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Why the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago's Decision to Dis-Invite Me Must Not Stand

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It seems strange, not to mention sad, that one would have to begin any letter in this day and age with the following declaration: I am not now nor ever have been a member of any communist party. I say this because my expression of disappointment in the Ethical Humanists Society for canceling a scheduled talk by Sunsara Taylor of the Revolutionary Communist Party is not in any way linked to agreement with all of her political views (or, for that matter, her perspective on religion). None of that should matter. Your organization invited Taylor to speak. Taylor in no way tries to hide her views. It's simply inappropriate and unethical to rescind your invitation. The honest thing to do, of course, is to engage her; to disagree with her; to argue with her. Not to cancel her.

I happen to disagree with Taylor's use of the term "Christian fascists." I've said as much to her. I understand that she's not using the term to cover all Christians. But I don't think it's accurate in almost any instance. So we have a point of disagreement, which has led to fruitful conversations. Likewise her Maoism; I don't share it. But in public events and in private conversation, I've learned from our disagreements.

I do share with Taylor a concern about the influence of fundamentalism and a conviction that it is ultimately at odds with basic social justice. But I'd be writing this same letter if, say, I heard that Pat Robertson had been invited to speak and then canceled. Ethical Humanists, especially, should adhere to a standard of transparency and open dialogue.


Jeff Sharlet

Visiting Research Scholar, New York University

Contributing Editor, Harper's

Author, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

I was very disappointed to read that the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago has announced the cancellation of a presentation by Sunsara Taylor on the topic "Morality Without Gods." Since I conducted an hour-long interview with Ms. Taylor in April for Atheist Talk Radio in Minnesota , I am familiar with her views on a variety of topics of interest to humanists. I know her to be not only extremely articulate and well-read, but also civil in discussions with people of opposing views. She remarked during my interview with her that she is pleased when someone points out her errors, because if she is wrong about something she wants to know it.

I think that is a model of critical thinking that should be honored by humanists. Yet too often atheist and humanist organizations are justifiably criticized as ideological appendages of the Democratic Party. While humanism should provide a common home to a wide variety of godless ethical reasoning, too often it merely parades the platitudes of American liberalism as universal values.

Have you presented other speakers who analyze morality as a product of class division, or describe a revolutionary morality that might emerge from the very practical struggle against all forms exploitation? Surely it is a topic of interest to a community of godless, secular ethics. If the Ethical Humanist Society cancels Sunsara Taylor's presentation it will be difficult to understand as anything but censorship of a minority position within the humanist community.

George Francis Kane

Public Relations Officer for the Minnesota Atheists*

Sunsara's smart, energetic and she's always gathering information from where the action is. Does she have an opinion? Sure but an exchange of views is what we believe in, right? I've featured her on my tv and radio programs on many occasions and always find her contributions valuable to the mix.

Laura Flanders

Host of GRIT TV on Free Speech TV

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Sunsara Taylor is a writer for Revolution Newspaper and sits on the Advisory Board of The World Can't Wait.

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The bigger the stage, the more far reaching the me... by Hoss Hoss on Sunday, Nov 1, 2009 at 9:50:07 AM
I am a member of the EHSC and was initially a sup... by Evan Kane on Wednesday, Nov 4, 2009 at 11:04:54 PM
I am a member of the EHSC and was initially a sup... by Evan Kane on Wednesday, Nov 4, 2009 at 11:05:35 PM