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Sep 28 2012

News from the Secular Coalition for America

Secular Coalition for Pennsylvania to Officially Launch Sunday

Thu, 09/27/2012 – 14:42

Washington, D.C—The Secular Coalition for America is excited to announce the official launch of the Secular Coalition for Pennsylvania, expected to officially launch on Sunday. The Secular Coalition for Pennsylvania is the third chapter to launch as part of the SCA’s greater effort to establish 50 new state chapters throughout the country this year.

The Secular Coalition for America is a lobbying organization representing nontheistic Americans and advocating protecting and strengthening the secular character of our government. The Secular Coalition for Pennsylvania will lobby state lawmakers in favor of a strong separation of religion and government.

Secular Coalition for Pennsylvania Executive Board Co-Chairs, Justin Vacula, 24 of Scranton and Brian Fields, 35 of Newville are expected to sign the “Memo of Understanding” that marks the official launch of the chapter, on Sunday at the PA State Atheist/Humanist Conference:

Date: Sunday, September 30, 2012 Time: 3:45 and 4:30pm Location: PA State Atheist/Humanist Conference, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Harrisburg, PA

“With legislation like the ‘Year of the Bible’ in Pennsylvania, it’s clear now, more than ever, that we need a secular voice speaking to our state government,” said Fields. “What sets the Secular Coalition for America apart is their dedication to directly supporting the separation of church and state, by speaking directly to those legislators that are responsible for protecting it.”

A recent Pew Forum study indicated that 28 percent of Pennsylvania residents do not express an absolute belief in God, and 46 percent disagreed that “religion is very important to their lives.” Another Pew study found that nationally 54% of Americans feel that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters, and 38% says that there has been too much expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders – a number that has grown to its highest point since the Pew Research Center began asking the question more than a decade ago.

Vacula said he sees the role of the Secular Coalition for Pennsylvania as protecting that separation of religion and government—to the benefit of all Pennsylvanians.

“Pennsylvania is notorious for recklessly breaching the walls of church/state separation,” said Vacula. “Secularists in Pennsylvania need a voice to counter pious politicians and inform lawmakers that infusing religion with government is unacceptable.”

Since June, the SCA successfully held initial organizing calls for new chapters in 38 states. The remaining 12 states will hold initial organizing calls in October. The Secular Coalition plans to have all chapters up and running in every state, D.C. and Puerto Rico, by the end of the year. A Secular Coalition affiliate is already functional in Arizona and the first chapter, in Colorado, was announced earlier this summer. The Secular Coalition for South Carolina is also launching today.

Edwina Rogers, Secular Coalition for America Executive Director said she is excited to see the Pennsylvania chapter launch. The state chapters play an integral role at the state level, as well as the national level, she said.

“In our current U.S. Congress, 38 percent of Representatives held local office first,” said Rogers. “When we get to law makers at the local level, not only are we going to help curb some of the most egregious legislation we’re seeing, but we are also building relationships and working to educate legislators on our issues, before they even get to Washington.”

The Secular Coalition, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, represents 11 nontheistic member organizations and has as traditionally focused advocacy efforts on federal legislation. The SCA will continue to lobby at the federal level, while state chapters will lobby at the state level. Participation in the Secular Coalition for Pennsylvania is open to all Pennsylvanians that support a strong separation of religion and government, regardless of their personal religious beliefs.

For chapter co-chair bios and additional chapter information, please visit: http://secular.org/states/chapters/pennsylvania

28 comments

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  1. 1
    frogmistress

    But, the leaders have all denounced sexism, so there is no problem in the movement, right?

    I mean, just because the new co-chair writes for a site like A Voice for Men, doesn’t mean there is a sexism problem, right?

    Right?

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    Fer sher.

  3. 3
    Kausik Datta

    Just to make sure, this is the same Justin Vacula that we all know and love, right?

  4. 4
    Stephanie Zvan

    Were there really no other people in Pennsylvania willing to step up that the SCA had to accept someone so unprofessional for this job? They want to be represented by someone who harasses people on Twitter to the point where they have to block him to end conversations? They want to be represented by someone who will represent his positions as dishonestly as Vacula did with:

    1. Ophelia’s bizarre emails before TAM. Sure they sound fine–if you read only the parts that sound fine.

    2. The slur on Jason as being “homophobic”. Yes, what he said can sound bad–if you ignore the fact that Jason retracted it because it could be interpreted in ways he didn’t mean.

    3. The fact that I and others have been cyberstalked for months by the slimepitters. What do you mean I can’t be stalked if I’m a public figure? Who do you think stalking laws in, say, California were created to protect?

    4. His use of copyrighted images to harass Surly Amy. No, you don’t get to use someone’s photos unless you’re critiquing them as a photographer.

    And then there’s the fact that he’s willing to team up with, as far as I can tell, literally anyone who will promote him. Does the SCA really want to say that one of their state co-chairs has participated in two sites that serve no other purpose than opposition to feminism and harassment of vocal feminists? Who else is Vacula going to buddy up to while representing the SCA?

    I was really heartened after talking to Herb Silverman on the radio a few weeks ago, but this…this makes me wonder what else the SCA overlooked in its hurry to get state chapters in place.

  5. 5
    frogmistress

    Either they didn’t look into him at all or they did and just didn’t care what they found. I really hope its the former, because the latter is just too disappointing.

  6. 6
    frogmistress

    I typed ladder. Awesome.

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    But I corrected it before you mentioned it. Your secret could have been safe! :D

  8. 8
    frogmistress

    You are so awesome like that.

  9. 9
    Stephanie Zvan

    Oh, right. Vacula’s also the person who posted Surly Amy’s address to one of those anti-feminist sites. I can’t tell you whether it was maliciousness or astoundingly bad judgment, but I can’t imagine why the SCA would embrace either.

  10. 10
    Ryan M

    Having been on other state chapter calls, I can tell you that my opinion was as follows: SCA is actively looking for people to willingly step into some of the state chapter chair positions, and quick. This desire is strong enough that in contentious states they will ask few questions if it means getting the chapter set up in time for the election. This will very likely come back to bite them later, but outside the skeptic community Justin Vacula isn’t likely known well, so in the short run it gets the SCA their chapter and gets a blurb in the news…

  11. 11
    Ophelia Benson

    My chief personal reason for feeling profound contempt for Vacula is Stephanie’s item # 1 – that brazenly dishonest podcast in which he and Karla Porter discussed the two bizarro emails I got a few weeks before TAM. He read two of the most benign lines and then asked indignantly, “does that sound threatening to you?!” Porter, naturally, said no.

    Well that didn’t sound threatening to me either, but that isn’t all there was. The line that hinted I might actually be shot was the one that made it seem possibly threatening.

    If it had been a slam-dunk that the emails were not threatening, I don’t think Tim Farley would have wasted his time and energy phoning the guy who sent them.

    I protested to Vacula at the time, and he refused to correct anything. I think he’s contemptible.

  12. 12
    Ophelia Benson

    Kim Rippere has a view.

    http://rippere.com/2012/09/misogyny-and-the-sca/

  13. 13
    Aratina Cage

    This is what happens when you appoint a Republican shill to the top position.

  14. 14
    Stephanie Zvan

    Here’s the post I wrote explaining how badly Vacula got his legal matters wrong in using one of Amy’s photographs to harass her: http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/08/17/it-isnt-enough-to-feel-righteous/

  15. 15
    Stephanie Zvan

    And what he claimed was not cyberstalking (by the anti-feminist site he’s posted at regularly and where he posted Amy’s address): http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/06/28/is-cyberstalking-abuse/

  16. 16
    simonsays

    Vacula has also written an article for misogynist hate site AVoiceForMen.com in August. Not sure if this was mentioned yet or not.

  17. 17
    miraxpath

    Those who were at the Women in Secularism conference should contact Rogers – she spoke there right? – to tell her what a colossal mistake she’s made. Vacula’s sort should be shut out of any leadership role in the community.

    I like JT’s blog on this issue and the way he has dealt with the MRA’s who have turned up so far.

  18. 18
    Aerik

    their twitter is @seculardotorg

    Let’s all protest this!

  19. 19
    Aratina Cage

    Over at JT’s (WWJTD — thanks miraxpath), Rogers has responded that she did not hire Vacula. Oh no. She just accepted his offering to volunteer. And she’ll accept yours, too! *great big strained smile*

    Says Rogers,

    We are willing to work with as many affiliated and allied groups and individuals as possible.

    No word from her about where she stands on MRAs like Vacula being welcomed into leadership spots.

  20. 20
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh, that’s interesting. [dashes off to read]

  21. 21
    Stephanie Zvan

    Since one of the usual natterers is asking in my blog comments for me to back up Vacula talking about Jason as homophobic, I’ll just leave this here, where I made the original comment: http://www.justinvacula.com/2012/06/blogger-lousy-canuck-homophobic-comment.html

  22. 22
    skeptifem

    just a quick note

    1. Ophelia’s bizarre emails before TAM. Sure they sound fine–if you read only the parts that sound fine.

    I was reading a book about personal safety and security and was looking forward to the part about threat assessment specifically because of the emails to ophelia. The author (gavin de becker) has a firm that does threat/risk assessment for security purposes. It turns out that virtually nothing can be said based on the content of a threat, it is absolutely based on the context. The author used examples of threats that sound fine if you don’t know the context, like love notes written in poetic language (they were from a 50 year old man to a 10 year old girl), and threatening sounding comments made between family members (who had a running joke that had been going on for years). No one really knows why that guy wrote what he did so it is up in the air what it really meant. I find it curious that no one who tried to dismiss the email as non-threatening cited any experts or evidence, they simply said that they wouldn’t feel threatened. It turns out there are people who actually look into these questions…

  23. 23
    Ophelia Benson

    Well quite. They also pretend I took one look and screamed “THREATS!!!!!” and that was all there was to it. It was the opposite of that. I thought the first message was funny, and I sent an amused (and friendly) “calm down” message to the guy who sent it. It was the second message that contained the possibly-threatening bit – and I simply couldn’t figure out what it was. It could have been flattering hyper-concern; or mockery; or a sarcastically veiled threat. I couldn’t tell!

    I couldn’t tell, I couldn’t tell, I couldn’t tell.

    I spent a couple of hours in that state, getting more stressed every second, and decided I did not want to live like that for the next few weeks, so I told DJ I was out.

    Fuck all the people who didn’t have to live like that for a few weeks, and presume to know better than I did. Fuck Vacula for making a podcast out of that.

  24. 24
    PatrickG

    infusing religion with government

    [Pedantry alert]

    Dictionary definition!

    (1) Fill; pervade: “her work is infused with an anger”.
    (2) Instill (a quality) in someone or something: “infused good humor into his voice”.

    It should be self evident that Vacula has misused a word, thus assuming the mantle of Shall Not Be Listened To Ever.

    If not, let us merely observe that as gin can be infused with blackberries, so too would religion be best infused with government. They might have to abide by anti-discrimination laws, as just one example.

    [End Pedantry Alert]

    That said, I’m mildly incredulous that Vacula was let near any sort of leadership position, given his extremely public history. Did SCA not even use The Google before appointing him? It’s not exactly news that he’s extremely controversial, in quite a disturbing way.

  25. 25
    KellyM

    Just sent an email via SCA’s contact page informing them that I won’t consider supporting them, due to their association with Justin Vacula. So sad that someone with Vacula’s lack of integrity is considered an atheist leader by some.

  26. 26
    anthonyzarat

    The bold and egalitarian choice of Vacula is a breath of fresh air in a world where militant feminism has silenced every voice that discusses the serious issues that face men, boys, and fathers. Congratulations on your courage and conviction.

  27. 27
    PatrickG

    @anthonyzarat:

    Missing /sarcasm tags, or did you really fail to realize that this is not a site/community that’s been friendly to Justin Vacula?

    If sincere, congratulations on your lack of research and intelligence.

  28. 28
    LeftSidePositive

    #30 is absolute Poe perfection, no matter what the author actually meant, because it just reads so smoothly and convincingly both ways!!

  1. 29
    Open letter to the Secular Coalition for America?

    [...] saying that it brings me no joy to write this email.  That being said, I just read that you have appointed two co-chairs for their new Pennsylvania chapter; Brian Fields and Justin Vacula.I know Brian Fields and he is excellent.  I suspect he is one of [...]

  2. 30
    Petition to the Secular Coalition | Almost Diamonds

    [...] now you’ve heard that Justin Vacula has been named one of the co-chairs of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Secular Coalition for America. You may be among the people who are upset about this appointment. If you are, a petition has been [...]

  3. 31
    Why? | Butterflies and Wheels

    [...] of the Secular Coalition for America. They both separetly chatted with her face to face about the appointment of Justin Vacula as co-director of the Pennsylvania chapter of the SCA. They also asked questions during the q&a after her [...]

  4. 32
    Holding clay feet to witch-burning fires | Lousy Canuck

    [...] Which brings me to my next point. The elephant in the room. Justin Vacula, and his appointment as co-chair of the Secular Coalition for America’s Pennsylvania branch. [...]

  5. 33
    Petitioned! | Almost Diamonds

    [...] opinions. Feel free to ask for any of them to be backed up. Many already have been in the comments here and additional detail given in the post here. For the reasons listed above, we believe that [...]

  6. 34
    I Hate Having to Say This, But….”F$&@ the Secular Coalition for America!” « Foster Disbelief

    [...] I went into research mode, and quickly found out that no, it wasn’t a sick joke.  Also from Butterflies and Wheels: Secular Coalition for Pennsylvania to Officially Launch [...]

  7. 35
    Petition Week: The Comments | Almost Diamonds

    [...] Knowing that you are a skeptic par-excellence, of the first-water even, I hope and, dare I say it, expect that you will react with alacrity to my respectful request for evidence to justify your various claims, notably this one from your comment on Butterflies & Wheels: [...]

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