The Importance of Secular Students Engaging in Political Activism
It is very important for secular students to be involved, and to feel empowered to be involved, in political activism. College campuses and student movements are one of the primary movers when it comes to enacting social change, which also leads to political change. When students step up to change society for the better, everyone else notices and responds. Secular students are in one of the best positions in American society to truly catalyze real and lasting social and political change in our nation.
Any movement needs to enact both social change and political change. Social change means social acceptance and political change means change in the laws or policies of the nation. Both of these factors are necessary for a movement to be truly successful, and sometimes one component moves faster than the other. They can also influence one another, so if there is social change then there will be demand for political change. An example is the current movement for equal LGBT rights. We didn’t see many policy changes involving the specific topic of marriage equality until there was enough popular support for it, despite the fact that there had been political activism decades prior. The LGBT movement has successfully enacted political change through changing the social climate around us.
In this resource, we are going to focus on political activism to enact policy changes, as opposed to focusing on social change. Despite being so daunting, political activism is an important component of any movement. If it seems insurmountable to change the status quo, just remember that it will not happen overnight. We have many case studies we can point to in order to show where and when political activism has worked, and we can use the tactics that have worked in the past to also reach our ends.
Political activism is important for the secular movement specifically, because a lot of the issues we face are inherently political. Our primary focus is the separation of church and state, which manifests itself in many ways in our culture such as: proper science education, prayer in school, allowing secular groups alongside religious groups in schools, the pledge of allegiance, our national motto, and more. We have been successful in addressing some of these issues, while we are still struggling with others. We need political activism in order to put policy changes in place that uphold the Constitution, and to protect our society from encroachments by any state-endorsed religious beliefs. The separation of church and state is important not only for secular Americans, but also for theists of any variety; state-endorsed religion hurts everyone involved.
Political Activism Resources
- Examples of what kind of advocacy and activism that SSA affiliate groups have participated in
- Common Church and State Issues
- Lobbying - What is it, How to do it, and Why
- Demonstrations and Protests
- Student Fees and Your Rights to University Funding
- Free Speech National Celebration Days
- Secular Coalition for America Model Policy Guide
- US Pledge of Allegiance
- What is the the Establishment Clause?
- The Equal Access Act Guarantees Your Student Group the Right to Exist
- Do You Need Legal Help? Let Us Know!
- Advocacy and Political Activism Activity Packets