Atheist Org Recruits Allies in Schools to Prevent Religious Bullying
With bullying an increasing concern in the nation, one overlooked minority group is about to get help: atheist students. The Secular Student Alliance announced today that it is kicking off the 2013 school year by launching a new program called the Secular Safe Zone. Modeled after the LGBT safe zone programs, the project trains mentors in student communities to create safe, neutral places for students to talk about their doubts without fear of religious bullying.
"There’s no question that atheism is on the rise among America’s youth, but secular students still face an uphill battle for acceptance," said Secular Student Alliance spokesman Jesse Galef. "We’re calling on supportive role models nationwide to stand up for these students. Even just one teacher defending you against bullying can make all the difference in the world."
The Secular Safe Zone program is designed to create knowledgeable and skilled allies across the nation who can recognize and respond to anti-atheist bullying. Volunteers are given training on subjects including identifying and understanding secular students, speaking up against discrimination, and dealing with resistance from the community. After completing the training, allies receive signs to designate their classroom or office as a Secular Safe Zone.
The program’s launch comes at a time when the youngest generation is experiencing a sharp drop in religiosity. A Pew Research Center survey reported that the percent of Millennials 18-29 reporting doubts about the existence of God has doubled in five years, from 15% in 2007 to 31% in 2012. In the same time period, the Secular Student Alliance exploded with growth, from 81 campus groups for nonreligious students to 357. They support 392 groups today.
Despite the growing number of young atheists, society remains largely antagonistic toward the nonreligious, as illustrated by the Bertelsmann Stiftung 2013 Religion Monitor finding that 50% of Americans consider atheism to be threatening. The Secular Student Alliance reports that nonreligious students frequently face hostility from their community and are often subject to illegal discrimination from their administrators when they try forming a club.
Galef hopes that Secular Safe Zone allies will normalize nonbelief. "We have a long road ahead of us," added Galef, "but this is another step toward acceptance."
More information can be found at SecularSafeZone.org.