Irresponsible Criticism of CFI

May 13, 2010

Kurtz-approved cartoon

The June/July issue of Free Inquiry may be coming to your mailbox soon. The lead editorial by my colleague Paul Kurtz contains some sharp criticism of the current management of the Center for Inquiry (CFI) and its affiliates, including the Council for Secular Humanism (Council).

Kurtz has every right to express his disagreement with actions undertaken by management. But critics, especially those who embrace humanist ethics, do have some responsibilities. Their criticism must be supported by facts and must not misrepresent the actions or positions criticized. Regrettably, Kurtz's editorial fails to meet these standards.

In his editorial, Kurtz suggests that readers new to Free Inquiry may not realize that CFI and the Council used to sponsor academic conferences; he implies that CFI and the Council now focus on "buffoonery." Not unexpectedly, he repeats his tiresome and fallacious objections to Blasphemy Day. (There is no need to delve into that issue again, but you can look at my post from last year if you want to.)

However, he also maintains he has new evidence to support his claim that CFI and its affiliates have now adopted ridicule as the preferred method for critiquing religious beliefs. He points to the Council's Free Expression Cartoon Contest, voicing his outrage at the winning entry , which features a Catholic bishop walking into a room with ten altar boys and musing, "God! It's like everyone I've ever slept with is here." Tsk, tsk, says Dr. Paul. CFI and the Council should not "engage in such forms of lampooning." Nothing so tawdry would have run in the pages of Free Inquiry when he was in charge.

But the facts contradict Kurtz's claims and demonstrate that his objections are intellectually dishonest.

To begin, please look at your last issue of FI , which featured articles based on papers delivered at CFI's conference on John Dewey. Was Dewey a buffoon? In addition, just a couple of weeks ago, I received a report from Ibn Warraq, CFI's noted Islamic scholar, commenting of the Inarah conference which was sponsored in part by CFI. (The Inarah conference focuses on studies of the early history of Islam.) The fact is CFI and the Council continue to support scholarship to the extent we have the financial means to do so (more on that below).

Second, the principal judges for the Free Expression Cartoon Contest were not employees of CFI or the Council. Instead, outside judges were used. And leading the panel of judges was Steve Benson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Arizona Republic . Benson found the winning entry "wickedly humorous, brutally direct . . . a stinging indictment of the Church's pedophilic priest scandal." He might have added that its tone was not very different from cartoons on the same topic appearing in newspapers and other publications throughout the country.

Finally, and most importantly, the winning entry was similar in tone to the cartoons that have appeared in the pages of Free Inquiry for decades. Indeed, FI published more such cartoons when CFI and the Council were under Kurtz's absolute control than after June 2008. ( FI has dramatically reduced its use of cartoons.)

Don't believe me? The cartoon that heads up my post is from the Spring 2003 issue of FI , and accompanied an article on the soft treatment pedophilic priests were receiving. The next cartoon is from the Fall 2002 issue, and accompanied an article on child abuse by priests. This latter cartoon strikes me as particularly crude as the bishop is actually salivating at the prospect of abusing a boy.

One cartoon that is very pointed I cannot, unfortunately, reproduce in my blog for copyright reasons, as FI paid the cartoonist from the Dayton Daily News for the rights to run the cartoon only in that particular issue (the Summer 2002 issue). But I can describe it: One priest is kneeling, confessing to another. The penitent priest says, "Forgive me, Father, I want to fondle little boys." The confessor shows relief, remarking, "Whew . . . I thought you were going to say you wanted to ordain women." 

Free Inquiry cartoons, of course, touched on issues other than child abuse. For example, FI published one wanly ridiculing the Salvation Army (Winter 2000/01), and another one showing a muscular, superhero Jesus in briefs (Spring 2003). You may recall that last year Paul Kurtz roundly criticized a painting that was displayed at the CFI Center in Washington, D. C., in part because it showed Jesus as effeminate. I guess he prefers the beefcake version.

Nor were contemptuous cartoons limited to the inside pages. Who can forget the notorious cover showing Uncle Sam about to marry a Pat Robertson look-alike with breasts? (Incongruously, the Robertson figure was also wearing a mitre -- apparently this is de rigueur for any religious caricature)

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Given this factual background about the contents of Free Inquiry when Kurtz controlled everything, there are two possible conclusions about Kurtz's recent criticism: 1. Kurtz has never actually read an issue of Free Inquiry , or seen any of its covers. 2. Kurtz's expression of outrage at the Cartoon Contest is feigned. There is no principled difference between him and current management. He has personal grievances, but because he knows it is not politic to acknowledge his personal grudge, he manufactures a dispute about the "wrong direction" of CFI.

Tired of the Kurtz melodrama? Yes, I am too. But Kurtz will not stop, and the sad reality is that Kurtz's constant carping and false claims are having an effect. CFI may be losing public support because some may be taken in by Kurtz's misrepresentations; others may just be sick of the never-ending disputes and will want to give their money elsewhere. CFI has had to cut some programs and staff already. More cuts may be forthcoming.

Apparently without any realization of its irony, Kurtz entitled his editorial "Toward a Kinder and Gentler Humanism." A worthy goal, but I'd settle for simple honesty and a sense of responsibility.


#51 Melody on Sunday May 16, 2010 at 9:31pm

@J: This isn’t about you.

Apologies but I’m not sure I understand what your second sentence means.

I don’t give Paul Kurtz a free pass for being manipulative or destructive to the organization because he is Paul Kurtz. I don’t make these statements lightly, nor am I the only one who has this opinion as you can see. I would very much like you to believe that this has been a struggle for me and others who have had a deep affection and admiration for Paul.

I think you should look back at some of Paul’s recent criticisms of CFI and tell me if they are moderate. These are just two quick gems:

“It was a palace coup clear and simple by those who wish to seize immediate power.” Quite dramatic!

“But for CFI itself to sponsor the lampooning of Christianity by encouraging anti-Catholic, anti-Protestant, or any other anti-religious cartoons goes beyond the bounds of civilized discourse in pluralistic society. It is not dissimilar to the anti-semitic cartoons of the Nazi era.” Nazi era, really? Not very moderate. Not only is this an irresponsible analogy, but quite surprising coming from a man that once defended blasphemy.

Please pardon my misspelling of the word Orwellian. I usually don’t point out other people’s spelling errors, as it may seem petty and impolite.

You can insist on your opinion and ignore the valid and credible accounts of people working within CFI with a great deal more information than you are privy to. However, as a skeptic and a humanist, I would hope that you are skeptical of all claims-even Paul Kurtz’s.

#52 J. (Guest) on Monday May 17, 2010 at 4:09am


I am not interested in your spelling but rather the content of your posts. You can check back over my posts or just take my word for I but I have not undertaken to defend Kurtz and I have not commented on the motives of any of the protagonists. What I have done is express my misgivings about the issue he raised that coincide with mine since CFI announced the blasphemy contest.

What troubles me chiefly is that CFI seems not to have taken seriously the objections to aspects of the grass roots program that solicits and endorses brutish expressions that I think are counterproductive to our mission. I do not recall any statements from leadership that would tend to indicate that there might be some merit to the criticism and that sponsoring such expressions is under review. The sense is that the ship has left the harbor long ago and there will be no turning back nor course corrections.

It feels as if leadership isn’t listening. (I don’t mean ALL leadership.) Your own posts in response to mine, for example, dispute issues that I have never raised and seem not to grasp what I have said and even to question my agreement with rather basic aspects of the CFI mission. Everything that I and other critics have said about what we see as a road better not taken is interpreted as pro or anti-Kurtz.

Let me make it clear. Leadership is not listening.

#53 Melody on Monday May 17, 2010 at 7:46am

@J: My local membership were overwhelmingly supportive of Blasphemy Day. What I hear you are saying is that you think that such efforts are counterproductive to our cause. I know that you are not the only one, as I have heard similar complaints from others (mostly on line). The leadership (not all) think that these efforts are principled and beneficial to the cause. So what do we do about it? Do we get abandon Blasphemy Day and the Campaign for Free Expression, because of a small, but vocal minority? Do you think we should meet somewhere in the middle? What are your suggestions?

#54 SimonSays on Monday May 17, 2010 at 8:03am

J: You say ‘leadership isn’t listening’. Leadership is responding to your posts on this blog post, so I am not sure I agree. If you believe there is a conflation of your concerns with Paul Kurtz’s, that is probably because the subject of the blog post is Paul Kurtz’s concerns.

As far as blasphemy day, Paul Kurtz and others expressed probably every misgiving imaginable last year on the CFI blog, on POI, on NPR, and so on. There was a huge lively discussion about it then. If you believe there was a particular concern of yours that was not addressed, perhaps you could comunicate directly with management or your local branch (if there is one). However it is unproductive to keep saying the same things over and over again and expect a different response.

#55 J. (Guest) on Monday May 17, 2010 at 9:47am

An example of not listening: I have never suggested abandoning Blasphemy Day and the Campaign for Free Expression. What I have said is that sponsoring a BLASPHEMY CONTEST THAT ELICITS AND ENDORSES BRUTISH ENTRIES IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE. Do you see the difference? The kind of listening I have in mind includes attending not just disputing or just tolerating someone for a brief space of time till they go away. When I say that leadership isn’t listening I mean that there is little in the way of actual consideration of what the posts actually say. I have to acknowledge that I never expected a different response but I don’t think it’s impossible that without the need announce a change of policy there may be some thought to avoid the excesses when the event comes around next year. That’s my suggestion.

#56 SimonSays on Monday May 17, 2010 at 9:57am

J: Thanks for clarifying. You are not the first person to say this. Your concern:

COUNTERPRODUCTIVE [and that a different type of contest would be better moving forward]

was voiced by several others last year and was responded to last year by multiple commentators. So I still disagree with your contention that management was/is not listening.

That being said, the topic of *this blog post* is Paul Kurtz’s concerns and behavior in particular-not yours. I’m not trying to be dismissive, simply keep the conversation on topic.

#57 DJ Grothe on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 2:16pm

It appears that some at CFI got what they may have been wanting for a while: Paul Kurtz finally resigned from the boards of the corporations he founded and the magazines he started. I believe it is really something like a Shakespearean tragedy, and very troubling. It could have and should have been avoided. I guess time will tell how successful the victors will be in writing the history.

#58 Ronald A. Lindsay on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 3:52pm

@DJ You state there are some at CFI who are glad that Paul Kurtz has resigned. Who? What evidence do you have to support this claim?
You reference “victors.” Who are the victors and what is your justification for your characterization? If you are suggesting that I would consider myself a “victor” because Paul Kurtz has resigned, then you are wrong; furthermore, you worked with me as a colleague on CFI’s management team for over a year so you know or should know that I never considered myself as someone in some sort of contest with Paul Kurtz. My goal and the goal of the rest of the management team (I thought) was to try to work in the best interests of the organization. That did mean I disagreed with Paul Kurtz on various issues when I regarded his position or action ill-advised. I would not have been doing my job otherwise. It is very unfortunate that those disagreements resulted in divisions between me and Paul Kurtz (and divisions between Paul Kurtz and the board) that transcended the scope of the actual disagreement. I am not sure even today why matters evolved as they did – but I do know there was no effort or plan to triumph over Paul Kurtz (whatever that would mean) or to drive him away from the organization.
You also seem to suggest these unspecified victors might rewrite history. If this is a veiled attempt to insinuate that I or any member of the board or CFI management will falsely describe the events of the past two years, then, to be blunt, such a suggestion is beneath contempt.
I agree with you that the way in which events unfolded is tragic. Sometimes, human nature being what it is, there are some who are tempted to profit from a tragedy. I hope no one will try to exploit Paul Kurtz’s resignation to their own advantage or to the advantage of some organization with which they are affiliated. Paul Kurtz and his legacy certainly deserve better than to be used as pawns for the sake of some anticipated short-term gain.

#59 Melody on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 3:57pm

@D.J.: A tragedy indeed, and one that could have been avoided. However, the finger is being pointed in the wrong direction.

#60 DJ Grothe on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 4:13pm

@Melody: I think there were regrettable actions taken by both PK and CFI’s current management recently; indeed, fingers can be pointed all around. I have disagreed with PK many times over the years, but I never publicly or privately argued that he had unethical motivations. Ron, on the other hand, is all to quick to impugn people’s motives (as he may have suggested about me in his comment above in a veiled way, for instance).

People of good will can disagree without being mean-spirited or vilifying each other; unfortunately, there hasn’t been an ounce of good will between Ron Lindsay and Paul Kurtz for a long time.

I think that what resulted in Kurtz feeling he had no choice but to resign is a consequence of personalities and his reaction to petty point-scoring much more than it is about issues. I have been finding recent posts on this site about Paul Kurtz to be petty, vindictive, uncharitable and unprofessional. (From the emails I have received about the topic, I can say that I am not alone in this). Again, this is acknowledging the fact that Kurtz is difficult, that CFI needed to improve its management and culture, and that I supported initial transitions in leadership (even if often I provided one of the lone voices of caution and respect for Kurtz’s legacy in internal discussions at the organization).

@Ron: I hope you are not now impugning my sincerity or motives in commenting on this public blog. But if you are, you would at least be consistent with how you have recently been handling people disagreeing with you.

#61 Ronald A. Lindsay on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 4:20pm

@DJ I’m just asking for clarification of your remarks. If you believe there are those who got what they wanted when Paul resigned or now consider themselves “victors,” provide evidence. That’s what skeptics and humanists do.

#62 Melody on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 4:26pm

@D.J.: “Ron, on the other hand, is all to quick to impugn people’s motives (as he may have suggested about me in his comment above in a veiled way, for instance).

People of good will can disagree without being mean-spirited or vilifying each other; unfortunately, there hasn’t been an ounce of good will between Ron Lindsay and Paul Kurtz for a long time.”

As far as I am concerned, CFI’s actions have only been in defense of vilification and attacks coming from Dr. Paul Kurtz. We will continue to try to preserve Paul’s legacy, but his revisionist history and viciousness needs to stop. It’s hurting us all. I believe that all of us at CFI have tried to give Paul the respect he deserved, but we have been pushed up against a wall.

#63 SimonSays on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 5:10pm

DJ: May I remind you that yourself accused Ron of “hurt feelings” a couple messages ago in your first comment on this?

If you were still at CFI that would be one thing. But you’re not anymore.

I’m sorry it just does not give a good impression to have the current president of JREF (considered by most to be a competing organization)getting in the middle of what is a CFI affair, no matter how much affection and respect you have for Paul Kurtz. There are all sorts of potential conflicts of interest which I would hope are quite obvious to you being the seasoned manager that you are.

I would sincerely hope you would do your best to avoid even a hint of impropriety, or else it is inevitable that your motives are called into question, no matter how lofty and sincere your intent really is.

#64 DJ Grothe on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 5:42pm

@Simon: I do not believe it is inevitable that most people who have known and worked with me for years would ever call my motives into question. It may be inevitable that Ron would do so (I feel it has been his modus operandi since I have known him to do so with a number of people with whom he has had disagreements). I think it is possible that a staffer or two at CFI could do so, if they feel their livelihoods might be threatened as intimated in Ron’s blog post above, I don’t know.

I originally chimed in on this blog post because I thought it was unprofessional, self-serving, and more than unkind for Lindsay to excoriate Kurtz yet again, this time accusing him “feigning” his concern over CFI’s current direction (which says nothing about whether or not Kurt’s concern is justified — a different matter entirely). I believe Lindsay falsely accused Kurtz of “manufactur[ing] a dispute about the ‘wrong direction’ of CFI.”  I know that whether his concerns are justified, Kurtz is most certainly sincere, and not “manufacturing a dispute.” It is a real dispute, and something I hear about from many people.

As I said, people of good will can disagree over the best strategies for organizations whose missions are as important as CFI’s. In fact, I have had many disagreements about strategy with Kurtz over the years. What is so regrettable is that in all of Ron’s posts contra Paul Kurtz, there has been little evidence of any such good will whatsoever.

In fact, I have been privy to a number of private threats and even veiled public threats that if Paul Kurtz doesn’t stop voicing his concerns over CFI’s current strategies, that some within CFI may attempt to air dirty laundry and sully Kurtz’s reputation. That is so troubling to me, and I sincerely hope that kind of unethical behavior stops.

I absolutely love what CFI stands for, and have worked for many years to help build it and to help advance its important mission. I just want it as an organization to behave according to the values it espouses. And I am saddened that in my view recently some of its principals have not done so in their treatment of its founder.

#65 diogenes99 on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 5:48pm

Nothing can be accomplished or learned until this dispute dies down, and all parties have some space to let wounds heal and rethink positions.

Can we all just step back?

If we want CFI to flourish, we will do this.  Any attempt to clarify, explain, rationalize, split hairs, point fingers—whether in public or private—doesn’t help at this point. 

Perhaps Kurtz and Lindsay share the blame for the poor transition.  I think enough advice has been given.  Ron Lindsay has the insight, strength of character, and commitment to take CFI to new heights.  Now it is time for the management team to regroup.  Let’s us all extend the courtesy of a period free of this terrible distraction (disaster) for the team to refocus their talents and restate and clarify the goals of CFI.

I don’t pay dues for this to continue.  I pay dues so that there can be a well-defined action plan with concrete goals that will help move us toward our broader mission.

#66 Melody on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 5:49pm

@D.J.: Please do not accuse CFI of airing out people’s dirty laundry. No one has done that. You know very well I could say vice versa. You aren’t helping CFI or Paul Kurtz with these comments. Please stop for the sake of the organization you say you care about.

#67 SimonSays on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 5:53pm


@Simon: I do not believe it is inevitable that most people who have known and worked with me for years would ever call my motives into question.

The point is, most people have not met you personally to make this judgment about you. You are a public figure after all, so most people haven’t. What they see is the simple fact of the JREF president chiming in and taking sides in a CFI dispute. As someone who does marketing and PR professionally, I’m telling you that will without a doubt be perceived negatively by some.

The choice is yours of course but sometimes IMO it’s best to err on the side of caution to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

#68 Joe Oliver (Guest) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 6:05pm

I don’t have time to read every single comment here.  I read several, though. 

Ron, you are irresponsible with this blogging.  You seem to forget that this is not a case in court to win, but a management position that requires support from members.  In case you wonder, Ron, most people don’t trust lawyers because they are like mercenaries that fight for the money and will do whatever necessary to win that money/fight.  As long as you continue to act like a lawyer whose job it is to rip apart the opposition without mercy, you won’t be respected by a lot of us as trustworthy management.  If it weren’t for Reba Wooden and the CFI Kids program, I know there are a few families at CFI Indy that would have left the organization over blasphemy day.  You may recall one mother posted on here concerning that very fact. 

There is no comparison of the parts of editorial quoted by Ron and the ruthless post.  The post, in my mind, is a fine example of the sort of person Ron Lindsay is.  My family doesn’t have much to donate, but we do donate some.  I assure you we are strongly reconsidering who that money goes to.  It’s not a threat considering I know it amounts to little.  I’m just pointing out that there are people reconsidering allocation of funds and it’s not because of Kurtz or any misrepresentations.  It’s because of Ron Lindsay.  All of the witty retorts, twisting of words, or time spent building a case by researching past issues of FI do not change this very real fact.  Ron could have let Kurtz resign, get his last word in, and civilly rebutted.  But, that is not in Ron’s character, it seems.  Frankly, that is not the kind of character I consider decent.

Ron, Kurtz may very well misrepresent things.  I don’t know.  I’m not defending him because I don’t know him on a personal level and I don’t read much of the bickering you two old children keep engaging in.  However, it’s your narcissism that really shines through when you fail to mention the other glaring possibility of why public support may be waning for CFI:  You.  Of course, I expect nothing less.  Then you have the audacity to end with “I’d settle for simple honesty and a sense of responsibility.”  Really?  When do you plan to start on that?  Try starting with admitting that some of us just simply aren’t impressed with you or the character you display and therefore represent CFI with.

#69 DJ Grothe on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 6:05pm

Melody and Simon: I am glad that as spouses you often tag team like this. And I appreciate your attempt to make things better for CFI. We all care about its future, that is beyond question.

But, Melody: I haven’t accused CFI of airing out people’s dirty laundry, only stating instead that I have been privy to a number of private threats and even veiled public threats that if Paul Kurtz doesn’t stop voicing his concerns over CFI’s current strategies, that some within CFI may then attempt to air dirty laundry and sully Kurtz’s reputation. In my view, that is unconscionable and just doesn’t gel with the values that the organization espouses.

And Simon: This is not just a CFI dispute. This is a debate on strategy that the movement has been having for years, an important debate. And the incessant Lindsay/Kurtz brouhahas aren’t an internal CFI matter. Ron helps to make them a public matter by posting them on his public blog, making in my view unsupportable accusations against Kurtz. If I were still at CFI, I might never have made these comments on Lindsay’s blog, out of fear of getting fired or otherwise reprimanded. But I don’t have such concerns now, and so feel compelled to publicly disagree with Lindsay when he says such things about Kurtz.

I do hope it all dies down (and not just because I just got scolded for commenting on a blog while I am on vacation). I just find the whole thing so regrettable how it unfolded. I think CFI failed in its duty to try to avoid its founder feeling forced to resign.

#70 Melody on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 6:12pm

D.J.: This is not about tag-teaming. We are two people who work for CFI (one paid, one unpaid) who have been privy to information on all sides.

Paul could have handed over his role graciously, but put up a fight. That is not the fault of CFI.

I have seen the threats and actions from the other side and you know that.

#71 Ronald A. Lindsay on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 6:18pm

@DJ: In all your comments you studiously avoid discussing the evidence. To go back to the subject of my post, you have not attempted to render consistent Paul Kurtz’s claim that the winning entry in the cartoon contest indicates CFI and Council now focus on buffoonery with Free Inquiry’s repeated publication of cartoons lampooning religion when Kurtz was in charge. Please address the evidence and stop making accusations.
Today you allude to those who are happy that Paul resigned and consider themselves victors. I have twice asked you to identify these individuals and provide substantiating evidence. Please do so and stop making accusations.
You claim that my “modus operandi” is to question people’s motives. Please provide evidence that this is my modus operandi.
You allude to threats by unnamed individuals to which you have been “privy” in which these people threaten to sully Kurtz’s reputation. Please provide evidence of threats to sully Kurtz’s reputation.
While you were at CFI you never complained to me or any member of the board (to my knowledge) that threats had been made against Paul Kurtz, nor did you go public to protest these threats nor did you resign to avoid being complicit in such threats. Yet now these threats bother you.
You refer to good will. That is an important virtue. Respect for the truth is another important virtue. I have defended the organization and its employees vigorously where I believe their actions have been mischaracterized. I make no apologies for that.
In defending CFI, I have not knowingly said anything false about Paul Kurtz at any time. You claim to be privy to many things based on your former status as a CFI manager. Surely if I have lied about Paul Kurtz, you’d be aware of it. Identify one instance where I have lied about Paul Kurtz.

#72 mckenzievmd on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 6:34pm

I am not involved with CFI or CSH directly in any way; just a member at large. Nonetheless, I have a certain sympathy with Dr. Kurtz’s statements on the activities that have created an appearance of hostility to religion, such as the Blasphemy Day and cartoon contest activities. It might be helpful for the leadership to understand that from a rank-and-file perspective, Dr. Kurtz’s statements seem eminently reasonable. Whether or not they are a cover for expressing some personal animosity, attacking them in the way that Dr. Lindsay does in this post is only more distasteful airing of dirty laundry. I cannot say whether or not Dr. Kurtz’s claims regarding his own feelings are feigned or sincere, but I will say that knowing none of the individuals involved personally, Dr. Lindsay’s blog remarks and follow-up comments seem far more personalized and hostile than anything in Kurtz’s editorial. If the intended effect was to calm the waters with a dispassionate correcting of the facts, that effect has not been achieved by these comments, and the flames have only been fanned.

Hopefully, the departure of Dr. Kurtz, deserved or not, apppropriate or not, will free this organization from this sort of indecorous sniping. If that happens, though, I hope Dr. Lindsay you will remember that regardless of his motives, Dr. Kurtz did express the sentiments of other members as well, as I think is evident in this discussion. The issues he raises are legitimate and should be addresed regardless of his motives for raising them.

#73 SimonSays on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 6:47pm

@DJ: What can I say, Melody and I learned from the best tag team in the business…you and Thomas! {smile}

#74 DJ Grothe on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 6:49pm

@Ron: I havent once accused you of lying, and it confuses me why you would instruct me to “identify one instance where [you] have lied about Paul Kurtz.” I have merely disagreed with your argument that Kurtz is “feigning” his concern about CFI’s current direction, or “manufacturing the dispute.” (Incidentally, I haven’t argued one way or the other that Kurtz is justified in his concern, only that I believe him to be absolutely sincere). As for you wanting me to provide evidence showing Kurtz to be consistent: first, that isn’t up to me; he may well be inconsistent, and even change or modify his views over time. But surely one may be inconsistent and sincere at the same time. Even if he is inconsistent, it doesn’t follow that he is “feigning.” To argue that he is faking his concern is uncharitable, and I think mean-spirited.

On your other point: I do not think it would be appropriate for me to recount the specifics of conversations at CFI where threats of airing dirty laundry or sullying his reputation were made. I just hope such threats would stop, and I suspect they likely will, with Kurtz now out of the picture.

As for my never bringing such troubling matters to the Board of Directors: I shared my concerns with others in management at CFI on a number of occasions. And I eventually did leave CFI, as hard as it was for me to do so, although I will never move from my commitment to the mission of the organization.

Now that’s it for me on this blog post. I just made a promise to my spouse with whom I am currently on vacation that I won’t continue on the topic.

#75 doctoratlantis (Guest) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 8:49pm


Do you folks realize that (a) these discussions are taking place on the Internet in a public forum and (b) that people who are not involved in any way will see these without the benefit of any historical reference, the tapestry of personal experience some of you are drawing from, or any ability to measure the timbre of the tone of the posts?

CFI depends on the donations of people who think that it will move forward a secular agenda.  The temptation to justify one’s actions or position is strong and natural, but to outsiders it makes it look like leadership is crippled by internal politics.

This kind of discussion could be useful and constructive, but THIS particular thread seems more about justification of the past rather than moving forward.  And what’s worse, it lives forever on the Internet. 

Please, please, please stop talking about this HERE.  Start a private google discussion group with the leadership and interested parties - or pick up a phone and have a chat.  What you’re doing here is not going to make people trust CFI with their dollars or their dreams for a strong secular future.

#76 Melody on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 8:59pm

doctoratlantis: I have been participating in these conversations, but I completely agree with you. I wish these blogs were never published. I wish Paul Kurtz didn’t write those articles in Free Inquiry and in the media. I wish we would stop airing our dirty laundry out in public. But they are. It’s so difficult to stand by and watch misinformation being spread and I have given into it. I wish we had a new rule: We don’t air out our dirty laundry to the public. Stop being so fearful that someone will yell censorship if they aren’t given the platform to do so.

Please don’t forget that good work is being doing on the ground and these disputes in upper management have rarely affected the real work we are doing on the local level. CFI is still worth supporting.

#77 Katie Kish (Guest) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 9:34pm

I’m not really sure where to start, but I think this entire thing is absolutely ridiculous. Because of everyone’s “irresponsible” actions and public letters people are starting to talk. This ‘talk’ is not the kind of talk that you want, it is all just bad PR and makes CFI look like a first year university club that can’t STFU and get along, at least in public. Amanda Peet is a fabulous donor and science advisor for CFI-Canada and here she is saying her funds would be better used elsewhere, and you would all be foolish to think that she is the only donor out there thinking that.

I know that Dr. Kurtz may have done some things that other deem worthy of a harsh and, frankly, rude response - but it doesn’t help the situation. I think that if Dr. Lindsay felt the need to reply, he could have done so in a less inflammatory fashion.

“Tired of the Kurtz melodrama? Yes, I am too. But Kurtz will not stop, and the sad reality is that Kurtz’s constant carping and false claims are having an effect. CFI may be losing public support because some may be taken in by Kurtz’s misrepresentations; others may just be sick of the never-ending disputes and will want to give their money elsewhere.”

CFI may be losing public support because some may be fed up with the pissing matches. Dr. Lindsay, a man you met for the very first time at CFI-Canada’s conference went out to the pub with me the last week and said he was floored that in the first 15 minutes of meeting you you were slamming Dr. Kurtz to him. That is the sort of thing that also loses organizations support.

#78 SimonSays on Wednesday May 19, 2010 at 4:51am

Folks, this post and comments were published before Paul Kurtz resigned. I know we’re all wondering what that’s about, however since to my knowledge Paul has yet to comment on it, I think it would be best if we just waited for his thoughts-which will no doubt be forthcoming.

The topic of this blog post is not Paul Kurtz’s resignation, so lets not conflate the two. At this point we are just speculating.

#79 J. (Guest) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 at 6:27am

CFI leadership’s implacable insistence that Kurtz has bad faith denied even token face saving customarily offered to worthy opponents. What other honorable path did you leave him? Can anyone be surprised at the outcome.

#80 F. Nietzsche (Guest) on Thursday June 03, 2010 at 4:18pm

No one ruins a party like the person who takes it too seriously…

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