Two National Groups Team Up To Protect Rights of Young Atheists

This is a match made in hell — and it’ll help secular students around the country.

The Secular Student Alliance and Freedom From Religion Foundation have announced a joint partnership that will offer free legal help to young atheists whose rights are being violated:

“No student should ever be subjected to religious discrimination from their school, but they don’t always know where to turn for help,” said Andrew Seidel, a staff attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “With today’s partnership, we’re telling students that when push comes to shove, we have their backs.”

“Younger Americans are less religious than ever, and they’re turning from religious congregations to secular communities,” said SSA Communications Director Jesse Galef. “This partnership ensures that students both know their rights and that we’re here to defend them. The message to school administrators is clear: secular students won’t be pushed around any more.”

This has unofficially been going on for years, but the new initiative means that SSA’s groups and members will be formally educated about their rights, while FFRF will take the helms in case any violations come up.

This past school year, we’ve seen plenty of examples of Christians who confuse public schools with churches, whether it’s holding religious assemblies, (almost) performing pro-Christian plays, having unqualified individuals teach Christian-based sex education, posting Ten Commandments plaques on classroom walls, hanging a portrait of Jesus in the hallway, saying (or allowing) prayers at graduation, or hoisting Christian banners at football games.

If students — atheists or otherwise — know that religion is being illegally promoted in their schools, they can have confidence that SSA and FFRF will be there to help them out.

By the way, there are some very interesting stats in the press releases from the organizations: In 2009, the SSA has 143 groups. This year, they have 386 (including 48 at high schools).

In 2009, the FFRF addressed 54 complaints about public schools. This year, that number is 405.

(Might as well throw in a cheap plug: I wrote about a number of these sorts of public school violations — and the brave students who fought back — in my book The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide.)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Rain

    Great to hear. It sounds like a real “classy action” from those guys.

  • Keyra

    The jokers at the FFRF are getting more & more desperate. If students don’t like group prayer or if it reeaaally kills them that much, then why not just ignore it? They just don’t believe, that’s their opinion and they’re entitled to it, but no need to make a scene every time God is mentioned. I’m getting all-the-more impression that die-hard secularists just want attention; after all, what better way to get attention than being a societal rebel?

    • Gordon Duffy

      would you say the same to people “making a scene” by praying?

    • Mary Howerton

      I’m gonna guess you’re playing a Poe, because you can’t seriously think your post makes any sense.

    • JET

      Would you say the same thing if the Muslim valedictorian at your high school used his speech to offer a prayer to Allah? Or if the atheist valedictorian mocked those who believed in any god?

    • WoodyTanaka

      If these religious creeps really want to pray, do it in church. No need to spray around your religion in public Ike a dog pissing on a tree (although the dog’s work is of more value)

  • Reginald Selkirk

    This is a match made in hell

    (roll-eyes) Next time, resist the temptation.

  • Crystal Bandy Thomas

    To be clear – This is not something I wrote although I wish I had. I have borrowed this from said Susan Collins because she had made it brilliantly clear why this is important to young free-thinkers … and I quote from – Susan Collins · Top Commenter
    (insert name of person being referenced) ie: – “Keyra – I’m curious – you can express your religious beliefs in your home, on your property, at your church, at your own business, on your car, and on your person. You can splatter your message all over TV, print media, and the internet. You can associate only with other Christians if you so choose. You can send your kids to private religious schools and camps. You can attend religious rallies. You can pray on government property. The ONLY thing you can’t do is use the government to promote your religion.

    Tell me – why are ALL of these other things not enough for you?

    I have asked this question of many Christians, and NONE of them has ever answered me. Will you be the first?”

  • Cylon

    Will this partnership help religious students suffering from religious persecution if they request help, or is it specifically for nonreligious students? I’m just curious.

    Either way, a resource dedicated to helping kids get the secular education they deserve is a great thing. Good on them.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I think both organizations are so swamped with working for non-religious people that, while they would agree with the students in principle, they would probably offer advice and then refer those students to the ACLU or AU, groups that focus on religious liberty without regard to particular faiths.

      • Cylon

        That makes sense.


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