The Center for Inquiry (CFI) has announced its merger with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science (RDFRS). RDFRS’s chief executive officer and president, Robyn E. Blumner, became chief executive officer of CFI on January 25, 2016.
In March 2015, then–CFI President and CEO Ronald A. Lindsay announced that he aimed to step down by the end of the year. Having led CFI since 2008, Lindsay explained that he sought to ensure that no one figure would come to represent all that CFI stands for. In a post on CFI’s Free Thinking blog, Lindsay wrote:
I think it is a good idea for leadership of organizations, whether it’s a for-profit or a nonprofit corporation, to change every so often. Static leadership can produce static ideas. Plus, the longer one stays in a leadership position, the more likely it is that the organization will become identified with that person, which, on the whole, I do not believe to be a desirable outcome. Secular organizations in particular should be wary of fostering a cult of personality or of acquiescing in lifetime tenure for leaders. Too often we’re in danger of being mistaken for religions; no need to compound that problem by emulating the leadership practices of religious sects.
Lindsay’s decision precipitated a thorough search for a new CEO for the Center for Inquiry. That search led to Blumner, the president and CEO of RDFRS, an organization whose mission mirrors CFI’s own and with which CFI has often partnered on various projects and initiatives. Discussions between the boards of the two organizations soon expanded beyond executive recruitment to encompass the idea of merging the organizations.
It was decided that CFI and RDFRS would join together as equals (neither organization was “taking over” the other) under the name of the Center for Inquiry and that RDFRS would become a division of CFI. Blumner would become CEO of the new organization, with Lindsay temporarily remaining as president until the merger process was completed.
In a letter to CFI supporters, Lindsay wrote: “CFI and RDFRS both seek to make the world a better place for all, religious and nonreligious alike, by untangling faith and pseudoscience from government, promoting critical thinking and skepticism, and advocating for science and reason in all areas of public life. Each organization brings unique strengths to the table, and given the similarity in their missions, these two organizations are an excellent match.”
This match (described in some outlets as a “royal wedding” or the creation of a “supergroup”) creates the largest freethought organization in the United States. With the respective, complementary strengths of CFI and RFDRS, the merger is expected to significantly increase the impact of their shared mission.
Richard Dawkins will join CFI’s Board of Directors.
Lindsay also expressed his great pleasure that he has been able to help bring about this merger and welcome Blumner. “An extremely accomplished and deeply respected lawyer, activist, journalist, and nonprofit executive, Robyn has lifted RDFRS to new heights,” he wrote. “There is no one better at this time to lead the Center for Inquiry.”
Blumner has led two state affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union, and later the RDFRS. She also spent sixteen years as a widely acclaimed, nationally syndicated columnist with the Tampa Bay Times.
And of course, there’s Richard Dawkins himself. Respected the world over for his eloquence, passion, and unmatched ability to communicate the wonders of science and the necessity of secularism, Professor Dawkins will soon join CFI’s board of directors, which is currently chaired by veteran freethought activist and attorney Edward Tabash.
The response to this merger has been generally positive. “Friendly Atheist” Hem ant Mehta called it “a win-win for both sides”; blogger and activist J. T. Eberhard wrote, “I could not be happier about this”; and Dan Arel lauded, “I believe the merger can only bring more positive change.” The announcement also received coverage in the mainstream media, including Religion News Service.
More information is available on the Center for Inquiry website, including a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page at http://www.centerforinquiry.net/pages/cfi_dawkins_faq.