More on CFI, with some actual information for a change

I’ve said more than once that I don’t have a firm opinion about who is more right (or wrong) in the dispute between the Center for Inquiry and its founder and former director Paul Kurtz. I still don’t, but one thing I do think is that when the dispute gets into a major media outlet, the reporting is incomplete.

I have an opportunity to rectify that a little, because I saw something Barry Karr said on Facebook this morning that clarified or expanded a couple of points. I got his permission to quote him, and asked two questions of my own. Karr is the Chief Financial Officer of CFI and Executive Director of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

Here is the Facebook comment:

PK can be in the building M-F 9-5 anytime he wants and for any events. He is quite aware of this. In fact he was in here Friday afternoon, in his office, talking on the phone, chatting with employees, etc. He was in here Wednesday and Thursday as well. And this was AFTER his allegedly being barred from the buidling. He wasn’t, not true, and he knows it. I find it amazing actually that you think he should have unfettered access during weekend and non business hours. Regardless of what you think of his new organization, he is actively contacting CFI donors asking these people to give to his new organization. And he should have free reign of the building? Huh? that would be irresponsible of us to say the very least.

And here are my questions and Barry’s replies:

OB: Is CFI worried that PK’s solicitation of funding could be in competition with CFI’s?

BK: I think there is some concern. On one hand, if you are doing your job well, you count on the donors to want to support your efforts and activities. We have a great many projects and programs originating with the Center and we believe we are offering our donors many good reasons to continue to support these efforts. We feel our donors are aware of the good things we do and will want to continue to support us. On the other hand, given these difficult economic times, and the constant pressures from multiple sides, there is the possibility of donor fatigue from requests from an increasing number of worthy groups and foundations.

OB: Do you think the Times did an adequate job of seeking out all the relevant facts and of presenting them?

BK: I was a bit disappointed. I think the reporter should have taken the opportunity to talk to Ron about Kurtz’s comments regarding the Center allegedly changing the direction of its mission. It hasn’t. It also strikes me as a bit odd that the reporter could travel up here to visit Paul at his home, but was unable to find the time to visit the Center itself.


There. All fair points, I think, and points that the Times really should have been able to find for itself.

Update October 5: Ron Lindsay posted this comment at WEIT:

Let me comment briefly on the key issue. I must say I find it perplexing that some appear troubled that CFI management would not issue a key to Paul Kurtz after we decided to change the exterior locks. (The locks were not changed primarily because of Kurtz, but that’s another issue.)

Paul Kurtz resigned from all his positions with the Center for Inquiry and its affiliates in May, 2010. Since then he has launched a competing organization, solicited CFI donors, repeatedly sought access to confidential information by questioning our staff, and worked with others to denigrate CFI. Were I to allow unrestricted after-hours access to our facilities to such an individual, then the board of directors should terminate me for incompetence.

And it is worth emphasizing that unrestricted after-hours access is the only privilege that Kurtz does not now have. He can visit CFI’s facilities any time there is a staff person there with whom he wishes to talk. Not only that, CFI allows him to use his former office and his reserved parking spot—the only person to have such a parking spot.

Rather than wondering why CFI has not issued Kurtz a key, I think a more pertinent question is why Kurtz is so bothered that he can no longer be in the building when no staff member is present.

The New York Times could have done a better job of providing that view of the matter, I think.

Update 2: October 5: This is a comment on PK’s Facebook page, last Saturday, by Ed Beck.

Dr. Kurtz is allowed into the building during normal hours, just like anyone else. I, an intern there, let him in twice on Thursday, personally. If it’s what you’re referring to, he staged his photo-op during a return trip later in the day, before anyone knew he was at the door (he didn’t ring the buzzer that time). I opened it as soon as I saw him — although I quickly realized he was posing, not trying to enter.

The first comment on that thread (which is on the Times article, linked by Paul) is also quite…interesting.

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