June 10, 2012

Secular Student Alliance Deserves Our Support

SSAweek logo web

As you are probably aware, June 9 to June 16 is SSA Week, a fundraising campaign for the Secular Student Alliance (SSA). The SSA works to support secular student groups in U.S. high schools, colleges, and universities. According to their website:
Our primary goal is to foster successful grassroots campus groups which provide a welcoming community for secular students to discuss their views and promote their secular values.
Although my schedule does not permit me to participate in Blogathon 2012, part of the fundraising efforts for SSA Week, I did appreciate the invitation to do so. Since I can't do that, I wanted to tell you about my experience with the SSA and why they are such a worthy cause.

Atheists in Mississippi

I can imagine few places in the U.S. more challenging for atheists than right here in Mississippi. Evangelical fundamentalist Christianity is everywhere, and there is precious little separation of church and state. Christian flags can be found in courthouses, mandatory jury selection proceedings begin with sectarian prayers, and politicians of every level make sure voters know which Southern Baptist church they attend. To call it oppressive, isolating, and even scary at times would be an understatement.

And yet, there are atheists here. These atheists need support. They need safe places to gather with like-minded individuals and have the opportunity to be themselves. They need the chance to talk about their thoughts and feelings without being threatened with hell or physical assault. This is where the SSA comes in.

The SSA in Mississippi

As unlikely as it may seem, there is an SSA chapter right here in South Mississippi. A few atheist students reached out to the SSA for help after learning about the organization on the Internet. After a few phone calls and emails with SSA personnel, these students decided that they wanted to start an SSA group at their university.

It was amazing to see how helpful the SSA was throughout this process. They sent the students detailed information about how to set up a group, including a lengthy manual, flyers, stickers, and all sorts of other resources. There was no charge for any of this material, and it was high quality stuff.

With this information and support, the students held some meetings on campus to recruit potential members, wrote a charter, held elections, and became an official student group, recognized by the university. There was quite a bit of concern that the university might reject the group's application, but they didn't. A new SSA chapter was born here in Mississippi.

Support the SSA

From everything I've seen, I can conclude with confidence that the SSA is a fantastic organization that deserves our support. You can donate to the SSA here.