It was during a counter-protest for the Genocide Awareness Project in Fall 2007 when Austin Wulf and Barry Greenstein met to begin the first stages of forming the Secular Society of Temple University.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Officially recognized on campus in Spring 2007, SSTU was created in order to advocate and promote the separation of church and state.
“We are acting in line with the wishes of our Founding Fathers, who also wanted this to be a secular and pluralist democracy,” said Greenstein, a senior biological anthropology major and vice president of the organization. “You can’t have freedom of religion without freedom from religion. It’s a matter of sine qua non, without which cannot be.”
SSTU promotes scientific ideologies and provides support for secular students and their allies.
“We are not anti-religious. In fact, we have quite a few religious people in our group,” said Wulf, president of SSTU and a sophomore philosophy major.
While SSTU stemmed from the idea of an atheist group, both Wulf and Greenstein agreed that a secular group would make it more inclusive.
SSTU’s adviser is a faculty member in the religion department.
Wulf said secularism is observing life in such a way that religion doesn’t have a huge impact in it, especially in politics.
In order to promote its ideals, SSTU hosts events, promotions, lectures and discussions. Every other Thursday during meetings, time is set aside for discussions to enhance the critical thinking of members. One of the current hot topics is Sarah Palin and the upcoming election, Wulf said.
As an emerging organization, its first step was creating a Facebook group. They started gaining membership and interest through the online social networking site, and once interest mounted, the group became an affiliate of the Secular Student Alliance and the Center for Inquiry.
According to the Secular Student Alliance’s Web site, its purpose is to educate high school and college students on the “value of scientific reason and intellectual basis of secularism in its atheistic and humanistic manifestations.”
The Center for Inquiry encompasses the same ideals. According to its Web site, “Wherever possible, inquiry should provide rational guidelines for thought and conduct.”
Since the group is still in its beginning stages, it has not participated in any official events, but has plans for upcoming months. It intends to host a fundraising event called Campus Paranormal Challenge, in which students attempt to prove such things as poltergeists and extrasensory perception, Greenstein said. SSTU also plans to participate in a counter-protest on campus against the Repent America group in the upcoming weeks.
The organization meets on the third floor of Tuttleman Learning Center every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., but is looking into a more permanent location.
Amanda Fries can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.