The David Silverman case

Yesterday I got the following email from the organization American Atheists of which I am a member.

On the evening of Saturday, April 7, 2018, the American Atheists Board of Directors received a complaint regarding David Silverman, the President of American Atheists.

The Board takes very seriously the concerns expressed and, in accordance with organization policies, the Board has placed Mr. Silverman on leave while an independent investigation is conducted. Mr. Silverman has pledged his full cooperation with the investigation.

The Board, led by Vice President Kathleen Johnson and myself, will fulfill the duties of the President while Mr. Silverman is on leave. National Program Director Nick Fish will oversee the day-to-day operations of the organization.

While Mr. Silverman is on leave, American Atheists will continue our work protecting the separation of religion and government, elevating the voices of atheists in our nation’s public discourse, and supporting our members and atheist communities across the country.

We are committed to transparency and openness about this process and will release more information as it becomes available.

If you have any questions, please contact Nick Fish, National Program Director, via email at or by calling (908) 276-7300 ext. 8.

Neal Cary
Chair, Board of Directors
American Atheists

That I was surprised is putting it mildly. What I noticed was that AA had said that they received the complaint about Silverman on the evening of Saturday, April 7. That was the day of the Secular Social Justice Conference and Silverman was there the whole day and I wondered whether something had happened there. Of course, the complaint may have had nothing to do with the SSJ event and just happened to be made on that day.

I had never met Silverman before but did so for the first time at the event. When I entered the hall, I chose a seat at the right extreme of the second row which I thought would give me a good view of the speakers and slides. (Some speakers often do not make the fonts large enough to be seen from even fairly close up and that was the case here too.). I then recognized the person right in front of me in the front row as Silverman and introduced myself to him and during the course of the event during breaks we spoke several times and he was very friendly and cordial, telling me about the latest AA conference and what it was like to appear on the Fox News talk shows with hosts like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity who were clearly hostile to atheism.

Since he was in the front row, I assumed that he had some role in the proceedings but it turned out that he was just another attendee. He sat there the whole time, alone, and not interacting much with anyone except me from time to time and with people in the line for lunch or coffee. This is unusual for high-profile people who usually attend events only if they have a high-profile role. The only exception was when the event MC Jessica Xiao needed a volunteer to assist her with the raffle drawing and he did the honors, gamely doing an impersonation of a game show sidekick.

All this has nothing to do with the charges against him, of course, but are just personal observations on my part triggered by the coincidence that a complaint was lodged on the very day that I first met Silverman and spent much of the day with him. I do not have any information about what has transpired other than what is in the email sent out by AA. PZ Myers, who is much more plugged in than I am, says that he knows what is going on and that a ‘bombshell will detonate soon’.


  1. invivoMark says

    I’m surprised that you’re surprised. ALL influential white men are suspect. There are no heroes.

  2. Mano Singham says

    invivoMark @#1,

    I was surprised because usually before there is any official action like this, there are rumors floating around. I had not heard of any about Silverman. Of course, that may just mean that I am not in the loop since PZ seems to have not been surprised.

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