I was at the Center for Inquiry’s second Women in Secularism conference last month. It was one of the best secular conferences I have ever attended and I hope there is another one next year. The staff, especially Melody Hensley did a remarkable job and I applaud them.
There were two dark clouds at the conference that dampened many people’s enjoyment. One was a notorious part time “activist” and full time attention seeker who attended the conference in order to taunt feminists and report back to his vile, hateful, and dangerous friends at A Voice for Men. The other was Ronald Lindsay, the CEO of the Center for Inquiry, delivering opening remarks that offended many, if nor most, of the attendees and speakers. He then chose not to attend a fundraising dinner (where the people who felt he had insulted them were asked to donate money above and beyond the $250 event ticket) so that he could write a retort to the criticism of his remarks. A retort in which he said some very impolitic and unprofessional things about one of his speakers in particular. I was late arriving at the conference so I missed his talk and haven’t said anything publicly about this all. I have, however, been watching to see CFI’s response after their board met to discuss the affair.
Today we got it. It’s a flimsy, ridiculous statement that says nothing in about 150 words. This is a nadir of moral cowardice from the board of directors of an organization which I have had a great deal of respect for. The board of directors of the Center for Inquiry have responded to the concerns of many of their donors, or many in the secular community of which they claim to be a leader, with mealy-mouthed equivocation and hollow statements of concern. This is not an act moral cowardice because the board of CFI hasn’t done what I wanted them to do. This is cowardice because they have done absolutely nothing. They are preserving the status quo through inaction. Richard Dawkins is a privileged, xenophobic twit with troublingly childish behavior toward women who disagree with him but he is absolutely not a coward. Anyone who is paying attention knows where he stands. I disagree with him and refuse to give him money, but he is not a coward.
If you want to be a leader you need to take a stand. Whether I agree with you or not, just take a fucking stand for what you believe in. I have many friends who work for CFI and I admire and support their work. I would like to continue to support it financially, but I cannot in good conscience donate to a “leadership” organization that refuses to lead.
Sadly, CFI is not alone in failing to lead, but there are organizations willing and able and make bold declarations of their principles that are backed up with action. David Silverman is teh president of American Atheists and has consistently been an outspoken defender of professionalism and equality within secularism. Just this weekend he appeared on the show of the antagonistic “activist” I mentioned earlier and told him in no uncertain terms where American Atheists stands. You can donate to them now. Evan Clark, the chair of the Secular Student Alliance has gone so far as to start Spectrum Experience, another organization to promote social justice. If you donate to SSA now, your donation will be matched by a generous contribution of $250,000 for just that purpose. I encourage you to do so.