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09 September, 2012

Email From Ronald Lindsay

UPDATE: I'm editing here without changing the text of the post because my father always taught me to take responsibility for what I say and write. I take back the statement that "someone is benefitting from a man not recognizing sexism." Lindsay clearly stated that Hensley's tweets could be interpreted as impugning the motives of Sara Mayhew and that is good enough for me because Hensley was, in fact, speaking for herself and not CFI. In a work environment, she would have been fired from any self-respecting organization, but this wasn't a work environment, even though such public positions can cause confusion. I apologize for my part in that.

Here is the text of the response I received from CFI regarding Melody Hensley's behavior:

"Dear Ms. Graham:

Your e-mail to the Center for Inquiry’s general inbox has been forwarded to me. Thank you for sharing your concerns.

First, permit me to say something about CFI’s general approach to discussion of controversial matters. We favor discussion. Candid, reasoned discussion is the most reliable means of determining which point of view may have merit.

However, we strongly believe that it is the merits of a position that should be the subject of the discussion. Personal attacks, insult, and invective inhibit discussion; they do not advance it.

Similarly, impugning someone’s motives is almost always, at best, an irrelevant sidetracking of a discussion. (There may be exceptions, such as pointing out that a favorable report on a drug has been funded by the pharmaceutical company manufacturing the drug, but again, this is the exception, not the rule.)

Let me turn now to the subject of your complaint, namely Melody Hensley’s tweet. To begin, Ms. Hensley was tweeting in her personal capacity, not as a representative of CFI. She uses her CFI-DC twitter account for official statements. That said, I recognize this distinction will not necessarily prevent people from attributing her personal comments to CFI.

With respect to the substance of the tweet, I would not characterize Ms. Hensley’s tweet either as “sexual harassment” or gender-based harassment. The tweet does not constitute a severe or outrageous denigration of another person on the basis of their sex. Rather, it is a criticism of viewpoints advanced by others.

However, the tweet could be interpreted as impugning the motives of those with whom Ms. Hensley disagrees. To the extent this is an accurate interpretation of the tweet, CFI regrets the implication. As indicated above, CFI does not consider the impugning of motives (again, absent evidence and relevance) to be a proper tactic in an exchange of views.

I hope this addresses your concern.

Very truly yours,

Ronald A. Lindsay"

Here is the text of my response. It speaks for itself, though I must point out here the irony that there is someone here who is clearly benefitting from a man not recognizing sexism, and it's not me:

"Dear Mr. Lindsay,

While I disagree that accusing someone of garnering attention of males for the sake of getting speaking attention constitutes a criticism of opposing views, I do thank you for clarifying that Ms. Hensley was speaking for herself and not CFI when she made those hurtful and baseless remarks on a public platform (which, to be fair, she erased). Thank you for taking the time to write me back.


Katie Graham"


  1. The problem seems to come from the fact that Melody lists her position with CFI-DC so prominently on her Twitter profile. If there is a CFI-DC Twitter account, perhaps she should keep CFI related tweets to that, and leave her personal account for personal things.

    1. I agree. I don't put my work on social networking for that very reason. Her bio starts off with her affiliation w/ CFI, making it easy to assume it's her official twitter as the director.