Yesterday, I expressed my displeasure over a truly idiotic press release by the Center for Inquiry over the “Ground Zero mosque” entitled The Center for Inquiry Urges That Ground Zero Be Kept Religion-Free. I happen to know that a lot of supporters of CFI were very unhappy about the press release as well, because apparently the president of CFI, Ron Lindsay, is feeling the heat. Because I wrote to him complaining, I received the following mass response:
Thank you for providing us with your comments concerning the recent press release issued by the Center for Inquiry on the Ground Zero controversy. I apologize for this mass response, but time constraints prevent me from responding personally to all the points raised in each of your emails.
All of you shared a concern that the statement appeared to be calling for a legal ban or some other impediment that would prevent houses of worship from being placed near Ground Zero. That was not the intent of the statement and we regret any misunderstanding. As the release stated, but apparently not clearly enough, CFI fully supports the free exercise of religion.
A revised statement has been prepared and we hope to have it issued later today.
Can anyone completely miss the point more dramatically? Also, for someone who heads up an organization dedicated to skepticism and critical thinking, Mr. Lindsay sure does like the straw man argument.
No, no, no, a thousand times no. That was not the basis of my complaint, nor was it the basis of the complaints of pretty much anyone I corresponded with about this. In fact, in my post, I pointed out that the only good thing about the woefully misguided CFI press release was that it explicitly pointed out that CFI did not support government action to stop the Park51 Islamic center project, known by its opponents as the “Ground Zero mosque.” Our complaint was that CFI had gone Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin one better. Not content with emulating them by implicitly equating all Muslims with Muslim extremist terrorists, the CFI press release implicitly equated all religious people with religious extremist terrorists–after having condemned opponents of the Islamic center for equating all Muslims with Muslim terrorists.
I do not have high hopes for the “revised” press release. I’m also rapidly coming to the conclusion that Ron Lindsay just doesn’t get it and that as long as he’s in charge of CFI, the organization is well and truly screwed. He appears to want to turn CFI into an atheist organization, and that is not what I signed on for. I want to be pro-science, pro-reason, and pro-critical thinking. I don’t want to be anti-religion, but that’s where Mr. Lindsay appears to want to take CFI.
ADDENDUM: The CFI has issued a revised statement. Besides evidence of this being amateur hour (what kind of incompetent organization releases an idiotic press release like the original and then is forced to revise it in such shame?), it’s only marginally better than the original. My favorite part is the introduction:
The statement issued by the Center for Inquiry on Friday, August 27 concerning the Ground Zero controversy was interpreted by some as calling for a prohibition on the placement of mosques or other houses of worship near Ground Zero or otherwise speaking out against freedom of religion. That was not the intent of the statement and we regret any misunderstanding.
Of course, what sort of incompetent writes something that can be so radically “misinterpreted”? Or perhaps the original statement is what CFI really meant, and the revision is an embarrassed retreat, tail between legs. In any case, I suppose I should be happy that CFI at least took out the language that, well, called for no more new houses of worship near Ground Zero, the introduction notwithstanding, as well as the language that equated all religious people to religious terrorists. Now, all the new statement does is say that it does not consider houses of worship to be of benefit to humanity, either at Ground Zero or elsewhere. In fact, come to think of it, CFI went from an original statement about the “Ground Zero mosque” to a statement that has very little to do with Park 51 at all. It would have been better off just retracting its original statement.
Can someone get some adult leadership over at CFI?