Ophelia has been ripping on this bizarre self-appointed Global Secular Council. I’m just kind of flabbergasted. When they make these kinds of comparisons — “Republicans have The Heritage Foundation, New Democrats have the Progressive Policy Institute, Libertarians have The Cato Institute, and Secularists have the Global Secular Council” — I wonder if they really think that reflects well on them. Would you want to be part of an organization that says “we’re sort of similar to the Heritage Foundation?” And I look at their team, and I see a lot of smart people, but are any of them policy experts?
Will they be effective? I looked at their Issues page, and it’s rather high-mindedly vague. For instance, one issue is International Human Rights. I’m glad they’re for ‘em, but after a scant 3 paragraphs that consist of platitudes, they present their summary:
POLICY RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. government should apply political pressure whenever possible to countries violating their international human rights obligations.
So, the Global Secular Council’s advice is that the US should do something about it? How? Do they have lobbyists on their staff? It looks like they have a lot of high-profile figureheads, but where’s the equivalent of Michael DeDora of CFI’s Office of Policy, or American Atheists’ Amanda Knief, or the whole dang team at Americans United for Separation of Church and State? They’re not going to accomplish much if they’re just going to announce a set of goals on a website and then pose wisely to convince other people to go do the actual work, somehow.
I’m always going to be suspicious of an ad hoc group that assembles itself, declares itself the leader, and then tells everyone to follow on the strength of the prestige of their team. That’s not how real, functional organizations work. “BE IN CHARGE” is not a mission statement.
As a counter-example, look at Freethought Blogs. It’s an organization. When Ed Brayton and I were discussing setting it up, we did not begin by saying we’re really, really smart, and we should take charge and lead the whole atheist movement — we had a more reasonable and limited and specific goal. We wanted to set up a platform where we could write freely, and where we could create a shared space for people who wanted to promote equality and diversity within the movement…and thereby amplify the voices of all those people with broader social concerns than simply not believing in gods. The mission came first, then we built the framework to do it, and then we brought in people who fit our ideals (and also threw out one who didn’t).
This new organization seems to have gotten it all backwards, assembling high profile “thought leaders” (yeesh, but I hate that term) first, and then deciding to fix everything in the world. Because they think they can, I guess.