Sunsara Taylor is a very interesting character. I’ve seen her speak at New York University on two panel discussions with Massimo Pigliucci and Paul Eckstein, both of which were titled “Morality Without Gods.” All three parties are non-believers on gods. Although both were recorded, I can still only find the first of those panel discussions on YouTube.
What was particularly unusual about those panel discussions was that two of the debaters either identified themselves as Communists or as arguing from a Marxist perspective, one of which was Sunsara Tayler. My impression of her was that she was extremely intelligent and was spot on in her criticism of religion, reminding me a little of Christopher Hitchens. But whenever she turned the conversation to Communism, I found her unconvincing. She’s definitely a rabble-rouser who will happily step head-first into controversy but ya gotta love anyone who has the honor of being called a “lunatic” by Bill O’Reilly.
But the reason I bring Ms. Taylor up is because of an incident that occurred in Chicago this past weekend. The Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) invited her to speak at one of their meetings also called “Morality without God.” Sunsara had made the appropriate travel arrangements and everything was all set to go until the EHSC disinvited her at the last minute. According to her publicist, it was because they were uncomfortable with her social/political views such as her Communism as well as beliefs that she doesn’t really hold.
Sunsara initially responded with a letter:
This attempt to cancel my talk has clearly been driven by political and ideological disagreements with me by some on the EHSC program committee. This is shameful for any organization, but coming from [an] organization that prides itself on ethical action and promoting intellectual, philosophical and artistic freedom it is all the more disturbing.
I have to agree. Now I don’t know all the facts here but it seems very shady for a freethought society like the EHSC that prides itself on its ethics and diversity of views to reject certain views from speaking simply because they don’t agree with them. I don’t agree with Sunsara’s Communism either but I think it’s a big mistake to exclude her for that reason as I think she’s a great asset to the atheist community. It’s a rare thing to find an atheist activist who can so move an audience with both intelligence and emotion. I don’t agree with Libertarianism either. So are we going to start disinviting Michael Shermer and Penn and Teller to speak too?
Sunsara’s letter even included several quotes of support from numerous individuals like: Massimo Pigliucci, Chris Hedges, and Hemant Mehta, to name a few. And today I first heard about this incident from Brian Sapient of the Rational Response Squad, who also wrote an article supporting her. So she’s got “Friendly Atheist” Hemant Mehta and the far less friendly atheist leader of the Rational Response Squad all supporting her. It seems like support is coming from across the board on this one.
And even one member of the EHSC offered to host her at his own home after the EHSC’s normally scheduled meeting time. Then on Saturday, Sunsara was running an unrelated workshop at the EHSC, where she directly addressed this issue:
Okay, she goes a little over the top towards the end there, but she’s not wrong. And while she was not re-invited, she attended the Sunday meeting and made a statement similar to the one she made the day before in the video while standing near her seat.
Then the story got weirder. A man videotaping her statement with her permission got attacked by cops who were called in by the EHSC:
Sunsara’s recounts the incident in her blog:
… plainclothes and uniformed police who had been called in earlier by officials of the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) dragged out, maced and arrested a man for videotaping Sunsara Taylor as she stood near her seat and made a statement before the start of that morning’s program about the shameful cancellation of her long planned talk to EHSC that day on the topic “Morality without Gods.”
The shocking incident took place at the insistence of the president of EHSC. About 40 people witnessed the videographer being brutalized by the police in the foyer of the facility. An attorney demanded that the police stop brutalizing him when five officers piled on him as he lay face down on the floor. 6 police cars arrived within minutes.
Ethical? Again, I don’t know all the facts here and have only heard one side of the story. But I think the EHSC has some splainin’ to do.