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Secular Student Alliance Board Member Matthew LaClair Challenges High School Textbook

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UPDATE #1: Matthew LaClair will be presenting at the 2008 Secular Student Alliance conference. This conference is being held jointly with the conference of the American Humanist Association and the world congress of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. The Secular Student Alliance is offering travel grants to students who wish to attend the conference. The deadline for these grants is April 21st.

Matthew LaClair

UPDATE #2: Secular Student Alliance Board Member Matthew LaClair Published in L.A. Times

Once more, high school senior Matthew LaClair, now beginning a term on the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) board of directors, has attracted the attention of national media by challenging some aspect of his public school education.

LaClair, 18, a student at Kearny High School in New Jersey, was disturbed by the way his Advanced Placement government text American Government presented such topics as global warming and the separation of church and state. He sought and received support from science and legal experts, whose criticisms are being evaluated by publisher Houghton Mifflin.

During his junior year LaClair recorded his history teacher for several days as he proselytized to the class and preached salvation through Jesus. The teacher was eventually disciplined, but LaClair was treated harshly by some community members and fellow students.

"I'm proud that Matthew is on the SSA Board of Directors," said SSA chair Hemant Mehta. "He represents the perfect example of what student activists can accomplish when they have the courage speak up."

Help sustain the explosive growth of the secular student movement - and get matching funds until April 11th

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WE are young people who ...

Talk about ideas seriously.

Live ethical & fulfilling lives without the supernatural.

Think it is more important that we can live together than that we all agree.

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The Secular Student Alliance is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. All donations are tax-deductible in the U.S.

Apr. 3, 2008

Hemant MehtaIt isn't often that a non-profit leader has the opportunity to report that his organization has grown more than 84% in a single year. But that's exactly what I have the pleasure of doing today. Since this time last year, the campus affiliate base of the Secular Student Alliance has increased 84%, from 70 active groups in 2007 to 129 groups as I write this e-mail.

This phenomenal growth is great news for the SSA - it means we're reaching previously unimagined heights in our mission to organize, unite, educate, and serve students and student communities that promote the ideals of scientific and critical inquiry, democracy, secularism, and human based ethics. But as chair of the board, I realize it also represents a daily challenge for our tiny staff as they struggle to meet the needs of a much larger than expected crop of freethinking young adults preparing to move into leadership roles in business, government, education, and culture.

The SSA must raise $30,000 by June 1st to keep this momentum going. And we have a $4,000 head start toward our goal, thanks to the generosity of two donors. But there is another exciting development, made possible by a third generous supporter.

Every donation that reaches the SSA by April 11th will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $3,000. Your gift can go twice as far, just by giving it now.

The $100 that would have covered speaker expenses for one campus group can now be leveraged for a second speaker on a second campus. The $500 that would have funded a regional activist training session for campus leaders can now be cloned in another region of the country.

The matching funds for a $1,250 donation will allow us to hire an intern for an entire summer. (You should see the amazing resumes we've been receiving.) But every gift, large or small, is very noticed, very appreciated, and very carefully spent at the SSA. If you can't support us at one of these levels, please consider an amount that's comfortable for you. Your donation will be precious to us no matter what its size.

Every bit of our work at the SSA is funded by atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other freethinkers who care about secular youth. We are an independent, democratic organization which would not exist except for the generosity and loyalty of our many friends in the freethought movement. Please click one of the donation options in the sidebar by April 11th to take advantage of the matching funds. Thousands of bright, young freethinkers are counting on your support to bring about a more rational future guided by secular values.

With thanks,
Hemant Mehta, Chair
Secular Student Alliance
www.secularstudents.org

P.S. I almost forgot to mention the vital role played by SSA affiliate groups on college campuses. They provide a welcoming and stimulating community for students without supernatural beliefs, some of whom are open about their worldview for the first time in their lives. But there is still so much progress to be made! Please click one of the donation options in the sidebar so we can do more to bring this experience to every freethinking student.

Secular Coalition for America Points to $30 Million in Federal Tax Money Earmarked for Religious Activities

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The Secular Student Alliance is a founding member of the Secular Coalition for America, the national lobby for atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheistic Americans. During the appropriations process for fiscal year 2008, Congress passed over 140 earmarks totaling almost $30 million in public funding for overtly religious activities. Americans' tax dollars are already supporting
  • training programs for evangelical lay ministers
  • homeless shelters that seek to convert clients to Christianity
  • colleges whose students must believe in biblical inerrancy
... and the list continues. On April 2nd the Secular Coalition for America delivered letters to all 107 Congress members on its database of constitutionally suspect earmarks, and the Coalition's findings have been provided to those member organizations that engage in litigation (the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation).

Secular Student Alliance Conference - June 2008

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It's hard for us at Secular Student Alliance Headquarters to believe that it's been almost eleven months since we were at the New Humanism conference at Harvard. In less than two months we're going be at E Pluribus Unum: Reclaiming Humanist Values. This event will simultaneously be the 67th annual conference of the American Humanist Association, the 17th World Congress of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and the 8th annual conference of the Secular Student Alliance. The event will be June 5th through the 8th at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, DC.

SPEAKERS
Speakers for the event include Lori Lipman Brown of the Secular Coalition for America, Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin, Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal.

AWARDEES
Accepting the Humanist of the Year award is U.S. Representative Pete Stark, the first openly nontheistic member in Congress. Accepting the International Humanist Award is author Philip Pullman, author of the best-selling book The Golden Compass, now a major motion picture.

TRAVEL GRANTS
Student registration is only $40 and includes some meals (register today). We are offering $100 and $200 travel grants. The grants are awarded on a rolling basis and will go fast. Apply today for your 2008 conference travel grant! Information on affordable student housing can be found on the conference website.

Award Winner CAMPUS GROUP BEST AWARDS
At all of our conference, the Secular Student Alliance awards a handful of its affiliate groups for outstanding performance in various areas and we give one group the Best Affiliate award. There are four awards for $300 each and the Best Affiliate award is $500. All the awards come with a nice, shiny plaque. May 1st 2008 is the deadline to apply. Learn more about the awards and apply today.

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