What's a Summer Camp Doing in a Secular Lobbying Coalition?

If you’ve looked at the list of member organizations of the Secular Coalition, you may have wondered what Camp Quest is all about, and why a network of summer camps for children would be part of a lobbying coalition.  Here's a quick intro to who we are, and why we are a part of the Secular Coalition.
 
Who We Are: Fun, Friends, & Freethought
 
In many ways Camp Quest camps are what you think of when you think of summer camp – swimming, s’mores around the campfire, and fun in the sun. 
 
In other ways, our camps are anything but typical.  Camp Quest camps build communities for children and teenagers from atheist, agnostic, humanist, and other secular families.  Campers learn about science, ethics, religion, and philosophy through games, skits, and other activities.  We provide campers a place to explore their developing worldviews, ask questions, and make friends in an environment supportive of critical thinking and skepticism.
 
Camp Quest is open to campers from all backgrounds.  We encourage campers to think for themselves, be comfortable with who they are, and engage respectfully with people who have different views.
 
Since opening in 1996, Camp Quest has expanded from 20 campers attending one location, to 384 campers attending locations across North America and overseas.
 
In 2011 we have two new programs opening – Camp Quest Chesapeake will be offering a week-long summer session for campers age 8-17 in Virginia, and Camp Quest South Carolina will be offering a weekend family camp in October.
 
We expect to have more campers than ever attending camp at sessions in California, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Ontario, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. We also expect to see more campers attending our overseas partner programs in the UK, Ireland, and Norway.
 
Learn more about our programs; or get involved by sending a child to camp, volunteering as a cabin counselor or activity leader, making a donation to support our programs, or spreading the word about Camp Quest to others.
 
Camp Quest and the Secular Coalition for America
 
At Camp Quest we serve freethinking families, a group that is often invisible to policymakers.  Even within atheist, agnostic, and humanist organizations, families with children are often under-represented. Being a part of the Secular Coalition for America helps Camp Quest raise the profile of secular families in two important ways:
 
1. Providing a voice for secular families on policy issues that are relevant to them.
 
2. Increasing the effectiveness of Secular Coalition lobbying efforts on child and family issues by providing a visible constituency of secular families with children.
 
Camp Quest parents approach us about a number of church/state separation issues their families face.  Secular families are struggling with science classes that promote creationism, children being punished for not saying "under God" in the pledge of allegiance, and other inappropriate intrusions of religion into the public schools. The Boy Scouts of America, an organization receiving federal funding, bars many Camp Quest campers from participation because the children don’t profess a belief in God. Children from secular families sometimes face religiously motivated bullying.  Camp Quest’s membership in the Secular Coalition lets us take on these important issues in a policy-oriented way that we couldn’t do alone.

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