The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is the second Secular organization to announce that it adopted a harassment policy. CFI will apply it to “any educational meeting or gathering organized or sponsored by CFI or its affiliates to which nonemployees are invited” and will also apply it to its two operating affiliates, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH).
CFI stated it already had one applying to its employees, but now establishes one for various gatherings the organization sponsors for speakers and attendees.
“CFI wants all its conferences and meetings to take place in an atmosphere that promotes productive discussion and cordial interaction among conference participants. Intimidation and harassment interfere with these objectives, in addition to having other harmful consequences,” explained CFI President & CEO Ronald A. Lindsay in issuing the policy.
The policy is effective immediately and CFI will train staff concerning the new policy.
CFI is an educational organization and the purpose and scope of the new policy applies to “ensure that everyone attending our conferences is able to participate in them fully, CFI and its affiliates are committed to providing a safe and hospitable environment at our conferences.” CFI prohibits intimidating, threatening, or harassing conduct during our conferences and the policy applies to speakers, attendees, staff, and volunteers. The policy applies to local or regional meetings, not just national conferences.
Prohibit conduct “includes any abusive conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with another person’s ability to enjoy and participate in the conference, including social events related to the conference.” The prohibit conduct includes yelling or threatening speakers or attendees and sexual harassment. However, “Critical examination of beliefs, including critical commentary on another person’s views, does not, by itself, constitute hostile conduct or harassment. One of the underlying rationales of this policy is to promote the free exchange of ideas, not to inhibit it.”
CFI claims that they will have “zero tolerance” for hostile and harassing conduct and if such behaviour occurs, they will take remedial action, including expulsion from any event they sponsor, even if the harassment occurred prior to the event. If there is a reasonable to believe that the behaviour is illegal, appropriate CFI will contact appropriate authorities concerning the matter.
If one is the target or witness of harassment at the events that CFI sponsors, they are to report it to CFI staff, who will be identified at the conferences. CFI will respond to any reports promptly.
On some occasions, where conference staff are witnesses to the prohibited conduct, immediate remedial action may be taken. Where a report of hostile or harassing conduct is made to conference staff after the conduct has occurred, reasonable measures will be taken to establish the facts. This will typically include discussion with witnesses, if any, and the person accused of engaging in the prohibited conduct. Inquiries into hostile or harassing conduct will be carried out as confidentially as possible given the circumstances.
CFI’s harassment policy also states that they will keep records of reports filed with them and will not disclose reports to anyone outside the organization, except when required by law.