During the first weekend of November 1996 the Center for Inquiry hosted the first official meeting of the recently formed Campus Freethought Alliance. Students from several colleges across the United States and Canada convened to discuss plans for the future of the Alliance. The weekend conference, which marked the formal establishment of the CFA, was both exciting and productive. The CFA was conceived during a meeting in August 1996 at the Center for Inquiry. (More details appeared in FREE INQUIRY, Fall 1996, and the Secular Humanist Bulletin, vol. 12, no. 4.) The CFA was formed in response to the on-campus effects of growth in religious fundamentalism, anti-science, anti-secular-ism, and belief in mysticism and the paranormal. The CFA, which includes student humanist, secularist, non-theist, and skeptical organizations, will serve as a uniting umbrella organization for college and high school freethought clubs. Working in conjunction with the Council for Secular Humanism, the CFA will assist and support student freethinkers in establishing local clubs and planning campus events.
It is hoped that the CFA will provide student freethinkers with campus environments that are friendlier to their needs and concerns; all too often, young free-thinkers are left feeling awkward, desperate, or isolated because of their unbelief. The CFA will defend actively science, reason, and the rights of student unbelievers from attack on campus, while concurrently preserving secularism and the separation of church and state at our educational institutions.
Four of the eight original founding members, myself included, were able to attend the November meeting. Within a period of twenty-four hours, a Constitution was drafted and ratified, a press release was authored, and an informational pamphlet for interested students
and supporters was created. The date of the conference held much significance, as November 4 marked the two hundredth anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Treaty with Tripoli. The treaty declares: “[T]he government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” The CFA press release called attention to this fact, emphasizing that true American patriots are those willing to uphold the secularism and pluralism established in the U.S. Constitution.
We students who attended the November meeting are excited by the attention that the CFA has received. The CFA has been featured in numerous newspapers, from campus publications to the New York Times and other national press. Amid a flurry of electronic mail, we have received requests for information from dozens of colleges and high schools across the globe, from North America to New Zealand to Ukraine. It is with great hope that we look forward to our first national convention, to be held at the end of May 1997.
I personally would like to thank everyone at the Center for Inquiry for having transformed the CFA from a deeply inspired dream into a hugely successful reality. Most of all, I would like to thank my enthusiastic and assiduous student colleagues for providing the CFA with the impetus to endure well into the future.