Center for Inquiry founder Paul Kurtz ousted?

Something is rotten at the Center for Inquiry and inquiring minds want to know what happened why Paul Kurtz was removed from office. The Friendly Atheist has been following this issue closely over the past few days. First, he reported former CFI leader R. Joseph Hoffmann’s account, which Friendly Atheist described thusly:

He has a lot to say about how Kurtz has shaped the movement (he affected you whether you heard of him or not) and how his vision never quite came to fruition. There are also several strong barbs in there. It’s a compelling read, though I still haven’t figured out how much of it is accurate, how much is speculation, and how much is just sheer frustration at how Kurtz operated.

Then Friendly Atheist reported the account by current CEO of CFI, Dr. Ron Lindsay. And then finally Kurtz himself spoke out here and in this open letter to R. Joseph Hoffmann. And it seems, Kurtz ain’t too happy about what went down:

May I set the historical record straight. I was unceremoniously ousted as Chairman of the Center for Inquiry/Transnational on June 1, 2009. It is totally untruthful to state that I was not. The effort by the CEO to cover up this deed offends any sense of fairness and I do not wish to be party to that deception. It was a palace coup clear and simple by those who wish to seize immediate power.

And from the open letter to Hoffmann:

I am dismayed by Raymond Joseph Hoffmann’s uncharitable ad hominem attacks upon me. I had considered Joe a friend, and colleague, and I am deeply wounded by his scathing remarks about my personal integrity, scholarship, and my dedication to humanist ethical values — in theory as well as praxis.

It looks like things have gotten ugly already. We’ll just have to wait and see how this one plays out.


5 Responses to Center for Inquiry founder Paul Kurtz ousted?

  1. Hugh Giblin says:

    Paul Kurtz has experienced a virtual Coup D’Etat by his Board led by Ron Lindsay. He has effectively been ousted from
    his position of Chairman (although he was given a token vote on the Board and relegated to Chairman Emeritus) of the three
    organizations (the Council for Secular Humanism, the Center of Inquiry and CISCOP) he founded and devoted 35 years of his life to making them the successful groups they are today.

    I’ve read the statements by Paul and Lindsay which are quite different. Paul feels he was the victim of a “palace coup”. Lindsay
    disputes this but gives no details. The Board is almost mute on the big change except for a carefully worded press release and
    Lindsay’s response to Kurtz’s charges.

    I’m not privy to the events which led to this dramatic change but I feel it is a great mistake for the organizations and a grave disservice, to say the least, to Paul. Paul has been the driving, creative force and personality in these organizations building an International presence and establishing himself as one of the leading, if not the leading, secular humanist in the world.

    This move seems clearly about power. Paul has, at times, been charged with being autocratic (although I never experienced this
    on the Board meetings I sat in on) or personally. I found Paul, while decisive, listened to disagreements (I disagreed with him myself at one meeting and he deferred to my view) and was open to other approaches to issues. It is conceivable, however, that his personality and the Board’s led to this poor decision.

    The point is this: Paul is 84, he has had a couple of serious health issues including a by-pass operation not too long ago.
    Although he is still intellectually and physically active he clearly has a limited time with the organizations. Why couldn’t the Board
    have respected this fact and practiced humanism in dealing with him?

    I believe that the Board should have handled this much more gracefully not only avoiding a tragic ending for Paul’s life’s work
    but in the best interests of the organizations. Paul was an icon in the humanist world, this divisive action will hurt humanism.
    It will also give great joy to the Religious Right who hated Paul.

    Ron Lindsay seems to be washing his hands of the whole affair leaving it on the Board but it is clear where his sympathy lies despite the fact that Paul trusted him in appointing him Executive Director and later as CEO. If Lindsay and the Board truly “respected” Paul’s contributions they would not at this late juncture humiliate him in this way. There is the odor of betrayal
    in this whole affair.

  2. Ronald Lindsay is a creep! says:

    Ronald Lindsay is trying to ruin the Center for Inquiry. He is the atheist movement’s equivalent of Kirk Kerkorian. Watch out!

  3. Jack says:

    I never heard of this Ron Lindsay before. Paul Kurtz is the name and face of humanism. He is a kind, thoughtful man and he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. Paul Kurtz built the modern humanist movement. It could not have started without him. Ronald Lindsay and these other people are free riders who have contributed nothing to the movement. I question their motives – is Ron Lindsay getting a salary? How much? If Paul does not get fair treatment from the board, I and other donors I know have decided to stop giving money to the Center for Inquiry. I’m not financing this nonsense.

    • mjr256 says:

      I don’t know much about Ron Lindsay. As far as I’m aware, he is paid a salary. I don’t know how much. If anything, I don’t know how much of a role Lindsay plays on the local level. I still think CFI is a worthwhile organization, though I may prefer the James Randi Educational Foundation, which handles its change in command far more gracefully.

  4. carol steinberg gould says:

    Many years ago, Paul Kurtz was a professor of mine. He was unfailing fair and even-handed, always open to philosophical debate, in which he engaged often with me. He was a wonderful, engaging teacher, who taught by being a model of critical engagement. I came to admire his also as a creative, energetic business man, who globalized the humanist movement. While I have not always agreed with him, I have always admired him. I remain grateful that he was my teacher at a formative period in my philosophical life.
    I am appalled by the mutiny within the organization to which he dedicated so much of his life. People often disagree. Rational people should be able to settle them.

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