Short answer: Only a few people know and they’re not saying much of anything. Yet.
Since Ellen Johnson left, Frank Zindler has stepped in as the (temporary) President of American Atheists.
But why she left is not all that clear.
On American Atheists’ website, a letter to members reads:
Following over 13 years of outstanding service to American Atheists and the cause of State-Church Separation, Ellen Johnson is leaving her post as President of the organization.
The nearly identical — and more recently updated — letter on AA Communications Director Dave Silverman‘s website reads:
Following over 13 years of outstanding service to American Atheists and the cause of State-Church Separation, Ellen Johnson is no longer President of the organization.
A slight change in wording…
Ellen didn’t leave voluntarily. Rather, she was forced to step down from the AA board of directors.
The 13 year tenure of Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, came to an abrupt end at a special meeting of the board of directors held April 29.
While Zindler stated that Johnson left for “personal reasons”, in an e-mail response to an interview request to Humanist Network News, Johnson stated that she was “fired.”
A new statement from Zindler reads:
By a majority vote of the Board of Directors of American Atheists, Inc, and by a unanimous vote of the Board of Directors of two of the other four corporations, Ellen Johnson was involuntarily removed from the office of President of American Atheists, Inc. and from the office of President of the other four corporations.
The bylaws of each of the five corporations permit the removal of the President by a majority vote of the Board of Directors.
Out of deep respect for Ellen Johnson’s many services to American Atheists, in deference to her privacy, and with the desire that her Presidency be remembered favorably by history, American Atheists asks that this statement be accepted without calls for further explanation.
Be assured that the action taken was in the best interests of the organization and of its membership.
While I understand the need for privacy, there’s some issue (or issues) Ellen and the board disagreed about that led to the parting of ways, and AA members have a right to know what it was.Dave, as any good Communications Director must do, is trying to keep things calm while under fire with questions. He’s responding to what he can, but since he can’t reveal much, it’s not too helpful.
He’s said that the Board will reveal what they can after they’ve spoken to the various parties involved. Basically, they want to make sure they’re saying the right thing.
What would be helpful is communication from Ellen herself.
Since she and her crew just ended the Freedom Walk today, we’ll hopefully be hearing from her soon. (Incidentally, the Mississippi governor was not present to receive Bill Moore‘s letter, but it was delivered as planned. Congratulations to the group for finishing their Walk.)
Zindler, who has been active with AA for over three decades, is the temporary replacement, but he has said he does not want the position for too long:
He told the Humanist Network News that “before the new year, hopefully, we’ll have someone else.” Zindler, citing his age, (nearly 69) said he would be happy to act in an advisory capacity in the future, but feels that “fresh ideas” are needed in a leader of the organization.
I’m anxiously looking forward to what changes may come from all this. But the delayed response of the AA Board is not a good omen for the future.
What are some of the changes people would like to see in AA’s future? Silverman asked and the most popular response seems to be: a more modern and dynamic website.
I’m all for that, but it seems like an odd thing to request when being asked what major changes you’d like to see made to a national organization with AA’s history. Why is the focus not on more cooperation with other groups, major initiatives to organize atheists, or further legal action to support our rights?
Also, without a webpage-design volunteer, an update of the page would take some money. Without coming clean about what happened with Ellen in a timely manner, the Board is risking losing some of the precious memberships it has.