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RELEASE: North Georgia secular cadets' religious rights violated

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4 November 2014
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gordon Maples (614)441-9588 x 113
gordon.maples@secularstudents.org

Secular cadets at the University of North Georgia blow whistle on religious rights violations by administration

DAHLONEGA, GA – Cadet students at the University of North Georgia are spearheading activism on their campus following the breach of their religious rights.

“University of North Georgia students are standing up for the separation of church and state on their campus, something that we encourage among our student activists,” says Gordon Maples, Regional Program Manager of the Secular Student Alliance, “Students have a lot more power and influence than they may think, and we want to help them advocate for their rights.”

Beginning in October 2012, the University of North Georgia Dahlonega campus has received numerous complaints about its violations of the religious rights of non-religious cadets. There have been several instances of explicitly Christian prayers at mandatory events for cadets, most recently a 9/11 memorial event. The event was put together by the Student Government Association at the behest of the administration, and there were several prayers throughout the event.

UNG administration claims that this event was not required, but there are sworn affidavits from UNG Skeptics Society members stating it was, in fact, mandatory. The students are choosing to remain anonymous because they are concerned going public could jeopardize their future at the school.

“The memorial was in no way demonstrably separate from the University in its sponsorship,” one student stated, “It took place on university grounds and was presided over by the University chaplain and student leadership.”

Congratulations On Your Scholarship, Frank!

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Frank Skiff is a student at Florida International University, where he is the secretary of the Secular Student Alliance affiliate group on campus. As a group member he hosted a weekly secular beach cleanup! He is studying biology with a focus on entymology, and is hoping to earn a masters degree and expand his research on ecosystems. Frank was raised Catholic and attended church every week, though his interests were always piqued by science.

frankEarlier this year, Frank and a friend started a science and atheism clothing line to show others that they shouldn’t be afraid of their absence of belief, that they can make a difference, and that atheists are good people that do good things. Their clothing line, Absence of Clothing, donates money to secular-minded charities, and during 2014 has given over $2,500 to organizations like Homeless Nexus, Earth Justice, and Friends for Animals Sanctuary. The line has been featured by numerous secular writers and podcasts, and has began to impact more people in the secular community.

For the remainder of the school year, Frank hopes to work with his school’s SSA affiliate group to make sure their campus knows who they are and what they stand for, including working to get more funding for next year. He hopes to accomplish this through flyrering and tabing, and by teaming up with local allied organizations, like the LGBT groups on campus.

Congratulations On Your Scholarship, Jeremy!

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Jeremy Sanchez grew up in a very religious Mormon family, in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah, and did not become secular until after he returned from a two year mission for the Latter-Day Saints. He is the first in his family (including five siblings) to graduate from college. Jeremy received his undergraduate degree from the University of Utah with a double major in chemistry and biology, and is now attending the University of Minnesota Medical School.

JeremyThis year Jeremy started the first medical school secular student group, Secular Students in Medicine, at the University of Minnesota Medical School. There has been a Christian medical student organization at his school for years, but Secular Students in Medicine is the first of its kind. It has been very successful in its short tenure! Within a few days there were over 30 members (almost 20% of the class!), and the group has continued to grow from the start of the academic year.

In addition to lectures to the medical school and Sunday brunches, Secular Students in Medicine also has events with the undergraduate affiliate group, Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists (CASH), planned for this year. Jeremy hopes to guide fellow secular students to careers in medicine. Secular Students in Medicine also hopes to do a service project with the Christian medical student group to break down barriers.

Secular Student Movement Update 11/6/2014

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Every week, the SSA prepares a summary of what the secular student movement is doing. To hear this update and news from the secular movement, tune into the SCA's National Secular Movement Update every Thursday at 12PM ET.

Student Movement Update 11/6/2014

Presented by Kelley Freeman, Communications Associate at the Secular Student Alliance.

This week at the Secular Student Alliance, we are congratulating our first ever scholarship winners! We are thrilled to announce our five recipients - big congratulations to Candace Banks, Sam Erickson, Kendall Lovely, Jeremy Sanchez, and Frank Skiff on their awards! We want to thank all of the students who applied for this award: choosing only five winners was tough for everyone involved. We are excited to see this program grow in the future! To read individual profiles of our winners, please visit here.

The Secular Student Alliance is hiring a Student Programs Specialist! This position focuses on developing and delivering services and resources to SSA’s individual student members, programs that normalize secular student identity (including Secular Safe Zone and Openly Secular), alumni support, and other programs that focus on secular students as individuals. Unlike most SSA campus organizing positions, this position does not involve working with affiliated campus groups, and instead focuses on support for individual students, including the role of Secular Safe Zone Coordinator. We are accepting applications until November 9th. Incomplete applications will not be considered. 

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