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RELEASE: Atheist student questions presidential candidate about church-state separation

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8/24/2015
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kelley Freeman, (614) 441-9588 x101
kelley.freeman@secularstudents.org

Atheist student questions presidential candidate about church-state separation

LAS VEGAS and COLUMBUS, Ohio - Student Daniel Little from the Secular Student Alliance at the College of Southern Nevada confronted presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton at a town hall meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 20, 2015, asking her current opinion on the separation of church and state. 

“We love to see our students involved in the political process,” said August E. Brunsman IV, Executive Director of the Secular Student Alliance. “It’s great that they are raising awareness of the issues that are important to them and we’re extremely proud of Daniel for doing so.”

Little’s question referenced the seven states whose constitutions still bar atheists from holding public office, an issue that has been raised by Openly Secular, a coalition of which the Secular Student Alliance is a partner.

“I was really nervous about asking my question, but none of the political candidates really talk about us [atheists, agnostics, secular Americans]. I don’t really hear any representation or coverage that pertains to issues we care about, which is why I wanted to ask that to a potential president,” said Little. 

According to a recent Pew Study, 53% of the country would be less likely to vote for a candidate if the candidate was an open atheist.

“It’s important for non-religious Americans to be out and visible. We live in a religious and socially pluralistic nation. Politicians have to pay attention to secular Americans as much as anyone else,” Brunsman continued.

The Secular Student Alliance is an organization that empowers secular students to proudly express their identity, build welcoming communities, promote secular values, and set a course for lifelong activism. Its support for grassroots organizing enables students to shape a future in which they thrive as valued members of society and provide visionary leadership committed to humanistic ideals and critical inquiry. The Secular Student Alliance is a 501(c)(3) and does not support or oppose candidates for public office. More information can be found at http://secularstudents.org and @SecularStudents on Twitter and Facebook.com/SecularStudents. 

The clip in question can be listened to at http://bit.ly/ClintonSOCAS.

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For more information contact:

Kelley Freeman
Communications Associate, Secular Student Alliance
kelley.freeman@secularstudents.org
(614) 441-9588 x101

Alumni Spotlight: Stef McGraw

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In our Alumni Spotlight series, we highlight alumni of our affiliate groups and the awesome things they have been doing since they graduated. Are you a Secular Student Alliance alum? Tell us how you've been doing! We'd love to spotlight you!

This month's featured alumna is Stef McGraw. Stef is an alumna of the University of Northern Iowa, class of 2014, where she was a member of UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers. She found the UNIFI table during freshman orientation with her parents and signed up because the group looked cool. She was hooked ever since her first event!

Since graduating, Stef has become a Campus and Community Organizer for the Center for Inquiry. She’s very thankful to be in a position where her work is so important, and as a plus she gets to collaborate with “some super bright people.” 

When asked what she considered the most influential experience from her student activism, she said her first International Blasphemy Rights Day.

"Regardless of my current thoughts on how IBRD is best celebrated, chalking blasphemous quotations all over campus and having the entire University buzzing about it the next day was pretty surreal. A huge discussion broke out in the middle of campus about whether or not it was okay to write things like "Mary Lied" or "Imagine No Religion" with a drawing of the Twin Towers. Some conversations got pretty heated, but overall it was just a really open and honest debate on the nature of free expression and blasphemy. 

I think it was so influential because it was the first time I participated in something that controversial; I came away from the day knowing full well that I could lose friends over my involvement, and yet I felt like I would do it again if I could. It really solidified just how important I found many of the values of the freethought movement to be."

Any advice for current secular students, Stef? 

"Leading a good group now that lasts five years after you graduate is far more important than leading an amazing group now and having it fizzle out as soon as you leave. Don't let personal ambition trump the longevity of your group; you impact so many more people by focusing on succession planning."

We're very proud of Stef and the work she continues to do for the Center for Inquiry! It's awesome to have another Secular Student Alliance Alumni doing her activism as a professional. We are happy to count you among our alumni, Stef!

RELEASE: Atheists demand the end of discrimination at Catholic universities

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8/17/2015
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kelley Freeman, (614) 441-9588 x101
kelley.freeman@secularstudents.org

Atheists demand the end of discrimination at Catholic universities

COLUMBUS, OH - A new article at Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Education Daily brazenly advocates for religious discrimination against atheist, agnostic, or otherwise secular students. The article makes the claim that secular student groups represent a ‘danger’ to students and calls on Catholic Universities to deny those students' freedom of assembly and religious expression. The Secular Student Alliance calls for the end of discrimination against non-religious students at Catholic universities.

The article in question points to three current Secular Student Alliance affiliate groups at Catholic universities and states that these organizations’ “disrupt and undermine the community by acting for contrary goals or goods.”

“Our group's main goal is to give students a space to explore their beliefs without judgment and without anyone being pushed to affiliate with any one belief system,” stated Nora Marren, President of Dominican University’s Secular Student Alliance. “We welcome both non-religious and religious students alike to join us in our discussions. Excluding non-religious students from representation on campus would be going against Dominican's mission statement by preventing the creation of a just world.”

“Religiously affiliated universities and colleges should welcome atheist groups, and all faith groups, in the spirit of cooperation and acceptance. In the end, we're all striving for the same thing: a better world. No one single group of people can succeed in attaining such a goal without the support of others,” stated Arthur Wawrzyczek, former leader of DePaul’s past Secular Student Alliance affiliate.

Though there are Catholic institutions with Secular Student Alliance affiliates, groups at other Catholic universities have been denied. Notre Dame University, Duquesne University in Pennsylvania, and the University of Dayton have all rejected attempts to establish Secular Student Alliance affiliates. 

“Catholic universities should remember that they are not just Catholic, they are also universities. Universities should be places where people of diverse identities fearlessly exchange ideas,” said August E. Brunsman IV, Executive Director of the Secular Student Alliance. “These Catholic universities try to recruit students of all stripes with statements about how much they embrace diversity and celebrate intellectual freedom,” Brunsman continued.  “We want them to live up to that ideal and welcome Secular Student Alliance groups as part of their diverse communities.”

The Secular Student Alliance at University of Nevada-Reno is Outstanding!

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Every year, the National Secular Student Alliance hears about amazing things that our students, affiliate groups, Secular Safe Zone Allies, and advisors are doing. When we hear of an individual or group doing something especially awesome, we present them with an Award for Outstanding Activism for their exemplary work. 

The Greece v. Galloway Supreme Court decision opened the door for nontheists to step in and deliver secular invocations in their home towns, including students, and hats off to the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Nevada-Reno!

On Monday June 8th, Ryan Davis, President of the SSA at UNR, delivered a secular invocation at Sparks City Council. The invocation was drafted by SSA at UNR members Gennadiy Gurariy and Dr. Bernard Drumm.

This was not the first time the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Nevada-Reno has been involved in issues related to government-sponsored prayer. In the fall of 2013, the SSA at UNR was pivotal in ending the practice of public prayer in Reno's City Hall. When Sparks, Nevada approved prayers during government events, the SSA at UNR wanted to send a strong message that these invocations infringe upon the rights of agnostics and atheists in the community. 

This is, as far as we know, the first explicitly secular invocation in the state of Nevada.

The transcript of the invocation is as follows:

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