As an atheist, I had high hopes for the Secular Coalition for America. Truth be told, I was excited to join the PA chapter once I had the financial means. That was before I visited Butterflies and Wheels last night and soaked my monitor with coffee:
David Futrelle is on the Vacula story, in a post titled Why is the Secular Coalition for America giving Justin Vacula — online bully, A Voice for Men contributor — a leadership position? Why indeed.
Insert spit take here. “Wait, what?” I thought. “I know I haven’t been keeping up on the atheist community as much as normal due to my new work schedule and addiction to all things Election 2012ish, but Justin fucking Vacula? Is this a sick joke?” So I went into research mode, and quickly found out that no, it wasn’t a sick joke. Also from Butterflies and Wheels:
Secular Coalition for Pennsylvania to Officially Launch Sunday
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:
Justin Vacula? Does he have blackmail material on the SCA? Is the SCA high on crack? Do they want to get 50 chapters started so quickly that they can’t check out the people they are giving leadership positions? Or does the SCA just frankly not give a shit what we think?
For those of you scratching your heads wondering just who Justin Vacula is and why we are pissed about him being co-chair of the Pennsylvania SCA chapter, here is some background from ManBoobz:
First quote is talking about Blag Hag’s author Jen McCreight’s decision to stop blogging over the harassment she faces daily:
McCreight’s harassers and their enablers were delighted in this “victory,” taking to Twitter to give McCreight some final kicks on the way out the door. “Good riddance, #jennifurret , you simple minded dolt,” wrote @skepticaljoe. “I couldn’t be happier,” added @SUICIDEBOMBS. “Eat shit you rape-faking scum.”
One of the celebrators that day was an atheist activist named Justin Vacula, who joked that “Jen’s allegedly finished blogging…and this time it’s not her boyfriend who kicked her off the internet.”
Second quote is a more general indictment of Vacula:
It’s an astonishing choice. In addition to gloating that bullies had led McCreight to shut down her blog, Vacula has harassed atheist blogger and activist Surly Amy, including writing a post on A Voice for Men (yes, that A Voice for Men) cataloging all the sordid details of his supposed case against her. At one point he even posted her address, and a photo of her apartment building, on a site devoted to hating on feminist atheist bloggers.
To sum up: I very briefly described Vacula’s behavior over the past several months and asked Damerow how SCA expected to build support amongst progressive women in Pennsylvania with someone like him running that state’s chapter.
Damerow clarified that Vacula wasn’t actually “hired,” since it is a volunteer position. She then went on to emphasize that SCA needs to be respectful and diplomatic and non-partisan.
I was confused, because that didn’t actually answer my question. If I were a woman in Pennsylvania, I would never, ever want to get involved in any way with Justin Vacula. In fact, I will never, ever get involved with SCA so long as someone like him holds a position of power anywhere, let alone in a state I live in. So Vacula is actively driving people away from SCA. I’d like to know how they expect to overcome that – how they hope to reach out to progressive people, and particularly women in Pennsylvania, while an MRA is a co-chair.
EllenBeth Wachs asked Damerow what percentage of women were co-chairs, to which Damerow eventually said one out of eight, currently. Wachs pointed out that it already sounds as though they haven’t made it a priority to reach out to women. She also says that if Vacula were the co-chair in Florida (where Wachs is), she’d have nothing to do with them. Damerow states that SCA has done what’s right for Florida in Florida, and what’s right for Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania. That made me wonder: why does SCA dislike feminist secular activists in Pennsylvania?
It’s all a real shame, because SCA fills an important role in our movement and I’d like to give them my support. It’s also a shame because I enjoyed Damerow’s talk, and I liked chatting with her about non-movement stuff over dinner. I’m always looking for more awesome women to support and recommend to event organizers. But I just can’t stand the non-answers and the utter dismissal of the concerns of feminists. I don’t believe secular organizations should reward bullies and bigots with high-level positions, even if those positions are volunteer-only.
What is “right for Florida in Florida, and what’s right for Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania?” Really?
Well, I am a progressive atheist in Pennsylvania. And I for one will have nothing to do with the SCA as long as they have Men’s Rights assholes as co-chairs of their state chapters. I think Rebecca’s call to action is the best way to end this post, so here:
I hope that in addition to individuals signing Stephanie Zvan’s petition, the member organizations of SCA make a strong statement against this move. American Atheists, American Ethical Union, American Humanist Association, Atheist Alliance of America, Camp Quest, Council for Secular Humanism, HUUmanists Association, Institute for Humanist Studies, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, Secular Student Alliance, and Society for Humanistic Judaism: do you agree with SCA that Justin Vacula is a good representative of your cause? If not, weigh in and let the feminists who support you know that you support them, too.