View Full Version : Secular coop mission statements/religion policy

08-29-2010, 10:59 AM
I am thinking ahead about needing a real mission statement and religion policy for our little coop (so that when it starts to grow, we have something in place.)

Here in Richmond, it is assumed that everyone is christian and that it's perfectly acceptable to proselytize, evangelize, etc. to the point that asking people NOT to do so is seen as highly offensive. When I started this group I made it clear that I needed a place where I wasn't the minority and where I didn't have to put up with the religious proselytizing and evangelizing that is part and parcel of the community here. I said that I didn't care if you practice religion so long as you leave it at the door before coming to the coop. You'd think I'd asked them to swear allegiance to Al Qaeda and the devil.

ANYWAY... I've been looking for secular mission statements and religion policies and all I've come up with is the denim jumper's religion policy http://www.thedenimjumper.com/religion.htm (which is awesome, I think as a starting point) but I'd like more stuff to present to the core group to consider in creating our own policy.

I would prefer to be inclusive so long as people can just not do the typical "I'll pray for you" and "You're going to hell because you're an atheist" and "let me share the good word with you" stuff that they tend to do here in Richmond. Here in RIC "inclusive" means "inclusive of christianity and nothing else" and I want to avoid that... there are plenty of those here already. None are welcoming to atheists and the like and I want a place where I feel like I can be my authentic, atheist self without feeling like I'm offending everyone in the vicinity with my presence (yes, I want to be able to refer to "the invisible sky wizard" without people going apoplectic at my lack of respect.)

Any links? Copy I can use for ideas?

08-29-2010, 11:35 AM
How are you recruiting for your group? Can you reach out to some Pagan or Jewish homeschoolers in your area (there are bound to be one or two), as well as more liberal Christians to give a solid "inclusive" basis for your mission statement? Maybe check out various UU congregation missions statements for some inspiration as they tend to be very inclusive.

I am thinking along the lines of "As we have members from vastly different backgrounds and worldviews, this co-op is completely secular with a focus on our shared academic goals, therefore proselytizing and other overt religious practices are inappropriate"

Maybe tell people flat out that if they aren't comfortable leaving religion at the door this is not the right group for them. Some people just don't get it. My son's grandmother still doesn't understand that demanding the whole table's attention while she says grace is rude in mixed company...in public.

08-29-2010, 11:46 AM
This is from our group:

The mission statement for Homeschoolers EXCEL is as follows:

We are an inclusive support group for homeschoolers seeking
cooperative, non-sectarian, non-partisan educational and
social opportunities.”

This is from the guidelines for our loop:
Announcements of religious or political events/resources are
only allowed if they have educational value for the
homeschoolers (such as field trips or unit studies). The
subject matter must not be discussed or debated on this loop.
Please add "FYI" or "Announcement" at the beginning of the
subject line. [This does not include your ".sig" file. You
can put whatever you want in your signature area]

This is our group's website:

What we have experienced, being in the buckle of the Bible belt is that you probably will not attract the extremely religious. They HAVE options without hanging out with the heathens. ;) We have had pagans, lower-key Christians, Muslims, LDS, Jewish, lots of UU members and atheists/agnostics.

08-29-2010, 01:02 PM
Our group is composed of Christians, atheists, other beliefs and searching. The Christians include Catholics, evangelicals and others. We are all just tired of the one size fits all mentality. While we understand that an exclusively Christian group has the right to be overtly Christian, we were just tired at the "shock" that not everyone thinks like the powers that be. I mean, as a homeschooling group, one would think homeschooling would be the predominant theme. But, maybe I am naive. I homeschool to broaden my kids' exposure, not limit it.

Anyway, here is our mission statement. And yes, we borrowed heavily from this forum's definition of secular. We have noticed that the denim-skirt-bunhead crowd does not bother with us, as we seem subversive. OTH, we do have a great, diverse bunch of families who do get along fabulously. I am amazed at how any people like us are just lurking in the background, thinking we are alone. We are able to discuss just about everything, including our beliefs, without evangelizing. You find the right buzz words, and it works wonders. I don't know what the particular words are, but it works. Of course, maybe it is just that everyone in the group (liberals, convervatives, believers, non-believers) is smart enough to realize it is better to live a sermon than preach one.

The WISE Co-op, based in Edmond, Oklahoma, is made up of families from a wide variety of backgrounds, united by our shared goal of providing a high-quality homeschool education to our children.

We welcome people of all faiths. Many of us are Christians, but because our members' theologies differ, our group focuses on academics and leaves doctrinal issues to families. We encourage an open atmosphere where both students and parents can express their beliefs freely, while respecting each other's differences.

When choosing curriculum, we look first at the academic content. We don't limit ourselves to all-secular, or to all-Christian materials. We use curriculum from both secular and Christian publishers-whichever best meets the needs of our students for each subject area.

All WISE Parents contribute to the co-op in some way - this is not a "drop off" group. We value input from every member.

As an aside, we teach upper level science from a syllabus, so the parents can use materials to cover topics based on their family's beliefs. We mainly use class time for labs and covering factual information. Any creationist viewpoint, if the family holds one, is handled at home.

08-29-2010, 01:08 PM
Thanks... yeah, you'd think it would be self-selecting to include the word "SECULAR" in the name of the group and the purpose... but the group still attracts people with email addresses at "liberty.edu" :/ They seem to have the idea here, that it's their JOB to proselytize/evangelize to everyone and to ask them not to is impinging on their "rights" and they think secular means "even non-religous people can join!" instead of "non-religious by definition."

It's not so much the invitations to religious services, etc. I think that's pretty easy to handle... it's the *incessant* need they seem to have to pray before everything they do and to inform you that they'll be praying for you for this or that reason and to advise you that you just haven't heard THE WORD and that's why you're an atheist. I really think they have no clue how the religious indoctrination they believe in colors EVERYthing they say and do. And they expect those of us without religous convictions to keep that lack of religiosity to ourselves - i.e. if I say something about "the invisible sky wizard" I'm being mean spirited and intolerant... but they can pray and proselytize all over the place and I, as an atheist, am just supposed to suck it up. Nope. Not gonna happen. Not in a group that I have put in the time and effort to get off the ground.

The whole reason I started this coop was to have a "safe" place to meet other non-believers and liberal, cool believers who don't feel the need to bang their religous nonsense over everyone's heads.

The biggest UU congregation here didn't have any other hs'ers when I was a member (I stopped going a couple of years ago because even the UU here is VERY conservative compared to the UU's I'm used to) which might have changed now, but I'm not holding my breath to find a surfeit of hsers there... this is an INCREDIBLY conservative place... people who have lived here for a long time don't realize how insular and conservative it really is.

In other words, being subtle isn't going to cut it with this crowd. They are so incredibly, overwhelmingly the majority here, that they just steamroll every group. I want a group where I don't have to worry about that happening and I want to nip it in the bud in the mission statement and the religion policy.

Sorry... venting... sigh... I just want it to be clear that this isn't a group where you're going to pray over and about things and that we don't care if you do that on your time, but not at the group. Does that make sense? I want a religion-free zone.

08-29-2010, 01:16 PM
I'm going to speak up and say that its REALLY hard in Richmond because the culture here really is: christain = good, not christain = bad. Praying = good decision making, thinking = bad decision making. Its really REALLY hard to find people in RVA who are liberal and open minded. And many of those I do find are unschoolers and not looking for a coop. I've lived here for 8 years and have met very, very few athiests. Where I grew up, it was considered impolite to discuss religion in 'public' . . . Richmonders really dont understand that concept. Christianity is like the River . . . it runs through and defines the city. At least thats my opinion. Which is probably why I've become such a recluse, in part.

wait, thats not helpful, its it :confused:

08-29-2010, 01:31 PM
[QUOTE=dbmamaz;13500Praying = good decision making, thinking = bad decision making. [/QUOTE]

I had to laugh when I read this. I'll admit it, I do believe in prayer, but I really see a lot of Christians who view prayer as feeding money to the slot machine (God). If I ask hard enough or really am sincere, I'll get the right answer. One time I was with some homeschooling moms who were discussing praying over what to price their curriculum at for an upcoming booksale. So I piped up, and for once in my life, I swear I wasn't trying to be a smartass, and said, "Isn't it funny that when you pray over these things God seems to give you the answer you were hoping to get? I mean, as Christians, you have read the passages in the Bible that says the devil often appears as something pleasant, good and appealing. So, how do you know God really was the one answering your prayer?"

The people in that group pretty much avoid me now.

Cara, I really do feel your pain. I have lived where I am for 8 years, and it has only been in the last 2 that I have found people I can hang out with. The most passionate about their beliefs seem to be the ones who make the effort to do things and be vocal. Most of the rest of us are just trying to muddle through our lives with a minimal amount of interference. I have found that I tend to get along least with the leadership of these groups and the ones who post the most. The ones who are moderate tend to fly under the radar because they are just too busy. Or, you find like I did, that if you do speak honestly, your children can suffer.

08-29-2010, 01:55 PM
This is from the 'welcome to the list; here are the rules' file that all new members get when they join our group:

-Differing viewpoints are inevitable. Please be respectful even when disagreeing! No flaming (name calling, etc...) discourteous posts, profanity and other disrupting posts. Such things may cause you to be removed from the list.

- This is not strictly a Christian-based list. If you are seeking a *Christian* forum, then there are many other groups in this area that are more than happy to provide that type of environment. This forum, however, is home to many who have their own beliefs, some Christian-based and some that are not, but either way, members of this list follow and are satisfied with their own beliefs. This forum is not a place to impose YOUR religious views on others. PREACHERS will be BANNED!!

-Absolutely NO SPAM. This includes things such as prayer requests, exciting business or money-making opportunities, the forwarding of urban legends, chain mail, and advertisements.

We have yet to have an issue with religious content on-list. We're having a planning meeting this week and doing a group overhaul, so we may bring this up as a topic to be re-vamped. I'm interested in the different group policies as well.

08-29-2010, 02:38 PM
One time I was with some homeschooling moms who were discussing praying over what to price their curriculum at for an upcoming booksale. So I piped up, and for once in my life, I swear I wasn't trying to be a smartass, and said, "Isn't it funny that when you pray over these things God seems to give you the answer you were hoping to get? I mean, as Christians, you have read the passages in the Bible that says the devil often appears as something pleasant, good and appealing. So, how do you know God really was the one answering your prayer?"

The people in that group pretty much avoid me now.

Oh Ann, you are a brave woman!!!! I wish had the guts to say even a tenth of what goes through my head....;)

08-29-2010, 03:34 PM
You should speak up more, then, Beth. You are as smart as anyone else on here, so likely you are as smart as anyone else in your actual life circle of people. ...But I do know what you mean. I end up speaking, and then after the fact, wonder why I opened my mouth in the first place. (It seemed like a good idea at the time, apparently. :))

Those are a lot of great replies. Too busy laughing to really respond more than this. :)

08-29-2010, 03:40 PM
The inclusive group that I mod has this in the introduction:
"Families of all religions are also welcome, but should be aware that most of our members are homeschooling for secular reasons, not religious ones."

Then, our read before you join file says:
"Families of all religions or lack thereof are welcome. If you're looking for a group with a strong Christian base, that isn't this group."

There's a couple of additional things about respectfulness, etc that aren't specifically about religion.

Honestly, the only problems I've had have been a couple incidents with atheists who feel free to do some Christian-bashing in a joking way and just don't get that our group is not okay with that - many members are Christian, though nearly everyone is mainstream, liberal-minded and not homeschooling for religious reasons. But I live in an area with a LOT of secular homeschoolers, so I think it's less of an issue. The Christian homeschoolers have groups and are certainly a presence, but they're not overwhelming here like in many places and I think that makes a difference for our lack of a need for a really strong policy.

08-29-2010, 07:16 PM
How about this (from another group)

1. The purpose of this group.

This group's purpose is to discuss homeschooling. By extension, it is to discuss issues surrounding homeschooling such as education, family, society, culture, and child development, etc. It is not a venue for preaching or evangelism. People who come here to preach or evangelize will quickly find that they have outstayed their welcome.

We encourage all new members to introduce themselves and to familiarize themselves with this document, the Rules and the Etiquette Guide. We also encourage you to start a new discussions (please read the Introduce yourself FAQ before doing so).

2. This group consists of a variety of people from a diverse range of backgrounds, cultures, and world views.

There are, as you would expect, many non-christians in this group. There are atheists, agnostics, pantheists, deists, Christians of a variety of traditions different than yours, and members of other faiths. There may be generalities on which they agree (like homeschooling), but each person is an individual with their own unique background and outlook. Bear this in mind when interacting with other members of the group. Bear in mind also that labels do not tell all about a person, so it is best to avoid making sweeping generalizations. If ever you find yourself starting to say "you/all atheists/Christians/Muslims/Jews...", please take a step back, and think how such a comment would sound if it was directed generally at the position you hold. Similarly, don't assume that someone is stupid, deceitful, or willfully ignorant just because they have a very different perspective on reality than you do.

“Once you label me, you negate me.” -- Søren Kierkegaard

3. Not everyone may treat a sacred text as an authoritative source or with the same reverence.

This applies particularly to theists who accept as part of their faith or doctrine the authority of a particular sacred text. It is important to recognize that while you may consider the Bible or the Qur'an to be divinely inspired, as far as many others in this group is concerned, it is simply a collection of texts of uncertain provenance. Bear this in mind when presenting an argument or a response to one.

By the same token, reciting large chunks from a sacred text in your conversations is not a suitable for a discussion here, nor does it usually help to advance a discussion.

“You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.” -- author unknown

08-29-2010, 09:14 PM
I'm going to bring those points up for our group on Friday. Thanks!