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May 22 2013

If You Have Something To Say, Say It To the CFI Board

cfi-logoIf you have something to say about Ron Lindsay’s insulting and contemptuous talk at the Women in Secularism 2 conference, and/or about his insulting and contemptuous follow-up post responding to the controversy… say it to the CFI Board of Directors.

Don’t just say it on Twitter, or on Facebook, or on blog comments, or even on your own blog. Say it to the people who can do something about it. If you’ve already said something on some other forum, please copy and paste it, edit as appropriate, and send it to the CFI Board of Directors.

The CFI Board of Directors can be emailed via the Corporate Secretary, Tom Flynn, at [email protected] They can also be reached by snail mail, at:

Center for Inquiry Board of Directors
PO Box 741
Amherst, NY 14226-0741

The CFI Board of Directors, as posted on the CFI website, are: R. Elisabeth Cornwell, Kendrick Frazier, Barry Kosmin, Richard Schroeder, Eddie Tabash (Chair, Board of Directors), Jonathan Tobert, Leonard Tramiel, and Judith Walker. Their email addresses are not posted on the CFI website: if you already have contact information for these individuals, it would be awesome to go the extra mile and contact them directly. However, if you don’t, please don’t let that stop you: just email [email protected], and/or send snail mail to Center for Inquiry Board of Directors, PO Box 741, Amherst, NY 14226-0741.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, and need some background, here are some links. I will almost certainly weigh on on this sometime soon: for right now, these folks have said much or most of what I want to say.

An Open Letter to the Center for Inquiry, Amanda Marcotte
The Silencing of Men, Rebecca Watson
An Alternate Universe, Stephanie Zvan
Taking it Personally: Privilege and Women in Secularism, Ashley F. Miller
Some Sadly Necessary Remarks on the #wiscfi Intro, Adam Lee
It’s 4am and people are really annoyed, PZ Myers

If you have something to say — please say it to the people who can do something about it. That contact info again: The CFI Board of Directors can be emailed via [email protected] They can also be reached by snail mail, at:

Center for Inquiry Board of Directors
PO Box 741
Amherst, NY 14226-0741

18 comments

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  1. 1
    Brad Emery

    I may have to drop something in the mail… *cackles gleefully*

    Seriously, though, I hope they do something here. Even something as simple as a sincere, unqualified apology from Lindsay would probably go far. They don’t seem to get that all we need (I think) is an admittance that what he did was wrong, and that he recognizes that. Then, he can work on learning a bit more about how to be more of an ally in the future.

  2. 2
    Audra

    I called CFI earlier today to get the information on where to send my letters. I plan to send by the end of the day. I made a large donation to CFI earmarked for WiS. Was planning to make another one at the conference but am holding off until I see the response to this.

  3. 3
    irisvanderpluym

    LIZ CORNWELL IS ON THE BOARD OF CFI?

    Liz Cornwell is on the board of CFI. Huh. Explains a lot, really. Like how someone so appalingly arrogant, inexcusably uninformed, and inconsistent to the point of incoherence had a prominent role at WiS2.

    We have our work cut out for us.

  4. 4
    irisvanderpluym

    @Audra-
    I made a sizeable contribution myself. I’m also writing the Board today, although in light of Greta’s post I shall refrain from including any criticism of Dr. Cornwell.

    Jeezus.

  5. 5
    Bruce Gerencser

    And for those who disagree with your assertion that his speech and comments were insulting and contemptuous? I assume you want us to shut up, which, of course, only reinforces Lindsay’s point.

    This post, along with the others you have mentioned, are a reminder of why many of us stopped frequenting FreeThought blogs and distanced ourselves from atheism+. Your approach here is not unlike Christian Fundamentalists who see a conspiracy and an attack every time someone disagrees with them.

  6. 6
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    And for those who disagree with your assertion that his speech and comments were insulting and contemptuous? I assume you want us to shut up, which, of course, only reinforces Lindsay’s point.

    What an asinine assumption. I’ll buy you the stamp and mail it for you if that’s what it takes, just so you know you’re not being silenced. Unless you think the feminists have invaded our postal system and hacked CFI’s email server, I see no attempt to silence you.

  7. 7
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Bruce Gerenscer wrote:

    This post, along with the others you have mentioned, are a reminder of why many of us stopped frequenting FreeThought blogs and distanced ourselves from atheism+.

    That’s a feature, not a bug. Please, continue keeping your distance from decent folk.

  8. 8
    edithkeeler

    There they go again, attributing magic powers to feminists. No one is silencing you Bruce. Run along and send ‘em all the letters of your own you want.

    Many people consider there is ample evidence Lindsay, at a minimum, acted unprofessionally in undermining his own employees and organisation he represents and reviewing corporate leadership decisions is one of the duties of a board of directors. This isn’t actually controversial.

  9. 9
    Kevin

    Seriously, Bruce, do you have to work really really hard at being incoherent, or does it come naturally?

    I note for the record that you posted ON FtB. Meaning that you haven’t even been silenced here. Though like others, I wish you would take your free speech right and exercise it where the sun don’t shine.

    Have a great life. Don’t come back. We won’t miss you.

  10. 10
    Greta Christina

    And for those who disagree with your assertion that his speech and comments were insulting and contemptuous? I assume you want us to shut up, which, of course, only reinforces Lindsay’s point.

    Bruce Gerencser @ #5: Short answer: If you have an opinion about this matter., I encourage you to share it with the CFI Board of Directors.

  11. 11
    Silentbob

    @ 5 Bruce Gerencser

    Also, one of the themes of Dr Lindsay’s talk was that it was wrong for the voice of women to be silenced and their concerns ignored. If we are to take him at his word, shouldn’t he welcome this feedback?

  12. 12
    Hank_Says

    And for those who disagree with your assertion that his speech and comments were insulting and contemptuous? I assume you want us to shut up, which, of course, only reinforces Lindsay’s point.

    If you didn’t shut up, you wouldn’t be able to hear people tell you exactly why they found it contemptuous and insulting.

    But hey, since you personally didn’t find it disagreeable, there’s no reason anyone else should. Right?

    Sheesh.

  13. 13
    gshelley

    @Bruce
    Although from the Tone of Greta’s post it is reasonable to infer she is expecting people to agree with her and mail criticism, not only does she not explicitly say this, she doesn’t have the means to stop letters of support.
    A bit like when PZ Myers Pharyngulates a poll.

  14. 14
    smhll

    Also, one of the themes of Dr Lindsay’s talk was that it was wrong for the voice of women to be silenced and their concerns ignored. If we are to take him at his word, shouldn’t he welcome this feedback?

    Yes, RL made the claim that he did not object to listening, that his objection to the statement “shut up and listen” was only to the “shut up” part.

  15. 15
    jd142

    At the risk of derailing the conversation, has there been any changes on the Michael Shermer front? I.E., did he ever understand why people were upset with him or apologize?

  16. 16
    medussa

    This was very discouraging to read about.

    I followed every link posted, thanks Greta. And yes, I took the time to read the entirety of Lindsay’s speech, as he posted it, at least, and it made me cringe.

    I’m very glad I didn’t spend the money to go, as it would have rankled the entire time.
    And I did send them an e-mail to that effect.

    Thanks again.

  17. 17
    kellym

    I just got back from running errands, including dropping off my over two-page letter to the CFI Board. Had to drive twenty whole miles to find a Post Office with Sunday hours. I even used a Maria Goeppert-Mayer postage stamp to illustrate my dedication to the cause of feminism, or to illustrate that I way way overthought this. I’m a member of CFI, so the letter might even make a teeny tiny difference. Fingers crossed. Thanks for posting the address, Greta!

  18. 18
    hjhornbeck

    If anyone is wondering what to write, I just fired this off to Tom Flynn (warning: it’s loooong):

    I’d like to begin by thanking Ron Lindsay for his apology. The
    comparison of Rebecca Watson to North Korea and the insinuation she
    wanted Lindsay off the stage for being a “white male” were deplorable,
    and it led me to write this:

    “This is not professional conduct, Lindsay. You’ve done a remarkable
    amount of damage to the CFI brand in the span of two days, and you would
    be wise to step down immediately to help repair the damage.”

    So by striking those from the record, he has done some damage control.

    I am still calling for him to resign, however. Even without the issues
    of tone, there are still large problems with his speech, and his
    response to the feedback on his speech. For instance:

    - None of the evidence he provided supports the assertion that privilege
    is used to silence. I read through all his examples, and every person who
    “shut up and listened” was thankful for the experience. They realized they
    had been silencing others through their speech and privilege, by
    perpetuating mischaracterizations and misunderstandings, and were now
    better people for it. Lindsay must have invented that claim.

    - Lindsay’s discussion of feminism and A+ read like poisoning the well. He
    continually asserts confusion and doubt; I count sixteen questions related
    to both in a half hour speech, some of which are misleading (“And who
    decides what’s included within the scope of social justice anyway?”), some
    of which answers itself (“CFI or the AHA think [...] they’re combining
    atheism with activism on selected social justice issues.” to “how should
    secular organizations, including any organization that styles itself as an
    Atheist+ group, set their priorities?”). He uses the term
    “sister-punishers” as if it was common in feminist circles, when a quick
    Google search shows there are far more people wagging their fingers about
    the term than actually using it. The comparisons to “dogma,” the
    concession that privilege “has some validity,” and other word choices
    reveal a subtext of dismissal, even as Lindsay claims to support feminism.

    - He also thought it was wise to lecture to feminists about feminism, a
    topic he demonstrably knows little about. This is the very epitome of
    “mansplaining.”

    Now, I could forgive the massive gaff if he engaged in honest debate
    and listened to his critics. Lindsay himself ends the speech with “I
    look forward to the conversation.” Instead, he has refused to do so:

    “As to my May 17 talk, I have nothing to say. The CFI board will decide
    whether my talk was contemptuous of women, as some have alleged,
    misrepresented CFI’s commitment to women’s rights, or in some way
    committed CFI to a course of action inconsistent with CFI’s mission.”

    Worse, he has created a standoff. By going silent and refusing to
    dialog, the board is stuck with only two choices; retain Lindsay, and
    signal to his critics that CFI management endorses this ill-advised
    speech, or fire Lindsay, the president who they’ve known and become
    friends with over the years. I do not envy the board’s position, but I
    must press the obvious: if Lindsay will not step down, he needs to be
    removed to limit the damage to CFI. I know people who work and
    volunteer in the Canadian branch of CFI, who have little to do with
    their American parent, and I read the blogs of good, hard-working
    helpers and employees of the parent branch; all of them have been
    tainted by Lindsay’s speech, and none of them deserve it.

    I repeat: if Lindsay does not step down, he should be removed for the
    sake of CFI.

    HJ Hornbeck

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