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Obama Administration Invites Atheists to Interfaith Planning on Campus

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Five Representatives from Secular Student Alliance to Attend National Interfaith Gathering

Contact: Jesse Galef, Communications Director
[email protected] (614) 441-9588 x101

An unlikely party will be sitting at the table when the United States Department of Education hosts its interfaith initiative: atheists.  The Secular Student Alliance, a national nonprofit dedicated to organizing nonreligious students, announced today that they were invited to take part in a special planning session September 24th as part of the national gathering for the President's Interfaith and Community Service Challenge.  The planning session, which also includes organizations like Hillel, Campus Compacts, and the Hindu Seva Charities, aims to determine the best ways for campus service projects to include all worldviews.

"We're honored to be included in the President's call for interfaith and community service," said Jesse Galef, spokesperson for the Secular Student Alliance.  "There are thousands of nonreligious students eager to work alongside their religious friends to make the world a better place."

The Obama Administration has had a history of reaching out to secular students, a practice which has provoked some religious leaders.  When President Obama invited atheists to a White House interfaith discussion in 2010, Bishop Harry Jackson Jr. accused him of widening the tent too much, saying "I think we're being set up -- for people of living faith who believe in a born-again experience who follow the Bible -- to be seen as knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who need to come into the 21st century."

The pushback hasn't stopped the Obama administration from including the nonreligious in its campus outreach.

"From the beginning, President Obama has envisioned students from all worldviews, religious or secular, being part of his Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge," said Ken Bedell, Senior Advisor with the Department of Education's Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Center.  "We know it's important to include all viewpoints in this process."

Join Sam Harris to stop the bullying of secular students!

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Dear Friends,

A recent article in The Atlantic ("Bullied for Not Believing in God") describes the important work that the Secular Student Alliance is doing to make campus life safe for rational thought. The problem of bullying has attracted increased attention of late, and it extends far beyond the issue of secularism.

But unlike most targets of bullying, secular students are often abused not just by their peers, but by adults--by parents, teachers, and even legislators. Religious demagoguery may be the last socially acceptable form of intolerance in our society.

I am excited about the work the SSA is doing to change this—which is why, for the next 30 days, Project Reason will match all donations given to the SSA (up to $30,000)! I encourage you to read the above article and to make a tax-deductible donation to the SSA now.

Many thanks for your support,

Sam Harris

Imagine if the Secular Student Alliance didn't exist?

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Dear Friends,

You know that the Secular Student Alliance is a critical part of the secular movement. As the only organization fully dedicated to the growth and development of secular students, we ensure the future stability of the secular movement. Giving today will make the work we do possible, as nearly all of the services and resources we provide students are completely free for them.

UCF
Students from the SSA at University of Central Florida celebrate being together at their “home away from home.”

But what would happen if, a year from now, the national Secular Student Alliance didn’t exist?

Imagine it is the start of the 2014-2015 school year, with students gearing up to head back to their high school and college campuses.

Some of these students have a community waiting for them: a community they built, with their friends, centered on secularism and human-based ethics. These students look forward to returning to their SSA affiliate group, their “home away from home.”

However, things are different—because, in this scenario, the national Secular Student Alliance no longer exists. As campus activity fairs and other orientation events start, this affiliate group won’t receive free tabling supplies discussing the affiliate group and the incredible community they have created. The SSA had always provided them the multi-colored flyers, vinyl banners, brochures, buttons, pens, and other swag that are essential to attract new members, but now they have to rely on a few dozen black-and-white flyers.

Without sufficient promotional materials to attract new members, the group quickly shrinks. While a dedicated core of about eight members remains from last year, they are struggling to keep things going on a regular basis.
Right before last year’s winter break, one of the amazing speakers from the national SSA’s Speakers Bureau had come to campus to talk about interfaith work. Without the national SSA, it is much harder for campus groups to bring speakers to their campuses and host events. While the group stays in touch with the local off-campus groups and is welcome at their meetings, the group leaders decide that trying to set up a carpool to these meetings is more effort than it’s worth.

Howdy from the Texas Christian University Freethinking Frogs!

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Dear Friends,

My name is Ellen Lundgren, and I am the Secular Student Alliance’s Regional Campus Organizer for the Texas Region. I want to share with you the amazing success story of an SSA affiliate group at a religious school, Texas Christian University (TCU).

FTFThe TCU Freethinking Frogs are a very new group, starting up last semester despite some alumni and conservative news outlets pushing back. However, with support from their campus administrators, the secular community, and the SSA over the summer months, they are ready to hit ground running this fall.

These months of hard work really paid off while tabling to welcome new students at their student involvement fair, when over 50 students signed up to join the affiliate group! This success would not be possible without the months of coordination and planning with their membership and the national office.

Our students work hard all year to ensure success on their campuses. You can support their work the whole year by becoming a Monthly Supporter today.

The free tabling supplies from the national office were especially helpful. As student leader Alexis Lohse said, “The ample supplies and freebies made for good conversation pieces! Even students that didn’t want to sign up loved the Darwin stickers!”

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