This Is How It's Done: American Atheists Announces Code of Conduct for Conferences

This is how it’s done, people.

American Atheists Logo
1) Two days after the discussion of sexual harassment at atheist/ skeptical conferences began, American Atheists president David Silverman posted a tweet, pledging that AA would have a harassment policy before AACON 2013.

2) In crafting this code of conduct, American Atheists consulted professionals.

3) The policy they created is based, in large part, on the code of conduct at the OpenSF polyamory conference, as well as on templates from the ACLU, NOW, and the Geek Feminism wiki. Their intention is to foster conferences that are fun for everyone, and that are both sex-positive and harassment-negative.

4) They presented a draft of the code of conduct in advance to a number of people who have been heavily involved in the public conversations about this issue — including me — and invited us to participate in a conference call to discuss the policy, ask questions about it, and give feedback.

5) They are presenting the policy as a living document, open to being changed as needed and in response to feedback. They are rolling it out at their regional conference in Minnesota.

This is how it’s done, people. Code of conduct after the jump. (This is the original version, as presented before the conference call — the final version may be slightly altered from this.) (UPDATE: They have now posted the complete, updated conference code of conduct to their website, which now includes “gender identity” as a category for anti-harassment.)

Conference Code of Conduct

American Atheists is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion.

We expect participants to follow this code of conduct at all conference venues and conference-related social events.

Yes means yes; no means no; and maybe means no. Please take no for an answer for any request or activity. You are encouraged to ask for unequivocal consent for all activities during the conference. No touching other people without asking. This includes hands on knees, backs, shoulders—and hugs (ask first!). There are folks who do not like to be touched and will respect and like you more if you respect their personal space.

We have many different folks attending this conference: sexualities, genders, races, ethnicities, abilities, beliefs—these are just a few. Blatant instances of racism, sexism, homophobia, or other stereotyping and harmful behaviors should be reported to conference staff immediately.

Please do not wear heavy fragrances—including perfumes, colognes, scented shampoos, etc. Some of those attending have allergic reactions to scented products. No one will object to the smell of your clean body!

Please respect the sessions and the speakers. Turn off cell phones and other electronic devices, take conversations and noisy children outside the session room, and move to the center of your row to make room for other attendees.

There are chairs and spaces at the front and back of the room that are marked “reserved.” The front row chairs are reserved for attendees with vision or hearing impairments. The back rows are reserved for attendees with mobility accommodation needs. Please leave these chairs and spaces free throughout the conference for those who may need them.

This conference welcomes families with children and expects all attendees to treat these families with courtesy and respect. Parents or guardians bringing children are responsible for the children’s behavior and are expected to remove disruptive children from the session. Parents or guardians should be aware not all language may be suitable for children.

American Atheists does not tolerate harassment of conference participants, speakers, exhibitors, volunteers, or staff in any form. Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.

Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. Conference participants violating this policy may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference (without a refund) at the discretion of the conference organizers.

If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of conference staff immediately. Conference staff can be identified by t-shirts/special badges/other ID.

Conference staff will be happy to help participants contact hotel/venue security or local law enforcement, provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the conference. We value your attendance.

[Email address for organizers]

[Phone number for conference security or organizers]

[Phone number for hotel/venue security]

[Local law enforcement]

[Local sexual assault hot line]

[Local emergency and non-emergency medical]

[Local taxi company]

This Is How It's Done: American Atheists Announces Code of Conduct for Conferences

21 thoughts on “This Is How It's Done: American Atheists Announces Code of Conduct for Conferences

  1. 4

    Gosh, hasn’t AA gotten the memo that there’s no real problem, and it’s just all the hysterical pink-brained females making a big deal out of nothing?

  2. 5

    Looks sensible to me; if more people consistently applied basic courtesy it wouldn’t be necessary to write it down, but we know how well that works.

  3. 8

    There is more good news. It seems that they left transgendered off the list of things not be nasty about, but a few emails from concerned people has fixed and that category has now been added to document.

    It would seem they really are open to suggestions on how to improve the policy.

  4. 9

    Not that I ever visit any conferences, but I like that they consulted professionals to help create this. Like they say, no need to reinvent the wheel a second time. When the know-how exists, use it.

  5. 10

    Wow…it’s almost as if they listened to their audience’s concerns, took them seriously, considered a course of action and after careful consideration, consultation and the judicious application of a little critical thinking adopted a clear, rational, fair minded policy to address those concerns.

    And, contra Thunderfoot, they didn’t even have to call on the ghost of General Patton to accomplish this incredible feat of “strategy…”


  6. ER

    It’s a shame we even have to document Emily Post/adult behavior, but there you have it. I think this constitutes a job well done.

  7. 12

    I was just going to post a snark along the lines of John Horstman @ 1 so just let me co-sign that. How easy is it, jeeezus.

    I’m not American and so unlikely to attend AA events but if I did I would feel confident any issues could be addressed properly. That’s all we want.

  8. 14

    CFI has also completed their event sexual harassment policy. The abridged version was included in the binders to participants at this weekend’s Leadership Conference and the full version will be on the website in the next few days.

  9. 15

    What about peanut butter? Can I eat peanut butter? I mean, some people are allergic to peanut butter and if I have a peanut butter sandwich before a gathering and fail to wash my hands thoroughly I might send someone into anaphylactic shock if I shake their hand. Oh wait, shaking someone’s hand could be “unwanted touching” so that’s probably banned too. Never mind.

  10. 16

    It’s nice to see that they included body size in their policy, too. There are still far too many organisations who haven’t gotten to the point of recognising size oppression as a problem.

  11. 17

    I suppose this isn’t a horrific problem or anything given the folks to whom (and the community among which) such behavior will be reported, but still:

    American Atheists does not tolerate harassment of conference participants, speakers, exhibitors, volunteers, or staff in any form. Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to … religion….


    I’m heartily in favor of the policy overall, but I guess I would advocate removing that last quoted word.

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