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Don’t curse the darkness


Last week we shared a note from August about one of his fears: namely, an onslaught of anti-science and anti-intellectual driven bigotry threatening the secular and humanistic society we’re trying to build.

But there is reason to hope, and today we want to share a few of SSA’s 2016 milestones, the ones that encourage us and make us believe that the best is yet to come.

If you didn’t give last week, take a moment and do so now, then come back and finish this message.

Campus Groups: Our campus groups are the very core of what our organization is about, and these groups are thriving!

  • 34 high school groups
  • 229 college groups
  • 44 states with groups
  • 23 grant awards for campus projects

Student Activism: Our students activists are increasingly driving our organization and the projects in which we participate.

  • 15 scholarship winners
  • 176 SSA Con attendees
  • Dozens of student-led projects on intersectional topics including: Black Lives Matter, choice and reproductive health, education and STEM, women's rights, sex positivity, social justice, and political activism

Ask an Atheist Day: One of SSA’s signatures events, designed to start conversations and educate campus communities about atheist and secular identity.

  • 58% of all SSA groups participated
  • 38 packets of outreach materials shipped
  • 20-page organizing guide, graphics and flyers

Donate now to make sure 2017 is even better than 2016!

I also wanted to share one more important fact with you. Over 95% of our funding comes from individuals like you! If people like you don’t donate, our organization will stop working.

One final point, Ron Verstappen, a very generous SSA funder, has pledged up to $30,000 in matching funds to double your donations until the end of the year. Let’s take advantage of this match. Donate as much as you are able!

Short Day; Long Year


Last Wednesday was the winter solstice, the “shortest” day of the year – and what a year this has been. Some have called it the worst year ever...a dumpster fire of a year.

It’s not all been bad, and over the next weeks, I’m going to share some of our greatest successes with you. But on this darkest day of a dark year, I want to share one of my fears.

I’m afraid our voices, the voices of reason and secularism, are being drowned out. That we do not have the resources we need to counterbalance an increasingly hostile set of backwards worldviews.

Despite growing secularism, there is also a rise in hate, intolerance and anti-intellectualism. The so-called “alt-right” has grown, in part, by attracting disaffected youth through straw-manning women’s, racial, and social justice movements.

Students are in their crosshairs, and many are buying into the regressive rhetoric. We’ve seen and heard that hateful rhetoric in the course of our work, and we know it’s reaching them.

Are we reaching them as well? If we’re not fully funded, we may not be.

And let’s be clear: with that hateful rhetoric of the “alt-right” comes a lot of other baggage as well. It is anti-science, anti-education, and anti-secular.

That shouldn’t surprise you; it's made up of some of the same bigots that used make up the ‘religious right’.

There must be a strong, and fully funded, secular movement available to students on their high school and college campuses. Donate now and make that a reality.

Secular people, including students, have never been a wholly homogeneous group, and we don’t have to be. We don’t agree on everything, but we do have some core values, and some core enemies. The “alt-right” is a threat to our movement and our values.

There is a fight brewing for our collective future, and, as always, it is the younger generation that will become engaged on one side or the other. It is they that will win or lose the fight of ideas that will shape that future.

We will make it through this darkness together. Add your light to our cause with a donation.

The Final Reveal


It’s time to reveal the rest of our scholarship winners! Well... almost time. We still haven’t reached our fundraising goal for next year’s scholarships. Can you take a quick moment and donate $50 to fund our scholarships?

And now here they are: the remaining SSA 2016 scholarship winners!

MatthewMatthew Facciani is a Patheos blogger, social psychology PhD student, and member of the SSA at the University of South Carolina. His SSA group is incredibly active: from blood drives, raising money for cancer research, fundraising for the local rape crisis center, tackling issues of social justice and battling the stigma against atheists, they’ve done it all! In his application, Matthew discussed how his secular values are a key motivator to his activism:“I think as a humanist, that we should try to reduce as much suffering as possible. That is why I fight so hard for social justice.”

SeanSean Rivera is the president of the SSA at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Sean decided to become an activist after experiencing discrimination as a Black and Latino atheist. He’s active in Black Lives Matter and volunteered as an escort at Planned Parenthood. When one of his friends got kicked out of their home for coming out as an atheist, Sean organized an effort to raise funds to help his friend get to safety. He’s seen firsthand how the secular community can come together to help friends and the community at large. He hopes this scholarship will allow him to focus more of his time on activism and promoting secular values.

We are halfway to our scholarship fundraising goal, and the generous matching offer is still in place. Donate $50 and it will become $100, donate $100 and we’ll get $200!

ClaireDuring high school, Claire VanValkenburg was repeatedly bullied for being secular, but she didn’t let mean notes and hateful messages deter her. She joined the SSA affiliate at the University of Wisconsin‑Madison and got to work making change. Last year she organized a 500-person demonstration and march against sexual assault. She is planning a follow-up event this year to highlight the erasure of victims of sexual assault. She leads her group's efforts with Openly Secular Day and the upcoming Freethought Festival 6.

SamreenaAs an ex-Muslim, Samreena Farooqui faced isolation because of her atheism to a degree that even many other SSA students might not have. She had trouble finding people who could identify with her current experience and her past experiences. The SSA gave her a space to change that. As a former officer at the SSA at Florida State University, she worked with the national organization to find the tools and materials she needed to build the community she and others like her needed, like organizing the Southeast Regional Student conference. She is also active with the Planned Parenthood Generation Action group on her campus. Her activism includes testifying in front of the state senate to oppose a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood, organizing a “Condom Crawl” to pass out condoms to tailgaters before a football game, and organizing the Take No More Fest, which helps fund local organizations like the Oasis Center for Women and Girls and the Trans Liberation Front.

AidanAidan Marshall-Court is our Historically Black Colleges and Universities Scholarship winner. He’s currently a sophomore at Bowie State University. In his application, he told us: “An atheist in a predominately black community is something that is not heard of often. Religion is seen as an essential part in the African American community....” During high school, Aidan faced significant discrimination for his non-belief. For a while he kept his non-belief close to his chest, but no longer. He attended and volunteered at the 2016 Reason Rally, and also participated in the lobby days. He is working on starting a chapter of the Washington Area Secular Humanists and an SSA group on his campus.

And there you have it: all the 2016 Scholarship winners! Congratulations to all of them! We are so impressed with their activism, as well as that of all our students. Commitment and activism like this will help create the secular future we envision.

We need to fund that future. We’re running out of time to meet our fundraising goal for next year’s scholarships. Donate now to fund our scholarship program and show solidarity with our amazing students!

Our country elected a man...


The following is a note that the Secular Student Alliance board chair, Evan Clark, just shared with our staff.

If you are as fired up as he and I are, please join us with a donation. It’s needed now more than ever.

- August E. Brunsman IV

Dear SSA Board & Staff,

The other night our country elected a man whose values, rhetoric, and behavior are antithetical to the mission of our organization. Our country elected a Senate and House that actively oppose our vision for America and our place in its diverse fabric. And our government will likely create a Supreme Court that could very well redefine many of our community's most cherished protections.

No doubt, this is a reality many of us hoped we'd never have to experience, and the fear and pain we're feeling is real.

But I wrote this email to also express why there is hope to be found in what happened.

We have an opportunity to provide humanistic moral leadership people are in need of.

Unlike any conservative leader that has come before him, President-elect Trump has inspired a seismic level of emotional opposition. People are rightfully scared about the future, hungry for innovative solutions, and desperate for direction. A new wave of activists and students are suddenly looking for groups brave enough to stand up and fight.

The SSA will be one of those organizations!

I'm not going to promise any of you everything will be easy. There are massive potential dangers, especially for our students, in the years ahead.

I want to remind you of the opening paragraph of our Mission and Values statement. I believe it is exactly what America needs right now.

Our Mission

Our work is as important now as ever.

Evan Clark
Chair, Secular Student Alliance


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