Sunday, September 15, 2013

Atheist educational nonprofit advocacy group hopes to create "safe zones" in high schools to protect non-theists from bullying.

Courtesy of the Atlantic:  

The Secular Student Alliance (SSA) is an educational nonprofit advocacy group. They have 393 affiliated student groups on U.S. high school and college campuses. That number has doubled in the last four years. Their stated purpose is to “organize and empower nonreligious students” and “foster successful grassroots campus groups which provide a welcoming community for secular students to discuss their views and promote their secular values.” 

The Secular Safe Zone initiative is designed to create “safe, neutral places for students to talk about their doubts without fear of religious bullying.” That’s done by recruiting "allies” and training them to recognize and respond to anti-atheist bullying. The initiative is modeled off of Gay Alliance’s LGBT Safe Zone program, which was started several years ago, in that it allows mentors at schools to explicitly demarcate spaces where “students know that bullying won’t be tolerated.” 

School faculty members who affiliate with the program never have to say a thing; they hang the yellow, green, pink, and blue emblem, and students come to them. 

“It's shocking how often people tell secular students that they don't belong in America,” Jesse Galef, communications director for the SSA told me. “Sometimes there are threats of violence against students who openly identify as atheists … We’re calling on supportive role models nationwide to stand up for these students." That can include “teachers, guidance counselors, librarians, RAs, even chaplains, who want to create safe places for people to discuss their doubts and be open about their identities.”

Now I was fortunate enough in high school to be me, so I did not have to worry about being bullied because of my lack of religious belief which I openly discussed with many of my friends. 

However I was, in those day, mostly curious and not terribly confrontational. I was more focused on learning why other people believed what they did rather than wanting to dissuade them from their beliefs.

I think today, with conversations becoming more open, and religious organizations working overtime to vilify Atheists, that kids DO need a place where they can feel safe to discuss their lack of belief, or even discuss things about religion that confuses them. I would suggest that not EVERYBODY who seeks out this "Safe Zone" would necessarily become an Atheist or even an agnostic, just like not everybody who attends a church becomes a Christian.

Personally I love the idea that they are modeling this on the LGBT movement as I have always believed that we represent one of the most reviled minorities in this country, and that we will continue to be targeted and marginalized until we stand up for ourselves and each other.

I do not want to take ANYTHING away from my religious brothers and sisters, I simply do not want to have their version of faith shoved down my throat nor be judged by their narrow ideas of morality. I should also be able to support politicians who think like I do, or at the very least support my right to do so. (And I mean REALLY support it!)

If I have any faith at all it is that there are far MORE atheists out there than we are led to believe, and that once it is more acceptable to identify themselves as such, they will start pouring out of the woodwork and, dare I say, stepping out of the closet.

Now where have we seen that before?


  1. Anonymous4:28 AM

    Living in the Bible Belt, I feel sure this group will never be allowed in our schools. I get so frustrated when every gathering, graduation , sporting event, even school board meetings, start and end with a prayer. When I voiced my objection I was told that it is voluntary. How is standing in a football stadium while the lord's prayer blasts from the speakers voluntary?

  2. It sounds constructive to me. And I urge reasonable people to get between bullies and their victims; use whatever means come to mind, just defuse the situation. Most people are willing to watch bullying and do nothing; I never understood that. Be an ally; you’ll like yourself.

  3. Anonymous6:04 AM

    I am an atheist. Even atheists bully other atheists.

    1. A. J. Billings6:44 AM

      Yes, some people will always act like idiots, but that doesn't mean that you are going to get away with a throw away comment like that.

      Athiests still can't run for public office in many states, at least openly. The prejudice against non-religious people is still open, hostile, and painfully present.

      In a SECULAR Republic like the USA, we should have, and actually NEED advocacy groups for freedom FROM religion, especially for teens because of peer pressure.

      Athiesm is a religion like "off" is a TV channel

    2. Anonymous10:19 AM

      It was the religious kids that were bullied in my school. Joining the bible club was a complete kiss of death, socially. That being said, most of the kids that were in the bible club didn't have much of a chance socially anyway because their parents kept them under lock and key and the most exciting thing they were allowed to attend was a booze-free church potluck.

    3. Anonymous6:58 AM

      Atheists bully other atheists for being atheists?
      Do tell.

  4. Anonymous7:10 AM

    Well how do you save children from this???

    Mom, dad planned child sex abuse before kids were born

    Jonathan and Sarah Adleta's children were doomed to a life of perverse cruelty before they were even born.

    Jonathan Adleta, a former Marine officer, dreamed of the day he could have "daddy-daughter sex." After Sarah Adleta became pregnant with a daughter, he said he would marry her only if she agreed to let him carry out that desire. When the couple had a son, Sarah Adleta was expected to have sexual encounters with him.

    In an Orlando federal courtroom this week, prosecutors and witnesses described, in disturbing and graphic detail, the heinous exploitation and abuse the couple's toddlers endured at the hands of their parents — even after they divorced.

    Jonathan Adleta lived his dream until March, when the FBI received a tip that his 29-year-old former wife was communicating with a North Carolina man who was arrested on charges of having sex with a child.

    That's when federal authorities began unraveling a cross-country web of sexual abuse that culminated in convictions for both parents — and could land 25-year-old Jonathan Adleta in prison for life.

    Sarah Adleta, a University of Central Florida student, pleaded guilty in May to two charges of sexual exploitation of a minor. She faces 15 to 30 years in federal prison and will be sentenced next month. On Thursday, jurors found Jonathan Adleta guilty of two child-sex charges. He'll be sentenced in December and faces 10 years to life in prison.

    The charges against him stem from abuse that occurred in December, when Sarah Adleta and the couple's two children traveled to his home in Oklahoma so he could have sexual contact with his daughter.

    But to tell the Adletas' story, prosecutors had to take jurors to the beginning.

    In opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Gable characterized Adleta as a father who had a "sexual appetite" for his own daughter.

    Sarah Adleta testified that when she began dating Jonathan in 2008 — she was living with her family in Oviedo and he in an apartment in the Goldenrod area — he began showing her stories about fathers and daughters having sex, to gauge her interest in the possibility.

    Their daughter was born in March 2009, and Sarah Adleta became pregnant with their son not long after.

    Sarah Adleta, who testified for several hours this week wearing Orange County Jail garb, said she initially struggled with the concept and thought Jonathan Adleta would lose interest in it.

    But she loved him, needed his financial security and said she would do whatever it took to not lose him, she told jurors.

    Gable told jurors the couple made sex with their children "part of their parenting plan.",0,5658037.story

  5. Anonymous8:07 AM

    Not take anything away from? Be lucid, we do indeed. While they should ALWAYS be able to hold onto their skybuddy beliefs or the that about the powers of the rabbit's foot in their pocket - I do want to take away from them the public acceptance that these beliefs are rational. And THAT is why they fight - once the irrationality of their beliefs is acknowledged by the public, no more religion. Agnosticism, maybe, but believers will be looked at more like schizophrenics.

  6. Anonymous8:11 AM

    It isn't just for atheists. I know somebody whose daughter was subject of a mass attempt to convert, in her senior year of high school. She was a Christian, but apparently students didn't feel she was the right kind of Christian- too mainstream. They prayed around her at lunchtime, taking turns some somebody was always praying aloud. They followed her, praying aloud for her, between classes. She was a strong girl and after being surprised, she ignored them, figuring the best policy is to show them how ineffective their prayers were. After graduation- I expect she hasn't visited any of those former "friends."


    1. Anonymous9:13 AM

      That was a clear case of an infrigement on her constitutional rights.

    2. Anonymous10:22 AM

      That behavior got your ass kicked in my high school. No one was going to put up with that sort of harassment and if you didn't fight back, someone else would be glad to do it for you.

  7. Anonymous12:05 PM

    Sometimes when I read this blog I feel grateful that I live in Massachusetts. I was born in Missouri and moved here at six. My husband teases me when I say we should move somewhere cheaper like NC or TN. And he reminds me he is too much of a yankee himself to move south.

    My sister lives in NH. One day we were walking in downtown Littleton and a woman tried to hand me a pamphlet about supporting a right wing candidate I said, "no thanks" she says "I feel sorry for you" I said "your the one who will be sorry" My sisters who are apolitical were laughing there butts off. Everyone who knows me know that I am extremely liberal and outspoken about it. Some of my husbands friends have a "no politics" rule when we get together. LOL

    Anyway I have never had any type of religiosity forced on me here in MA.

  8. Anonymous1:15 PM

    I honestly believe that the US is becoming less and less Christian. I'm in my 70's and haven't been one since my teenage years, but it assuredly wasn't something we talked about back in those days.

    I hope the high school kids (atheist) are not bullied by the religious kids, but would expect some to do so.

    I'm especially happy my children are raised and wonderful adults and not in the world of a teenager today! And, yes I have offspring that do not believe in god!


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