We Endorse this Petition in Support of Diversity and Feminism in the Secular Community

Cross-post from Malay­sian Athe­ists.

The sec­u­lar com­munity in the West is cur­rently in a scuffle over efforts to pro­mote diversity and to pro­tect women from being objec­ti­fied in their events. Women who have spoken out about sex­ism or sup­port women’s par­ti­cip­a­tion in events have become tar­gets of har­ass­ment. And example of this dis­gust­ing example can be found in the people tar­get­ing Amy Roth, whose treat­ment by people who call them­selves athe­ists, sec­u­lar­ists, agnostics, and non-believers of any des­ig­na­tion is utterly appalling.

Malay­sian Athe­ists is com­posed of voices from Malay­sia and res­id­ents in the Asian region, of mem­bers from vari­ous back­grounds, who believe in policies that will pro­tect women and other minor­ity groups from har­ass­ment. We are a group com­prised from indi­vidu­als of vari­ous eth­ni­cit­ies, genders, and sexual ori­ent­a­tions, who sup­port the diversity in the athe­ist and sec­u­lar move­ment, and also sup­port codes of con­duct gov­ern­ing the com­munity against objec­ti­fic­a­tion of women. It is people who work to pre­serve an unfriendly envir­on­ment towards women that pois­ons the sec­u­lar move­ment, not rules that seek to pro­tect minor­ity groups.

The con­tent of the peti­tion is as follows:


Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-presidents, Free­dom from Reli­gion Foundation

Ron­ald Lind­say, Pres­id­ent, Cen­ter for Inquiry

Rebecca Hale, Pres­id­ent, Amer­ican Human­ist Association

David Sil­ver­man, Pres­id­ent, Amer­ican Atheists

David Niose, Pres­id­ent, Sec­u­lar Coali­tion for America

August Brun­sman, Exec­ut­ive Dir­ector, Sec­u­lar Stu­dent Alliance

D.J. Grothe, Pres­id­ent, James Randi Edu­ca­tional Foundation

Elisa­beth Corn­well, Exec­ut­ive Dir­ector, Richard Dawkins Found­a­tion for Reason and Science

We, the under­signed, are athe­ists, skep­tics and non­be­liev­ers who value free speech and rational thought and who seek to build a strong, thriv­ing move­ment that can advoc­ate effect­ively for these val­ues. We’ve chosen to put our names to this peti­tion because we want to respond to a video cre­ated by a blog­ger call­ing him­self Thun­der­foot. In this video, Thun­der­foot attacks named indi­vidu­als who’ve been act­ive in pro­mot­ing diversity and fight­ing sex­ism and har­ass­ment in our move­ment. He describes these people as “whiners” and “ultra-PC pro­fes­sional vic­tims” who are “dripp[ing] poison” into the sec­u­lar com­munity, and urges con­fer­ence organ­izers to shun and ignore them.

We hold this and sim­ilar com­plaints from other indi­vidu­als to be ser­i­ously mis­guided, false in their par­tic­u­lars and harm­ful to the athe­ist com­munity as a whole, and we want to set the record straight. We wish to cla­rify that Thun­der­foot and those like him don’t speak for us or rep­res­ent us, and to state our unequi­vocal sup­port for the fol­low­ing goals:

* We sup­port mak­ing the athe­ist move­ment more diverse and inclus­ive. It’s long been clear that the skep­tical move­ment has a pre­pon­der­ance of white men. While we don’t dis­dain their par­ti­cip­a­tion, we believe skep­ti­cism is valu­able and import­ant to people in all walks of life, and in accord­ance with that prin­ciple, we con­sider it vital to have a move­ment that reflects the demo­graph­ics of the soci­ety we live in. If our com­munity con­tin­ues to be dom­in­ated by white men, it will become increas­ingly out-of-touch and irrel­ev­ant as West­ern soci­ety becomes increas­ingly mul­tiracial and mul­ti­cul­tural and as non-Western coun­tries gain eco­nomic and cul­tural power.

To that end, we urge the athe­ist and skep­tical organ­iz­a­tions to make a con­scious com­mit­ment to diversity: to inten­tion­ally reach out to people of all ages, genders and eth­nic back­grounds to speak at our con­ven­tions, to serve on our boards of dir­ect­ors, and to be the pub­lic faces and rep­res­ent­at­ives of skep­ti­cism. We believe that there are tal­en­ted, ded­ic­ated and emin­ently qual­i­fied people of every gender and every race, and that seek­ing them out will strengthen our move­ment and broaden its appeal.

* We sup­port strong, sens­ible anti-harassment policies at our gath­er­ings. There have been too many instances of people at athe­ist con­fer­ences report­ing bad beha­vior and unwel­come con­duct by fel­low attendees. When it’s repet­it­ive or espe­cially egre­gious, this unwel­come con­duct may rise to the level of har­ass­ment, defined as beha­vior inten­ded to demean, threaten or intim­id­ate oth­ers. We hold that pre­vent­ing har­ass­ment is a legit­im­ate and obvi­ous goal for con­fer­ence organ­izers, and that this can be done through the imple­ment­a­tion of fairly simple and well-tested con­duct policies.

We want to encour­age robust debate over opin­ions and beliefs, as a good rational com­munity should, and we believe that the wide adop­tion of anti-harassment policies advances this goal by fos­ter­ing a rational atmo­sphere of civil­ity and respect, where all people can express their opin­ions freely and feel com­fort­able in doing so. We applaud the con­fer­ences and organ­iz­a­tions that have already cre­ated model policies in this regard, and we urge oth­ers to do likewise.

* We sup­port the people in our com­munity who’ve been the tar­get of bul­ly­ing, har­ass­ment and threats. Out­side the con­fer­ence envir­on­ment, there are prom­in­ent mem­bers of the athe­ist com­munity (includ­ing most of the people named in Thunderfoot’s video) who’ve been sub­jec­ted to a vicious and per­sist­ent cam­paign of online har­ass­ment, includ­ing obsess­ive streams of slurs and invect­ive, threat­en­ing mes­sages, sexually-tinged taunt­ing, and mali­cious imper­son­a­tion on social media, all car­ried out with the goal of bul­ly­ing them into silence. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder in sup­port of the people who’ve been har­assed in this way, and force­fully and unequi­voc­ally con­demn those who’ve car­ried out the har­ass­ment. Unless they change their ways and make amends, they have no place within the movement.

To put a stop to this bad beha­vior once and for all, we need to change the cul­ture of the athe­ist move­ment so that sex­ism isn’t con­doned or defen­ded, just as racism and homo­pho­bia aren’t con­doned or defen­ded. We’re grate­ful to the lead­ers of the move­ment who’ve spoken out against har­ass­ment, and we encour­age all athe­ists and skep­tics, regard­less of their influ­ence or prom­in­ence, to do likewise.


[Your name]

Sign this peti­tion here

Let’s show a strong voice for the encour­age­ment of diversity and the pro­tec­tion of women in the sec­u­lar com­munity. Let’s show the world that athe­ism is not dom­in­ated by the voices of irra­tional hatred towards women and people who are not part of the major­ity demo­graphy. Let’s show the world that we under­stand the prob­lems this com­munity is facing, and that we will take object­ive and rational steps to fix this problem.