Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 69
December 2, 2016
Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible. Become a member today!
The Main Events
Confronting the President-Elect on Free Expression
At the very heart of the Center for Inquiry’s mission to advance science, reason, and humanist values is the fundamental human right to free expression. The rights to speak, criticize, and question are foundational to CFI’s work, and we defend it passionately throughout the world. When secularist activists are targeted for death in countries such as Bangladesh, we try to bring them to safety. When dissidents are imprisoned for expressing their nonbelief or for questioning authority, as they have been in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Pakistan, we work diplomatic channels and rally grassroots support to free them. When artists, journalists, and satirists are threatened or attacked for controversial work that no one else will reproduce, we publish it in defiance of intimidation—even if we happen to strongly disagree with its message. This is what we do.
On Tuesday morning, President-Elect Donald Trump declared on Twitter, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag—if they do, there must be consequences—perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
CFI firmly opposes this position in the strongest possible terms.
Millions of Americans find the desecration of the American flag to be deeply offensive, but the right to free expression cannot be limited to the benign. The United States enshrined the right to free speech in the First Amendment to the Constitution, right along with the freedom of religion, assembly, and the press. Free expression is a core humanist value, a foundational American value, and a basic human right.
This is why it is important for the Center for Inquiry to challenge these words from the president-elect. In a statement, CFI President Ronald Lindsay said, “That Mr. Trump would criminally punish someone for the expressive act of burning a flag shows that either he does not understand the foundational principles he will soon be swearing to uphold, or that he stands in opposition to those principles.”
Michael De Dora, CFI’s government affairs director and UN representative, added, “Just as we vigorously oppose harsh restrictions on free expression in repressive countries such as Saudi Arabia, we must collectively push back against threats to freedom of expression right here in America—regardless of the person or party responsible.”
Mr. Trump is not the only prominent American political figure to have advocated that the right to free expression be rescinded when it comes to the American flag. Mr. Trump’s opponent, Secretary Hillary Clinton, cosponsored a bill prohibiting flag desecration in 2005, though without going to the extreme step of revoking someone’s very citizenship. We oppose all such measures, no matter from whom they originate.
Should the incoming Trump administration seek to enact this position, CFI will not hesitate to resist it. Whatever threats are posed against free expression, in the U.S. and around the world, we will be ready to confront them.
Free Inquiry on the Unnecessary Porn Panic
Since the dawn of the Internet Age, people have been warned of the dire consequences of freely available pornography, piped into every home through broadband connections. Primarily religiously conservative figures prophesied that the social order would be turned inside out and degeneracy would erode the morality of a generation. These were of course some very bold claims, and it just so happens that we can now know if they were true.
The latest issue of CFI’s Free Inquiry magazine features major excerpts from a new book by Dr. Marty Klein, His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America’s PornPanic with Honest Talk About Sex. In it, Klein explains that American society has inadvertently been running a massive “natural experiment” on the issue of ubiquitously available pornography since around the year 2000, when high-speed Internet connections started to become the norm. Sixteen years later, Klein says we can now look at the data and determine whether the moral doomsday predictions were right.
The answer? “The rates of rape, divorce, suicide, and child sexual exploitation have all decreased since porn flooded America.” Klein writes that a great deal of effort, attention, and resources were for many years “committed to fighting the wrong thing.”
Also in this issue, Tom Flynn looks at the precarious political influence of the rising “Nones” demographic; Robyn Blumner reviews a disappointing legacy of church-state separation for President Obama; Joe Nickell calls out the Catholic Church for its rejection of science in attributing miracles to the recently canonized Mother Teresa; and much more. Subscribe to Free Inquiry, in print and on the web, at secularhumanism.org/fi.
News from HQ and the CFI Community
A New Role for CFI’s Master of the Web
This week it was announced that Matt Licata has been given the role of Director of Digital Product and Strategy for the Center for Inquiry, where he will design and implement CFI’s online presence, crafting strategies and developing the tools needed to execute those strategies.
Since first signing on as webmaster in 2011, Matt has become an integral part of CFI as its Web Product Designer, improving the organization’s digital infrastructure, designing a wide array of beautiful and distinct websites, and spearheading imaginative and engaging digital initiatives. He has designed the websites for CFI’s Campaign for Free Expression, the Keep Health Care Safe and Secular campaign, and the 2012 Living without Religion campaign, as well as the websites for CFI’s major conferences such as Reason for Change, CSICon Las Vegas, and the Women in Secularism series.
In 2016, he formulated a strategy for real-time coverage of major freethought events, an idea which became CFI Live. Launched with the 2016 Reason Rally, CFI Live has also covered the fourth Women in Secularism conference and CSICon Las Vegas.
“I have been working closely with Matt for almost five years, and I have not only come to rely on his technical expertise, but even more so on his keen sense of aesthetics, functionality, and design,” said Paul Fidalgo, CFI’s communications director. “He has been a positive, creative force for CFI’s communications strategies, and it’s only fitting that his leadership role has now been formalized. We’re always looking forward to what Matt comes up with next.”
Said Matt about his new role, “I am looking forward to working in this new position to connect people to the many resources that CFI has to offer, and to create appealing new digital experiences that spread our message and provide the information and viewpoints people are looking for.”
New Leadership at CFI–Portland
There is more great news about CFI personnel. The Center for Inquiry also welcomes this week Nicole Orr as the new administrative assistant for CFI–Portland. Working with youth has always been very important to Nicole. In her teens, she was an assistant team leader for a Search and Rescue Unit where she taught young people wilderness survival skills as well as crime scene protocols. Today, Orr strongly advocates for the written word. For the past ten years, she has helped run and has participated in National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo), and has been a freelance children’s author for five years.
Orr moved to Oregon from Indiana because, as she put it, it was the furthest she could get from that kind of religious mentality without hitting the ocean. In 2012, Orr temporarily moved to Brisbane, Australia, and became fascinated at the religious differences culture to culture. Orr is a lifetime homeschooler and is always delighted to prove that atheist homeschoolers do indeed exist!
Highlights from CFI on the Web and in the Media
- Several major news outlets covered the FTC’s crackdown on homeopathy’s false advertising and included CFI’s response and role in effecting the change: Outlets included Vox, Business Insider, Smithsonian, The Buffalo News, and perhaps best of all, Snopes.
- CFI’s Debbie Goddard is among the black atheist leaders bringing insight to a piece at The Daily Beast on the challenges and hopes of African American nonbelievers.
- Felipe Nogueira interviews Lawrence Krauss for Skeptical Briefs.
- Point of Inquiry welcomes David Neiwert of the Southern Poverty Law Center to discuss the so-called alt-right and its connection to the rise of Trump.
- Also, at a time when millions are nostalgic for an America that probably never was, Point of Inquiry rebroadcasts a 2013 interview with conservative political humorist PJ O’Rourke.
- Benjamin Radford assembles another “Unco Junto” panel to discuss the question, “What is behind the public’s search for authenticity in its politicians, musicians, and celebrities? Is it a fool’s errand?” David Koepsell, Eve Seibert, and Robert Blaskiewicz take part.
- Kylie Sturgess interviews Dr. Paul Willis, director of the Royal Institution of Australia, about the dangers of “alternative” cancer treatments and “cures.”
- The Rapidian covers an interfaith Thanksgiving event and quotes CFI–Michigan’s Chris Beckstrom.
- Alejandro Borgo takes us to Santos Lugares, Argentina, where would-be exorcists can learn the skills they need for a career in “parapsychology, ‘angelology,’ and demonology.”
- Joe Nickell investigates hauntings at New Orleans’ Delphine Lalaurie house and Rhode Island’s Stagecoach Tavern.
- Michael De Dora catches us up with a month’s worth of policy and diplomacy with the CFI advocacy update.
And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.
Upcoming CFI Events
- CFI–Michigan’s 7th Annual Kids’ Food Basket Event.
- Marty Klein talks about “porn panic” and porn literacy with CFI–Los Angeles.
- CFI–Austin celebrates the Winter Solstice with a Saturnalia buffet and kids’ gift exchange.
- CFI–Michigan Solstice Dinner in Grand Rapids.
- CFI–Michigan Solstice Dinner in Madison Heights.
- Solstice Party with CFI–Los Angeles.
- Xaq Frohlich presents “GM Foods: History, Sociology, and Politics” for CFI–Austin.
- CFI–Western New York holds its Winter Solstice Celebration.
- New Year’s Eve Game Night with CFI–Indiana.
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!
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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, the Council for Secular Humanism, and will soon be home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net.