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University of Cincinnati SSA and Freethinkers and Skeptics at Missouri State are 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. 

Earlier this year, the inaptly named Center for Medical Progress released highly edited videos where actors pretended to be from a biotechnology company and talked to Planned Parenthood staff about fetal tissue. The videos have since shown to be false, and every investigation into Planned Parenthood has shown that there has been no wrong doing, but that hasn't stopped legislators around the country attempting to defund Planned Parenthood at the state and national levels. Defunding Planned Parenthood would not lower the abortion rate, but would rather withold funding from vital programs like breast and cervical cancer screenings, STI testing, education, and more. Defunding Planned Parenthood would take away low cost health care to people who need it most. 

We at the Secular Student Alliance national office are proud to stand with Planned Parenthood, and this is why we are proud to present both the University of Cincinnati Secular Student Alliance and Freethinkers and Skeptics at Missouri State University with Awards for Outstanding Activism! Both groups were a part of rallies or protests in favor of Planned Parenthood.

The University of Cincinnati SSA teamed up with a local off-campus group, the Tri-State Freethinkers, for their rally on the University of Cincinnati campus! They gathered in front of the Tangeman University Center and held signs in support and shared stories of how Planned Parenthood has helped them. What was great about this event in particular was seeing all types of people involved in this rally - parents, children, university students, and people from the community all came together in support. They even got some local media coverage! Great work, University of Cincinnati SSA and Tri-State Freethinkers! We hope that your organizations continue to work together to pursue such great work. 

Alumni Spotlight: Scott McLean

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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!

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This month's featured alumnus is Scott McLean, a lead Development Representative for a Colorado-based anti-virus company, Webroot. Scott is an alumni of the University of Colorado - Boulder, where he co-founded the Secular Students and Skeptics Society (SSaSS). The SSA provided tools for helping them get established, and he very fondly remembers the first meeting the group ever had.

"For some background, I was raised fairly secular, and so religion was never a big deal for me. It wasn't something that I gave much thought to, let alone considered its impact on people's lives. We put up flyers for our first meeting all around campus. I had started groups before, so I kept telling the other two founders that if 1 or 2 people showed up to that first meeting, then we could consider the group a success. I believe our first ever meeting had 20+ people show up. When I asked people to tell us a little about why they came, I was blown away by their stories, and how they saw this as the first time they were allowed to ask these questions. What followed was several years of good (and bad) times. There were a lot of learning experiences, and I cherish every one of them. All those experiences still resonate with me today."

RELEASE: Secular Millennials Rising to Counter Religious Right on Abortion, LGBTQ Acceptance

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11/4/2015
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jesse Galef, (617) 858-6727
jesse@secularstudents.org 

Secular Millennials Rising to Counter Religious Right on Abortion, LGBTQ Acceptance

COLUMBUS, OH - As secular Millennials replace their more religious counterparts in older generations, a nonreligious groundswell is rising to oppose the influence of the evangelical Religious Right. The Pew Research Center released its newest Religious Landscape Survey yesterday, finding that the percent of Americans unaffiliated with religion rose from 16% to 23% in seven years, fueled primarily by younger generations rejecting religion and remaining secular as they age. The number of self-identifying atheists and agnostics rose to 11%. The growth and staying power of this culturally progressive cohort heralds a new force to challenge the Religious Right, claims the Secular Student Alliance, a national nonprofit representing nonreligious students.

“Today’s Millennials are rejecting religion in droves, and they won’t stand by as reproductive health is restricted and their LGBTQ friends are stigmatized,” said Secular Student Alliance Executive Director August E. Brunsman IV. “The Religious Right pulled our country toward intolerance for far too long, and young secularists are finally here to pull it back.”

Contrary to two typical reasons for skepticism about the demographic trend, the Pew survey finds that Millennials are not becoming more religious as they age and that the religiously unaffiliated have become more secular over time. From 2007 to 2014, the percent of Americans born 1981 to 1989 who consider religion "Not too/not at all" important in their lives rose from 23% to 29%, and among the 55.8 million unaffiliated Americans, the percent reporting belief in a God fell from 70% to 61%. The trend toward a secular worldview is continuing, with younger Millennials - born 1990 or later - two and a half times as likely not to believe in a God compared to those born before 1945, 20% to 8%.

Pew's survey also found that religiously unaffiliated Americans are among the most likely to hold cultural views opposite to the Religious Right, with atheists and agnostics providing the strongest contrast. 94% of atheists said homosexuality should be accepted by society, while only 36% of evangelical Protestants agreed. Similarly, at 87% atheists and agnostics were the group most likely to support abortion rights, a view shared by only 33% of evangelical Protestants.

This contrast with the Religious Right is alienating the growing unaffiliated constituency. The percent of Democrats who are unaffiliated with religion grew from 19% to 28% since 2007, making it the single largest religious category in the Democratic coalition.

More than ever, the Secular Student Alliance's campus groups are engaging in progressive activism supporting LGBTQ acceptance, reproductive health access, and the teaching of evolution in classrooms. Late last month, the University of Cincinnati Secular Student Alliance lead demonstrations in support of Planned Parenthood, and more plan to follow suit. Buxi Iacabone, a secular student from Ohio, was so disgusted by conservatives’ efforts to restrict access to reproductive health care that she has gone back to school so she can pursue medical school and become an abortion provider.

"The idea that anyone believes they can pick and choose what counts as healthcare and force people to justify their reproductive decisions is appalling," said Iacobone.

Our $1,000 Scholarship 2015 Recipients!

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Throughout the month of September, secular student activists shared their stories with us in hopes of winning one of the SSA’s second annual Scholarships for Student Activists. We sorted through many fantastic stories of activism: everything from interfaith and intersectional work to phenomenal stories of group running success.

We are thrilled to announce the winners of our $1,000 scholarships! A big congratulations to Candace Banks, Ben Blanchard, Kerri Dickey, Gennadiy Gurariy, and Nicole Niebler!

Kerri Dickey is our winner of $1,000 scholarship from the Humanists of Sarasota Bay, Florida. She is a graduate student at the University of South Florida who previously received her Bachelor of Science in Earth Science, Meteorology, Geography from the University of Northern Iowa.  She has been working for the last three years in Orange County, FL with Parks and Recreation at a nature preserve where she has taught 60+ environmental and science based programs to people of all ages. She then decided she wanted to return to school in order in higher education. She hopes to study perceptions of natural disasters and response times associated with them as her masters thesis, and will potentially continue on to get her Ph.D. in GIS and Geography so that she can map high risk areas during hurricanes where people might not have evacuated.

While in undergrad at the University of Northern Iowa, Kerri was involved with UNIFI, one of the Secular Student Alliance's most active affiliates. During her time in UNIFI, Kerri worked with many philanthropies, other student organizations, and the local Pride groups. She also did volunteer work at shelters, food banks, and the local humane society while she was in school.

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