Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 32

May 29, 2015

Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible.

The Main Events

josh and lindsay shadow copy.pngSpotify Picks Point of Inquiry for Podcast Service Launch

You already know that Point of Inquiry is a fantastic podcast. Every week it brings you top-notch long-form interviews with the most fascinating and brilliant minds in science, religion, and politics. Well, soon there may be a lot more people making that same discovery. Last week, the popular music-streaming service Spotify announced that it was greatly expanding its offerings to include things like news, video, and yes, podcasts, and that it had hand-selected Point of Inquiry as one of its podcast launch partners

Spotify, which has over sixty million users, will begin to roll out its new offerings over the next few weeks, so keep your eye out for us. But don’t wait for an app update to check out the latest episodes, because the last couple of weeks have featured two truly outstanding guests.

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 11.48.05 AM.pngLast week, Lindsay Beyerstein was joined by journalist Michael Specter, the renowned and skeptically minded New Yorker staff writer, to discuss his work exposing the fad and fantasy behind the gluten-free craze. (Specter will also be speaking at the upcoming Reason for Change conference!) 

Josh Zepps, meanwhile, had an eye-opening conversation with the writer and director of the new sci-fi hit film Ex Machina, Alex Gabriel. The two of them discuss the promise and peril of artificial intelligence and the ethical considerations that must be seriously weighed as technology advances.


Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 11.49.38 AM.pngSecular Celebrant Bill Passes Oregon House

CFI has been at the forefront of the movement to allow nonreligious couples to choose Secular Celebrants to legally solemnize their marriages, with our federal court victory in Indiana being a milestone achievement. We may be on the verge of another milestone, as the Oregon House of Representatives easily passed the Secular Celebrant bill championed by CFI–Portland. House Bill 3483 would add to the list of organizations currently authorized to solemnize marriages in the state those “whose members subscribe to secular values, beliefs and practices.” This would mean that nonreligious Oregonians (or anyone who does not wish to have their marriage officiated by clergy or a government employee for that matter) will have the option of being married by a Secular Celebrant in Oregon, such as those trained and certified by CFI.

The next step is approval by the state senate and then on to the governor for signing. We’ll keep you updated on each development.


dawkins ad 170 rfc.jpgA Summer of Big CFI Events!

The big Reason for Change conference is coming up fast, and there’s still time to register before special conference hotel rates expire on May 21. You don’t want to miss your chance to see such freethought luminaries as Richard Dawkins, Susan Jacoby, Rebecca Goldstein, and perhaps of particular interest in recent days, New Yorker journalist Michael Specter (the guest on this week’s Point of Inquiry).

But that’s only the beginning of a summer full of amazing CFI events!

cficon 170 group.jpgJuly 30-August 3 brings the next CFI Leadership Conference, “Moving Freethought Forward,” to CFI headquarters in Buffalo. This incredibly inspiring program brings together student and community activists from across North America for four days packed with leadership training, workshops, networking, educational presentations, entertainment, and more. Registration is now open. Stay tuned for more details on speakers and schedule.

toolbox 170 2015.pngA few days after that, starting August 6 in Eugene, Oregon, we have the next Skeptic’s Toolbox, a weekend of hands-on workshops and training for the skeptically inclined. This year, the program will examine how framing information affects how it is perceived in journalism, medicine, politics, and other areas in which people have to choose to believe or reject dubious claims. Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Harriet Hall, Lindsay Beyerstein, and Loren Pankratz will be on hand to sharpen attendees’ minds.

Camp InquiryAnd of course there’s Camp Inquiry 2015, a weeklong adventure for kids emphasizing discovery, fun, and critical thinking at beautiful Camp Seven Hills in Holland, New York, taking place August 2–8. The theme for Camp Inquiry 2015 is “To Believe or Not to Believe,” and it will focus on looking at ways young people can deal with the barrage of information they consume day after day in the digital age, and how they can determine for themselves what’s true, what’s false, and what’s just noise. 


News from HQ and the CFI Community

tumblr_kvvpt9eAIH1qabys6o1_500.pngHelp Wanted: CFI Seeks Web Content Coordinator

We’re looking to hire a new Web Content Coordinator at CFI’s Amherst, New York headquarters. You know that CFI’s online footprint is a pretty big one, with websites for several programs, blogs, campaigns, and media. If you or someone you know is good with HTML and CSS and has a keen eye for detail and design, this is a great opportunity to help strengthen CFI’s robust and growing digital presence. Check out our listing for full details.


judge_and-gavel.jpgCFI Files for Summary Judgment in Religious Prison Rehab Suit

In 2007, the Council for Secular Humanism (a program of CFI) filed suit in Leon County Circuit Court in Florida to stop the public funding of rehabilitation programs for former prisoners that are explicitly sectarian—Lamb of God and Prisoners of Christ—both of which call themselves “ministries” that base their rehabilitation services on biblical principles and Christian teachings. The suit has been (slowly) churning through the court system  since then, but the Center for Inquiry has now filed a motion of summary judgment to move things along. Given that there is no dispute about the facts of the case (they are admittedly ministries and provide a religious service with state money), and these facts violate the Florida state constitution, CFI moved to have the case quickly decided by the court without need for trial.

Of course, the decision as to whether the court will rule summarily will itself take some time, and we’ll of course keep you informed, but we are very confident that the facts of this case speak for themselves. You can see the full motion here.


Ortega and Cooper.jpgOrtega and Cooper Take On Scientology in L.A.

Journalist and author Tony Ortega spoke with former Scientologist Paulette Cooper for two “Feed Your Brain” lectures at CFI–Los Angeles and CFI–Costa Mesa. In his new book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology Tried to Destroy Paulette Cooper, Ortega tells for the first time the full story of Scientology’s harassment and lawsuits against Cooper, which resulted in the jailing of many Scientologists in the 1970s. Ortega also was featured in the highly acclaimed Going Clear documentary by Alex Gibney based on Lawrence Wright’s book.


More from CFI on the Web and in the Media

Ron and kitty

●   Ron Lindsay begins a series of blog posts on questioning humanist orthodoxy, using opposition to the death penalty as an example. He then responds to some criticism, which features Ron cuddling a kitten, seen here.

●   CFI–Los Angeles’s Jim Underdown met with former Scientologists at a recent event, and was reminded of the need to treat Scientologists and others with different viewpoints with compassion. 

●   David Koepsell sees “brutalism” creeping into academia and warns of an academy that “will become a stark, soulless, inhuman edifice: unwelcoming, efficient, and cold.”

●   At Skeptical Inquirer, Joe Nickell examines the miracle claims made on behalf of the popes in line for sainthood.

●   The Energy and Environment newswire covers our statement to the media on true skeptics vs. science deniers, and the right-wing outlet Newsmax reacts defensively.

●   Akilah Richards at the Atlanta Blackstar considers the challenges of black nonbelievers and cites our African Americans for Humanism program.

●   The Newseum Institute posts the video of a panel on religious freedom with our own Michael De Dora.   

●   Ben Radford is the guest on the Big Picture Science radio show, talking about near-death experiences and the visits to Heaven that weren’t.

And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.


Upcoming CFI Events

May 31: 

●   Death-with-dignity activist Susanne Gaudin speaks to CFI–Indiana about compassionate options for the end of life.

June 7:

●   CFI’s own Michael De Dora discusses the ties between sectarian movements around the world and the push for theocracy here in the U.S. with CFI–DC.

●   Actor Richard McNally performs his one-man show as Robert Ingersoll for CFI–Los Angeles.

June 11-15:

●   The Reason for Change conference in Buffalo, New York.


Thank you!

Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!

I Support Reason, Science, and Freedom of InquiryFortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

       •  Follow CFI on Twitter.

       •  Like us on Facebook

       •  Encircle us on Google+

       •  Subscribe to us on YouTube.


Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI’s web address is