better secular activists.

FUN!SSA West in Phoenix was up first. This was the second year we held the Annual Conference in two locations to reach as many students as possible. We had over 130 people attend SSA West! Our students got to listen to thirty-three wonderful speakers (including seven of our own students!). These speakers covered everything from group starting to effective advertising, and our students came away ready for an awesome fall semester! Karen at Santa Rosa Junior College was thrilled by the opportunities gained at SSA West:

We have a new community and an ocean of resources that we never knew about. I learned so much to help our group grow. I am so hopeful for the coming semester: meeting leaders and other students who all have the same goal was so energizing!”

Thank you for your support of our work!

SSA Annual Conference Successfully Holds Service Opportunities for the First Time!

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Conference organizing takes blood, sweat, and tears, but this year we also set up opportunities to give blood and sign up to donate bone marrow! We’ve heard from our affiliate groups that service is an important part of their work to create secular communities, and part of our focus here at National (where we occasionally host our own blood drives).

At SSA West, we hosted Be The Match on Friday as attendees and speakers arrived in Phoenix so that they could sign up to be included in the national bone marrow registry. Be The Match is an organization that supports leukemia and lymphoma patients by managing the largest and most diverse bone marrow registry in the world. They assist doctors and those in need in finding donors that meet the needs of the patient. Joining the registry is quick and requires only some paperwork and a quick cheek swab.

Success! 17 of our attendees arrived, picked up their conference materials, stopped for a cheek swab, and volunteered to save a life.  We are very proud of this turnout, and hope to work more with Be The Match in the future. Michael Lamble, an alum of the Northwestern SSA affiliate group donated bone marrow through Be The Match in 2013 and says of his experience:

“I'd do it all over again, if I had to. If I were in need of a marrow transplant, I would certainly want someone to donate for me. With that in mind, I feel as though it is fitting that I was prepared to donate myself, when called. I strongly encourage everyone to register. Who knows? You could save a life!”

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