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Count me out: CFI statement on NYC Islamic Center
Posted: 29 August 2010 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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A “Clarification” of the original statement has been released. In general, such clarifications don’t seem to get nearly the atttention or carry nearly the weight of the original, but I’m not sure how closely the world is watching CFI for its opinions on the subject anyway. FWIW, I prefer this version to the original, though I still find the statement that “CFI does not consider houses of worship to be beneficial to humanity” as rather irrelevant to the issue of the Muslim center and a bit pointless. “We don’t care for religion or churches, but we don’t think this one is any worse than any other” may be an accurate statement of CFI leadership’s policy, but I’m not sure what we are likley to gain from making it in response to this issue.

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Posted: 29 August 2010 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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I agree, Brennen.  I wish the initial release was this cogent.

Regardless of how the CFI feels about organized (and unorganized) religion, our only comment should be that we value the Constitution and the First Amendment above all else.  We will continue to fight for freedom from oppression, but will also stand with our fellow Muslim Americans and demand that they have the same rights as everyone else.

What’s that poem?: “First, they came for the Socialists…”  smile

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Posted: 29 August 2010 03:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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mckenzievmd - 29 August 2010 10:21 AM

A “Clarification” of the original statement has been released. In general, such clarifications don’t seem to get nearly the atttention or carry nearly the weight of the original, but I’m not sure how closely the world is watching CFI for its opinions on the subject anyway. FWIW, I prefer this version to the original, though I still find the statement that “CFI does not consider houses of worship to be beneficial to humanity” as rather irrelevant to the issue of the Muslim center and a bit pointless. “We don’t care for religion or churches, but we don’t think this one is any worse than any other” may be an accurate statement of CFI leadership’s policy, but I’m not sure what we are likley to gain from making it in response to this issue.

Agreed. This statement is considerably better.

But I also don’t see that there’s necessarily anything wrong with churches or religious buildings per se. It’s the beliefs that are the problem, not the buildings. Can’t non-theistic, non-supernaturalist religious folk like varieties of Unitarian build religious buildings? If so, there really wouldn’t be anything wrong with them at all. Can’t there be religious buildings built by very moderate, pro-science, liberal religious folk? It might be that CFI would have some very modest disagreement with the latter, but hardly enough to make it worth a press release.

Presumably if CFI is in the business of buying buildings, it’s because there is some benefit to community. Religious edifices provide the same benefit, and some congregations are otherwise reasonable enough not to be particularly problematic. Further, some religious buildings have other merits, e.g., they are of aesthetic or historical merit.

As Brennen says, this rapidly becomes a pointless exercise.

The important point of the press release is the point about religious freedom, and that there is no relevant distinction in this case between a Moslem religious building and a Christian one.

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Posted: 29 August 2010 03:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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The previous statement triggered a pretty scathing reaction across all of the blogs I read. Only Greg Laden agreed with the original statement, and not many posts on the blog agreed with his position.

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Posted: 29 August 2010 05:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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CFI’s corrective statement and its introductory paragraph do not do enough to induce me to change my mind about formally distancing myself from CFI. I write to do that now, though not to the extent I expressed yesterday.

The new CFI statement is excellent. Had it been issued first, we would not be having this discussion.

Unfortunately, in the introductory paragraph, CFI’s leaders have done the politicians’ shuffle and failed to take responsibility for a grotesque, though unintentional, misrepresentation of most secular Humanists’ views.

The statement that created this controversy declares that “it would be inappropriate to build any new house of worship in the area immediately around Ground Zero, not just mosques.” While the specific meaning of “inappropriate” is subject to interpretation, the general meaning is clear: it implies, whether as a matter of law, a matter of ethics or a matter of judgment, that those theists should not build their churches. That is what it says and that is how it will be received. Reconstructing this with a statement of regret that the original statement “was interpreted by some as calling for a prohibition on the placement of mosques or other houses of worship near Ground Zero or otherwise speaking out against freedom of religion” dodges the clear meaning of CFI’s words, especially the word “inappropriate.” Addressing only the worst of three unfavorable interpretations leaves most of the ground uncovered. Many people will not see the distinction between the legal, ethical and judgment-oriented interpretations, even with the explanation.

Any misinterpretation of the authors’ intent is solely the fault of the authors. No one forced them to use those words; they chose to use them, and they are 100% responsible for the foreseeable consequences. Phrased as it is, the original statement inevitably will be interpreted not just by a few but by many as a call for a prohibition of all churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and the like. Even though CFI has now walked that back, the bell cannot be un-rung. People will think we believe it no matter how much we disclaim and deny: they held that view of us before August 27 and they certainly will hold it now.  The original press release reinforces a negative prejudice against us.

People who cannot see that well in advance should not be issuing statements on our behalf. To the extent that the first statement attracts any attention – the essential purpose of a press release – it will harm every one of us in our efforts to promote and champion our causes. Instead of acknowledging this, CFI’s “corrective” statement shows that the leadership is unwilling either to face or to admit what it has done, and to accept responsibility for the consequences of its actions. Instead, it now asks all of us to bear the burden, which we surely will do even if we distance ourselves from CFI. This suggests either a lack of humility or a state of denial.

In addition, the August 27th press release remains on CFI’s website. I have been told that there are concerns about censorship and trying to rewrite history if the press was removed. Censorship does not apply to one’s own writings. And if one agrees that the press release should never have been issued, then a simple notice on the site that it has been removed on further reflection would suffice. To do less is to continue to publish it as a reflection of CFI’s views. A disclaimer on another page will not prevent future damage, and even a disclaimer on the same page would not plug the hole in the dike.

High on my list of reasons for being a Humanist is my commitment to being firmly grounded in reality and acting responsibly according to the facts. In reacting defensively instead of accepting responsibility, leadership has failed to act on that shared commitment.

If a person who likes his whiskey is seen hanging around the whiskey cabinet, his protestations will not believed, even if they are true. We secularists already face the public prejudice on the part of many, not only the most radical fundamentalists, that we would ban religion if we could. We should not adopt a perpetually defensive posture so that we can avoid offending anyone but neither can we afford to be unmindful of how our words will be received.

The new press release does not allay my fears that CFI’s ill-considered words will be used against all of us. I will not have my name associated with a statement that the building of a church is inappropriate. This is the position in which CFI’s leadership has placed any of us who is fortunate enough to obtain a public hearing for our issues. Even now, they have not renounced the use of that word. Therefore, I am formally announcing that for reasons of conscience I can no longer support CFI as an organization under the current leadership.

I wish to remain as a participant on these discussion forums. My intention is to continue to discuss matters of common concern with fellow Humanists and to call, when appropriate, for a change in CFI’s leadership. There are no bad people in the leadership. Matthew tells me that they are good and talented people, so I know it is true, but that does not salvage their abysmal handling of this issue.

In the great American film “Terms of Endearment,” a young mother-of-three who is dying of cancer must face a decision about the continued upbringing of her children. Their father, her husband, holds a responsible position but lacks important elements of moral character. The young mother, who has endured his infidelity with quiet dignity, finds decency in others when most of us would not. From her hospital bed, with remarkable tenderness, she tells him simply, “Honey, I don’t think you should raise them.”

My statements on this subject are not meant as an attack. I presume the best of intentions by all concerned. All our leaders have made valuable contributions to our causes and no doubt will make many more. Like all of us, they have invested the emotional equivalent of their blood in our issues. But CFI’s current leadership is politically tone-deaf. I have no confidence that they will not make similar mistakes in the future, because the August 27th statement is such a stinker that it could not have been authored by anyone with much political sense. If they care about CFI and secularism, they should recognize that and step down for the good of CFI and the cause of secularism.

I urge CFI to rebuild its leadership from scratch, keeping in mind that those who were responsible for the August 27 statement should not make any further decisions about press releases or otherwise speak for the rest of us. I urge others to join me in calling for a change in CFI’s leadership.

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Posted: 29 August 2010 05:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Here’s hoping Pat Condell’s over the top video screed gets pilloried as well… shut eye

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Posted: 29 August 2010 07:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Seems like this whole thing is just a great circus for everyone to grandstand with…including here.
I don’t think CFI should have buckled under pressure to recant any statements.
There are probably many blogs and forums out there for people to partake in discussions concerning civil liberties and and constitutional freedoms.
That kind of rhetoric is a dime a dozen. I thought CFI was committed to at least secularism and the advancement of rational, science based reason.
I hope it stays that way. In doing so it should continue to use any outlet it can for the prevention of theistic headquarters, and places of worship.
That supersedes any ideas about building a rational, tolerance based, humanistic bridge towards the iconoclastic, ancient religions, and their wacky, outdated, oppressive doctrines.
Do you honestly think islamic or christian centers would tolerate secular, reason, and science based organizations like CFI? They don’t tolerate us, and if they could do so legally, CFI wouldn’t exist!!
Good for anyone who strikes when they can. Hit hard and whenever possible. People choose to join organizations who command respect. Looks like more people will be siding with the muslims here.
I’ve long grown tired of intellectually conferring with theists on matters of common ground and humanity.

[ Edited: 29 August 2010 07:59 PM by VYAZMA ]
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Posted: 29 August 2010 08:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Another thing. Go quietly if you want to leave. Cohesion and support is what holds an organization together. Not this petty, internecine whining about topical issues.
When I sit in union meetings and see this kind of crap I just look around and sigh. It undermines the reason we gather. It accomplishes nothing and weakens the solidarity.
When the Teamsters do things on a local or International level that I’m not happy with, I don’t throw up my hands and walk out the door. A union isn’t about the needs of one person or even a group of people, it’s about the collective whole.

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Posted: 29 August 2010 08:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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I thought CFI was committed to at least secularism and the advancement of rational, science based reason.

We are, but there has always been more.  When I first heard of the Council for Secular Humanism (its original acronym was CODESH—who remembers that??), they had a strong respect and defense of the First Amendment and of democratic values.  Truly, it is the only way all people of varying faiths can live together as one nation.  We, as secular humanists are outcasts, too.  We need to be able to assemble as we please, to talk about our beliefs, and for us to take full part in this nation.  As a secular humanist who is an elected official, I love that I take the secular affirmation, not religious oath, and this is protected by the Constitution.  I am slowly coming out as a non-religious person to the community.  And it’s ok. 

We should be in the front lines defending the people who are building the community center.  They are a “religious” minority as much as we are (SH isn’t a religion—just work with me here!!).

That should be the only statement we make as an organization.  And then stand with these people as they seek what we seek—full participation as citizens of the United States.

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Posted: 29 August 2010 08:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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HappyHumanist - 29 August 2010 08:22 PM

I thought CFI was committed to at least secularism and the advancement of rational, science based reason.

We are, but there has always been more.  When I first heard of the Council for Secular Humanism (its original acronym was CODESH—who remembers that??), they had a strong respect and defense of the First Amendment and of democratic values.  Truly, it is the only way all people of varying faiths can live together as one nation.  We, as secular humanists are outcasts, too.  We need to be able to assemble as we please, to talk about our beliefs, and for us to take full part in this nation.  As a secular humanist who is an elected official, I love that I take the secular affirmation, not religious oath, and this is protected by the Constitution.  I am slowly coming out as a non-religious person to the community.  And it’s ok. 

We should be in the front lines defending the people who are building the community center.  They are a “religious” minority as much as we are (SH isn’t a religion—just work with me here!!).

That should be the only statement we make as an organization.  And then stand with these people as they seek what we seek—full participation as citizens of the United States.

I’m glad for ya. I believe in egalitarianism too. I like liberty.
OK now that that is done….Are you serious? In what framework? In what context? What is “The United States” in this discussion? Seriously?
I’m not an outcast. You shouldn’t be an outcast!
Enough of this equating humanism with United States ideals on democracy and liberty!! The 2 do not even share the same universe.
First and foremost this is country of opportunism. How could a nation that was founded economically on slavery be so bold as to declare itself the beacon of liberty and democracy. Or are you forgiving those forefathers as not knowing any better when it comes to classifying Africans as humans?
From there we can take this Bold enterprise right to the present day…this is a nation of capitalism and reckless enterprise. All the fancy bells and whistles about Liberty are a nice Hood ornament on a giant gas guzzling sedan that runs roughshod over anything that stands in the way of exploitation.
Tell me…what does it mean to partake in full citizenship of the United States? What do you get for your buck? How’s that liberty and democracy working for everyone?
You should be trying to supplant religion with Humanism, not trying to integrate with it!! Old religion is alive and well, and it can quickly turn south and extinguish any mushy ideals you might have on human worth. It happens all over the place, right now. It can happen here. It has happened here.
This isn’t the new age.

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Posted: 29 August 2010 09:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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Welcome back, PLaClair.  I was sure I’d miss your cogent comments. 

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Posted: 29 August 2010 10:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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Hi Paul,

As someone looking from the outside, you may not realize that the current leadership has drastically made CFI more organized, improved communication among branches, given us structure and clear a vision. The staff is infinitely happier than ever before. We are now working more closely with organizations that share common goals. This was not the case in the past.

I agree that the first press release was a mistake and rather embarrassing. I wrote a letter of dissent to management and encouraged others to do so. Ron Lindsay expressed remorse and admitted the mistake. Management listened to our concerns. I hope that means something to you. Of course, Ron Lindsay is not solely responsible for the original press release. There is a management committee of six people, many of whom have been with the organization a long time.

Make no mistake… CFI is the best run, most important organization of its type in the world. It would not be so without the guidance of the current leadership. I have complete confidence saying that. Your suggestion to call for resignations is reactionary and ignores all of the excellent work the organization is doing all over the world.

I also recall that you had issues with CFI’s previous leadership. We have been very fortunate to maintain your support through all of your concerns and complaints. It would be a shame to lose your support for something that the organization has tried to rectify. In the past, I am quite certain you would not have had such an immediate response to your concerns, if at all.

Your “friend”,

Melody

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Posted: 30 August 2010 03:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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Melody,

You’re probably right about all of that. Ron has had a more open ear than I had grown accustomed to and he deserves great credit for that.

Still, the current management committee drove the car on the wrong side of the road into an oncoming semi truck. Even now, they don’t seem to understand that the problem isn’t just an interpretation that building a church should be illegal; it’s any public statement that building a church is “inappropriate.” If they don’t get that after this firestorm, or aren’t willing to accept it, then I can’t trust them enough to be in the vehicle. Maybe they can find some mechanism for press releases and other public statements other than the current management committee.

Paul

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Posted: 30 August 2010 03:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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Thanks Melody and Ron for your comments here giving some additional perspective.

Jackson.

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Posted: 30 August 2010 07:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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The Board determines the Managing Committee. The Board can be reached through .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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