There is only one organization that stands against all of the damaging mythologies people cling to without evidence, and that’s the Center for Inquiry.
Unlike other groups with narrower goals, CFI brings the rigor of critical thinking to all claims of supernaturalism and magical thinking. We shine the light of reason on religious claims as well as those of alternative medicine practitioners. We act to protect people from the charlatanism of psychics, the quackery of homeopathy, and the empty promises of preachers.
We are advocating in the courts and the halls of Congress. We are building freethinking communities in cities and colleges across the country and around the world. We are supporting science teachers in their classrooms and at teacher conferences. And we are standing up for the rights of atheists and free expression at the United Nations and other international bodies.
We litigate, lobby, educate, rescue, and debunk. All toward one purpose: Advancing the cause of reason and science.
Of course, 2017 provided its own special challenges for the reality-based community. The Trump administration is top-heavy with religious Right extremists and science deniers.
President Trump has promised to repeal the Johnson Amendment and to put tens of billions of taxpayer dollars into private school vouchers. He’s given top appointments to a pack of religious zealots such as Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, and Jeff Sessions—not to mention Mike Pence, whose lead Trump has followed with their dangerous expansion of “religious freedom.” This most irreligious of presidents is lavishing rewards on his religious Right supporters like a king opening the royal granaries.
Trump’s picks for the federal judiciary are especially consequential, with many appearing to hold more fealty toward the Bible than the U.S. Constitution. And at the U.S. Supreme Court, we are a single vote away from the emergence of a new doctrine that enshrines religious privilege in law.
But Trump’s administration provides CFI with a double-whammy, as it also embraces the science illiteracy of the anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers.
CFI is nonpartisan, but we don’t back down when our core values—the values of the Enlightenment—are under attack. Along with its subpart, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, CFI is pushing back against this onslaught. But we could not do it without you and your generous support.
Thank you for standing up for reason, science, and secularism. You help make us strong.
Robyn E. Blumner
Religious fanatics have targeted secularists for slaughter in the streets, hoping to terrorize the critics of religion into silence. The Center for Inquiry has lost friends and allies in these attacks, and we have dedicated ourselves to doing all we can to bring to safety those whose lives are in danger for speaking their minds.
CFI’s Secular Rescue identifies those writers, activists, and everyday citizens in countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Iraq who are under threat of violence and death, doing all we can financially and diplomatically to help them escape and live. The Atlantic profiled Secular Rescue and its successes at the beginning of 2018, calling it the “Underground Railroad for atheists.”
The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Studies (TIES) has quickly become one of the brightest stars in CFI’s constellation of programs.
Led by the brilliant and dedicated Bertha Vazquez, its mission is to train middle school science teachers in the most up-to-date concepts of evolutionary science, preparing them to better communicate their subject, navigate anti-evolution backlash, and inspire young minds to develop a love of science.
I have to remind myself every day why I am working so hard; I want to share the thrill that ‘there is grandeur in this view of life’ with America’s young people.”
TIES has made incredible progress in the space of a year:
Ms. Bertha Vazquez’s passion and energy continue to inspire her students, her fellow teachers, and our community.”
–National Association of Biology Teachers
Homeopathy is modern-day snake oil. It’s a $3 billion consumer fraud with no valid medicinal value. Yet CFI is one of the only groups fighting the hands-off treatment the homeopathic industry has received from federal regulators. And we are having a real impact.
CFI convinced the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to act. In 2016, the FTC told retailers that they had to warn consumers that homeopathic remedies have no scientific basis, an admission that they essentially do not work. And after years of sustained effort, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would take a tougher stance against homeopathic products that endanger public safety.
Then we tried to get CVS Health, the largest pharmacy chain in the United States, to follow the new rules.
Go into any CVS and there are evidence-based remedies for colds and earaches sold alongside homeopathic products claiming to treat the same ailments. But there is no warning to consumers that one remedy has met scientific standards and the other is an expensive placebo. This is unacceptable.
Finally, in 2017, after repeated requests to CVS to follow the FTC mandate were ignored, CFI brought a consumer action against CVS Health. CFI filed a formal complaint with the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to stop CVS from defrauding consumers with these useless products.
CFI Websites 2017 Total Pageviews
393,500 Average Monthly Pageviews
RDFRS Website 2017 Total Pageviews
454,000 Average Monthly Pageviews
Total Organization Pageviews in 2017
When a religious couple gets married, they can have this most deeply meaningful life milestone legally solemnized by someone who reflects their beliefs and values. But in most of the country, nonreligious couples must either take part in a religious ritual or settle for officiation by a government employee. We think that’s not good enough, and it is an unconstitutional privileging of religious beliefs.
That’s why CFI trains and certifies Secular Celebrants and why we have fought to make Secular Celebrants a legal option for couples in states across the country. CFI won a historic victory on this issue in Indiana in 2014, and we continue to make real progress in the courts and in state legislatures:
The right to religious freedom is being twisted into a license to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans and anyone else who does not conform to someone else’s dogma. In the Supreme Court case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a wedding cake baker claims his faith gives him the right to discriminate against same-sex couples. CFI’s top legal minds, General Counsel Nick Little and CFI Board Chair Eddie Tabash, argued to the Court that ruling for the baker would “fatally undermine decades of anti-discrimination law in this country,” and our amicus curiae was co-signed by American Atheists and the Secular Coalition for America.
We know the difference between a city council and a board of education: one makes laws, the other literally decides what our children will be taught. So when sectarian prayer was ruled to be acceptable at school board meetings by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, we petitioned the Supreme Court to take up the case, arguing that the coercive impact of government-endorsed prayers on teachers, parents, and public school students must not be ignored.
Science denial found new inroads into the centers of political power this year, but CFI and its allies have made clear that we will never back down in the fight for facts and real science.
Beliefs cannot be not rights-holders. How could an intangible concept — which could not appear before a court of law, or a jury of its peers, to explain or defend itself — hold a right equal to that of a living, breathing person?”
– Michael De Dora
There is no room for this kind of religious persecution in a world community that honors freedom of conscience.”
– Robyn Blumner
A man in Denmark was charged with the crime of blasphemy for posting a video of himself burning a Quran to Facebook. CFI called upon Denmark, which was the flashpoint for violent protests over blasphemy over cartoons of Mohammed, to repeal its largely ignored blasphemy law.
Facebook sent a delegation to Pakistan to discuss the government’s efforts to track down Pakistanis posting “blasphemous” content. We urged Facebook to protect its users and to use its leverage to encourage Pakistan to “abandon the theocratic, reactionary scapegoating of critics and dissidents.”
Blog Posts on Free Thinking
Total Emails Delivered
Richard Dawkins, whose book The Selfish Gene was named in a Royal Society survey as the most influential science book in history, twice toured the United States for live events sponsored by the Center for Inquiry. Over 1,500 people purchased tickets to see Richard as he headlined seven engagements in six cities.
Joining Richard on stage for fascinating, unscripted conversations were luminaries from the worlds of science, journalism, and entertainment:
For the second year in a row, hundreds of skeptics assembled in Las Vegas for CSICon, and despite the cloud of unreason emanating from the White House, presenters and attendees made CSICon 2017 the best yet.
The four-day event featured an amazing roster of speakers that included Michael Mann, Eugenie Scott, Britt Hermes, Joe Nickell, Joe Schwarcz, and even a member of the European Parliament, Teresa Giménez Barbat. Plus:
CSICon will be back in Vegas in 2018 and bigger than ever. CSICon 2018 takes place October 18–21 at the Westgate Resort & Casino, and not a moment too soon.
Attendees for 2017
15% more than 2016
Openly Secular is a campaign designed to eliminate discrimination and increase acceptance of the nonreligious. This year the campaign’s roster of celebrity endorsements added comedian, author, and actress Annabelle Gurwitch, who made a touching and funny video for the campaign, telling our community, “Being secular people holds us to a responsibility to our community and to our planet that I feel is an extremely honorable way of living.”
On Openly Secular Day 2017 (October 20) 1,670 people sent a total of 12,645 messages to their elected officials in Congress and statehouses to show them that they have a large and active bloc of secular values voters that demands to be heard.
From protesting and lobbying their representatives to hosting educational lectures and social gatherings, CFI’s local branches ramped up their efforts to build engaged and active communities of secular humanists, skeptics, atheist, and freethinkers.
CFI U.S. and International Branches
CFI On Campus Affiliate Groups
Total Events held by CFI Branches
The Women’s March on Washington on January 21 was a truly historic event, and CFI branches were there in force, organizing members in Michigan, Austin, Indiana, and Western New York to stand for women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, church-state separation, freedom of expression, and more. CFI Indiana Executive Director Reba Boyd Wooden was tapped to address the crowd at the Indianapolis march.
Pushing back against the forces of climate change denial, creationism in schools, fake medicine, and more, CFI branches took to the streets for the March for Science, taking on leadership roles at marches across the country.
Educational lectures at CFI branches featured topics such as fake news, free will, evolution, and medical marijuana. Plus:
CFI’s Los Angeles community made a big transition in 2017, as they moved into a new home after the sale of their property at the Steve Allen Theater. The new facility on West Temple St. is closer to downtown L.A., with spacious and beautiful offices and a theater that will be used for all kinds of events, including the branch’s Feed Your Brain lecture series. In 2018, they will work on improving the theater, installing a kitchen and cafe, and even opening a small bookstore. The members of the CFI community in Los Angeles are putting in the effort to make this new place their own.
The Center for Inquiry is not merely a U.S. operation. International branches and affiliates, widely ranging in size and scope, work to advance our mission in countries around the world. Here are just a few highlights of their work in 2017:
Young people on campuses across the country have so much energy and talent that they want to use to advocate for reason and science, and the CFI On Campus program is there to guide and foster this new generation of leaders. Secular humanist, skeptic, and atheist student groups are provided with promotional materials, grants for large speaker events and conferences, and guidance for group leaders as they learn how to run successful campus freethought organizations. Many groups got involved in their local March for Science and organized large-scale educational events, such as the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers and Inquirers’ Darwin Week and the Secular Society of MIT’s creative Carl Sagan Day celebration.
CFI Youtube Subscribers
CFI Twitter Followers
CFI Facebook Likes
RDFRS Youtube Subscribers
RDFRS Twitter Followers
RDFRS Facebook Likes
Having just celebrated 40 years in publication, Skeptical Inquirer took the challenges to science and reason head-on with timely and vital features. Highlights:
Skeptical Inquirer also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the publication of Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene with a special issue and the amazing James Randi made a triumphant return to the magazine he helped found with a new column.
Skeptical Inquirer Circulation
Free Inquiry, the journal of secular humanism, grappled with some of the deepest questions of values and meaning for secular humanists.
Free Inquiry Circulation
It’s not enough to claim to have supernatural powers. (Or, at least, it shouldn’t be.) The Independent Investigations Group (IIG) wants to see it for themselves. Founded in 2000 and based out of CFI Los Angeles, IIG investigates and tests paranormal and extraordinary claims from mind-readers to dowsers to mediums.
Anyone who can successfully prove they have the powers they claim—under proper observing conditions—will win IIG’s $100,000 Challenge. With so many self-proclaimed psychics, mediums, and spellcasters out there, you might think that IIG has had to pay up many, many times. But so far, no winners. Ever.
A favorite example of testing paranormal powers in 2017 featured a martial arts expert who claimed he could knock people off balance without touching them. Provided with three willing and blindfolded subjects, he failed to knock anyone off balance…except maybe himself.
Take a journey into a pivotal chapter of American history, spanning over two-dozen towns and more than 100 sites in west-central New York, telling the story of the country’s struggles for secularism and freethought, the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and more. Take a trip down the Freethought Trail, a project of CFI’s Council for Secular Humanism.
The Freethought Trail underwent a major expansion in 2017, expanding to 112 historical sites and covering even more of the history of abolitionism and utopianism. Also expanded was coverage of additional women who were pivotal to winning women’s suffrage and advancing women’s rights.
Thanks to a generous grant from the James Hervey Johnson Charitable Educational Trust of San Diego, California, the Freethought Trail has undergone a complete redesign of its deeply researched website. The new site, featuring a greatly improved user interface and all-new graphics, went live in February 2018.
The Freethought Trail is also home to the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, honoring “The Great Agnostic,” showcasing Ingersoll’s originality, his wit, his power as a persuader, and his role in history—right in the Finger Lakes home where he was born. The Johnson Trust’s grant will also help underwrite a conference in Syracuse, New York, on August 18–19, 2018, celebrating the museum’s 25th anniversary.
Reasonable Talk is CFI’s online video series, where the passionate and brilliant thinkers, writers, and activists at CFI events share their insights to enlighten minds, spark debate, and inspire action. Seasons 3 and 4 of Reasonable Talk brought some of the best presentations and conversations from Women in Secularism 4 and CSICon 2016, including The New Yorker’s Maria Konnikova on con artists, Dr. Paul Offit on the opioid epidemic, and unscripted conversations with Richard Dawkins and James Randi…and much more! Season 5 is already underway, with talks from CSICon 2017.
“I still remember the first time I came to CFI Indiana almost seven years ago. Since then, my family and I have been learning English at the CFI English as a New Language class, and now CFI Indiana is an important part of my life. I have met many people and made many friends. CFI Indiana is always open to people for free discussion as long as it is fact-based and science-based. I will continue to support CFI because it provides our community an important place for free discussion.”
“CFI had always been a huge help to our campus organization and after spending a summer interning for them, I see there is so much more they do for people on a local, national, and even international level. Those who work and volunteer for CFI have a personal passion for the organization’s mission that inspires those around them. I am grateful I had the opportunity to get to know CFI from the inside and will always carry the experience with me.”
As the Center for Inquiry continued to evolve as a national organization, it was reinvigorated with new talent joining the staff and familiar faces taking on new roles
Communications Director Paul Fidalgo, author of the daily news roundup The Morning Heresy, stepped behind the microphone (and into the editing software) as the new host and producer of CFI’s flagship podcast Point of Inquiry, where he’s had fascinating conversations with brilliant and accomplished guests:
Earlier in the year, previous hosts Josh Zepps and Lindsay Beyerstein interviewed a wide range of fascinating guests, including Daniel Dennett and Dahlia Lithwick.
Total Point of Inquiry Downloads
42,000 average downloads per episode
When the news media wants to get the reality-based perspective on ghosts, aliens, and other extranormal phenomena, they know who to trust: World-renowned investigator Joe Nickell.
Sharing information with patrons, members, staff, and the media is the primary mission of any library, and we answered over 270 reference questions by either email or phone call this past year. We digitized materials for about 50 or so of the questions (staying in copyright compliance). Timothy Binga, Director of Libraries, also serves as the Treasurer of the Board for the Western New York Library Resources Council, which participates in local and state-wide library initiatives.
The following donors contributed materials to the CFI Libraries during the 2017 calendar year:
We are laying the groundwork for various digitization projects. Newspapers, pamphlets, photographs, and even some three-dimension artifacts are to be digitized and placed on our websites, New York Heritage, and the Digital Public Library of America.
A few of the items added to our collections this year:
Report of the International Congress For Progressive Thought and the Twenty-Seventh Annual Congress of the American Secular Union and Freethought Federation. St. Louis, MO Oct. 15-20, 1904. New York: Truthseeker Co., 1905. What is unique about this item is that it is signed by all the participants.
Hubbard E, Wm. H. Wise & Co.,, Roycroft Shop,. Elbert Hubbard’s Scrap Book : Containing the Inspired and Inspiring Selections Gathered During a Life Time of Discriminating Reading for His Own Use. [455th to 464th thousand]. New York: Wm. H. Wise & Co., Roycroft distributors, [Anno Domini MCMXXIII ].
Ward CH. Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution. New York: The New Home Library, 1927.
The Works of George Eliot, Cabinet Edition (24 Volumes). London: Blackwood and Sons, 1835.
On the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris presents his conversation with Richard Dawkins from Dawkins’s CFI-sponsored speaking tour.
February 9: The Columbus Dispatch talks to Monette Richards about CFI Northeast Ohio’s legislative efforts on Secular Celebrants.
February 23: Michael De Dora is interviewed about Denmark’s blasphemy prosecution on the Afternoons with Bob Breakenridge radio show.
Benjamin Radford is a guest on WNPR’s Colin McEnroe Show discussing UFOs in American culture.
CFI urged Facebook to protect free expression and the lives of its users by refusing to capitulate to Pakistani authorities hunting for “blasphemers” on its platform, and Michael De Dora spoke out against Pakistan at the UN Human Rights Council.
Benjamin Radford appears on NPR’s Kojo Nnamdi Show to discuss the mystery of missing girls in Washington, D.C.
CFI Communications Director Paul Fidalgo talks to The Daily Beast about the world’s changing religious demographics, particularly in regard to nonbelievers and Muslims.
CFI’s own Michael De Dora and Nicholas Little coauthor an op-ed for Religion News Service about why secularism itself is in fact America’s “first freedom.”
VICE talks to Nick Little about the horrors of female genital mutilation and how it has been justified as being protected by notions of “religious freedom.”
Using her own experiences in prison from the time she was falsely accused of a murder, Amanda Knox speaks at length to CFI Legal Director Nick Little about religious coercion in the prison system for a piece at VICE.
Richard Dawkins is interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Edition and discusses his work with CFI and his foundation.
Bertha Vazquez of the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science pens an excellent op-ed on Florida’s anti-science education law for the Palm Beach Post.
The Albuquerque Journal publishes a special piece by Skeptical Inquirer Editor Kendrick Frazier on the resilience of the Roswell UFO myth.
One does not cancel a Richard Dawkins event over isolated complaints about his principled stance against violent, extremist Islamism and expect it to go unnoticed.
Robyn Blumner is quoted by Crux in a piece on the religiously unaffiliated’s alienation from the Trump White House.
CFI Michigan is noted for its charitable work at MLive, alerting citizens of the problem of lead contamination in their water.
Richard Dawkins appears on Real Time with Bill Maher and discusses TIES and Secular Rescue.
Scotland’s Sunday Herald profiles the Secular Rescue program and Richard Dawkins’s advocacy.
CFI’s Richard Dawkins and Monette Richards talk to The Daily Beast about being good without God.
The Los Angeles Times runs a letter from CFI Los Angeles’s Jim Underdown on the reality of the threat of climate change.
Wired publishes an exposé on a Trump DOJ nominee who was part of the government’s experiments with Scientology “Purif” treatments, based on CFI’s work in opposing it.
WKTV previews CFI Michigan’s event with comedian Julia Sweeney, celebrating its twentieth anniversary.
WZZM TV in Grand Rapids reports on CFI Michigan’s National Coming Out Day event.
The Hartford Courant interviews Richard Dawkins about free expression.
Richard Dawkins is the guest on the Colin McEnroe Show on WNPR.
Gizmodo asks Benjamin Radford to help explain why people believe they see ghosts.
Tom Flynn and Joe Nickell appear on the Science Channel’s Strange Evidence.
Inverse recalls a deeply moving article about Carl Sagan written for Skeptical Inquirer by his widow and creative partner Ann Druyan.
Lubna Ahmed, helped to safety by Secular Rescue, tells her story on The Rubin Report (Video).
Gizmodo credits the Center for Inquiry for pushing the FDA to crack down on homeopathy.
Futurism takes an empathetic look at belief in ghosts, relying on the wisdom of Joe Nickell.
CFI Northeast Ohio’s Monette Richards is quoted by the Columbus Dispatch for the secular perspective on Christmas.
David Cowan: Venture capitalist
Richard Dawkins: Evolutionary biologist
Brian Engler: Operations research analyst, nonprofit executive
Kendrick Frazier: Editor, Skeptical Inquirer
Barry Kosmin: Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut
Y. Sherry Sheng: Nonprofit executive, educator
Eddie Tabash (Chair, Board of Directors): Attorney, activist
Andy Thomson (Vice Chair, Board of Directors): Psychiatrist
Leonard Tramiel: Physicist, educator
When you donate to the Center for Inquiry, you rightly expect your gift to be used to further our cause; diligently and with transparency. Every year, we report our revenue and expense ratios. In addition, our form 990 is available on our website.
In 2017, we raised a total of $7,040,908. Seventy-eight percent of that came from individual donors, including more than $4 million in bequests. The balance came from magazine revenue and similar earned income. CFI receives no government funding, and very limited corporate support.
We are keenly aware of the responsibility we have to our donors when it comes to expenditures. This commitment is reflected in our expense breakdown:
Please note that these are not final, audited figures. We save costs by having our audit done later in the year. If you would like to see final, audited figures, please contact the Development Department at firstname.lastname@example.org in August.
* denotes member of CSI Executive Council
None of our work would be possible without the steadfast support of our donors and subscribers. We are very grateful for their generosity.
We gratefully remember the following supporters, whose bequests were received this year:
As the so-called “post-truth” and “fake news” era of 2016 indisputably proved, there has never been a greater need for an organization like the Center for Inquiry, championing facts, reason, truth, science, and secularism, all at a time that they are all under threat by the changing tides of national and global events. Everyone who shares these core values will be needed. CFI needs you to be part of the solution, to join the good guys.