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Edwin Kagin, 1940-2014

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We at the Secular Student Alliance are saddened by the death of Edwin Kagin.  Kagin was a longtime secular activist who championed the separation of State and church, human rights, and the need for evidence-based education.  We were fortunate to enjoy his counsel as a member of the SSA's Advisory Board. 

Edwin Kagin was one of the founders of Camp Quest, and in his role as National Legal Director for American Atheists, had recently argued cases against the IRS and against the inclusion of a cross beam, found in the rubble at the site of the terror attack, in the 9/11 museum.

SSA Board member, Hemant Mehta, and SSA Executive Director, August Brunsman, offer these thoughts.

"Edwin Kagin dedicated his life to an important cause -- spreading rational thinking -- when he could easily have made more money or acquired more goodwill doing something different. He was never content being an armchair activist; instead, he wanted to get down in the trenches and create change, whether it was through writing legal briefs (which often swayed judges) or through starting, with his wife Helen, a summer camp that is still thriving today. Even the Secular Student Alliance has benefitted tremendously from his support and advice over the years. He has influenced generations of non-religious Americans, including many so young they may not know his name, and the legacy he's left behind will be felt for many years to come." - Hemant Mehta

"Edwin was an honest friend, a creative activist, a skilled lawyer, a passionate poet, a peerless wartime consigliere, a planter of trees whose shade he knew he would never sit in, and above all a troublemaker. I know for the rest of my life I’ll be asking myself 'What would Edwin do?'  From time to time, I'll even do it." - August Brunsman

Aberdeen Central High School is Doing it Right!

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Sometimes, a school’s administrators do everything right.

About two weeks ago, the Secular Student Alliance was contacted by Adam, a student at Central High School in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Adam told us that, while forming a secular group on his campus, teachers complained and the principal told the group they needed to disband.

So, we reached out to Principal Jason Uttermark to find out more. There was allegedly district policy in place to not allow religious-oriented clubs or meetings to take place. This policy didn’t take into account the Equal Access Act, which allows for any extra-curricular campus group to be formed if any extra-corricular group exists. Once we brought this law to the Principal Uttermark’s attention, he handed it off to the superintendent and the school’s counsel.

Adam
Adam at Aberdeen High School will get his secular group!

Far too often, this situation results in the school fighting against equality, and the student being bullied, harassed, and ostracized from their community.  However, Aberdeen Public Schools truly wants what is best for its students. On March 10th, the school district’s attorney got in touch with us to let us know that the school was rescinding their decision to block the group, and that Adam would be able to build his community!

SSA  High School Specialist Andrew Cheadle-Ford had this to say on the situation, “I am so excited to see a situation resolve itself quickly and with the well-being of all students in mind. It is wonderful that Adam will be able to form this group and be in a school that supports his secular activism.”

Principal Uttermark and the Aberdeen Public Schools have been phenomenal to work with. This is a principal and a school district that clearly has the best interest of their students on their minds, and we are so thrilled to have been able to be partners with them to resolve this situation.

What a fantastic event series from SSA at ASU!

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Hello Friends,

Our affiliate groups hold amazing events all the time—debates, speakers, panels, volunteer work, and discussion groups are all a normal part of what our groups do every semester. However, some groups go above and beyond the normal run of events.

The Secular Student Alliance at Arizona State University is only in its second semester of existence, but they have a jam-packed semester planned! They are hosting an event series called Godless, and it includes something for everyone!

The SSA at ASU at their "Confessions of a Bible Belt Atheist" event with Speakers Bureau member Seth Andrews!

Pisgah High School Update

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Hello Friends,

We wanted to take a minute and share with you an update on what is happening with Kalei Wilson and Pisgah High School. As you know from our last update, the administrators agreed to let Kalei build a secular community on Pisgah’s campus a few weeks ago.

KaleiSince that time, as others have reported, Kalei and her family have had to deal with bullying and threats beyond what any person should have to face. No student should have to choose to either have a community and endure harassment and threats, or give up on community with the hope of bringing the firestorm to an end, but that is the unfortunate situation in which Kalei has found herself.

As many of you know, because of the bullying and harassment, Kalei has decided not to go through with creating a secular group at her school. The Secular Student Alliance has stayed in communication with Kalei and her family, and have been supporting them behind the scenes while so many others have been supporting them publicly. Thank you to everyone who has voiced, and continues to voice, their support for Kalei and her family.

Although creating and supporting groups is a big part of what we do, the Secular Student Alliance also empowers students who either lack that local community, or choose to be activists in a more individual capacity. Even without moving forward with a group, Kalei is still excited to be a part of the Secular Student Alliance and of the national community we have built and continue to build. Kalei is even planning to speak at our upcoming Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio July 11-13!

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