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What comes after August?

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As you have probably heard, I’m leaving the Secular Student Alliance.

It has been my great honor to lead this organization for the last 15 years. Over the years I have been constantly inspired, amazed, and humbled by our students, activists, and supporters. I am confident in saying we’ve grown into one of the most important organizations in the secular movement.

But this post isn’t about our past, it’s about our future. It’s time for someone else to take the reins of this great organization.

Is that you? Is that someone you know?

Check out the job description, apply or pass it along.

I want a future where our students go on to positions of moral leadership throughout society. I want them to be politicians, journalists, judges, scientists, police officers, teachers, and leaders in all sectors of society.

I want the Secular Student Alliance to continue to be one of the greatest student organizations in this country.

Help us find the person to make this future a reality!

Making this future a reality is no easy task. It will take vision, resolve, passion, and leadership. Think you’re up for the challenge? Think you know someone who is?

Step up to the plate and see if you’ve got what it takes to be the next executive director of the Secular Student Alliance.

August E. Brunsman IV
Executive Director
Secular Student Alliance

Where Are All the Black Atheists?

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Bishop McNeill, Secular Student Alliance board member, and HBCU graduate, discusses secularism in the black community in an Op-Ed published in The Root. Check out the full article, and if you're a student at an HBCU contact us to learn more about forming an SSA group on your campus!

Here's a except from Bishop's Op-Ed:

I am black. I am also an atheist.

It’s understandable if that surprises you.

You’ve probably heard that the number of religiously unaffiliated people is rising. According to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study, the percentage of Americans who identify as “unaffiliated,” or “religious nones,” is currently 22.8 percent. That’s a huge increase from only 16 percent in 2007.

However, this growth is not happening as rapidly in one notable sphere: the black community.

Secular Service

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What good is being right if it doesn’t change anything? Does being secular matter if it doesn’t move you to act?

Many of our students have decided to put their beliefs into action. To these students, having secular values means being for something. It means doing something to impact their community and make our world a better place.

Let’s look at an example from UNIFI, the SSA affiliate at the University of Northern Iowa. They got active when the possibility of flooding threatened Cedar Rapids. More than a dozen of their members spent a Saturday sandbagging and helping the city prepare for flooding.

the Big EventFor another example, take a look at the University of Montevallo Secular Student Alliance. In April they participated in “The Big Event,” a community-service program put on by the university. This was their third year participating. They helped a senior citizen with landscaping and brush removal. The Montevallo SSA’s service was greatly appreciated, and they became a more cohesive group in the process.

Yet another example is the UTSA, the SSA affiliate at the University of Texas-San Antonio, who partnered with other secular community groups to build ramps with the Texas Ramp Project. Or the SSA group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who joined with Project Linus to make blankets for seriously ill children. On another occasion, they sold baked goods to raise money for the Women's Medical Fund.

We’ve got tons of examples! Our students have done many different community projects, but what ties it all together is the belief that being secular calls them to action and service.

We’ve shared some of our student’s stories and now we want to know yours. How have you used secular values to make our world a better place?

Let us know and maybe we’ll share your example in a future!

Class is in session and SSA is in high gear

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School is back in session and the Secular Student Alliance is busy revving up for a big year!

Before the school year gets too ridiculous we wanted to take a moment to showcase what we’re already up to. Here is just a sampling of what has kept us busy over the past year and what we want to keep doing during the school year.

Every September, secular student activists share their stories with us in hopes of winning one of our Scholarships for Student Activists.

A former Baptist and seminary school graduate, Amber Barnhill, was the winner of our 2015 ‘former fundamentalist’ scholarship. Amber’s upbringing and studies included some of the most repressive religious doctrines. Having heard for so long that God despises education, women who work outside the home and that “the wife has no authority over her own body but yields it to her husband…”, she eventually found herself in an abusive relationship.

Amber struggled to understand and break free of the abuse. That meant resolving conflicting emotions that come with abuse; such as shame, fear, loyalty, love, and lust. That meant struggling to overcome parts of her upbringing to rediscover healthy sexuality, wifeliness, and motherhood. Eventually, she set herself on a new path.

She became an advocate for science-based sexual education and consent. She went go back to school and has since come out publically as an atheist.  She even helped organized an Ask an Atheist Day event at her campus (one of 156 events hosted by SSA groups across the country).

She also started telling her own story as a victim of domestic violence, hoping to shed the light on societal problems that foment abuse and to empower others to seek support.  

"Domestic violence isn’t a personal problem, it’s a social problem. Nothing is going to change until we stop focusing on the victims and start focusing on the perpetrators, the culture that creates them, and the systems that keep it in place." – Amber Barnhill, SSA Scholarship Winner

Our student groups are as awesome as ever; all 275 of them! Many of our groups continue to face adversity on campus. Take the example of the SSA at Baylor University. Baylor is a private Baptist university with a telling motto: Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana (For Church, For Texas). Baylor has long refused to recognize the SSA group on campus. Through underground organizing, willpower, and the guidance of SSA National, they’ve run regular events, hosted secular speakers, and kept their group thriving for over ten years!

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have not been home to many secular organizations.  We believe that every campus should have a safe and welcoming community for secular students! This fall, using our campus organizing knowledge and network of HBCU alumni, we are leading an initiative to increase the number of secular student groups at Historically Black Colleges and Universities! Contact us and learn how to get involved with this organizing drive!

“Religion, in the essence of its practice, is very prevalent at HBCUs. Religion is steeped in the Black community, and that culture and tradition carries over into the colleges.” –Donald Wright, alum of the HBCU Tennessee State University

Our shared secular values drive many students to be active change-makers,  on their campuses and in their communities.  The SSA group at the University of Missouri was honored by their university with an honorable mention for Most Outstanding Large Organization.

“We see ourselves as being one small part of a greater collective voice advocating for secular values in our country, and the SSA is an incredible resource for us to look to for direction in its advancement!” – Matt Burch Vice President MU Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, and Agnostics

Finally, does garbage on the site of the road make you furious? To the students at the SSA at Frostburg State University, their secular values move them to take care of the environment, and to leave the world better then than found it. So they decided to do something about litter by adopting a highway. They even got one of those cool signs with their name on it!

This is only a small portion of what the Secular Student Alliance is making happen. We have great students, groups, and run vitally important programs.

We are very thankful for all of you that support us so we can do this work.  We can’t wait to show you what else is going on this year!

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