American Atheists Sued by Former Employee

Ed Clint has the scoop on how American Atheists is being sued by one of their former employees and does a nice job of putting this lawsuit in a broader context.

The suit alleges that [A.J.] Johnson was “forced to listen to various racial jokes and was subjected to unprovoked, unwarranted, vicious and persistent verbal attacks on everything, including her competence.” It claims “unfounded complaints” against her competence and that this was in spite of excellent performance, citing “dramatically” increased donations which it was her job to solicit. It also indicates that Johnson, the sole African-American employee of American Atheists at the time, was “forced to support” a billboard stating “Slaves obey your masters” which she expressly disapproved of.

Obviously, this is only one side of the lawsuit, AA’s official response has not been made publicly available yet, and AA President Dave Silverman couldn’t say more about the lawsuit when I asked earlier today. While everyone’s bound to speculate on what’s happening, keep in mind that, at least for now, these are only allegations.

I also asked if American Atheists would issue a public statement, fully expecting a formal version of “We can’t comment on this for the time being, but we’ll have more to say soon.”

I wasn’t even close.

They responded tonight and they held very little back:

As President of American Atheists I can assure you that Ms. Johnson was not terminated for any reason relating to her race. Working for American Atheists was Ms. Johnson’s first professional position after college and it became clear (after an extended review period) that we needed someone with more experience in her position…

Ms. Johnson also volunteered to rally support for the billboard from black atheists… Indeed, months before the billboard was even conceived, Ms. Johnson tweeted a video from her personal account echoing the same biblical hypocrisy about slavery… In addition, Ms. Johnson was never subjected to racial jokes at any time, nor would anyone at American Atheists tolerate such behavior.

American Atheists’ books are open and transparent, and our financials are audited every year by an independent accounting firm. The board receives regular financial updates from me, and as always, all members are free to ask any questions.

There’s quite a bit more in AA’s full statement, including very relevant screenshots, so check that out, too.

It’s worth repeating that this isn’t a back-and-forth that’s going to be resolved online. Let our legal system do its job and we can take it from there. In the meantime, I’m giving a huge tip-of-my-hat to Ed for his reporting.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.