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Update on Adoption of the Secular Safe Zone Program

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June 13, 2014

To:    All Supporters of the Secular Student Alliance and the Secular Safe Zone
     c/o Sam Harris and Project Reason

Re:    Update on Adoption of the Secular Safe Zone Program

Dear Sam,

Last September, The Atlantic published “Bullied for Not Believing in God.” That article led you, through Project Reason, to make a $30,000 matching offer to support the Secular Student Alliance. Your offer empowered our work providing safe places for students whose nontheism puts them outside their community’s prevailing beliefs. Thank you again for your generosity, and to everyone who rallied to quickly meet that match! We wanted to pass along an update on how we have used those gifts. We do our best to be a data-driven and evidence-based organization, so there is plenty of raw data in our update.

Our initial focus upon launch was training Allies directly -- those people who have come directly into contact with Secular Student Alliance staff. These Allies have received either in-person or online training from our staff on how to provide a supportive environment for secular students. As of this writing, we have trained over 120 Allies all across the country. These Allies are on over thirty campuses with SSA affiliate groups, and provide a supportive secular presence on over fifty more campuses or institutions that are not currently served by our campus group model. Secular students at those fifty-plus campuses or institutions now have a clear and present point of light, generally a professor or Residence Life staff member, able to meet with them personally in times of trouble.

For example, earlier this semester a student on a campus with heavy Mormon representation sought out one of our Allies. This student was gravely concerned about how leaving their faith would impact their marriage and two young children. Our Ally provided a supportive environment so that, over time, the student could organize their thoughts and decide on the course of action that was best for them. That student has since left Mormonism while saving their marriage.

Campaign against #TwitterTheocracy on June 10th 2014

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Washington DC – June 10th 2014

Twitter has agreed to use its ‘Country Withheld Tool’ to block “blasphemous tweets” in Pakistan, thus becoming complicit in suppressing free speech, and in aiding Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Over the past month, Twitter accounts have been suspended and tweets have been blocked in Pakistan; a Twitter user has recently been jailed in Turkey for a “blasphemous” tweet. In Pakistan and other theocracy-based states, blasphemy laws are key tools used by those in power to actively persecute minorities. We urge Twitter and all other international companies and organizations to uphold human rights-based standards of conduct, particularly when it comes to freedom of expression.

We at the Secular Student Alliance are standing with the Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) in full commitment to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19, pertaining to freedom of expression. Alongside AA, AAI, AHA, Black Non-Believers, Camp Quest, CFI, RDFRS, SCA, SHJ, and other secular allies, today is a day of protesthighlight the role Twitter is playing in aiding and promoting anti-freedom, anti-human-rights, theocratic policies.

On June 10th, tweet hashtag #TwitterTheocracy and speak up about how Twitter has chosen to side with theocratic regimes instead of those who are trying to resist those regimes. There was a time when Twitter was rightly lauded for the role it played during the Arab Spring, facilitating communication between those resisting oppressive governments. In fact, Egypt’s dictators tried to disable Twitter, and then internet access completely, before being overwhelmed by the protests that began at Tahrir Square. Governments in Tunisia and Iran tried similar tactics to suppress protests against those oppressive regimes. Lately, Twitter seems to have moved away from its ethical, pro-human-rights stance, and caved to the demands of oppressive governments.

U.S. Navy Discriminates Against Applicant for Chaplaincy

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 4, 2014

Contact:Carolyn Becker
Phone: (916) 769-7976
Email: [email protected]

 

U.S. Navy Discriminates Against Applicant for Chaplaincy
Nonreligious Members of the Military Don’t Have Adequate Chaplain Support;
Openly Secular Calls on Department of Defense to Intervene

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the wake of a decision by the U.S. Navy to reject the application of a 38-year-old atheist man to become a military chaplain, the newly-formed Openly Secular coalition is calling on military leaders and the Department of Defense to overturn the ruling. 

There are more atheists and other nontheists in our armed forces than any other non-Christian denomination, yet there are currently no chaplains exclusively representing nontheistic beliefs. 

Jason Heap is uniquely qualified for the chaplaincy with masters’ degrees in Divinity and Religious History from Texas Christian University and Oxford, respectively. He also taught Religious Education and Philosophy for five years. He was endorsed by the Humanist Society and otherwise met all physical and security requirements of the U.S. Navy. 

Secular Student Alliance Distributes “The Young Atheist's Survival Guide” in Boone County, Kentucky to Counter Gideons’ Bible Distribution

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FOR RELEASE June 3, 2014

Media Contact: Jamila Bey  [email protected]  614-441-9588 X101

On June 3rd in Boone County, Kentucky, SSA will take part in the distribution of Hemant Mehta's "The Young Atheist's Survival Guide" to students at six high schools on their last day of class. 

The Gideons have been permitted access to distribute bibles to students, and to ensure that Boone County students are not limited to reading materials of a specific worldview, the Secular Student Alliance and the Tri-State Freethinkers are adding a different perspective.

Director of Communications for the Secular Student Alliance, Jamila Bey, explains, “It’s essential that schools do not become places in which students are considered easy targets to be persuaded into any one specific doctrine.

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