A Brief Timeline of Events in the David Silverman Firing

October 18, 2019 update: I was indeed missing something important. See the Q2 2018 Q&A in American Atheist below.

Sorry for the dead air. I’ve been both sick and working on other commitments. However, with the news that Atheist Alliance International has hired David Silverman into the executive director position they created for him, I do want to get this up.

What is this? This is a short summary of things that have been said about Silverman’s suspension and firing with dates (and some annotations) attached. There’s confusion about just what’s been alleged by whom aside from the allegations of sexual misconduct, and I’m already tired of trying to straighten that out on a piecemeal basis. So here’s a timeline I can send people to. It’s probably missing some important statements now that I’ll add as I remember or am pointed to them.

2018 Timeline

April 10: American Atheists’ announcement of suspension

On the evening of Saturday, April 7, 2018, the American Atheists Board of Directors received a complaint regarding David Silverman, the President of American Atheists. The Board takes very seriously the concerns expressed and, in accordance with organization policies, the Board has placed Mr. Silverman on paid leave while an independent investigation is conducted. Mr. Silverman has pledged his full cooperation with the investigation.

April 11: Nick Fish’s statement to Christian Post

The allegations relate to alleged violations of the American Atheists employee code of conduct and staff handbook. Because this is a personnel matter, we cannot go into any more specifics about the allegations.

April 13: American Atheists’ announcement of firing

The Board of Directors has reviewed internal documents and communications related to the initial complaint as well as evidence relating to the additional allegations brought to the Board’s attention. Today’s announcement is based on these findings, and the Board intends to cooperate with any future investigations.

American Atheists is committed to creating and maintaining an environment that is safe and welcoming to all. Based on the allegations made, and the evidence presented, the Board believes it is prudent and necessary to reaffirm that commitment and move forward with new leadership.

April 13: Buzzfeed article Continue reading “A Brief Timeline of Events in the David Silverman Firing”

A Brief Timeline of Events in the David Silverman Firing
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Mock the Movie: Nothing to See Here Edition

This month’s movie has absolutely nothing to do with the failed “raid” on Area 51. Nope. Not at all. I can’t imagine why you’d even think so. And if you don’t find me convincing, just wait until you see The Disappearance of Flight 412. Alas, this was a television movie, so we don’t have trailers for it, but please…enjoy this little introduction.

This month’s selection is available on YouTube. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Nothing to See Here Edition”

Mock the Movie: Nothing to See Here Edition

A Humanist Imperative Against Fear

I wrote this in 2015 for my patrons. I didn’t publish it then for several reasons. I wanted to let emotions settle so people might be able to hear this better, but there were other reasons I barely remember too. But watching the news of the Amber Guyger trial is making it all too relevant again.

One of the things that disturbed me most in the discussions that followed the terrorist murders of Charlie Hebdo staff early this year was the invocation by atheist activists of fear. It reminded me all too much of the days after thousands lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

I recognize a degree of strangeness to that. The point of a terrorist attack is to create fear in a group of people. It’s unsurprising when this works.

Nor is it surprising that activists would seize on this fear. Fear is an effective motivator, and inertia and indifference are the bane of activists. On top of that, the Charlie Hebdo attack targeted a group of activists who (among other things and using means that we should examine and question, as with any other activists) worked against the political power of Islamists. While not every atheist activist proclaimed, “Je suis Charlie“, it was entirely predictable that many would identify with the targets of the attack.

Still, I was uncomfortable. While I wasn’t as much embedded in the community of the fearful in 2001, it was impossible to miss the consequences of our national fear. In mere weeks and without analysis, we saw law passed that dramatically reduced protections against government surveillance. We were rushed into the Iraq War based on mischaracterized intelligence, a war which arguably increased the danger of radical Islamism rather than decreased it.

In our fear, we made the world a worse place–for ourselves and others. We may even have increased the likelihood of the Charlie Hebdo shootings. It wasn’t our goal, but that doesn’t change what happened.

We’re bad at sitting with fear. When we have any choice, our priority is to “fix” our fear, to make it go away. That may mean avoiding a situation that needs our attention. It may mean acting even when we have only poor-quality choices. What acting out of fear usually doesn’t mean is making good, evidence-based decisions that take the humanity and dignity of other people fully into account. Continue reading “A Humanist Imperative Against Fear”

A Humanist Imperative Against Fear

“With Prejudice”

There may be no sweeter words in the English language. At least no sweeter words for someone who’s spent three years with lawsuits hanging over their head and cleaning out their pocketbook. (We haven’t actually updated this yet with the most recent costs.)

The Plaintiff asks the Court to apply equitable tolling in this case and find that the statute of limitations will not bar his claim. The Court declines to do so. “Courts have generally reserved the remedy of equitable tolling for circumstances which were truly beyond the control of the plaintiff.” Ousley v. Rescare Homecare, No. 4:13-CV-00898-SPM, 2013 WL 5966050(E.D. Mo. Nov. 8, 2013)(citing Hill v. John Chezik Imps., 869 F. 2d 112, 1124 (8th Cir. 1989)). Plaintiff filed the case in Ohio within the Ohio and Missouri statues of limitation. Defendant was aware of potential jurisdictional defects in his case by way of Defendants’ Motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction on December 1, 2016, well within the Missouri statute of limitations. See (ECF No. 6-8, at 2 Plaintiff’s Motion for Prospective Equitable Tolling). Plaintiff was also aware of the possibility of his claim being time-barred should the Court grant Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Id. at 1 (stating “Plaintiff… hereby moves this honorable Court to apply the doctrine of equitable tolling to toll the statute of limitations for one year, in the prospective event this Court might grant Defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction or for improper venue…”). Plaintiff has not argued that there was any impediment to him complying with the Missouri statute of limitation and has not indicated that anything prevented from filing in Missouri within Missouri’s two-year statute of limitation. Therefore, equitable tolling will not be applied in this case.

That’s one suit done. Two still to go. But one is done. Whew.

“With Prejudice”

But Voting Is Illegal

I thought we were mostly done with this after 2016. I thought we’d cleaned up the lingering bits of it after the 2018 midterms. But as the push to get people registered to vote in the 2020 primaries and general election ramps up, I’m seeing it again.

“If voting made a difference, it would be illegal.”

There’s just one problem with that. Voting is illegal.

Oh, it might not be illegal for you. If you belong to a population that isn’t over-policed and over-sentenced, if you were born in and have a stable residence in a “nice” (i.e., white and relatively wealthy) neighborhood, if your appearance is unremarkable among the voters at your polling station, then yeah, it’s probably perfectly legal for you to vote.

That doesn’t mean this is true for everyone else. Continue reading “But Voting Is Illegal”

But Voting Is Illegal

Things I Believe About Impeachment

A short list.

  • Public opinion doesn’t favor impeachment of Trump at this point.
  • If Trump is impeached, there is essentially 0% chance of the Senate voting to remove him from office.
  • Running against Pence in 2020 would be substantially harder than running against Trump.
  • The number one achievable political goal at this point, for the health of the country and the marginalized people within it, has to be Republicans losing control of as many governmental bodies as possible, starting with the executive branch but including Congress.
  • A small number of past Representatives who have voted to impeach have lost their seats at least in part because of these votes.
  • Many of Trump’s most damning crimes from an impeachment perspective involve acts that would be legal if he were a private citizen and live in an area of law few people other than specialists understand.
  • Impeachment proceedings will be viewed by some moderate/independent voters as a partisan act by Democrats.
  • Right-wing media, corporate and independent, would use impeachment proceedings to attack Democrats, often dishonestly, and there is a large segment of the voting population that only trusts these outlets.
  • The administration’s response to impeachment proceedings would provoke multiple constitutional crises of various sizes under an untested, very partisan Supreme Court.
  • Most Democrats in the House who haven’t come out in favor of impeachment are considering some or all of these factors and are right to do so carefully.
  • Even given all this, it’s critical for the survival of our constitutional system and many, many people that we move to impeach.
Things I Believe About Impeachment

“Secular Voices Panel”, Juhem Navarro-Rivera on Atheists Talk

We talk a fair amount in the secular movement about the non-religious as a growing political force. We should. We are. But the problem is that we don’t have a lot of data about how we behave as voters. Truth be told, we don’t even always have a good picture of who we are. We just know there are more of us than there used to be.

Juhem Navarro-Rivera is a political scientist working to shed light on the topic. His latest project is the Secular Voices Panel, which will survey secular voters during the 2020 campaigns. Juhem joins us this Sunday to talk about why this work is important and what he’s already learned.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF Sundays at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation. Or sign up on Patreon for exclusive content.

“Secular Voices Panel”, Juhem Navarro-Rivera on Atheists Talk

“Have You Considered White People?”

This post is brought to you courtesy of Patreon. If you want to support more work like this, you can sign up here. I haven’t been much more active on Patreon over the last couple of years than I have been here, but expect that to change soon.

I first named the phenomenon at the Moving Social Justice Forward conference in Los Angeles in 2014. It wasn’t the first question like this at the conference, by any means. It probably wasn’t the first conference where I’d heard a question like that either. It was, however, a perfect opportunity to notice.

The SSJ conference put activists of color, most of them black, on stage to talk about hands-on organizing and activism. The topics they covered were matters of life and death, though they often aren’t treated that way. In the secular movement, these subjects often aren’t covered at all.

Given all that, it wasn’t surprising for me to find myself part of a proportionally much smaller white audience at the event. I may even have been in the minority, though there were still a large number of white people in the audience. There were points during the Q&As when I wished there were fewer.

Q&As always have problems. No matter how carefully moderators specify their requirements, people will still decide the guidelines don’t apply to them. They ramble. They act as though they’d been invited to be onstage. They treat “Here is my opinion; don’t you agree?” as a question.

Photo: Silhouette of short-haired person with hand raised against a blurred presentation screen.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

I noticed this specific problem for the first time at this conference when a panel of student activists combating the school-to-prison pipeline opened the floor to questions. “Have you tried talking to legislators?” Well, yes, of course they had, and they’d discussed legislation that might help, but they couldn’t wait for it to pass because people needed their help now. And they were achieving success with their methods.

There were other questions like this that weekend. Other activists talked about helping themselves and each other and were greeted with some form of “Have you tried going to the government for help?” It was this question, though, that made me realize I was listening to people ask, “Have you considered white people?”

I saw it again at the Social Justice panel at AHACon in May 2016. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this was the one majority-POC panel. The instructions were great. (I’m stealing “The shorter the better. Preferably one sentence ending in a question mark.”) A couple of the questions, however, included “I didn’t hear you say anything about voting” and something about Bernie Sanders.

“Have you considered white people?”

Fellow white people, we need to stop asking questions like these. Continue reading ““Have You Considered White People?””

“Have You Considered White People?”

“The Ethics of Star Trek”, James Croft on Atheists Talk

Sunday’s show promises to be just a little bit geeky. Or maybe a lot geeky. Scott Lohman is joining me to talk with James Croft about the ethics of Star Trek. James presented a workshop on the topic at the Secular Student Alliance conference this summer, and when I heard about it, I knew I had to put the two of them together to talk about it. You may not hear me much on this week’s show, but know I’ll be grinning quietly in the studio.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF Sundays at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

“The Ethics of Star Trek”, James Croft on Atheists Talk

The Plank in the Skeptic’s Eye

I haven’t had much to say about the Atheist Community of Austin voting out a significant chunk of their board and losing multiple volunteers over work with a skeptic YouTuber who decided he needed to weigh in on trans women in sports. By and large, that’s because I haven’t had time to follow it all, and I can’t see how I could be any help by talking about the situation in ignorance.

(If you’re in the same position, you can watch these two interviews with former board members and volunteers. I’m not aware of similar summary explanations from the remaining organization, but I’d be happy to link to those as well. Still, I don’t think any of these are necessary for this post.)

I’ve also been thinking about the situation mostly from an organizational standpoint. One of the boards I’m on is in the middle of revising its bylaws, and the other has that on our to do list, so I’m thinking processes. Plus, last year, I had people say they were going to show up to vote against my election to the board because of my “intolerance” of their position on trans issues. We had to consult the bylaws to figure out how to let them do that, since I was running unopposed. Then they never showed. But I digress.

More recently, I’ve been going through my older posts for a couple of projects. As I did, I realized just how much of load of nonsense “mission creep” really was. Don’t get me wrong. I knew it was nonsense. I argued it was nonsense. I simply missed something important because I let others frame the argument. Continue reading “The Plank in the Skeptic’s Eye”

The Plank in the Skeptic’s Eye