We pointed out Justin Vacula’s feet of clay, and nearly a thousand signatures were collected on the petition demanding that SCA either address his misdeeds by forcing him out or stand by those misdeeds. Vacula has stepped down from his position after this controversy didn’t go away.
Which naturally means “the terrorists” and “bullies” have won. (According to the real bullies, the anti-feminist and anti-woman contingents of our movement.)
I was really hoping this post would be “thank you Justin Vacula, your second chance begins now” but there’s absolutely no acknowledgement that the charges against him in the petition were evidenced. They are, instead, characterized as a whisper campaign by people with a vested interest in pushing him out of dialog. Among other choice salt-the-earth lines, he says the following:
My detractors did not only brand me as an ‘enemy of the people’ in a similar fashion to the eponymous play written by Henrik Ibsen, but also attacked the Secular Coalition for America – an organization with with women as staff members including the organization’s executive director – claiming it “dislike[s] feminist secular activists in Pennsylvania,” is responsible for “alienating women,” and “is woefully out of sync with the atheist movement” to just mention three items. Those who demand respect and object to disrespect — as should be apparent — offer no or little respect to others, thus not modeling the behavior they wish to see.
I can’t even begin to express my sadness that Vacula has learned absolutely nothing and has gained absolutely no measure of introspection from this. Instead, he’s slurring and mischaracterizing and eliding the arguments against him and the reasons people might sign the petition. That’s hardly the optimal outcome — that being, that Vacula realizes his missteps and apologizes for them so we can move on. Of course, he claims that he’s made mistakes, but never specifies what he’s done that he perceives now as having been a mistake, and continues mischaracterizing the arguments against him notwithstanding.
We’ve won big on this, owing to the numbers in our community who agree with the assessment of the evidence. We won in that we’ve refused to accept a bully and witch-hunter as a leader, and the SCA has hopefully learned a lesson from this, that you have to look deeper into the beliefs and actions of people you choose to represent you in leadership positions. They did precious little to vet him because they have hardly any volunteers, and are by all appearances pursuing an all-fifty-states initiatives. But that hardly matters. What matters is that they learned that one can’t just presume they know everything about someone because one person vouched for them.
FtB learned that lesson when PZ vouched for Thunderf00t, and continued to vouch for him during the first few weeks of him going slash-and-burn on everyone who blogs here both privately and publicly. Resolving the issue required messiness, and we had no idea the depth of the damage to which Thunderf00t was capable. Now SCA has learned that some people aren’t followed by controversy, but instead generate it themselves through their actions.
But we took losses in winning this battle, including the slurs and lies and elisions that are peeling away names I recognize and names that should support our goals, and the fact that Vacula had to slam the door behind him to knock as much china off the walls as possible is the saddest loss of all. I guess we just have to take solace in the fact that the folks who would rather inculcate the chilly climate and entrench sexism and bigotry in our community (whether knowingly or because they think feminists are just too shrill and hysterical) are truly a minority.
Vacula, the moment you recognize your misdeeds and make an effort to reach out to us, I’ll personally forgive you and give you another chance. Not a chance for leadership, but a chance to work together to be atheist activists without rending our communities over gender politics. I know this means little, coming from the guy who still thinks your argumentation is vacuous and your tactics often trollish. But it’s a sincere wish that you’d have a moment of introspection and actually consider that the people who find your actions offensive might have good reasons, rather than imagined fascistic ones.