In 2013, the Center for Inquiry (CFI) turned into what I can only imagine was a really unpleasant workplace environment, when a member of their staff, Melody Hensley, changed careers and went from freethought activist to Olympic Victim, while keeping her position with them. She would further the myth of sexism within the atheist community, and instead of asking for evidence, CFI put her in charge of an absurd conference, Women in Secularism 2, which turned out to be quite an unsafe space for anyone who didn’t get with the program, and where threats of physical violence were made at the mere suggestion that someone with questions was thinking about attending.
CFI’s then President, Ron Lindsay, kicked off the conference warning about the absurdity of privilege-hating driven ‘activism’ (what we call ‘Social’ ‘Justice’, in 2020). His speech was met by more drama and calls from Hensley and her fellow Olympic Victims for him to be fired. Yes, adult people were trying to get the president of a freethought NGO fired for daring to have an opinion they didn’t like. He got to keep his job; however, he issued an absurd apology taking responsibility for the hurt feelings of Hensley et al. Shortly after that, Hensley quit (or was fired, I can’t remember), and Lindsay left as well.
In the end, I thought, it all worked out: the Center for Inquiry had learned their lesson, and they would know better before hiring anyone with woke tendencies, for having their name dragged through the mud, and being gratuitously accused of one of the worst things with scant to none evidence was a PR suicide.
Oh, silly and innocent David. In October 2018, CFI (which by then had merged with the Richard Dawkins Foundation) enrolled Kavin Senapathy to co-host their Point of Inquiry podcast. She was also included in the speakers’ roster for CSICon 2018, which took place later that month in Las Vegas (Nevada).
Before any of that, Senapathy made clear that she thought intellectual diversity was the same as bigotry: “Diversity of thought” is a fancy way of saying “we don’t care about actual diversity.”… which is funny, considering she made that remark just a few days before her speech at ReasonFest 2018, which motto that year was “Celebrating Science & Intellectual Diversity“.
Well, CSICon 2018 came and Senapathy had a complete meltdown when Richard Dawkins and Stephen Fry questioned the authoritarian trends that have been making the rounds and hijacking a not-insignificant portion of the political left. Senapathy lost it when the two men dared question the existence of the patriarchy while Theresa May was UK’s serving Prime Minister and not two years after Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote in the US. Facts went out the window, and all sorts of bigots tended to Senapathy’s wounded ego by turning her social media comments into a Dawkins hate fest. (There was actually plenty of hate to go around, as Fry, Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz were also targets of vicious derogatory comments and something that looked a lot like libel.)
Fast forward a year, and Senapathy was dismissed from CFI, in October 2019. During that whole year, she never stopped accusing them of racism… which, is really funny because Kenapathy threw a temper tantrum when comedian Julia Sweeney was named to CFI’s Board of Directors — Senapathy took issue with the fact that Sweeney’s skin color didn’t disqualify her from the job.
I’m always amazed by the mind-reading abilities of people who see racism everywhere. In February 2020, for instance, Senapathy wrote a post arguing that she was let go of CFI because they were uncomfortable with her views on how they approach racism and diversity. Her evidence? None. She claims there are “racial disparities” within CFI, which must be false: if this was true, they would have been sued out of existence by now. Here, “racial disparities” just means not placing significance in socially constructed racial categories, which sane people know by its more common names, “equality” and not-discriminating — but those words usually don’t leverage as much outrage.
In her post, on top of hating CFI for joining forces with Richard Dawkins, Senapathy also claimed that CFI got it all wrong in their Skeptical Inquirer‘s 2018 special, A Skeptic’s Guide to Racism. Does it contain falsehoods? No. Is it misleading? Nope. Is it based on pseudoscience? It’s not that either. There was no debunking at all. Her claim is that the special was wrong because of the melanin of the people who wrote it. That’s it!
LOL, so far the only thing CFI has done to further racism was giving Senapathy a platform, so she could voice even louder the biological essentialism and hatred of white people that drive her.
Kenapathy’s latest drama had to do with the fact that, after her ridiculous post about how CFI was allegedly riddled with white supremacy, they took down everything she had ever written for them. Despite claiming to hate “cis-het privilege” and “patriarchy”, her tears about her work being taken down worked a treat and got three male atheists-turned-SJWs to come to the rescue of the damsel in distress: PZ Myers, Hemant Mehta, and Adam Lee tried to white-knight Senapathy from having her posts removed from what she considers a white supremacist webpage.
In all fairness, I think CFI should not have taken down the posts. That is exactly what the American Humanist Association (AHA) did to Sarah Braasch, and I could not in good conscience turn a blind eye to this when I have been so vocal about the AHA being wrong then. In both cases, I think a short disclaimer at the top of the posts explaining the disagreements between the individual and the organization should suffice.
Unlike the AHA, CFI reconsidered what they did, though, and restored Senapathy’s posts, so now her name is forever associated with an organization that she claims advocates white supremacism. She must be thrilled!
After restoring her posts, CFI set the record straight:
• CFI defends the separation of church and state, protects the rights of nonbelievers in the United States and abroad, and confronts challenges to scientific thinking. That means there are many good causes, including racial and social justice, that we leave primarily to other groups that specialize in them. CFI’s resources are dwarfed by those of the religions, corporations, and governments whom we confront. We therefore deploy our scarce resources primarily to advance our core mission.
• CFI rejects the idea that being white, male, and older invalidates the colossally impactful work of scholars and scientists like Richard Dawkins.
• CFI affirms that all religions, Islam included, are subject to criticism, and scholars like Richard Dawkins are doing a public service when they point to the endemic sexism and homophobia within various religious faiths.
Had they made this statement, with those exact words, 10 years ago, before retributive-styled “social justice” based on vindictiveness was a thing, maybe we all would have been spared the Melody Hensley and Kavin Senapathy dramas, and our time could have better been spent.
I would like to think that now they have learned their lesson, and won’t even touch an SJW with a ten-foot pole (not as staff, not as writers, not as podcast hosts, not as speakers, not as guests, nothing!) — the fact that in their statement they say ‘social’ ‘justice’ is a “good cause” (?) is not very encouraging, though. That’s like saying advocating for homeopathy or furthering COVID-19 conspiracy theories are good causes.
I hope those words don’t come back to haunt them — having to endure Melody Hensley and Kavin Senapathy in a span of less than 10 years is suffering enough for a lifetime, I’d reckon.