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Posted on Jan 29, 2013 in blogosphere, Women in Secularism 2 | 19 comments

An open letter to CFI CEO Ronald Lindsay

I have authored and sent a letter to the Center for Inquiry’s CEO Ronald Lindsay concerning my attendance at the upcoming Women in Secularism 2 conference which is being made possible by generous donors contributing to a fundraiser which was recently launched.

Soon after the fundraiser was announced, various discussions painting me in a negative light — seemingly aimed with intentions of having me banned from the conference — commenced leading me and many others into believing that I may be prevented from attending Women in Secularism 2 despite what seemed to be previous assurances from the conference’s organizer Melody Hensley.

Below is the letter sent to Ronald Lindsay. Consider also listening in Soundcloud.

Dr. Lindsay, 

As you may be aware, a fundraiser has recently been launched to allow for my attendance at the upcoming Women in Secularism 2 conference. Damion Reinhardt, soon after launching this fundraiser, noted that he had done so to “promote genuine diversity of thought within skepticism.”

Stating my own reasons for wanting to attend Women in Secularism 2, I wrote that I wanted to “offer critical examination and commentary surrounding material presented at the conference” by engaging attendees and speakers with intentions to record interviews and conversations in addition to reporting on the material presented at the conference.

I believed that there would be no problems associated with my attendance at the conference because the Center For Inquiry states that it wants to “foster a secular society based on […] freedom of inquiry” and resolves that “[n]o topic should be placed off limits to scrutiny.” Additionally, CFI’s conference conduct policy notes, “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.”

Soon after my fundraiser was launched, though, persons commenting in various online spaces have embarked upon creating an unjustified narrative of fear – painting me and my associates as people who inspire others to commit acts of terrorism and violence, alleging that I wish to attend the conference to “generate a scene” and “goad a few people into a rage,” and accusing me of wanting to disrupt the event [by harassing speakers at the conference]. Conference organizer Melody Hensley, rather than confirming whether or not my admittance to the conference would be approved, advised people to send concerns concerning my attendance at Women in Secularism 2 to you.

I have attended numerous conferences and events, some of which I have been invited to speak at, associated with the secular/atheist/skeptic community. I have no history of behavior at these conferences and events which would warrant dismissal.

I look forward to attending the Women in Secularism 2 conference, but am worried that my registration or admittance into the conference would be denied. Before I register for the conference and make other plans, I would appreciate having my concerns addressed.

Thank you.

  • It would be difficult to imagine the executive officer of a nonprofit organization conducting a conference would ban those who want to attend that have no errant conference history or criminal record. That would be akin to career suicide.

    • TheDevilsTowelboy

      Well, Ron Lindsay does have prior history for scapegoating – choosing to single out Russell Blackford over a trivial tweet whilst ignoring the endless list of far worse harassing behaviour from numerous people. Most notably, his very own Melody Hensley – who orchestrates complaints to shut down twitter accounts and Creationist style false flagging of videos on Youtube. Just two examples and the tip of the iceberg.

      • Well, that little Dickens.

      • Oliver

        Melody Hensley is without a doubt orchestrating a malicious campaign to have my account permanently banned from Twitter. I have never been offensive, threatening or abusive to her. I have only disagreed passionately with feminist ideology and the tactics they are using to silence dissent. Those tactics have now been bought to bare on me and the Twitter admin seem only to happy to oblige Hensley and co in their campaign against me.

        They have had my month old Twitter account suspended five times; mostly for nothing more outrageous than using the @ symbol but most recently for “aggressive following” which apparently involves some kind of automated rigging of the Twitter system.

        It’s some kind of industrial hacking technique to boost my followers; which is an absurd charge. When I went to bed last night I only had 25 followers and I struggle with anything more technical than email; I wouldn’t have a clue how to hack the Twitter system.

        Nevertheless Twitter admin have upheld all the complaints against me so far so I predict my permanent deletion from Twitter very soon. I would appreciate it if any of you could highlight the dishonesty of Hensley and co for carrying out this campaign and Twitter for acquiescing so readily.

      • jjramsey

        Where did Lindsay do that? I hate it when people just drop bombs like that without providing links.

    • Must I point out there are women who could be attending Women in Secularism who have a criminal record? As far as I can tell, that is no obstacle to their attendance.

      • Perhaps criminal background checks will be added to conference non-harassment policy protocol in the future. Doesn’t seem like it would be a far stretch.

        • Yes, but we know that will work like their harassment policies themselves: A pass for the like minded and the full weight of the policy brought down on those who disagree.

          • My apologies – I hope you know my comment was tongue in cheek. They need to give it up already.

            • Oh, I caught that. Just driving the point home.

            • Dhoelscher

              This McCarthyite crap became tiresome a long time ago. Now it’s become predictably farcical and utterly embarrassing.They do need to give it up already. But I rather doubt they will.

  • This may be naive on my part, but I would think that those in leadership positions with CFI (and other groups with similar goals) would recognize the dangers of preemptive bans on conference attendees with no history of behaving badly at conferences. Banning someone from attending out of misplaced fear for what they might do because some object to their online opinions while simultaneously inviting speakers who have well-documented histories of behaving badly online would be difficult to reconcile.

    • “well-documented histories of behaving badly online”, is that the same as people who “don’t know their place” and generally behaving “uppity”?

      • jg29a

        Nope. (Duh.)

  • Ronlawhouston

    In response to the comments: Never underestimate the power of the echo chamber.

  • MosesZD

    When this all started I figured it wasn’t going to end-well though it may surprise me…. You have a True Believer (Hensley) in the pipeline and she doesn’t even pretend to hide her biases or hide her unprofessional conduct.

    The basic reason (as I see it) for this behavior is you have an atheist who, sadly, isn’t nearly as skeptical as she believes herself to be. Or, in short, just because she doesn’t believe in God, doesn’t mean she doesn’t believe in other (comforting) fairy stories.

    You see this a lot in movement-ideologues, ‘new age’ and religious people. Many of them are skeptical on all sorts of things, right until their brains shuts down under the poison of being a ‘True Believer,’ at which point they absolutely drop all pretensions of skepticism and suck down whatever line of BS makes them ‘happy.’ Beliefs they’ll defend to the death, regardless of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    So, whether it’s patriarchy, crystals or Jesus… The result is always seems to be the same: the brains of the True Believers just shut the hell down and they become extremely emotional in the defense of their faith-based world-view.

    • Hensley would be a fascinating psychological study. She seems compelled to do the most petty thing in response, even when it’s the stupidest thing she could do.
      Everyone, just everyone, knew the moment that Justin announced that he would attend, that Hensley would find some officious way to not only prevent him from attending, but to also smear him a bit in the process. She is completely predicatable that way. So here’s another prediction for the betting pool: Ultimately, Hensley (or a proxy) will not only prevent Justin from attending, but will do it in a way to maximize his inconvenience and waste of funds.