In Defense of CFI

I have a long running history with CFI. When I was living in Victoria, BC, Justin Trottier approached me and asked if I wanted to attend a conference in Amerst, NY, at the Center for Inquiry. A little new to the atheist scene, I was skeptical but went along for the ride. It was at that conference that I met some of my closest friends.

After volunteering for some time, I became the Ontario director, had a few fallings out, arguments and tiffs but always came back. Now… I see more drama going on at CFI Canada and people like Rebecca calling for CFI boycotts and it breaks my little heart.

I support CFI and I hope you will continue to do so. Was some of what Ron Lindsay said in bad taste? Perhaps. But CFI is an organization that has been dedicated to freedom of expression and freedom of speech. An organization that has given countless amounts of funding to student groups. An organization that *held* the Woman in Secularism Conference in the first place. An organization that makes space for people dealing with issues of addiction, but who are atheist. An organization that provides a community space for those who have been rejected by the rest of society.

CFI is where I met my partner, my best friends and the most interesting people I know. It is where I have sat in the same room with a number of amazing scientists from across the globe and heard interesting talks about the Higgs Boson, evolution, religious psychology and what it is like to leave Islam.

The boards of CFI have to make *hard* decisions. In CFI Canada the National Executive Director was fired. If you’ll recall he was a men’s rights activist with questionable character. However, CFI’s mandate does not say “no men’s rights activists”, so there he was, hired. Well, he messed up. He harassed a fellow employee by showing up at her other place of employment and refusing to leave until she succumbed to particular demands he was making. What did the board do? They fired him.

This wasn’t an easy decision for a board to make. It is difficult to fire people both legally and emotionally for everyone involved.

When people at CFI screw up and do things that are illegal, like Michael Payton did, they are fired. When they have an opinion that goes against Rebecca et al., like Ron Lindsay did, they are not fired. CFI boards face a lot of issues – yet they are doing a damn good job of fulfilling their mandate. As an organization, CFI stands up for science, rationality, secularism and humanism. These frictions from within are useless because by boycotting CFI – no one wins. All that happens is an organization that does *really good work* loses support!

Veronica points to a number of successful events that CFI Canada alone has put on in the recent past; i know a list like this can be compiled for many CFI branches across the world.

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Katie is a graduate student from Canada studying the environment and systems theory. She also loves dinosaurs and baking cupcakes. Follow her on twitter @katiekish


  1. June 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm —

    Thank you Katie for posting this in support of CFI Canada. Thank you also for providing a link to the Canadian Atheist post.


  2. June 21, 2013 at 11:41 am —

    I was in management for a very long time. It is not difficult to fire someone, especially someone who is harassing another employee. Easiest thing in the world to do, and I did it multiple times. I also fired people for theft, for poor job performance, and many other issues. Allowing behavior that is counter-productive the the organization to continue should be the hard thing, not getting rid of the problem. Firing Michael Payton should have been one of the easiest decisions for the board to make, and if they had a hard time with it, that tells me quite a bit about what behaviors they will tolerate and how they will, in turn, handle other issues. And not in a good way.

    These frictions are necessary because that is how change happens. The Grand Canyon wasn’t formed by people thinking nice thoughts and getting along, it was carved through relentless friction. How organizations react to that friction is what matters…and CFI did not react well. They had an opportunity to stand up and say something, and they chose to just be unhappy about the friction instead of caring at all why there was friction to begin with.

    CFI does not stand for me. Lindsay proved that during his opening remarks, his follow-up posts, and then with their “statement” that refused to address the issue. If it did “really good work” it wouldn’t be losing support. It is losing support because it also does not not-so-good things, and how I spend my time and money is a reflection of my values, which is not shared by CFI.

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