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Posted on Sep 27, 2012 in separation of church and state | 18 comments

Introducing the co-chair of the Secular Coalition for America’s state chapter…

I will be working with the Secular Coalition for America as the co-chair of the Pennsylvania state chapter alongside Brian Fields – President of the group Pennsylvania Nonbelievers.

My efforts to defend the constitutional principle of separation of religion and government in the United States will now be expanding from lone activism or that on behalf of the local community group — the NEPA Freethought Society — of which I am the co-organizer and spokesperson. I look forward to advocating on behalf of secular Pennsylvanians and those throughout the United States in my new position with the Secular Coalition for America.

Below is a copy of the press release from the Secular Coalition for America’s website. Find the link here.

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

CONTACT: Lauren Anderson Youngblood, Communications Manager
O:  202-299-1091 ext. 205 
C:  202-630-9725
E: lauren@secular.org

Contact the Secular Coalition for Pennsylvania via email at: secularcoalitionofPennsylvania@gmail.com 
Reach Chapter Co-Chair, Justin Vacula at  570-855-3085
Reach Chapter Co-Chair, Brian Fields at  717-585-0779

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  • Congratulations Justin! Keep up the good work!

  • Congratulations.

    I see you’re getting some grief from haters. Ignore ’em, you’ll do fine!

  • Considering your previous actions and the fact that you haven’t seemed to make any moves toward self improvement, I am saddened by this decision. I hope you use this opportunity to improve yourself, and the way you act.

    • LondonSuede

      What previous actions? Justin is miles ahead of the rabble over at a certain unmentionable site beginning with ‘F’. Justin actually does things for the community, and just because he refuses to join in the groupthink affecting some insignificant members of the atheist/skeptic community, that does not make him a bad person.

      I’ve seen a lot of accusations and no evidence to back up their claims. The people levelling the claims are hypocrites and vindictive individuals, who often join together to target other individuals they don’t “approve” of.

      The only allegation of any substance is the fact that Justin did post a link to a site revealing somebody’s address. However, there is some important context always missing from the narrative from this, namely, Justin was accused of using a DMCA counternotice to gain an address. Justin merely posted that the address was already available. Ironically, the person whose address was “revealed”, used a DMCA counternotice herself to reveal the identity of a Twitter user. However, this fact appears to be missing from the narrative as well!

      A long-standing tactic that the spiteful individuals after Justin use, is the “guilt by association” gambit. Because Justin posts on a site deemed by them to be “misogynist” (because they don’t infantilise women, and they have a habit of calling out their hypocrisy and lies), Justin himself must be a “misoygnist”. If you point out that they are closely associated (best friends as well) with a man who sent threats of violence to a fellow blogger, they stick their fingers in their ears and pretend it isn’t true. The “guilt by assocation” tactic is suddenly not so apparent.

      So, ‘Ben SweaterVest’, I suggest you brush up on the actual facts before you step in it again. That would be an improvement.

      Anyway, congratulations Justin and don’t let the FTBullies wear you down.

      • bluharmony

        Excellent, clear, and informative reply to the sadly malinformed SweaterVest.

      • With all due respect, I actually do know what I am talking about. My opinion is completely separate from any author at FTB. I am also a young secular activist (I have spoken at the same events as Justin). That being said, He has had SEVERAL issues of what I consider VERY poor conduct. I dont even hold the fact that he is an author for an unsavory website against him. What I do hold against him is his conduct in such issues as the Bridget Gaudette incident, (http://www.skepticink.com/justinvacula/2012/07/28/bridget-gaudette-removed-from-american-atheists-following-secular-woman-appointment/#respond). Additionally the way he interacts with other activists (such as Jen) is VERY troubling. That being said, I TRUELY hope this can be a new leaf, and that interactions can improve.

        • Edward Clint

          Ben,

          You should consider the fact that national organizations whose priority is effective activism and organize to that end are not as rapt with blogosphere events. As you are on my FB feed, I know you find Justin’s sometimes-cheeky dissent (for example) of certain people to be unconscionable, or at least, troubling. I suggest humbly this may be the case in part because of political and emotional attachments to these players instead of being the result of an objective assessment of Justin’s character. This may be true whether or not you are, strictly speaking, correct about the facts.

          People outside of the small community based on these online personalities just don’t seem to see the relevance of the infractions that you do. The SCA’s appointment of Justin is only the latest evidence of that. As rationalists, we should wish to avoid perspective that is unduly provincial, and concerned about whose precious dignity has been trespassed upon, instead of conducting activism that makes the world a little better.

  • Congratulations Justin!

  • noclevername

    I wrote to Secular Coalition about my support for their decision, and set up an automatic monthly donation while I was at it. Hope others will do the same.

  • I’d congratulate you but instead I’m going to pack and ship you this portable shit-storm shelter.

    Good luck facing the wrath of A+

    http://www.change.org/petitions/secular-coalition-for-america-remove-justin-vacula-from-a-leadership-position-in-the-pa-chapter-of-sca

    • bluharmony

      I hope the people at change.org give that bit of vitriolic dishonesty the proper chuckle it deserves.

  • Moira

    Congrats.
    I found this out by first seeing the petition PZ and pals are trying use to have SCA dump you, and then the Patheos “open letter” by JT trying to do the same.

    They make many claims, and leave out a lot of history that occurred before posts by you that they highlight.

    If you make a post addressing these statements, I will post it where I can, but there are so many claims and I am not in a position to know the full history to address them myself. But if their attempts go nowhere, then ignore them of course ;)

  • I just read that you’re an MRA. News to me, and probably news to you, too!

    • Justin had a piece over on “A Voice for Men”: http://www.avoiceformen.com/feminism/feminist-lies-feminism/censorship-and-stupidity-from-free-thinking-feminists/

      I could say a lot, most of it not good, about AVfM, but I hardly take Justin’s one-off as a ringing endorsement of everything AVfM or the MRA movement think, but it’s enough guilt-by-association with a “SPLC-certified hate group” for Stephanie Zvan to get a lot of mileage out of. Of course, Zvan gets a lot of mileage out of any real or imagined slight, a symptom of just how unhinged that lady is.

      • Unless something has changed, the SPLC has not actually named them a hate group.

        “It should be mentioned that the SPLC did not label MRAs as members of a hate movement; nor did our article claim that the grievances they air on their websites – false rape accusations, ruinous divorce settlements and the like – are all without merit. But we did call out specific examples of misogyny and the threat, overt or implicit, of violence.”

        http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2012/05/15/intelligence-report-article-provokes-outrage-among-mens-rights-activists/

        The SLPC description of the movement seems fair. They have some decent points, and are also deeply flawed in some ways. And I don’t see how some of these radical gender feminists are any better.

  • AKAHorace

    Good luck Justin.

  • Moira

    Twitter police are trying to pressure Chris Stedman to end communication to Justin Vacula

    https://twitter.com/ahtripp/status/252444332106321922

  • Rebecca Bradley

    Hey Justin, as one of your fellow SINners, I’m proud of you.

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