The Secular Student Alliance (SSA) is a group of nonreligious students on campus. Many people may be unfamiliar with what they do at U of L, but they play a very important role in the lives of some students.
They mainly advocate for separation of church and state, proper science education in schools, and providing a safe space for nonreligious students to talk about their beliefs and meet other people who may share in their beliefs.
They used to be known as the Society for Secular Students, but they are now affiliated with the Secular Student Alliance, which is a nationwide organization that allows them to network with similar groups at other schools. Locally, they have been doing a lot of work with the SSA at Jefferson County Technical College, which just started up this semester, to help get the word out about their group.
Even though this group may sound completely unfamiliar to you, but you have probably seen them on campus without knowing it.
“We do the hot chocolate and lemonade in the humanities quad to get the word out about our group,” said Tim Heilers, the president of SSA at U of L. “We just set up a table, and we used to call it ‘Ask an Atheist’ so that people could just come up and ask us any questions that they have.”
One of the biggest events that the SSA participates in is called Send an Atheist to Church, which is a week long fundraising event in the spring. For an entire week, they have three separate jars labeled Baptist, Catholic, and Islam, and throughout the week, people are able to donate money to whichever religion they choose. At the end of the week, an atheist member of the group attends the Church of whichever jar earned the most money, and all of the money is donated to charity. Some other events that they participate in include Darwin Day in February, Bible studies throughout the year, and the Kentucky Free Thought Convention, which is a summertime event in which secular groups from around the state gather and listen to various speakers.
A misconception that people may have about the SSA is that the group is exclusive to students who identify as Atheist or Agnostic. The group is open to any student of any religious background. The SSA partners with a lot of other groups on campus as well, such as Shades (the black LGBT group), Cards United Against Sweatshops, and other RSOs.
One thing that group wanted to make clear is that they want people of all religious backgrounds to be involved with the group.
“Anyone is welcome to our meetings, you don’t have to be an Atheist or an Agnostic or anything like that,” said Heilers. “You can just come and say what you want to say or listen to other people speak. A lot of times we just talk about philosophy and epistemology, or just interesting things we can think of. “