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Ask Mandisa 27 – Social Movements and Secular Community Concerns


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Canadian Atheist

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/05/22

Mandisa Thomas is the Founder of Black Nonbelievers, Inc (Twitter & Facebook). One of the largest, if the not the largest, organization for African-American or black nonbelievers & atheists in the United States.

The organization is intended to give secular fellowship, provide nurturance and support for nonbelievers, encourage a sense of pride in irreligion, and promote charity in the non-religious community.

I reached out to begin an educational series with one of the, and again if not the, most prominent African-American woman nonbeliever grassroots activists in the United States.

Here, we talk about social movements and secular communities.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s take into account of an article published based on #MeToo and other associated movements or actions to deal with sexual misconduct, sexual assault, even rape, in general society. How does this come to home turf? What has been done?

Mandisa Thomas: In the past year or two, there have been assault allegations that arose against a few prominent male members of the secular community. One has been suspended from their place of employment and is no longer actively serving on boards or being invited to speak.

Another was terminated from his job due to sexual assault allegations, as well workplace harassment and mismanagement. These are things that have apparently been abuzz in our community for a while.
With initiatives like Me Too and Times Up arising, there have been a number of people who have spoken up about the mistreatment they’ve received at the hands of certain individuals.

Now, there are organizations taking steps to investigate and remove people who are associated with such allegations. Also, they are adopting new policies when it comes to their events as well as their organizations regarding sexual harassment and assault, etc. 

Jacobsen: In terms of this simply not being a sub-cultural phenomenon and a general one, in that, it points to a general social pathology.

How can we partner with the religious community who are open and willing to work with the secular community, by which I mean the non-religious community, to develop and work on some concrete actionables? 

To deal with this not simply in leadership, but between members of communities, in other words, a way in which to work at as a society, from where we’re at, to further equality of treatment in social life.

Thomas: I don’t think the religious community should be held to a higher standard, especially based on their track record of covering up abuse and assault in their community.

So, if there are initiatives to work with religious communities, churches, etc. then there should be other organizations that are involved like Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women.

These organizations focus on the rights of women and abuse survivors. I think that both the religious community and the specific secular communities could work with them in order to get some training as well as other resources for members and leaders alike to recognize the behavior and try to prevent and resolve it. 

Jacobsen:  Do you think this problem was worse in the past or was simply the same in the past into the present and only recently got called out now?

Thomas: I think it was worse in the past. The same things are still happening now, but with a lot of the signaling and communication as well as new information available.

There are now more resources and recourse for victims to come forward and not just tell their stories, but also making sure that the perpetrators are being held accountable, and even punished in some cases.

So before, it was worse because there were few to no options for victims to really come forward. That is changing.

Jacobsen: Are the means by which those coming forward with claims can forward sufficient or insufficient at this time?

Thomas: I think they aresufficient. There were numerous valid claims against a few of the individuals in question, which tends to be the case. Though we must remember that it should only take one claim for things to be taken seriously, but usually where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

And now with more people coming and having the ability to come forward, there is much more support for the accusers and the victims. 

Jacobsen: What about treatment? Those who come forward, claims shown to be corroborated, and then they require, in some manner, counselling or psychological assistance. Do you think the provisions are sufficient for them as well?

Thomas: There are a number of organizations that offer counselling for victims. It is absolutely necessary. It is also the victims. The process of healing from these circumstances and conditions can be lengthy depending on the individual. As long as there is long-term support for them, it is possible for them to overcome and heal.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mandisa.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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