It’s Not Religious Discrimination to Say That College Groups, Even Christian Ones, Must Be Open to All Students

Most official college organizations have to adhere to a few rules, one of which is that they must not be discriminatory. They can’t reject homosexuals or black people or Republicans or atheists from their groups even if it seems antithetical to the groups’ missions. So, for example, the Young Republicans can’t exclude an open Democrat who wants to become a member.

For the most part, that makes a lot of sense. Public schools have non-discrimination policies, and those rules apply to campus groups as well.

But what about the leadership of the organizations?

For years now, Christian groups have been fighting a battle on some campuses to make sure that their officer positions are reserved only for other Christians (the proper kind, of course). They want the right to ban LGBT-affirming members of their group from becoming leaders — without losing the benefits that come with being a registered campus group.

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After ACLU’s Warning to School Officials, Virginia Students Lead Crowd in Christian Prayer at Graduation

If you’re not Christian, the Lee County Public Schools in Virginia would like you to know that officials there don’t give a damn about you.

It’s not just that Thomas Walker High School has a display of the Ten Commandments in the hallways. It’s not just that the faculty adviser of First Priority (a Christian club) conducts club activities in his classroom. It’s not just that certain faculty events begin and end with a Christian prayer.

It’s that the school’s graduation director “requires seniors to sing a Christian hymn, ‘Till We Meet Against At Jesus’ Feet,’ at graduation.”



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High School Atheist Gives TEDxYouth Talk About the Obstacles He Faced in Forming a Secular Student Group

Jordan Balderas just graduated from high school, and he spent his senior year trying to start a group for atheists and Agnostics at his school called “Youth for Truth.” (The name, he says, suggests that they’re searching for truth, not that they alone possess it.)

He was successful… but, in a talk for a TEDxYouth event, Jordan spoke about all the hoops he had to jump through to make that group a reality:



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MIT May Be the Next School to Have a Humanist Chaplain

Last month, MIT announced that graduation ceremonies would no longer have a religious invocation:

In response to recent requests that the Commencement Committee reconsider the nature of the invocation that opens the Exercises on Killian Court, we first gathered input from the student body via a survey that yielded nearly 600 responses. The next step was a meeting to review the survey data that included student leaders Anika Gupta and Sid Rao as well as representatives from the Secular Society of MIT. From this conversation and from the responses of students to the survey, consensus emerged that a neutral, non-religious invocation would be welcome and broadly appealing. Chaplain to the Institute Robert Randolph was engaged to discuss the universal nature of this message, and the desires expressed by a wide range of student voices.

The committee thanks the students who participated in the process and all those who shared their thoughts via the survey. In 2014 and beyond, Dr. Randolph will deliver an inclusive, secular invocation in which he calls on graduating students to reflect on their education with gratitude and hope as they commence to work wisely, creatively, and effectively toward the betterment of humankind.

Respectfully,

Chancellor Eric Grimson, Chair
Professor Les Norford, Commencement Marshal
Ms. Gayle Gallagher, Executive Officer for Commencement
Commencement Committee
May 9, 2014

The impetus for that change was an opinion piece in the The Tech written by the former president of the Secular Society of MIT, Aaron Scheinberg.

Now, Scheinberg is off and running on his next big project: Creating MIT’s first Humanist Chaplaincy.

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My Book About Young Atheists Was Handed Out at Kentucky High Schools Yesterday

Earlier this year, Gideons International requested and received permission to leave Bibles at a Kentucky public elementary school in Casey County so that interested children could pick them up.

In response, the Tri-State Freethinkers group decided they also wanted to play the game by leaving books promoting Humanism at the same school. The district had no choice but to allow them to do it.

Since the Gideons group has reach beyond just that district, the Freethinkers made similar requests elsewhere — and they received permission from the Boone County school system to give away copies of a book that I wrote: The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide.

Yesterday, on the last day of classes, the book was distributed at a few different high schools in the district (much to the chagrin of Christians like Ken Ham):



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