by Mat Pauley
The following article is from the Secular
Humanist Bulletin, Volume 19, Number 3.
Dear CFA members:
As I write this letter, August is ending. Not only does this mean that television networks are gearing up for their new fall line-ups, but it also means that classes will begin anew in a righteous attempt to prevent you, as students in high school or college, from watching them. To me, it means that I will now succeed Debbie Goddard as the Campus Freethought Alliance (CFA) president.
I would like to begin my tenure by recognizing Debbie for all of her efforts, not only over the last year, but since she began working with CFA years ago. She has worked tirelessly editing various CFA publications, has made herself available to many students seeking advice and assistance, and has volunteered countless hours on other CFA projects. But don’t fret: Debbie will still be around, working with me and CFA professional staff in order to launch our new “service committees” later this fall. Thank you, Debbie. I’ll work hard to fill your shoes.
Now, I suppose that I should introduce myself. My name is Mathew Pauley. I have been recently graduated from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) where I studied both philosophy and political science. For two years at MTSU I was president of the CFA affiliate group, which was also an affiliate of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Due to my position there, I had the pleasure of annoying CFA staffers DJ Grothe and Austin Dacey for organizing support, often at least once a week (something I suggest everyone get in the habit of doing). Working with CFA, we brought numerous speakers to our campus, which helped us grow as a group. After a while I became familiar with the ways to take advantage of the resources CFA makes available, on my campus as well as nationally.
I will begin my first year of law school at Marquette University in Milwaukee this semester, and I also will be seeking a Masters’ in bioethics from the Medical College of Wisconsin. Also noteworthy: I am originally from New Jersey; I returned this summer and occasionally volunteered in the Metro-New York office of the Center for Inquiry located in Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.
Now that you’ve learned a little bit about me, it is time to discuss the upcoming school year and some CFA developments. But first: Welcome to the 2003–04 school year!
New Supporting Organizations for CFA
CFA has grown to include nearly 150 groups worldwide and remains the world’s foremost organization promoting humanism, skepticism, rationalism, and science literacy on campus. Until recently, CFA was solely a project of the Council for Secular Humanism, but it now draws support from all of the organizations at the Center for Inquiry headquarters, such as the Council, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
(CSICOP), and the CFI Institute.
Some background on Center for Inquiry: CFI has branches across the United States and in other countries and is committed to “promoting science, reason, and freedom of inquiry in all areas of human endeavor.” It is this mission that unites all of the organizations at the Center for Inquiry, even though each has its own unique mission, too. Headquartered at CFI are the Council for Secular Humanism, the nation’s leading organization for ethical, nonreligious people; CSICOP, a leading organization that deals with science, fringe-science, and the paranormal; and other worldwide public education and advocacy organizations. Then there is the CFA, now drawing support from all organizations at the Center for Inquiry.
I realize that many CFA affiliate groups from campuses such as the new CFA affiliate group at UCLA to Rhodes University in South Africa may have different areas of focus: one campus group may be specifically interested in promoting humanistic, atheistic, or agnostic viewpoints on its campus; another campus group may be devoted solely to the critical inquiry of paranormal claims and science advocacy. Still another group may focus on the separation of church (or mosque) and state and human rights. CFA supports all these causes, promoting critical inquiry into all the purveyors of nonsense in our society. All CFA affiliate groups are united by a commitment to inquiring into what Paul Kurtz has called the “reigning mythologies of the day.” Regardless of what your group focuses on, there is a lot of work being done to suppress free and critical inquiry on college campuses, and CFA stands ready to help you respond.
Getting Involved with CFA
This fall, CFA has plans to visit CFA members and groups at campuses in St Louis, Missouri; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota; Washington, D.C.; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Austin, Texas; and Charleston, South Carolina. Be sure to be on the lookout for CFA if you live in one of these cities.
Since last semester, seven new groups have been founded or have affiliated with the CFA. Also, in that same period of time, seventeen (!) CFA members have begun the process of forming a CFA affiliate at their campus. Look at the listing of these campuses above, and, if you attend one of these schools, go to CFA’s Web site (www.campusfreethought.org) and contact the group or “prospective group” and get involved!
And even if you don’t attend one of these campuses, I invite you to visit our Web site to see what obstacles have recently come up to challenge free, critical inquiry. You’ll find media alerts that suggest action in response to irresponsible claims in the media. There are also action alerts that suggest ways that CFA supporters can quickly respond to legislators regarding various social and political challenges that face our community and nation. If you peruse the “Action Alerts” section of the site, you’ll find calls for action for everything from protecting therapeutic cloning to ways you can urge your legislators to prevent certain “religious extremists” from being appointed to judgeships—all designed so that you can contact your legislators easily, just by typing in your zip code. These are all definitely some issues your group can focus on, in addition to many others.
There is also the matter of the religious Right. I speak not only of extreme Christian groups—there are also fundamentalist Jewish and Islamic groups that seek to impose their beliefs and morals on others. CFA is almost alone in resisting this growth of the religious Right on campuses. Ultimately, the CFA is here for you. And if you happen to not be at school anymore (if you’re an off-campus supporter of CFA), visit the Web site and join anyway; there are many ways you can get involved, too. And besides, it’s free to join!
I am proud to be a part of CFA and look I forward to working hard along with you, fulfilling my role as CFA student president during this upcoming year.
Mat Pauley, incoming CFA student president, studies law at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
New Groups Since Spring 2003 Semester
University of Alberta
University of Oregon
University of Pittsburgh
Eziama High School (in Nigeria)
If you attend one of these schools, visit the CFA Web site to contact your new CFA affiliate group!
Up and Coming
Since the end of last semester, we have been contacted by students at the following campuses expressing enthusiastic interest in starting a CFA affiliate group:
California State University, Northridge
Los Medanos College (Pittsburg, California)
Middle Georgia College (Charleston, South Carolina)
Mt. Hood Community College (Gresham, Oregon)
North Carolina State University
Roger Williams University (Bristol, Rhode Island)
St. Cloud State University
University of Arkansas
University of California at Santa Barbara
University of Nebraska-Omaha
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
University of North Carolina, Greensboro
University of Western Ontario
Calallen High School (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Eufaula High School (Eufaula, Oklahoma)
Fernandina Beach High School (Fernandina Beach, Florida)
If you attend one of these schools, visit the CFA Web site to be put in touch with other CFA members at your campus who are working to found a CFA affiliate group. CFA makes available a variety of free resources to help you!