A MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Center for Inquiry (CFI) and its affiliates, I want to thank all of you who have contributed to the combined fund drive for CFI, the Council for Secular Humanism and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. The results so far are encouraging—we have raised over $50,000. Over the coming weeks, we expect to raise substantially more. No, we do not expect to make up the entire $800,000 shortfall resulting from the lapsed donation, but, in combination with other measures, we expect to raise enough money to provide a secure financial foundation for the operation of CFI and its affiliates.
Meanwhile, our work continues. In a few days, our headquarters building in Amherst, New York, will be abuzz with dozens of leaders and representatives from our branches and student groups convening at our Leadership Conference. CFI’s continuing vitality is amply demonstrated by the commitment and dedication of the many supporters the organization has at the grassroots level.
In another few weeks, Camp Inquiry will get underway in upstate New York under the direction of Dr. Angie McQuaig. This annual summer camp has been receiving increasing attention as a unique program for fostering critical thinking in children.
CSI will, once again, be holding its Skeptics Toolbox in August in Eugene, Oregon. This annual event continues to attract the best and brightest skeptical scholars and investigators.
And, of course, in a few months, the Council for Secular Humanism will be holding its 30th anniversary conference in Los Angeles. The program for this event is nothing short of stellar, with speakers including Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Ibn Warraq. Continuing in our tradition of tackling tough issues through open discussion and dialogue, the conference will also feature a discussion between Sam Harris and Robert Wright on the approach that seculars should take regarding religion and religious belief and a panel discussion on science and religion featuring Chris Mooney, Eugenie Scott, P. Z. Myers, and Victor Stenger. This will be a lively, intellectually enthralling conference.
We are looking forward; however, there are some whose gaze is fixed on the past and continue to snipe at CFI, hoping to undo some of the reforms we have undertaken. So permit me for a few moments to address some of these critics, which include, of course, CFI’s former Chair, Paul Kurtz.
The process of reforming the management of the CFI and its affiliates began no less than three years ago when I first became a director. At the very first Board meeting I attended there was a consensus that day-to-day responsibility should be placed in the hands of someone other than Paul Kurtz. Among other reasons, the organization simply had outgrown the ability of one individual to control everything. Paul did not disagree with this conclusion.
In implementing the reform process, the Board did not rely on its own intuition. Instead, it retained the services of Greyledge Consulting, a well-known consulting firm that has worked extensively with many organizations, including nonprofits. After a months-long review, Greyledge provided its report, which included the following observations and recommendations: in recent years, Paul Kurtz’s management had become erratic and arbitrary and staff morale was low, so clear, impartial personnel policies had to be announced and followed; the organization had expanded too rapidly into too many areas, and it needed to focus its work on areas essential to its mission; the Board of Directors had all too often acted as a “rubber stamp,” and it needed to take responsibility and exercise its legitimate oversight authority; an executive officer needed to be appointed promptly to take over day-to-day management, with this person having both academic credentials and some business experience and being a person who could work with Paul Kurtz. The Board of Directors accepted these recommendations and in June, 2008 implemented some of the proposed recommendations. One of the Board’s decisions was to appoint Dr. Ronald A. Lindsay as President & CEO. Greyledge had conducted extensive staff interviews and had determined that Dr. Lindsay was supported by many on the staff. Critically, he was also recommended by Paul Kurtz, who had known Ron Lindsay for over twenty-five years. The Board hoped that Paul’s friendship with Ron would help make for a smooth transition.
Well, it did not work out that way. Without getting into all the disputes that started within a few months of the June 2008 decision, suffice it to say that Paul resisted ceding any control of the organization; the Board had to intervene repeatedly to try to resolve Paul’s objections to Ron’s exercise of authority.
Paul’s unwillingness to cede any significant authority resulted in his stance at the June 2009 board meeting, at which he informed the Board that he did not want to remain Chair unless the CEO position was restructured, basically denuding it of any significant authority. The Board declined to restructure the CEO position and, pursuant to Paul’s ultimatum, voted to remove him as Chair.
It is worth emphasizing that throughout 2008 and early 2009, there was no dispute about the direction of CFI or whether Ron Lindsay had changed its mission. All that came later. I believe that what bothered Paul from the beginning was that he no longer exercised the authority he once had.
Everyone recognizes that CFI and its affiliates owe their existence in large part to Paul Kurtz. For decades, he has been a great leader for humanism and skepticism. Nonetheless, even for great leaders there comes a time when they should step aside.
Now, with the lapsed donation and the need to make painful reductions in expenditures, including a reduction-in-force, Paul and some of his allies have been keeping up a drum beat of criticism, hurling various accusations about the alleged imprudence of these decisions, the supposedly callous way in which they were carried out, and the ethics and integrity of Ron Lindsay.
To begin, these were not snap decisions made unilaterally by Ron Lindsay or anyone else. Both the Board and CFI’s Management Committee recognized there was a possibility that the anonymous donor would not make a large gift this year, especially when it became clear in March that Paul Kurtz would make no effort to assist the organization in securing the donation. In April, the six-member Management Committee studied the situation and unanimously agreed on a set of recommendations, which were then thoroughly reviewed by the seven-member Board of Directors. Anyone unhappy about a particular decision will always argue that something different should have been done: others should have been laid off, more people should have been consulted, and so forth. This happens all the time in organizations, both for-profit and nonprofit. The reality is that the individuals with the most knowledge about all the relevant factors, financial and otherwise, participated in the decision-making process and that process was fair and objective.
Regarding the supposed callousness of the layoffs, no termination is ever pleasant. But CFI has tried to make the transition as smooth as possible, among other things, scheduling the terminations so that the affected employees would have health insurance coverage for June. One laid off employee is being allowed to stay in a corporate apartment for about six weeks, even though she will not be conducting any CFI business. All employees were offered a severance package based on length of service that was as generous as possible given our financial situation. Yes, they are being asked to sign a separation agreement and release in exchange for the severance; this is the standard practice of most employers so that all disputes can be resolved.
Throughout the past couple of years and increasingly so with the recent layoffs, criticism has been focused on Ron Lindsay, with supporters of Paul Kurtz questioning his ethics and hurling assorted epithets at him. Those who have worked closely with Ron know this is all nonsense. He was deeply troubled by the need to make the layoffs, as indicated by his offer to resign if Paul Kurtz succeeded in securing the donation, thereby obviating the need for layoffs. It is a standard propaganda technique to try to personalize a dispute and create a villain. I am confident, though, that our supporters, who pride themselves on critical thinking, can see through the bluster and rhetoric.
Will this latest round of criticism hurt the organization and our cause? Candidly, it will do some damage to our work, which is a shame. But our movement is resilient enough to withstand these attacks. The vast majority of our staff and supporters understand the reality of the situation and understand that we are committed to moving forward with our work of promoting science and secularism.
I know this has been a long letter, and I thank you for your attention. In closing, let me assure you that CFI is strong today and will remain strong tomorrow. While others are consumed with personal grievances, we are focused on the threats posed by pseudoscience and dogmatic religion; while others are intent on creating strife, we are intent on building a community of reason; while others dwell on the past, we are concerned with confronting the challenges of today.
Chair, Board of Directors
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F.A.Q: The CFI/Dawkins Foundation Merger
The Center for Inquiry is merging with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. Here are some answers to a few of the questions we think supporters of both organizations might have. You can also read our press release about the merger here, and a message from Ron Lindsay to CFI’s supporters.
Why is the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science merging with the Center for Inquiry?
Quite simply, CFI and RDFRS have similar objectives and it makes eminent good sense to combine their resources. CFI’s stated mission is to foster a secular society based on reason, science, and humanist values, and RDFRS shares that goal. And CFI shares the stated mission of RDFRS: to remove the influence of religion in science education and public policy and eliminate the stigma that surrounds atheism and non-belief. To put it another way, both organizations seek to make the world a better place for everyone by advocating for science and reason over faith and pseudoscience in all areas of public life, by defending the rights and equality of nonbelievers, and by exemplifying and acting on the values of humanism.
While sharing common goals, both organizations bring to this merger a dynamic mix of different strengths and abilities for achieving those goals. The Center for Inquiry carries with it a rich institutional history, a global network of branches and affiliates, and a vast well of knowledge and expertise in several fields, including science, public policy, philosophy, grassroots action, community building, international activism, political lobbying, and paranormal investigation. The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science brings to the table the unmatched global renown and intellect of one of the preeminent minds of our time, as well as the Foundation’s record of passionate advocacy, creative and groundbreaking initiatives and campaigns, and considerable multimedia savvy.
Rather importantly, it also comes with the intellect, talent, and record of accomplishment in the person of Robyn Blumner, who will lead the combined organizations as CEO.
By combining their talent, brainpower, and resources, they now become the largest freethought organization in the United States. As a result of this merger, they will have greater success in advancing their shared mission.
What will the structure of the CFI/RDFRS merger be? Is one organization “taking over” the other?
This is absolutely not a takeover. This is a merger of two organizations, a joining of equals, though the combined organization will bear the name of the Center for Inquiry. The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science will continue as a division of CFI, as active and vital as ever.
What will be Richard Dawkins’ role within CFI?
Prof. Richard Dawkins will join CFI’s board of directors, chaired currently by Edward Tabash. (See who else is on CFI’s board of directors.) He will also of course be an invaluable source of wisdom, guidance, and the generation of new ideas. Prof. Dawkins and CFI have a long history of mutual respect and collaboration, and this new association is one that all parties are excited to explore.
Does Richard Dawkins now speak for CFI?
There will absolutely be times when Prof. Dawkins explicitly represents CFI as a member of its board and as founder of the foundation that bears his name. But like all of CFI’s staff, board, and volunteers, Prof. Dawkins is his own person, who can and will speak for himself. His views are his own, unless he is specifically serving as a spokesperson for CFI. As someone who is easily one of the world’s most skilled and eloquent communicators of science and secularism, CFI will be honored and delighted to have him represent the organization at those times. CFI’s primary spokesperson will of course be its CEO, Robyn Blumner.
Why is Ron Lindsay stepping down?
The Center for Inquiry has been extremely fortunate to have a leader like Ronald A. Lindsay in the role of President and CEO since 2008. Ron believes deeply in the mission of CFI, and has stated publicly on several occasions that he wants very much for CFI to continue on as a strong and healthy organization well into the future. To ensure that this is so, Ron believes it is important that no single figure be seen to embody all that CFI is, and that after eight years as president and CEO, the time had come for a new person to lead the organization and bring it into the next decade. Ron is doing all he can to ensure a smooth and successful transition of leadership to Robyn Blumner, and he will be a valued friend and resource for CFI for many years to come.
Why did CFI choose Robyn Blumner as CEO?
Robyn is a brilliant and passionate advocate for science, reason, and humanist values, with deep experience and expertise as an activist, lawyer, and journalist. She is a proven and effective leader of major nonprofits, having run two state affiliates of the ACLU and the RDFRS to great success and wide acclaim. She is also a respected journalist, having spent 16 years as a nationally syndicated columnist with the Tampa Bay Times. There is no person better prepared or better qualified to lead CFI, and we are eager for the wider freethought community to hear more from her and get to know her even better.
What happens now that the two groups have agreed to merge?
CFI and RDFRS will begin working as one unified organization immediately, as of this announcement, with Robyn Blumner serving as CEO, and Ron Lindsay maintaining the title of President for a brief period during the transition. There are, as always, several regulatory boxes to check and legal procedures that will need to be satisfied, but the merger will likely be legally formalized by the late spring of 2016. But as far as day-to-day work and activities of the two organizations are concerned, the Center for Inquiry and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science are now operating as one.
Where will the merged organization be located?
The new CFI will continue to be headquartered in Amherst, New York, where most of its employees are located. Both RDFRS and CFI maintained Washington, D.C. offices prior to the merger and will continue to have a prominent presence in Washington, D.C., with the staff of those offices being consolidated in due course. Robyn Blumner will be based in D.C., with frequent trips to Amherst.
Hobby Lobby FAQ
What’s the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case really about? Does a corporation have religious rights? What happens if Hobby Lobby wins? We hope this FAQ can help to clear up some of the big questions surrounding the monumental and complicated case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.
So what’s this case about anyway? What does Hobby Lobby want?
The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in two cases at the same time. Two profit making corporations, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., an Oklahoma based chain of craft supply stores, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, Corp. a Pennsylvania based furniture maker, sued the government for an exemption to a requirement of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) that health insurance provided by employers include free access to preventive care services, which includes all contraceptives approved by the FDA. The owners of both corporations have strong religious convictions that certain of these contraceptive methods, in particular IUDs and the morning-after pill, are immoral. Among other theories, the corporations sued under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) which states that if a federal government action “substantially burdens” the exercise of religious belief, the government must provide an exemption to that law, unless the government can show that the law is the “least restrictive” method of satisfying a “compelling government interest,” which is actually very difficult to do.
Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are essentially seeking an opt-out based on their owners’ religion—which they also claim should be attributed to the corporations themselves. They claim the government should not be allowed to enforce the ACA upon everyone, and that they should be permitted to provide insurance coverage without these contraceptive methods because of their religious beliefs.
What’s CFI’s position?
CFI wrote an amicus brief on behalf of several secular organizations attacking this unfair and unconstitutional privilege sought by religion. We think the Constitution is clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Interpreting RFRA to allow an exemption to a law everyone else must obey would be giving special protections to religion. RFRA was enacted to deal with situations where the government was adversely impacting a religious individual without sufficient reason – where, for example, a Native American religion was banned by drug laws from use of a hallucinogen as a sacrament. There the government put a burden on a religious practice and could remove it without harming anyone else. These cases are very different. Here, any burden on religion that exists (if it in fact exists) can only be removed by shifting it onto someone else. If Hobby Lobby & Conestoga Wood get their way, their employees will be denied access to free contraception based solely on the religious beliefs of their employers. That sort of blatant priority to religion is what the Establishment Clause prevents. The Supreme Court has always ruled that a government burden cannot be shifted onto other people in this way.
Such an exemption is not protecting religious freedom, it is enshrining religious privilege, especially when it harms other people. CFI argues that there isn’t a burden on the employer’s religion at all – any decision to use contraception is made by the employee and her doctor. The employer isn’t, and shouldn’t be, involved in this private matter.
Hobby Lobby and these other companies aren’t churches, they’re businesses. Why do they think they can claim a religious privilege?
That’s right, they are profit-making corporations, no different in that way from General Motors or Microsoft. They are hoping that, much as the Citizens United case found that corporations could have free speech rights, the Court will rule that profit making corporate entities can exercise religious rights. The idea that Boeing or Starbucks has a religion is, frankly, ridiculous, but certain courts of appeal have taken it seriously, and it’s a dangerous precedent. Citizens United granted free speech rights to corporations because it would increase the amount of speech out there, and more speech is seen as better than less. There is no corresponding benefit to granting religious freedom rights to corporations established solely to make profit.
Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood also argue that even if the corporation has no religious freedom rights, the individual religious beliefs of the owners warrant protection in the form of an exemption to the corporation. This is equally flawed. A corporation exists as a separate entity to protect the ownership from liability. If a product poisons consumers, the corporation, not the owner, is sued. It would be flagrantly unfair to accept corporate personhood only when it protects the owners, but to deny it when the owner wished to claim the actions of the corporation should be attributable to themselves as individuals.
Don’t the people who run Hobby Lobby and these other companies have religious rights too? Doesn’t Obamacare force them to violate their consciences?
Absolutely they have religious rights, and CFI will always seek to protect their individual rights to worship as they chose. What CFI opposes, and what is unconstitutional, is when the government takes a burden away from one person and places it on another. That’s favoring the first person because of their religion. If the owners of Hobby Lobby have a religious objection to use of IUDs, CFI would join them in opposing any hypothetical government legislation that sought to force them to use IUDs. If an employee of Hobby Lobby chooses to use an IUD, however, she is no more infringing on the religious freedom of the owners than a worker drinking coffee infringes on the religious freedom of his Mormon employer. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods don’t want to defend their own religious freedom; they want to restrict your freedom to use legal, safe, affordable contraception.
Is it such a big deal that employees might just have to get contraception some other way?
Yes it is. Contraception is a critical part of preventive health care. IUD insertion and follow up visits can cost up to $1,000. Other corporations have sought to exclude all forms of contraception – the pill costs between $200 and $1,000 annually. Contraception is expensive, and it is a cost born overwhelmingly by women. But of course the true costs cannot be expressed solely in financial terms. Reducing affordable access to contraception leads to more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions. Any decision that leads to placing such an unfair, extra burden on women as a result of putting an employer’s religious beliefs on a pedestal is a very big deal indeed.
What will happen if Hobby Lobby wins? Does it open the door to more litigation?
If Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood win, the likelihood is that it will be open season for religious exemptions to everyday laws, within and outside of healthcare. If the Supreme Court decides that corporations can have religious rights, then we will see case after case of multinational corporations seeking exemptions based on religious grounds. If Hobby Lobby can refuse to provide contraception, it is hard to see how a Jehovah’s Witness employer could be refused an exemption to providing insurance for blood transfusions. Scientologist employers would surely seek exemptions to providing mental health care insurance. Christian Scientist employers would argue that they should not have to provide any health insurance whatsoever. The effects would go beyond health care, and would affect the current battles regarding LGBT rights, as with the anti-gay bill that almost became law in Arizona. If an employer can be exempted from health care legislation because of religious beliefs, why could he not be exempted from anti-discrimination legislation requiring him to serve LGBT people equally?
What happens if Hobby Lobby loses? Are we done?
If the government prevails, it represents a good start in CFI’s campaign to maintain secular, safe healthcare for all. We are far from done, however. Religious extremism and pseudoscience are constantly assailing healthcare. While the Supreme Court can guarantee women the right to insurance coverage at work in this case, individual states are passing laws allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions on religious grounds. Abortion providers are being hounded out of business by local laws. Homeopathic ‘remedies’ and sham alternative medicines are pushed onto sick patients without government regulation. Vaccination programs face the twin challenge of religious exemptions and misinformation. As long as these and hundreds of other threats to safe and secular healthcare exist, CFI will continue its fight.
You can help us in our efforts to keep healthcare safe and secular. Please support our work through a donation. Thank you!
Hobby Lobby Resources
The case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. has become a flashpoint in our national debate over what we mean by things like “religious liberty” and “freedom of conscience.” It can be rather confusing, as different sides of the debate make similar appeals to freedom and tolerance, but have drastically different implications. We’d like to help clear some of this up. It’s too important to be muddied by fast talking and political-speak.
This page offers a helpful FAQ and collects the Center for Inquiry’s own resources on the Hobby Lobby case and the larger issue of religious freedom in U.S. policy, as well as additional articles and resources that help to explain what’s really at stake, and why we believe so strongly that Hobby Lobby and its allies are wrong in their broad claims for religious privileges.
Hopefully you’ll find it useful, and if you have more questions about this issue that you’d like to see answered here, let us know.
FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
What’s this case really about? What are Hobby Lobby’s religious rights? Why does CFI think Hobby Lobby is wrong? What happens if they win?
Click here for answers to these and other frequently asked questions about the Hobby Lobby case and religious freedom.
CFI’s Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court
Download the PDF of our amicus brief written by CFI legal director Nicholas Little; attorney Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of CFI; and Edward Tabash, a prominent lawyer and Chair of CFI. Tabash serves as the counsel of record for this brief.
Our press release announcing the brief, January 2014: CFI Tells Supreme Court: Hobby Lobby Religious Exemption Would Harm Workers, Violate Constitution
Additional Resources from CFI on the Hobby Lobby Case and the Contraceptive Mandate
CFI president and CEO Ronald A. Lindsay’s op-ed in Free Inquiry, March 2013: To What Extent Should We Accommodate Religious Beliefs?:
What those employers objecting to the mandate are effectively complaining about is not being able to control the conduct of their employees, some of whom may choose to use contraception. However, being denied the ability to control the conduct of others such that they conform to one’s own religious beliefs does not constitute a burden on a person’s exercise of religion.
CFI’s formal comments submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services on religious accomodations for the contraceptive mandate, April 2013:
We believe that there is no need for — and no constructive point to — further discussion. This prolonged debate, over something as fundamental as birth control, is a perfect example of the harmful influence sectarian religious institutions have on public policy. It’s time for us to move past them, for the common good.
Ronald Lindsay blog post, December 2013: Should Catholic Judges Recuse Themselves from the Contraceptive Mandate Cases?
CFI public policy director Michael De Dora blog post, November 2013: Religious Privilege Disguised as Religious Freedom Goes to the Supreme Court
Michael De Dora blog post, July 2013: Center for Inquiry Mixed on Finalized Birth Control Rule
CFI Press Statement, February 2012: CFI Urges Obama Administration Not To Retreat Any Further on HHS Regulation
CFI Position Paper, 2006: Public Health and Contraception, by Margaret Brown, Ph.D.
Helpful Articles and Resources from Around the Web
New York Times editorial board: Crying Wolf on Religious Liberty:
If there is a Supreme Court decision in favor of these businesses, the ripple effect could be enormous. One immediate result would be to encourage other companies to seek exemptions from other health care needs, like blood transfusions, psychiatric care, vaccinations or anesthesia. It could also encourage toxic measures like the one vetoed last month by Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona that would have given businesses and individuals a broad right to deny services to same-sex couples in the name of religion. The Supreme Court cannot go there.
Religion & Politics: Contraception v. Religious Freedom: Hobby Lobby Heads to the Supreme Court
Religion News Service: Does Hobby Lobby have religious rights? The Supreme Court will decide
The American Prospect: The Citizens United of the Culture Wars
Slate: “Procedures Involving Gravely Immoral Practices” - What the religious right really thinks of birth control.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Stretching the definition of religious liberty
“Living Happily Without Religion” Outreach Campaign: Media Resources
Millions of Americans are living happily without religion, and CFI is inviting the public to learn more about them.
Starting September 30, 2013, CFI is launching a new outreach campaign inviting the public to learn more about how people with a secular humanist worldview can live meaningful, fulfilling lives, in contradiction to misguided stereotypes that often paint secular people as angry, despairing “lost souls.”
To those who doubt the claims of religion but are afraid to leave religion behind, the campaign demonstrates that it is not only possible to live a happy and fulfilling life without religion, but that millions of Americans do so every day.
To those who hold religious beliefs and wonder how others can live without them, the campaign offers insight into the secular humanist perspective and people who live lives built on a natural, rather a supernatural worldview.
Follow the campaign and read stories about people living happily without religion on the CFI Facebook page.
Media Contact: Paul Fidalgo, CFI Communications Director, firstname.lastname@example.org.
* * *
Five different campaign ad designs were created. Ad locations and image files are below.
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Indianapolis Billboards (3 designs):
- 38th St. W, 50 feet west of High School Rd.
- I-495, 500 feet west of US-31
- Washington St. E, 0.5 mile east of Mitthoeffer Rd.
New York City Bus Shelter Ads (5 designs):
- Adams St. @ Joralemon Ave.
- Atlantic Ave. @ 4th Ave.
- Myrtle Ave. @ Nostrand Ave.
- Vanderbilt Ave. @ Plaza St.
- 125 St. between A.C. Powell Jr. & Lenox
- Madison Ave. between E 125 St. & E 126 St.
- Malcolm X Blvd. between W 127th St. & W 128 St.
Billboards (3 designs):
- Detroit - N. I-75 & Twelve Mile Rd. (digital board will rotate all 3 designs)
- Grand Rapids - US-131 0.2 miles south of 28th St.
- Kalamazoo - I-94 0.5 miles east of W. Westnedge Ave. (digital board will rotate all 3 designs)
Metro Station Dioramas (5 designs):
Metro Buses - Full-side Poster Displays (5 designs)
Buses and routes vary daily, but will include the following lines: 32, 36, 52-54, 60, 62-64, 70, 96, 97, D1, D3, D31-34, G2, H8-9, S1, S2, S4, S9, W45, W47.
Edward Tabash: Constitution Week 2013
Constitutional lawyer and CFI board chair Edward Tabash takes on the state of Florida in this series of events celebrating Constitution Week 2013. CFI branches across the state will host presentations recognizing the United States’ constitutional foundation in church-state separation. The main event is a debate in Miami on the question “Does God Exist?” featuring Edward Tabash and Tom Trento. Following the debate, CFI branches in Tampa Bay, Daytona Beach, and Tallahassee will host Mr. Tabash for lectures discussing civil liberties and the question of whether America is a Christian nation. All are welcome at these public events.
Debate: Does God Exist?
Edward Tabash vs. Tom Trento
Sunday, Sept. 15
Florida International University
Chemistry and Physics Building (CP), Room 145
11200 SW 8th Street
Miami, FL 33199
Hosted by CFI–Fort Lauderdale
Free for CFI members, students, and faculty
$3 suggested donation
Parking is free for all attendees
Lecture: Is America a Christian Nation?
Tuesday, Sept. 17
2470 Nursery Road
Clearwater, FL 33764
Hosted by CFI–Tampa Bay
Dinner and Lecture: Civil Liberties: Beyond the Bill of Rights
Wednesday, Sept. 18
Reservations are required for this event! Please email email@example.com or call 386-671-1921 to RSVP!
Lecture: Is America a Christian Nation?
Thursday, Sept. 19
UU Church of Tallahassee
2810 N Meridian Road
Tallahassee, FL 32312
Hosted by CFI–Tallahassee
All lectures are FREE and OPEN to the public. Contact Sarah Kaiser at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
CFI’s Investigation of Harassment Complaints
August 7, 2013
There have been blog posts recently that have commented on public allegations made by Karen Stollznow regarding harassment she suffered and what she considered a less than adequate response by the organization employing the harasser. These posts have named CFI as the organization in question and one of CFI’s employees as the accused harasser.
As a general rule, CFI does not discuss personnel matters in public. We refrain from discussing these matters in public not only out of consideration for our staff, but also because experience has shown that this is the best way to encourage people to come forward with complaints. If individuals who need to alert us about harassment could not be assured that CFI will endeavor to protect their confidentiality, then management might never be informed of the problem, and that’s not what we want. We want to encourage people to come forward with their complaints so we can give them the serious attention they warrant. This general rule about not discussing personnel matters in public is followed by the vast majority of employers.
For now, we see no reason to deviate from this general rule. However, we would like to make it clear that any suggestion that CFI has been less than diligent in addressing harassment complaints is mistaken. During the administration of current president and CEO, Ronald A. Lindsay, that is since July 2008, CFI has investigated all complaints that have been made to management, and, where necessary, has taken appropriate corrective action. The extent of the investigation’s nature varies from case-to-case, depending on the allegations that are made. Claims requiring extensive investigation may be handled by an impartial outside law firm and/or consultant. Although use of outside impartial investigators can be very expensive, CFI is committed to carrying out as thorough an investigation as necessary.
Neither allegations nor denials determine the actions CFI takes. The results of the investigation determine the actions taken by CFI. If CFI has employed an outside investigator, we go with the investigator’s findings; we do not substitute our suspicions. If the investigator found, for example, that a sexual assault occurred, we would accept that finding; likewise, if the investigator found that no sexual assault occurred, we would accept that finding.
One thing we will never do is have our decisions dictated by rumor, gossip, or innuendo, whether it’s directed at the accuser or the accused. Such an approach would be improper and unjust for any organization. For an organization dedicated to promoting critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning, it would be a violation of our guiding principles.
Pride Month Order Form
Center for Inquiry Twitter Policy
The Center for Inquiry, along with its affiliates and branches, is a strong proponent of free expression and communications between and among our supporters and critics alike. Twitter is one of the tools we use to facilitate and engage in those communications, as well as using it as a platform for promotion of our own activities.
CFI welcomes and encourages open communication even (and especially) in the face of disagreements, regardless of the medium or platform. Those who disagree with CFI decisions or positions may certainly make that disagreement known. However, there are times when tweets directed at CFI accounts (by including the account’s twitter handle in a tweet, such as @center4inquiry) are not intended as critique or invitation to debate, but are simply abusive or threatening.
To put a stop to entirely unconstructive, abusive interactions, CFI accounts will sometimes “block” other Twitter accounts. This does not in any way keep any Twitter user from reading tweets from CFI accounts, but simply prevents further interaction between accounts when CFI has deemed a user to be in violation of its Twitter interaction policy, outlined here:
CFI accounts, firstly, abide by and rely upon the rules concerning abusive Twitter use set down by the Twitter company itself. Those rules can be found here.
Rules of particular relevance to CFI accounts and abusive interactions include, but are not limited to the following, quoted directly from the Twitter website:
Impersonation: You may not impersonate others through the Twitter service in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse, or deceive others
Privacy: You may not publish or post other people’s private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission.
Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others.
Serial Accounts: You may not create serial accounts for disruptive or abusive purposes, or with overlapping use cases. Mass account creation may result in suspension of all related accounts. Please note that any violation of the Twitter Rules is cause for permanent suspension of all accounts.
CFI also regards the following to be unacceptable behavior:
Slurs and other derogatory terms: Attacking anyone, CFI accounts, staff, or otherwise, with terms generally deemed obscene or unacceptable because they denigrate a person’s race, ethnicity, sex, etc. (including but not limited to “the n-word” or “the c-word”).
Harassment or threats: Threats of violence or other kinds of harm, as well as persistent badgering of anyone, CFI accounts, staff, or otherwise, with abuse or insults, purely for the purpose of humiliation or defamation.
When such violations occur in interactions with CFI accounts, CFI will take the suggestion of Twitter, which advises us thusly:
Block and ignore When you receive unwanted communication from another Twitter user, it is recommend that you block the user and end any communication. Specifically this will prevent that person from following or replying to you.
In especially serious cases, e.g., a plausible threat of violence, CFI may also report violators to Twitter or to law enforcement, as relevant.
CFI is not in the business of censorship, particularly of speech or ideas critical of CFI itself, but it is also not interested in being party to abuse, threats, and other unacceptable behavior. While CFI will not (and frankly, cannot) censor anyone’s right to speak as they wish, it also reserves the right to remove itself from communications that violate the above rules.
CFI embraces and enjoys the ability to connect, interact, and exchange ideas with its thousands of followers on Twitter and other social networks. It is our hope that with this policy in place, those interactions will only improve.
Note that this policy applies to official CFI accounts. Some staff have personal Twitter accounts, which they are free to utilize in any manner that is lawful and consistent with Twitter’s policies and CFI’s personnel policies.
Paul Kurtz, 1925-2012
Paul Kurtz, founder and longtime chair of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Center for Inquiry, has died at the age of 86. He was one of the most influential figures in the humanist and skeptical movements from the late 1960s through the first decade of the twenty-first century. Among his best-known creations are the skeptics’ magazine Skeptical Inquirer, the secular humanist magazine Free Inquiry, and the independent publisher Prometheus Books.
Early Life. Paul Kurtz was born on December 21, 1925, to Martin and Sarah Kurtz of Newark, New Jersey. He enrolled briefly at Washington Square College of New York University before enlisting in the U. S. Army at age 19, at the height of World War II. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and served in a unit that liberated the Dachau concentration camp. He was demobilized eighteen months after the war’s end and resumed his studies at New York University (NYU).
At NYU Kurtz studied philosophy under Sidney Hook, who had himself been a protégé of the pragmatist philosopher John Dewey. The philosophy of Dewey and Hook, arguably the greatest American thinkers in the humanist tradition, would deeply influence Kurtz’s thought and activism. Kurtz graduated from NYU in 1948 and earned his Ph. D. in philosophy at Columbia University in 1952.
Academic Career. Kurtz taught philosophy at Trinity College from 1952 to 1959. He joined the faculty at Union College from 1961 to 1965; during this period he was also a visiting lecturer at the New School for Social Research. In 1965 he was recruited by the new State University of New York at Buffalo. The former University of Buffalo had recently been absorbed into the state university system; under Governor Nelson Rockefeller, the institution launched an aggressive program to recruit top young academics to its faculty. Kurtz became professor of philosophy at SUNY-Buffalo, a post he held until his retirement from teaching in 1991. At this stage of his career, Kurtz focused principally on methods of objective inquiry and the history of American philosophy. He contributed the significant entry “American Philosophy” to the influential first edition of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1967), edited by Paul Edwards. He edited two large anthologies of American philosophy and published his best-known scholarly work, Decision and the Condition of Man (1968).
The Humanist Movement. It was in the late 1960s that Kurtz embarked on the pursuit whose prominence would exceed even that of his career as a philosopher, when he began his involvement with the humanist movement. In 1967 he was named editor of The Humanist, published by the American Humanist Association (AHA), then the nation’s only significant humanist organization. He took the magazine in new directions, both by making its content more sharply critical of religion and by using aggressive techniques to expand its circulation. Arguably, The Humanist never enjoyed greater cultural prominence or higher circulation than during Kurtz’s editorship, but his forceful style led to friction with others within AHA, including some members of its board of directors. Kurtz gave up editorship of The Humanist and parted ways with AHA in 1978. Ironically, that was the very year in which, owing to Kurtz’s influence, AHA moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Amherst, New York, the location of SUNY-Buffalo’s suburban campus. (AHA would remain headquartered off Harlem Road in Amherst until it moved to Washington, D. C., in 2000.)
Kurtz was for more than a quarter-century an influential figure in the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), a worldwide network of national humanist organizations founded in Amsterdam in 1952. He joined IHEU’s board of directors in 1969 and served as the organization’s co-chairman from 1986 to 1994. During this period, Kurtz hosted IHEU’s Tenth World Congress, held at SUNY-Buffalo during the summer of 1988.
The Kurtz-founded Organizations. Kurtz would be better known for his work through organizations he founded and shaped from their inception.
In 1969 he founded Prometheus Books, a for-profit publishing company that quickly emerged as the dominant imprint in skepticism, humanism, and atheism. It would become the most prolific publisher of atheist and humanist titles in history. Since its founding it has published more than 2500 titles in what has become a broad range of genres. Significant milestones included the 1998 acquisition of most of the assets of the scholarly publisher Humanities Press International, giving rise to Prometheus’s imprint Humanity Books, and the formation in 2005 of its Pyr division, which has emerged as a prestige imprint for science fiction and fantasy fiction. Now led by Paul Kurtz’s son Jonathan, the most impressive achievement of Prometheus Books may be that it has retained its independence during five decades in which an enormous number of independent publishers closed down or were absorbed. Paul Kurtz was perhaps best known for the three mutually supportive not-for-profit organizations he founded in Buffalo and later Amherst, New York, now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Center for Inquiry.
Kurtz and others founded the world’s first organization devoted solely to scientific criticism of paranormal claims at an April 1976 conference at SUNY-Buffalo whose participants included author Isaac Asimov, author-mathematician Martin Gardner, and magician James Randi. The organization was originally known as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, and became widely known by its acronym, CSICOP. Several months after its formation CSICOP launched a journal, The Zetetic, which later achieved great prominence as the Skeptical Inquirer, which continues to be published bimonthly. During its early years CSICOP encouraged the formation of local skeptics groups across the United States, and of independent national skeptics organizations across the world. These groups would form the kernel of today’s international skeptical movement. In 2006, the organization shortened its name to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, partly to show that its concerns now extended beyond its original focus on paranormal claims to include the public understanding of science and issues in medicine and mental health.
In 1980, two years after his departure from the American Humanist Association, Kurtz launched a new, more explicitly nonreligious humanist organization, the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism (CODESH). The word “Democratic” was added to demonstrate the group’s opposition to Communist totalitarianism, an important consideration since non-theism was then strongly associated with Communism in the public mind. The new organization’s first act was to release A Secular Humanist Declaration, a position document originally signed by 57 distinguished activists and academics. Its release was covered in a front-page story in the New York Times. The Council simultaneously launched a journal, Free Inquiry, with Kurtz as its publisher and founding editor. Free Inquiry quickly became the best-respected and highest-circulation humanist magazine in the U. S. It continues to be published bimonthly.
In 1996, in response to the collapse of European Communism, the organization shortened its name to the Council for Secular Humanism. It maintains a network of independent local groups, operates North America’s only freethought museum, and engages in a variety of educational and advocacy activities. Since 2007 the Council has been lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that challenges contracts between the state of Florida and explicitly religious social service providers.
In 1991, Kurtz’s skeptical and secular-humanist organizations relocated from Buffalo to Amherst, New York. In the same year Kurtz founded a third major non-profit organization, the Center for Inquiry. Originally conceived as a platform for consolidating activities that CSICOP and CODESH conducted in parallel, from magazine production to payroll, the Center grew into an advocacy organization in its own right. Its agenda encompassed both CSICOP’s skepticism and CODESH’s secular humanism, placing both in a broader cultural and intellectual context. In addition to the Center for Inquiry headquarters campus in Amherst, which Kurtz expanded to some 35,000 square feet, there at various times more than fifty branch Centers for Inquiry operated in other American cities and across the world, employing a variety of operating models. From its transnational headquarters at Amherst, the Center conducted a wide range of educational programs, including an online master’s degree program in conjunction with the University at Buffalo. Its research libraries hold the world’s largest collections of humanist, skeptical, and related literature.
Awards and Recognitions. Paul Kurtz received numerous awards and other encomia. In 1992 he was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1996 the main-belt asteroid Kurtz 6629 was named in his honor. In 2000 he received the International Rationalist Award at the Second International Rationalist Conference at Trivandrum, India. In 2001 he received the Charles P. Norton Medal, the highest award bestowed by the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 2009 he received the Eupraxsopher Award, a special lifetime achievement award, from the Center for Inquiry, as well as the Philip J. Klass Award from the National Capital Area Skeptics. In 2010 he received a lifetime achievement award at The Amazing Meeting (TAM) sponsored by the James Randi Educational Foundation.
Publications. Paul Kurtz wrote or edited more than fifty books for scholarly or general audiences. Among the better-known are Exuberance: A Philosophy of Happiness (1977); Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Humanism (1988); Eupraxophy: Living without Religion (1989); The Transcendental Temptation: A Critique of Religion and the Paranormal (1991); The New Skepticism: Inquiry and Reliable Knowledge (1992); and What Is Secular Humanism? (2006). His works have been translated into multiple languages. He composed a great number of essays, including editorials that appeared in every issue of Free Inquiry magazine from its founding in 1980 until 2009.
Kurtz was also organized humanism’s most prolific composer of position documents. When he joined the humanist movement, it was still strongly influenced by the Humanist Manifesto of 1933. Drafted and signed by Unitarian ministers (with the conspicuous exception of signer John Dewey), the original Manifesto explicitly envisioned humanism as a new religion. On Kurtz’s view, a more secular formulation was needed. As editor of The Humanist he led a campaign for a new and more relevant Manifesto. Humanist Manifesto II was published in 1973, having been co-drafted by Kurtz and fellow humanist leader Edwin H. Wilson. Where its predecessor was religious, Manifesto II explicitly abjured religiosity. In a passage reflecting Kurtz’s writing style, it declared: “Some humanists believe we should reinterpret traditional religions and reinvest them with meanings appropriate to the current situation. Such redefinitions … perpetuate old dependencies and escapisms; they easily become obscurantist, impeding the free use of the intellect. We need, instead, radically new human purposes and goals.”
Manifesto II was signed by 114 activists and thought leaders at first publication, and would eventually attract 261 distinguished signers. Its release garnered worldwide media attention including a front-page story in The New York Times.
The previously mentioned A Secular Humanist Declaration (1980) was drafted solely by Kurtz. It offered a secular humanist interpretation of many of the ideas developed in Manifesto II, but steeped in the recognition that an unquestionably nonreligious humanist institution needed to be created, close to but slightly outside of a larger humanist movement that included both religious and nonreligious humanists.
In the late 1990s Kurtz began to compose a new successor document. Originally he planned to title it Humanist Manifesto III, asserting the right to do so as the sole living co-author of Manifesto II. After the American Humanist Association asserted ownership of the Manifesto title and threatened legal action, Kurtz retitled his document Humanist Manifesto 2000.
Humanist Manifesto 2000: A Call for a New Planetary Humanism was issued in 1999 with about 200 signatures. It was book-length, far lengthier than the previous Manifestos, and represented the fullest statement of Kurtz’s vision for humanism as a planetary commitment transcending national and ethnic identities. Besides challenging religion and championing the scientific outlook and freedom of thought, Kurtz called for a popularly elected global parliament, a World Court, a global environmental monitoring institution, and a new international tax to aid the developing world. These internationalist contentions engendered substantial controversy within the humanist movement.
Principal Contentions. Kurtz consistently asserted that morality should be rooted in human flourishing and happiness, not on supernatural revelation. He attached high priority to individual liberty in a robustly democratic culture. His ethics were primarily utilitarian, but he tempered his utilitarianism with a strong commitment to basic liberties. As early as 1969 he had written that “there are two basic and minimal principles which especially seem to characterize humanism. First, there is a rejection of any supernatural conception of the universe and a denial that man has any privileged place within nature. Second, there is an affirmation that ethical values are human and have no meaning independent of human experience.” Repeatedly he characterized secular humanism less as a set of moral or philosophical prescriptions than as a process, a template for the conduct of ethical inquiry.
Two further contentions strongly influenced Kurtz’s thought and writing beginning in the mid-1980s. The first was his growing sense of humanism as necessarily planetary. He argued that since the principal problems confronting humankind were global in scope, they required transnational solutions. This view was accompanied by an assertive cosmopolitanism that viewed traditional religious, ethnic, and national identities as archaisms to be jettisoned whenever possible.
In addition, he sought an authoritative answer to the question “If secular humanism is not a religion, what is it?” His solution was to coin a new word, eupraxophy (in later years spelled eupraxsophy). Formed from Greek roots meaning roughly “good wisdom and practice in conduct,” the word was meant to label a novel category of intellectual and moral systems that met some of the social needs served by religions without the supernaturalism or authoritarianism of traditional faiths. Kurtz made his most extended argument for the coinage in his 1989 book Eupraxophy: Living without Religion. A subsequent edition was titled Living without Religion: Eupraxsophy. The neologism’s move from title to subtitle reflected the coinage’s fate. Kurtz’s arguments for eupraxsophy were received respectfully, and some activists eagerly restyled themselves “eupraxsophers.” Ultimately, however, the term failed to maintain traction and it is infrequently used in the movement today.
Later Life. While Kurtz’s son Jonathan had succeeded him as president of Prometheus Books, Kurtz continued to exercise day-to-day control of the non-profit organizations he had founded well past his eightieth birthday. After 2005 there was heightened concern on the part of the organizations’ directors to implement a specific succession process. In June 2008, attorney and philosopher Ronald A. Lindsay succeeded Kurtz as president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Lindsay was Kurtz’s personal selection for the position. Kurtz continued to serve as board chair until June 2009, when Buffalo investment advisor Richard Schroeder was elected Chair and Kurtz assumed the new position of Chair Emeritus. Kurtz faced this process with increasing reluctance, and on May 18, 2010, he announced his resignation from all of his remaining positions at the three nonprofit organizations. His office continued to be reserved for his use whenever the Center for Inquiry – Transnational in Amherst was open.
Late in 2010, Kurtz announced the founding of a new organization, the Institute for Science and Human Values. It released a manifesto-style document titled Neo-Humanist Statement of Secular Principles and Values with more than 150 signers and announced a new quarterly journal, The Human Prospect.
Conclusion. Ultimately, Paul Kurtz did much to shape the American and world humanist movements during the final third of the twentieth century. He was a prodigious organizer, responsible for much of the social landscape through which nonreligious Americans moved before the emergence of the so-called New Atheist movement in the middle 2000s. At the same time, a vibrant and varied skeptics’ community now served by dozens of local and national organizations might not exist at all – and surely would not have its current form – if not for Kurtz’s founding of the first modern skeptical organization, CSICOP. His most enduring legacy may be the Center for Inquiry, which continues to stand as the larger movement’s largest, most active, and highest-budgeted organization.
Policy of the Center for Inquiry on Hostile Conduct/Harassment at Conferences
Purpose and Scope of Policy
The Center for Inquiry (CFI) and its affiliates, including the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism, are educational organizations. As part of our educational mission, we hold conferences from time to time. To ensure that everyone attending our conferences is able to participate in them fully, CFI and its affiliates are committed to providing a safe and hospitable environment at our conferences. Accordingly, CFI and its affiliates prohibit intimidating, threatening, or harassing conduct during our conferences. This policy applies to speakers, staff, volunteers, and attendees.
“Conferences” for purpose of this policy includes any educational meeting or gathering organized or sponsored by CFI or its affiliates to which nonemployees are invited. In other words, this policy applies to local or regional meetings, not just national conferences.
This policy supplements the policy on harassment set forth in the CFI employee handbook, which governs the conduct of CFI staff; it does not replace or supersede that policy.
In general, prohibited conduct includes any abusive conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with another person’s ability to enjoy and participate in the conference, including social events related to the conference.
Prohibited conduct includes, but is not limited to, yelling at or threatening speakers or attendees, or any significantly disruptive conduct. By way of example, repeated interruption of a speaker by an attendee is prohibited.
Prohibited conduct includes, but is not limited to, harassment based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or any other protected group status, as provided by local, state, or federal law. By way of example, abusive conduct directed at someone because of their race is prohibited.
Prohibited conduct includes, but is not limited to, sexual harassment. By way of example, unwelcome sexual attention, stalking, and physical contact such as pinching, grabbing, or groping are prohibited.
Critical examination of beliefs, including critical commentary on another person’s views, does not, by itself, constitute hostile conduct or harassment. One of the underlying rationales of this policy is to promote the free exchange of ideas, not to inhibit it.
Consequences of Hostile or Harassing Conduct
CFI and its affiliates have a zero-tolerance policy for hostile and harassing conduct. If a person engages in hostile or harassing conduct, appropriate remedial action will be taken, which may include, but is not limited to, expulsion from the conference. Threats of hostile conduct that are made prior to a conference may result in exclusion from the conference.
The exact remedy for hostile or harassing conduct will depend on an evaluation of all relevant circumstances, such as the severity of the conduct and prior violations by the person engaging in prohibited conduct.
When there is a reasonable basis for believing the conduct is illegal, appropriate law enforcement authorities will be notified.
Reporting Hostile or Harassing Conduct; Investigations
Persons who are the targets of, or witnesses to, hostile or harassing conduct should contact conference staff. At smaller meetings, conference staff, including the person(s) in charge of the meeting, will be introduced at the beginning. At larger conferences, conference staff will wear identification and/or will be identified in the conference program.
At larger conferences, phone numbers for hotel/venue staff, local law enforcement, and local emergency medical personnel will be provided to conference attendees to facilitate prompt response to complaints and/or requests for assistance.
Reports of hostile or harassing conduct will be promptly addressed. On some occasions, where conference staff are witnesses to the prohibited conduct, immediate remedial action may be taken. Where a report of hostile or harassing conduct is made to conference staff after the conduct has occurred, reasonable measures will be taken to establish the facts. This will typically include discussion with witnesses, if any, and the person accused of engaging in the prohibited conduct. Inquiries into hostile or harassing conduct will be carried out as confidentially as possible given the circumstances.
CFI and its affiliates will make a written record of all complaints/incidents as soon as practicable. These records will be used in connection with implementing this policy. These records will be maintained in the Office of the President & CEO of CFI and will not be disclosed to individuals outside of the organization except as required by law.
Ask Mayor Lee to Proclaim a San Francisco Day of Reason
On May 3, 2012, Americans all across the country will celebrate reason, science, and free inquiry as they observe the National Day of Reason, and San Francisco has an exciting and unique role to play this year!
One key goal of the secular and skeptic movements is to remove religion and superstition from government, yet year after year public office-holders make proclamations establishing expressly religious observances (think of George W. Bush, when he was governor of Texas, proclaiming June 10, 2000 the state’s “Jesus Day”). Of course, no such proclamation is more notorious than the yearly unconstitutional ritual of the reaffirmation by U.S. presidents of the National Day of Prayer.
But we have one great opportunity to begin to right the ship. In honor of the National Day of Reason, citizens of the City by the Bay will petition Mayor Edward M. Lee to proclaim May 3, 2012 a Day of Reason for San Francisco! View the formal proclamation that will be submitted to Mayor Lee, and if you are a citizen of San Francisco city or county, add your name to the petition!
Don’t stop there! Make sure you share this petition with everyone in your community who values science and critical thinking over faith and magical thinking. And remember—this is not just for nonbelievers, but for all citizens, religious or otherwise, who believe in a secular America.
We are, after all, in the midst of a Secular Spring, and we all know how lovely spring can be in San Francisco!
WHEREAS, the application of reason, more than any other means, has proven to offer hope for human survival upon Earth, improving the human condition everywhere , and cultivating intelligent, moral and ethical interactions among our people and their environments, and
WHEREAS, those who wrote the Constitution of the United States of America, the basic document for governing the affairs of humankind within the United States, based it upon principles delineated within the philosophies distinguishing the historical Age of Reason, and
WHEREAS, most citizens of the United States purport to value reason and its application, and
WHEREAS, it is the duty and responsibility of every citizen to promote the development and application of reason
NOW, THEREFORE, I Edward M. Lee, Mayor of the City and County of San Francisco hereby proclaim Thursday, the 3rd day of May, 2012 a
DAY OF REASON
and I encourage all citizens, residents and visitors to join in observing this day and focusing upon the employment of reason, critical thought, the scientific method, and free inquiry to the resolution of human problems and for the welfare of human kind.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF I hereunto set my hand and cause the Seal of the City and County of San Francisco to be herein affixed.
National Day of Reason Resources
For decades, the National Day of Prayer has been observed—unconstitutionally—by officials at all levels of government, most notably proclaimed by every president since Truman. When elected leaders conduct religious ceremonies and events, they endorse and favor a particular religious belief, using taxpayers’ money while doing so. When they call upon all Americans to join them in this particularly sectarian exercise, they defy our Constitution.
In response, the National Day of Reason was established in 2003 to coincide with the National Day of Prayer, observed annually on the first Thursday of May. This was not done merely to express opposition but also to give an alternative view, a positive vision for tackling the country’s problems: reason over faith and good works over wishful thinking.
The crises and challenges facing our nation can seem staggering at times, and it’s only natural that Americans would want to turn to a higher power for solutions. But we know that human beings have it within themselves to make their world a better place, by applying the tools of science and reason, by living the values of compassion and charity, by taking action in this world rather than asking for favors from the next.
Official observance of the National Day of Prayer is a violation of our basic constitutional principles, essentially classifying the nonreligious as “less American” than those who subscribe to a specific faith. But even worse, by insisting that we must submit to a deity to solve our problems, it robs Americans of our ability to find our own strength and take responsibility for our country and our fellow citizens.
On the National Day of Reason, we affirm that it is within each of us to make this country as prosperous, as secure, and as good as we want it to be.
- American Humanist Association’s National Day of Reason website.
- National Day of Reason facebook page.
- Sign the official National Day of Reason petition.
- Organize a Blood Drive with the Red Cross or similar organization.
- Get the National Day of Reason recognized in your town or state.
- Organize a volunteering event at a local food bank.
- Organize a letter writing campaign to local and state politicians urging them to recognized the National Day of Reason with an emphasis on the power of action.
- Have your group or organization endorse the National Day of Reason.
- Volunteer at a local animal shelter.
Have any great activisms related ideas for the National Day of Reason? Email us with your suggestions.
To help you celebrate the National Day of Reason this year, feel free to download and use our promotional materials. Promote your own National Day of Reason events by adding your event details to the white box on the promo poster, or print off the poster for display. Click on a poster for a full-size 8.5” x 11” printable .pdf file. (These are large files, so please be patient while they download.). We have also provided a facebook cover image and a button-sized National Day of Reason logo.
- Rep. Michael Honda and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton voice support for the National Day of Reason.
- 2011 statement by Congressman Pete Stark in support of the National Day of Reason.
- Triangle Freethought event website for the 2012 National Day of Reason in Raleigh, NC.
- Todd Stiefel’s speech at the NDoR event for 2011 for the Triangle Freethought Society.
Video Contest Instructions and Rules
Thank you for participating in Center for Inquiry’s Campaign for Free Expression Video Contest. In order to ensure that your entry enters the running, please follow these simple instructions:
- Create a video, 30 seconds - 60 seconds long, in the form of a public service announcement, about the importance of free expression. (See two examples produced by members of CFI)
- Upload the video to YouTube
- Tag the video with “Campaign for Free Expression Video Contest”
- Add the following to the description of the video: “This video has been submitted as part of the Center for Inquiry’s Campaign for Free Expression Video Contest (http://www.centerforinquiry.net/campaign_for_free_expression); however, it does not carry the endorsement, or necessarily represent the views, of the Center for Inquiry.”
- Send an email to email@example.com with a subject line of “CFI Video Contest submission”, containing the following information:
- title of your video
- link to your video
- your name
- your mailing address
- your email address
- your phone number
- Videos must be submitted by September 20, 2010
The top three videos shall be announced on International Blasphemy Rights Day, September 30, 2010. Third place will receive $500, second place will receive $1000, and first place will receive the grand prize of $2000!
Full Contest Rules and Regulations
The Center for Inquiry (CFI), in conjunction with its Campaign for Free Expression, is pleased to announce that it is holding a contest for the best video on the following topic: The Importance of Free Expression. Videos should be in the form of a pubic service announcement (PSA) video, suitable for distribution online. (Please see the examples on the Campaign for Free Expression website.) The person submitting the best PSA-style video, as determined by CFI’s judges, will receive an award of $2000 (USD). The first runner-up will receive an award of $1000 (USD) and the second runner-up will receive an award of $500 (USD). The rules for the contest are as follows:
- No employee, or relative by blood or marriage, of the Center for Inquiry or its affiliates, including, but not limited to, the Council for Secular Humanism, is eligible to enter the contest. Contestants must be adults in their jurisdiction of residence. For legal reasons, this contest is restricted to residents of the United States and Canada.
- All submissions will remain property of the contestant. However, by entering the contest, contestants grant CFI a royalty-free license to use, edit, reproduce, or distribute the contestant’s submitted video as CFI sees fit in its sole discretion, although authorship will be acknowledged.
- By submitting an entry, the contestant warrants that the work is original and does not violate the intellectual property rights of any other person or entity. In addition, by submitting an entry, the contestant grants permission to CFI to use her or his name for publicity purposes, including, but not limited to, announcing the results of the contest.
- Submitted videos should not exceed 30 or 60 seconds in length, as these are the standard lengths for PSAs. However, CFI will consider videos of up to 90 seconds in length. Any video longer than 90 seconds will be disqualified.
- Submissions should be uploaded to YouTube or a similar video-sharing website, and the link to the contestant’s video, the contestant’s name, mailing address, e-address, phone number, and the title of the contestant’s video should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Place “CFI Video Contest submission” in the subject line. To ensure blind review, identifying information must not appear in the video itself. In describing the video on YouTube or another video-sharing site, the contestant is to include the following language: “This video has been submitted as part of the Center for Inquiry’s Campaign for Free Expression Video Contest (http://www.centerforinquiry.net/campaign_for_free_expression); however, it does not carry the endorsement, or necessarily represent the views, of the Center for Inquiry.” CFI bears no responsibility for technical difficulties encountered by contestants in uploading their videos.
- To be considered, entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. (Eastern Time) on September 20, 2010.
- Submitted videos must not contain any logos or language directly identifying the video with CFI or its affiliated organizations. CFI disclaims any responsibility whatsoever for the content of submitted videos and by submitting an entry, contestants agree to reimburse CFI and its affiliates, and their directors, officers, and employees, in full in respect of any expense, cost, or liability incurred by them as a result of any claims arising out of allegedly illegal content, including, but not limited to, any claims of infringement or other breach of intellectual property or other rights.
- The decisions of the judges are final and nonreviewable.
- Submitters of winning videos will be expected to provide CFI with full-resolution versions of their submissions.
- This contest is void where prohibited by law.
The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. To learn more, go to http://www.centerforinquiry.net.
Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Efforts (SHARE)
SHARE began as a project of the Council for Secular Humanism to provide an alternative for those who wish to contribute to disaster relief efforts without the intermediary of a religious organization. At that time SHARE was called the Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort and was a program of the Council for Secular Humanism. The Council has been the leading organization promoting the rights and values of secular humanists in the U.S. and abroad for the last thirty years.
In early 2010, the SHARE program was renamed Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort, still maintaining the acronym SHARE The SHARE program was also moved under the umbrella of the Center for Inquiry.
Many people who are skeptics and humanists are frustrated that so many charitable organizations, especially those that help people afflicted by natural or human disasters, have efforts coordinated by religious organizations. These organizations sometimes proselytize to the people in need of their services. This is entirely unacceptable to skeptics and secular humanists.
The money collected through SHARE goes directly to secular relief efforts in the nations or areas afflicted. By donating to SHARE, you can pool your resources with other like-minded individuals who wish to effect change in the world.
- Humanist Organization in Kampala, Uganda
In July 2014 The Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity, and Accountability (HALEA) based in Kampala, Uganda was victimized by a cruel and violent robbery that left them with almost nothing. HALEA does tremendous, and inspiring work with at-risk teens in the poorest districts of the city. Skeptics and humanists were moved by this heinous burglary and through SHARE donated over $6,000 so that HALEA could get back to doing its important work on the ground in Uganda.
- Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines
On November 8, 2013 Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines. On behalf of skeptics and humanists SHARE has stepped up and collected nearly $40,000 to assist the victims of the super typhoon. All funds collected will be sent to Oxfam to provide clean-up and relief assistance to the people of the Philippines.
- Joplin, Missouri, Tornado Relief
On May 22, 2011 a devastating tornado ravaged Joplin, Missouri. SHARE provided assistance to victims of the tornado by contributing close to $11,000. All money collected was sent directly to the Red Cross and used for medical care and relief assistance in Joplin.
- Earthquakes/Tsunami in Japan
SHARE collected over $40,500 to assist the victims of the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan. All money collected was sent directly to the Red Cross to provide medical care and relief assistance to the people of Japan.
- Flooding in Pakistan
SHARE collected nearly $13,000 to assist victims of the unprecedented flooding in Pakistan. The money was sent directly to Oxfam to provide food and clean water to the people of Pakistan.
- Earthquake in Haiti:
SHARE has collected over $100,000 for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. The funds have been donated to Doctors without Borders to be used for medical supplies and medical relief.
- Earthquake in China:
SHARE raised over $8,745 to assist the victims of the earthquake in China. The funds were donated to the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA.)
- Tornado Relief:
SHARE provided the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee with $5,050.
- California Wildfires:
SHARE contributed $4,985 to the Los Angeles Times Wildfire Fund to help low-income victims of the California wild fires.
- Veteran’s Hospital in Buffalo, New York:
SHARE has held two “Rocking for Relief” events to raise money for extra needs for veterans at the Veteran’s Hospital in Buffalo, New York, raising $5,000.
- Hurricane Katrina:
SHARE collected over $80,000 for victims of Hurricane Katrina. The funds were donated to Americares, a secular organization, to be used for medical supplies and medical relief.
SHARE collected over $45,000 for the Tsunami victims in Sri Lanka in 2005. Arthur C. Clarke, a Humanist Laureate who resided in Sri Lanka until his death, suggested that the funds be donated to the nonprofit organization Sarvodaya.
Center for Inquiry
Phone: 716-636-4869, ext. 428