Thursday, November 05, 2009

Evan Kane for the EHSC

[Evan Kane, presumably a spokesperson for the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago, posted the following comment. I've reproduced his comment in full, unedited edited only for emphasis; my own inline commentary appears indented and italicized.]

Our Sunday speakers are chosen by a committee of nine people. In July, at one of the committee member’s request, Sunsara was provisionally invited to speak on a topic of morality without gods on November 1. The formal invitation was withheld until the committee was provided with a written description of her talk.
I don't buy this. I personally saw an EHSC flyer advertising Sunsara's participation. A provisional invitation should have a deadline well in advance of the planned event, for the convenience of both the speaker and the hosts.

Update: The October Flyer mentions only Sunsara's workshop on “The Liberation of Women and the Emancipation of All Humanity” which she did in fact give. Even so, a responsible organization should have taken steps to nail down its speakers earlier than two weeks before the planned event.

The formal description was finally received on October 13. Some of the committee felt that the description provided was far outside the topic that was originally proposed. Sunsara was contacted about adjusting her talk to fit what the committee originally thought they were getting. She understandably refused to adjust her talk. The committee decided by a vote of 9 to 2 to cancel Sunsara as a speaker and the cancellation, with apologies, was emailed on October 19.
Sunsara presents evidence that her talk was rejected not because it was far outside the topic but rather because prominent members disagreed with her moral evaluation of globalization.

(As a side note, I disagreed with the decision to cancel but in a democratic organization the vote doesn’t always go the way you want it to. I even started a petition to reinvite Sunsara but only about 20% of the society signed)

From October 19 onward Ms. Taylor and her people demanded she be given the November 1 platform. Attempt after attempt was made to find a solution that, although not ideal for either side, was palatable for both. The society bent over backwards to appease this woman*. [emphasis added] She was given an October 31 platform that was well attended and a member of the society offered her home for Sunsara’s “speech in exile” on November 1. The only thing we would not agree to was having her speak on November 1. All we asked is that she not disrupt the Sunday platform. She did not budge an inch; there was no effort at compromise from her or her people.
In general, people are not obligated to compromise with those who act unethically.

*Thanks to Comrade PhysioProf for pointing out the sexist douchebaggery of this phrase.

One plain clothes police officer from the Skokie police department was at the society the morning of November 1 because some members felt threatened by the fact that Sunsara would not commit to not disrupting the Sunday program. We had no idea what a Sunsara Taylor inspired protest would entail so the decision was made to err on the side of member safety.

When Sunsara and her camera man showed up on Sunday they were asked not to enter the building, they ignored this request but no action was taken by the society and they entered privet property.
It's simply nonsense for a member of an ethical humanist organization to stand on his legal rights. A public forum is a public forum: ethical humanists, at least my sort of ethical humanists, do not justify arbitrary discrimination by appeal to legal rights.

After entering the building and our auditorium, Sunsara started to give her speech and her camera man started taping. They were asked to stop and let us continue our event in our building repeatedly. They refused and it is then that we asked the single plain clothes officer for support.
Sunsara claims that at the Sunday meeting, she did not give her speech, but rather "challenged the very wrong decision to cancel her speaking engagement and pointed out how this is contributing to a chilling atmosphere in society as a whole" [Newsflash from Chicago] Furthermore, Sunsara had already arranged to give her speech at an alternate location; it makes no sense for her to attempt to give her speech from the floor.

Sunsara's press release also claims that, "At no point during her brief statement was Sunsara asked to stop speaking or to leave the premises. And at no point was anyone who was there to support her, including the photographer, asked to leave."

When the cameraman acted aggressively toward the police officer he called for backup on his radio. Uniformed officers responded to that call. It took five police offers using mace to subdue him. One police officer was injured.
This is nonsense. What does "acted aggressively" mean? We have seen far too many instances of ridiculously unjustified police brutality to draw any sort of conclusions from such a vague, subjective description. Furthermore, why the passive voice in "One police officer was injured"? Who injured him? How? Did the cameraman aggressively use his jaw to skin the poor officer's knuckles?

Sunsara also claims that, "It is telling that the only person singled out by the police, at the request of the president of the Society, was the man documenting what Sunsara was saying."

[I wouldn't buy this jumble of post hoc rationalizations for a quarter; it stinks on ice. I wasn't there, I don't know the facts first-hand, but my personal opinion is that Mr. Kane is probably lying through his teeth.]


  1. "Our Sunday speakers are chosen by a committee of nine people. [...] The committee decided by a vote of 9 to 2 to cancel"

    Pardon - how does a committee of 9 people cast 11 votes?

  2. Nice catch. Probably just a simple error, but it does little to enhance our confidence in Mr. Kane's reliability and truthfulness.

  3. this woman

    Using language like this is also diagnostic of lying douchebaggery.


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