Great news for the Secular Movement. The SSA and FFRF have created a new partnership. (Disclosure – I am on the board of the SSA)
The Secular Student Alliance, an organization devoted to empowering nonreligious students, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to promoting state-church separation and freethought, announced a joint initiative today to connect students with legal assistance when their rights are violated.
As the Secular Student Alliance has helped more High School groups start they have encountered more problems. (See here for 10 Easy Steps To Start A High School Atheist Club!) The FFRF has also received more school complaints.
In the past academic year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation addressed 405 public school-related complaints, up from 54 in 2009. One increasingly common complaint concerns administrators blocking students trying to start Secular Student Alliance clubs at their school.
More students are stepping up and starting groups in their high schools. Administrators may not know the law and will block the formation of the new group. Despite these problems there are now around 50 high school groups but, there are over 25,000 high schools in America. There is a lot of room to grow!
“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.”
The Equal Access Act was passed by Congress in 1984 and give ALL groups equal access!
The Act provides that if a school receives federal aid and has a “limited open forum,” or at least one student-led non-curriculum club that meets outside of class time, it must allow additional such clubs to be organized, and must give them equal access to meeting spaces and school publications.
With this partner ship the two groups will educate students of their legal rights and connect them to a team of attorneys to help them fight for their rights.
“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.”
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