The Center for Inquiry’s OPP Bids a Sad Farewell to Two of its Staff

June 3, 2010

For over three years, the Center for Inquiry's Office of Public Policy has advocated for reason, science, and humanist values on Capitol Hill.  Now, because of the loss of a major donor, CFI has been forced to close the OPP's physical offices and to bid a sad farewell to two of its employees. 

Toni Van Pelt devoted over three years to helping the Office of Public Policy to succeed.  As the OPP's Director of Public Policy, she successfully brought the Center for Inquiry into multiple legislative coalitions.  As the lobbyist for CFI she urged members of Congress and their staff to base our nation's law and policy on scientific fact and empirical evidence as opposed to faith.  She lobbied actively for the separation of church and state, for women's rights, for GLBT rights, and in defense of democracy and secularism.  Toni was interviewed by national and international media, including press, radio, internet and broadcast.  As the director of the Center for Inquiry's Travel Club, she connected her past career in travel and business with her commitment to skepticism and secular humanism.

Before moving to Washington, Toni was the first Executive Director for the Center for Inquiry-Florida. Before that, she was the president of Florida National Organization for Women (NOW), where she honed her lobbying skills with the Federal and Florida legislatures. She helped write and establish new law in Florida. She is a veteran of Congressional and state political campaigns for candidates and for ballot initiatives and on issues campaigns. She ran for national president of NOW and came within 30 votes of being elected to the office.

Matthew Separa worked alongside Toni as a Policy Analyst at the OPP's office in Washington, DC. He assisted in lobbying Congress and the administration on behalf of the Center on issues related to science, secularism, and humanist values. Matt is currently also a graduate student at The George Washington University, where he is pursuing his master's degree in public policy.  Prior to moving to Washington, Matt lived in Michigan where he received his bachelor's degree in political science from Wayne State University. While studying at Wayne State, he worked on several political campaigns and regularly contacted his legislators on issues of importance to him.

CFI thanks Toni and Matt for their service and dedication to promoting science, reason and humanist values.  We wish them the very best in all their future endeavors.

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A Note to the OPP's Friends and Supporters: Despite having lost two of its employees and its lack of a fixed location, the work of the Office of Public Policy will continue.  To help ensure that the voice of reason continues to be heard in Washington, please make the most generous financial contribution you can today .

CFI's budget shortfall resulted from the loss of an anonymous donor who has provided very generous support to the Council for Secular Humanism, an affiliate of the Center for Inquiry (CFI). In recent years, this donor has given $800,000 annually. This sum is equivalent to about 25% of the annual combined public support for CFI and its two operating affiliates, Council and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI). As a result of losing the major donor, CFI was forced to take some very painful measures, with the greatest reluctance: we are losing several employees and are moving out of our offices in Tampa, Florida and Washington, DC.  For more information about the donor and CFI's budget shortfall, see our previous blog post .

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