I posted the other day about friction that evolved into chaos between Sunsara Taylor and the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago.
In short, as I reported it, Sunsara was invited to speak to the group on the topic of “Morality Without Gods,” then later uninvited when her other political/social views became known (and it was understoof that some of those views would work their way into her talk). Sunsara got quite a bit of support from individuals (including me) who found it ironic and “unethical” that a speaker at an ethical society would be uninvited for holding views such as Communism.
Sunsara staged a protest the morning she was supposed to speak, inviting EHSC members to hear her talk at another member’s house. A videographer was on hand to capture this… as were a couple cops, who arrested the man with the camera. It wasn’t pretty.
Members of the EHSC board feel they’ve gotten a bad rap from this and much of it is due to misinformation being spread.
They wanted a chance to clear this up and sent me the following email. With their permission, I’m posting it here:
Dear Mr. Mehta,
We don’t know if you know all of what has happened since your letter of support for Ms. Taylor but we wanted to give you the history of all that has transpired. All of the signees of this letter contributed their shared experience to this account.
Our Sunday speakers are chosen by a committee of nine people. In July, at one of the committee member’s nominations, Ms. Taylor was provisionally invited to speak on a topic of “Morality Without Gods” on November 1. The official confirmation letter was withheld until the committee was provided with a written description of her talk.
The written 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. Ms. Taylor 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 7 to 2 to cancel Ms. Taylor as a speaker and the cancellation, with apologies, was emailed on October 19.
We are democratically run organization and the vote isn’t always unanimous; some members were disappointed. A petition was started to let the invitation stand of which only about 20% of the members supported. In the end we stuck with our democratic principles.
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 Ms. Taylor. She was given an October 31 workshop that was well attended and a member of the society offered her home for Ms. Taylor’s self proclaimed “speech in exile” on November 1. Notice of the “exile” speech was even made through the Society’s list serve. The only thing we would not agree to was having her speak at the society 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.
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 Ms. Taylor 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 Ms. Taylor, her cameraman and 20 plus followers 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 private property.
After entering the building and our auditorium, Ms. Taylor 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.
When the cameraman acted aggressively toward the police officer he called for backup on his radio. Uniformed officers responded to that call. This man continued to resist police attempts to get him out of the building. It finally took five police officers using mace to subdue him. One police officer was injured.
What you do with this information is of course entirely up to you, but we thought you should be aware.
Matt Cole – President
John Ungashick – Board Member
Lisa Crowe – Board Member
Sue Walton – Board Member
Laura Drower – High School Youth Advisor
Sharon Appelquist – Sunday School Director
Joe Burck – Program Committe
Susan Burck – Program Committe
Evan Kane – Member
Katie Merrell – Member
Ed Drower – Member
Tom Hoeppner – Member
Not that they needed to, but they also sent me copies of their email correspondence, which confirms the statements in their letter.
I extended an invitation to Sunsara to see if she’d like to respond in kind. I haven’t heard back yet, but if she would like to issue a public response, this forum is available to her.