Why Are College Atheist Groups Important?

Why are college atheist groups important?

Because their members will take a stand when no one else can/will.

Ashley Rose Mockett is the founder of the Free-Thinkers Club at Saddleback College (in California). She received a scholarship to attend the school and was surprised by what she found at the ceremony to honor scholarship recipients:

I was asked to stand for the invocation, followed by the pledge of allegiance. At first, I did not hear what it was I was asked to stand for; the room was filled with thousands of people talking. When I stood, I was met with a political tirade about how the speaker, Don Wager Pres. of our board of trustees, ought to be able to pray at any government event he chooses to pray at. Essentially what he said was that we were here today to recognize the students and also thank God for these achievements, and you could sit down if you did not agree with him! In a few sentences I had been both congratulated by Wagner and also and insulted by him.

You can even see this tirade in action:

This event prompted Ashley to form her atheist group. She wanted a way to fight back against this use of religion in the public square.

In short, with the help of her faculty sponsor (Karla Westphal) and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Ashley was able to change how that ceremony worked.

No more invocations for them:

At an Associated Student Government meeting on Thursday, March 5, students passed a resolution regarding the removal of the invocation before the annual Scholarship Award Ceremony. As a result of its passing, the ASG will now plan the scholarship ceremony.

That’s fantastic. You can see the student newspaper’s coverage of this story as well as the resolution Ashley presented to ASG.

We need more students like Ashley. You can help the Secular Student Alliance form more groups and energize other students like Ashley — we need more activists on campus keeping an eye on church/state issues.

(via Secular Student Alliance)

  • http://www.hammatime.net Hamma

    Nice work Ashley! :D

  • beckster

    Good for you! I wish I had the guts to do something like that when I was in college . . .

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio

    College is a great time for an adult to begin experimenting with their ideas, their self-image and the reactions of their peers. Because, once in the work place, this becomes even more difficult (depending on the job). Superb work Ashley — you have set (and documented) a fantastic example !!

    I would add one tempered note to perhaps soften the temptation to use this victory to strengthen an artificial Us-versus-Them feeling. I write about it in my entry called “Divide et Impera” on my new blog if you are interested.

  • christi

    Forgive me for not knowing, but is there any relationship between Saddleback College and Rick Warren’s church? Or does the name “Saddleback” only refer to a location in CA?

  • Siamang

    Wow… that was a really pissy “prayer”.

    What kind of offering to God is smirking, self-assured assholishness? Lamest invocation ever!

  • anon

    So, is anybody going to rip on this resolution for the inclusion of a moment of silence, or does it get a free pass because it’s a step in the right direction?

    Resolved, that Associated Student Government supports the inclusion of a moment of Silence, Quiet Contemplation, or reflection in any such event

  • mvanstav

    @christi
    Saddleback is a common name here in Orange county, referring to the tallest mountain in the area, Saddleback Mountain (actually two separate mountains…see wikipedia if you care.) Saddleback Community College is actually in no way affiliated with Rick Warren’s church, being a state run community college.
    Oh yeah, and seriously, what a lame prayer. Glad that got banned, if only for oratorical taste.

  • Skeptimal

    It’s interesting that he complains about how religion is treated in the public sphere, but then in order to express his religion he:

    Engages in bait-and-switch tactics, having them stand for the pledge, then changing it to a prayer, then telling them “we didn’t make you stand; you did that voluntarily;”

    Politicizes his religion by using a public recognition ceremony to preach against non-theism; and

    Uses religion to disenfranchise patriotic non-theist Americans who can, after all, sit down now if they object to Jesus.

    At my college, few would have questioned this, so it’s comforting to know that most of the students saw through this childish game and did away with the invocation. Nicely done!

  • christi

    Saddleback is a common name here in Orange county, referring to the tallest mountain in the area, Saddleback Mountain (actually two separate mountains…see wikipedia if you care.) Saddleback Community College is actually in no way affiliated with Rick Warren’s church, being a state run community college.

    Thanks for the reply. As a non-Californian, the only time I’ve ever heard “Saddleback” was in conjunction with Warren’s church. The community should publicize anything and everything “Saddleback” to eliminate the immediate “rick warren church” reaction that many of us not familiar with the area have when we hear that name. :-)

    Back to the topic–Skeptimal–love your response!

  • http://curragh-labs.org/blog Brendan

    When I followed your link to the Freethinkers Society Google Groups page, I had to click through this warning first:

    Adult Content Warning

    The page that you are about to view may contain content only suitable for adults. In order to continue, you must read and agree to our Terms Of Service.”

    I guess Free Thinking is only for adults.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X