By now, some of you have probably seen EllenBeth’s long post about why she left Secular Woman. It’s disturbingly full of what I will call factual inaccuracies, but I was going to let it generally slide for various reasons, even though many of the incorrect statements are about me.
One of her statements about the Secular Woman members group, however, has started making the rounds and growing in the telling. It’s bizarre, but I’ve seen people believe sillier in this whole thing, and this one has potential to do harm if believed.
When I saw all of the posts berating Ron and the letter-writing campaign to get him fired, I spoke up and wanted to know what the end-game was. What were they hoping to accomplish? I was told that perhaps either Melody or Rebecca could take his place.
EllenBeth has now published excerpted “evidence” of her claim. It’s not particularly compelling on its face, but even so, it is missing information that undercuts that claim.
First of all, there was no letter-writing campaign to get Ron fired. Secular Woman itself issued a statement that suggested they were looking for an “apology, retraction, or other followup”. One of the two letters written by a Secular Woman member and posted to their site says, “CFI will not see any support from me, monetarily or otherwise, for as long as Center for Inquiry’s CEO Dr. Ron Lindsay continues as CEO, and does not retract his statements and blog posts, and apologize for his shameful and impolitic conduct at last weekend’s Women in Secularism 2 conference”, providing a choice of requested courses of action.
Secondly, what EllenBeth actually asked was not what Charles, who wrote the letter in question, hoped to accomplish by his letter but “So, you want Ron fired? Who do you think is going to replace him?” With permission of those quoted below who weren’t already quoted by EllenBeth (names, where used, are also with permission), here’s how the answers to that question went.
Charles: Indeed, I don’t want to get into a discussion of that point, but my view is as follows:
I don’t know who I would want to be the next CEO of CFI. I don’t know who would be capable and who would want it. As far as I am concerned, this isn’t my job. It’s my estimation that Ron has critically failed the movement, and that he should be removed. I feel similarly about the coaches my alma mater(Rutgers) hires. I don’t know who a good replacement would be for the abusive coaches they have been hiring, but the coaches should still be fired because they have crossed important lines and have proven themselves unfit for leadership positions. I believe of both college athletics and the secular movement that there are plenty of willing and competent people who will not further abuse and will work to end it. I assume that the paid staff of these organizations can search out, vet, and hire those who would do a good job. This is not my responsibility, nor should it be. And if it happens to be the case that we are unable to find leaders for secular organizations (or college athletics) that fit some basic standards of human decency, such as honesty, tolerance, and not being abusive or enabling abuse, then to Hell with the secular movement. I don’t want to be a part of any movement that requires me to cozy up to bigots and cowards.
Member 2: This is very hypothetical, but replacing a CEO is the job of the board of directors. (Not making a point, just clarifying.) In the secular movement we have had a tradition of hiring executives who have potential to do public speaking / media relations, and to raise funds. These people have not, generally, had management experience or credentials, nor are they usually vetted for their views on specific issues. CFI is one of the biggest orgs in the movement. If Ron does step down or is removed, I would expect the board to do a full-on professional search. It’s hard to say what criteria they would apply and harder to know what their own vision for the organization / movement would be. It’s also not out of the question that someone would be quietly recruited from one of the other secular organizations, leaving the opening elsewhere.
Member 2: Also, for those who aren’t aware, CFI has a history of being an insider organization. Ron is only their second leader. Their first, Paul Kurtz, founded the organization.
At this point, EllenBeth responds to a question with an answer that makes it clear she’s asking about one single letter, not any campaign.*
Charles: I also should say that above when I say cowards, I don’t mean people afraid to speak out- I am totally there with you, but rather intellectual and moral cowards, the sort of moderate for moderation’s sake who would rather be nice to bigots than stir the boat, or who prefer to languish in the mires of their own unexamined ideas rather than do the hard and painful self-examination that might lead to real progress.
Charles: Hahaha, stir the boat. Well, I’m keeping it there.
Member 3: One is, of course, free to speculate about who would be a more effective CEO than the now infamous Lindsay. However, it is no more our obligation to find a new CEO for CFI than it is for us to find a new CEO for Whole Foods or Hobby Lobby. One need not have a replacement in mind to see that the current holder of the position is unfit nor to speak out in the hope of having said embarrassment removed from the position.
That said, I say Watson or Hensley ending up at the helm would be choice.
Member 2: I like RW’s blog, but does she have experience running a complex organization with two magazines, many branches, etc.? Well, we’ll see what the board does.
Member 3: I have no idea whether RW is qualified to run CFI, my choices for succession are based solely on how much they’d cheese Lindsay, Vacula, AVfM, et al.
Nathan: Honestly [Member 2], I *do* want Lindsay gone. After everything, an apology just isn’t enough anymore. Lindsay will, at this point, do nothing but hurt the organization. At least… that’s what I think…
It would be “choice” because it would “cheese” people. That’s it. That’s the big “campaign” to have Ron Lindsay fired and replaced with Rebecca Watson or Melody Hensley. No one from Secular Woman’s board of directors was part of the discussion. Not only that, but Member 3 and Nathan there are two of the people who signed a letter requesting only that Ron Lindsay apologize. Not be fired, apologize.
So we have one letter calling for a firing, from someone who just wanted a decent person who could do a good job, a letter asking for an apology from someone who would have been amused if particular people were pissed off, and a copy of that same letter from someone who wasn’t sure they trusted Lindsay as CEO. Then we have EllenBeth turning one letter and the feelings one person confided in a private group into a “campaign” and a flip answer to her question into the nefarious purpose of that “campaign”. Finally, we have a bunch of people willing to take that flimsy story and spread it around to where it will do damage.
I really don’t know what else to say to this, except that the allegations you may have seen aren’t true.
*If EllenBeth wants to give me permission to quote her from the private group, I will reproduce this comment in full.