Secular Community Project

Release: HCH Expands Outreach, Hires SSA’s Jesse Galef as National Community Coordinator
January 22, 2014
For Release: Immediately Upon Receipt
Contact: Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard, 617-495-5986

There may be far more religious communities than secular ones, but a Humanist organization aims to narrow the gap. The Humanist Community at Harvard announced today that it was hiring Jesse Galef to fill the newly-created position of National Community Coordinator for its Humanist Community Project (HCP). Galef will work to build support for multi-generational secular communities, with a special emphasis on serving the needs of younger Americans.

Surveys find more and more Americans identifying as nonreligious, and organizing them is increasingly important. NPR reported that President Obama lost the Protestant vote in the 2012 national presidential election by 15% but won 70% of the “unaffiliated” vote. Polls like a 2012 Pew survey found that 20% of Americans are unaffiliated with religion, up 5% from 2007.  Nowhere has the shift been stronger than with younger Americans, over 30% of whom are now secular. The HCP intends to capitalize on this trend.

“We need to see the groundswell of young secular Americans as an opportunity, not a victory,” Galef said. “If churches aren’t serving their real human needs, we need to develop communities that can. Society will be shaped by where these millions of Americans go next.”

A recognized leader in the secular movement, Galef brings experience organizing nationally, locally, and on campus.  Since 2010, he served as Communications Director of the national Secular Student Alliance (SSA), a grassroots organization which supports several hundred campus groups for nonreligious students. He has also worked for the American Humanist Association (AHA), the Secular Coalition for America (SCA), and acted as Publicity Director for the Reason Rally, the historic 2012 gathering of over 20,000 Humanists, atheists, and secular people on the National Mall in Washington D.C.  Locally, he served on the board of directors of the Humanist Community of Central Ohio.

Galef will work with Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University and author of the New York Times bestseller Good Without God, to draw ideas from a diverse group of leaders. A strong partnership with the SSA will enable them to work with graduating secular student leaders, capitalizing on their experience and perspective to create appealing communities. From the other side of the equation, the HCP will work with 10-15 existing local groups to be “incubators.” These incubators will act as grassroots laboratories that road-test programs, resources, and best practices. The HCP can then share their results with the hundreds of local Humanist, atheist, and secular groups, as well as the national organizations.

“I want every secular American to have a welcoming community that promotes reason and compassion,” Epstein said. “I’m thrilled to bring Jesse on board to help us realize that vision.”