Reason and Science, for a Better, Brighter World.
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In 2018, the Center for Inquiry board of directors set the organization on a new course with a strategic plan that would bring us into the next decade. It’s a plan we put into operation in 2019 to great effect.
During that strategic planning process, the board clarified that CFI’s vision is “A world where people value evidence and critical thinking, where superstition and prejudice subside, and where science and compassion guide public policy.”
How would we realize this vision? One way would be by fostering a welcoming, worldwide community of evidence-based thinkers and by providing resources in education, publishing, engagement, and advocacy to promote critical thinking.
Moving forward, CFI would unify the organization’s culture around this common idea: CFI stands against magical thinking in all its guises.
The Center for Inquiry always had been a kind of umbrella organization with many active subparts, most notably the Council for Secular Humanism, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. There has always been a divide—sometimes subtle and sometimes not—between the people who cared about church-state separation and the rights of atheists and the people who cared about scientific skepticism and challenging pseudoscience.
But the board rightly saw CFI as a unifying force for evidence-based thinking. What does atheism have in common with rejection of psychic power, astrology, and alternative medicine like homeopathy? The same tools of reasoning are used to evaluate each. Atheism, the rejection of a god belief, is a natural outgrowth of skepticism applied to religious claims.
CFI’s challenge in 2019 was to be the go-to organization for this way of thinking.
Our work building a strong, worldwide community of evidence-based thinkers resulted in a complete reimagining of our digital presence. Last year, with an expert web team, CFI remade our websites to be engaging, easy to use, and mobile compatible. Decades of humanist writings and reports on investigations into supernatural claims are now instantly available along with real-time information on CFI’s activism.
CFI’s on-the-ground branches also provide a much-needed physical community for people to come together to enjoy intellectual programming, reason-and-science activism, and socializing.
In the legal arena, we stood up for consumers against medical quackery, represented the nonreligious who would like to solemnize marriages, and filed briefs on church-state separation whenever the issue arose at the U.S. Supreme Court.
In state legislatures around the country, we challenged dangerous and absurd exemptions to childhood vaccinations, stood against credentialing fake doctors called naturopaths, and pushed back against the religious Right’s onslaught called Project Blitz.
In education, our flagship magazines, Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer, continued to set the gold standard for deep dives into secular humanism and scientific skepticism. And in 2019, the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science met a landmark goal by having presented workshops in all 50 states, teaching middle school science teachers how to teach evolution.
Meanwhile, CFI’s work overseas has never been more impactful. Secular Rescue assisted dozens of atheist activists in countries that make it dangerous for them to be one of us.
We appeared regularly before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to speak out against blasphemy and apostasy laws that stifle free speech and freedom of conscience. And, to spread the gospel of reason and science to places where those ideas are anathema, we professionally translated five of Richard Dawkins’s books, including The God Delusion, into Arabic, Urdu, Indonesian, and Farsi and made them available as a free download.
I hope you find this report inspiring. We had an incredible year of accomplishment thanks to our supporters—meaning thanks to you.
With warm personal regards,
Robyn E. Blumner
There is no other organization doing more to challenge dangerous fake medicine, pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, and those who profit from them.
To protect the health of consumers and expose the fraud of homeopathy, CFI took on the largest retailer in the world, Walmart, filing an audacious lawsuit against the corporate behemoth over its sale and marketing of homeopathic fake medicine. CFI also continued to advance a similar lawsuit against CVS, the nation’s largest drug retailer, filed in 2018.
Claiming to care about their customers’ health and wellbeing, these megaretailers showcase useless homeopathic products right alongside real, evidence-based medicines on store shelves and online, making no distinction between them. They know homeopathic products do not and cannot work, but they happily sell them to people looking for remedies when they or their children are sick. Our historic lawsuits aim to put a stop to the deception and make retailers tell the truth to consumers: homeopathy is fake medicine.
“Walmart sells homeopathics right alongside real medicines, in the same sections in its stores, under the same signs. … It’s an incredible betrayal of customers’ trust and an abuse of Walmart’s titanic retail power.”
– Nick Little, CFI Vice President and Legal Counsel
CFI commissioned a groundbreaking survey on Americans’ attitudes and understanding about homeopathy, finding that when presented with the facts about the pseudoscience, consumers lose significant trust in the retailers that sell homeopathic products, with many responding with words such as horrified, upset, deceived, and cheated to describe their feelings.
Most importantly: A large majority of respondents favored the labeling of homeopathic drugs to effectively communicate that there is no scientific evidence for their efficacy. The survey was carried out by Lake Research Partners and generously supported by the Stiefel Freethought Foundation.
As measles outbreaks continued to plague communities across the country, anti-vaxxer hysteria was at a fever pitch. CFI rallied grassroots support for state-level efforts to end religious and other nonmedical exemptions to mandatory vaccinations, with CFI supporters across the country answering the call to contact their legislators and urge them to stand up for public health over religious privilege and conspiracy theories.
Of course, the best way to have an impact is to show up, and that’s why CFI staffers and affiliated experts testified directly before lawmakers to support public health measures and counter anti-vaxxer misinformation, with Dr. Abby Hafer in Massachusetts, CFI Communications Director Paul Fidalgo in Maine, and CFI Director of Government Affairs Jason Lemieux in the District of Columbia.
CFI also lobbied against state laws in Michigan and New Mexico granting medical authority to naturopaths—medically unqualified practitioners of pseudoscientific treatments. CFI Michigan Executive Director Jennifer Beahan gave testimony to the Michigan House of Representatives, urging them to reject a bill to grant licensure to acupuncturists, thereby legitimizing a veritable grab bag of quackery.
“Contrary to what its practitioners and supporters claim, acupuncture is supported by neither science nor evidence.”
– Jennifer Beahan, CFI Michigan Executive Director.
The Center for Inquiry’s Investigations Group, based at CFI West, tests extraordinary claims of pseudoscience and the paranormal, offering a $250,000 prize to anyone able to prove paranormal ability under mutually agreed upon test conditions.
After being featured on National Geographic television to perform an experiment on the Salton Sea debunking the notion that the earth is flat, the popular YouTube series Middle Ground by Jubilee invited the group’s director, Jim Underdown, to make the case for reality, refuting the claims of flat-earthers in an episode with almost 8.5 million views.
The CFI Investigations Group was also at the center of an episode of Backstory for WGN TV, showing just how they test the claims of those who believe they possess paranormal powers.
Online Articles Published
CFI Websites 2019 Total Pageviews
380,000+ Average Monthly Pageviews
RDFRS Website 2019 Total Pageviews
121,500+ Average Monthly Pageviews
Total Organization Pageviews in 2019
CFI has a direct impact on the lives of persecuted nonbelievers around the world and fervently represents the interests of the rapidly rising population of nonreligious Americans.
In a major initiative to share the wonders of science and reason in parts of the world where such resources are in short supply, in 2019 CFI formally launched the Translations Project, providing free, professionally translated editions of books by evolutionary biologist and CFI board member Richard Dawkins to readers in Muslim-majority countries.
With the contributions of fifteen different translators, the Translations Project has now published fourteen translations of the books River out of Eden, The God Delusion, The Greatest Show on Earth, The Magic of Reality, and The Blind Watchmaker, into languages such as Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, and Indonesian, with all of them available to download in multiple formats free of charge. The project’s launch was covered by the Washington Post.
Even more will be published in 2020, including the addition of new titles such as Dawkins’s Outgrowing God and The Four Horsemen, the transcript of the pivotal 2007 conversation between Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens.
Translations Project books downloaded
“The Translations Project is … dear to my heart. … We’re hoping we can use the Internet to educate people in countries like Pakistan where their education system is wholly Islam-dominated, get in there and teach them about science and atheism.”
– Richard Dawkins
on Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard
Five years after Islamist militants brutally murdered our friend and ally Avijit Roy in the streets of Dhaka, freethinking writers and activists still find themselves targeted for violence and death in countries such as Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. For many of those courageous souls, persecuted and terrorized for blasphemy and apostasy, CFI’s Secular Rescue program is their lifeline.
In 2019, we heard from some of those who were able to find safety and the freedom to continue their work and their lives thanks to the help of Secular Rescue. You can read their inspiring stories at the new Secular Rescue website at secular-rescue.org.
People directly assisted by Secular Rescue in 2019
Cases handled by Secular Rescue in 2019
Nur E Emroz Alam, aka “Tonoy” (Bangladesh): “We’re fighting against threats, violence, and killings by the religious hard right, as well as sanctions and injustice by the state,” said Tonoy, a noted columnist when in Bangladesh. “CFI has proven itself as a trusted partner of the Bangladeshi writers in this fight.”
Mohamed Salih Aldsogi (Sudan): Secular Rescue connected Salih with CFI Kenya, where he now helps supervise programs, coordinate the university office, and visits with the children of the Humanist Orphans program.
“Durba Zahan” (Bangladesh): Durba lost her father to extremist violence in 2018 and told us, “If CFI hadn’t helped me, I don’t know what would have happened to me. Now I’m safe here, writing to you because of Secular Rescue.”
“Ali” (Tunisia): A “reluctant activist” who did not seek to become an “atheist leader,” Ali now tells us that he is full of hope, gaining confidence in himself and his right to live a free, secular life.
The Center for Inquiry has held special consultative status with the United Nations since 2005, allowing us to advance our mission on the world stage, form alliances with like-minded international organizations, deliver public addresses to an audience of diplomats and delegations, and sometimes stir up controversy when telling difficult truths.
In 2019, CFI welcomed Andreas Kyriacou, president of the Freethinkers Association of Switzerland, as our official UN Advocate. Andreas has delivered five statements before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on topics such as blasphemy and apostasy laws in Iran, Qatar, and Brunei and Saudi Arabia’s lack of fitness for membership on the council.
Also in CFI’s 2019 international work:
Statements to the UN Human Rights Council
As the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans grows, so does the need for the law to recognize that the nonreligious deserve the right to have their life milestones presided over by an officiant who shares their deeply held secular values. CFI has won landmark legal victories for Secular Celebrants in Indiana and Illinois and in 2018 launched lawsuits in Michigan and Texas, seeking the right of CFI-trained and certified Secular Celebrants to solemnize marriages in those states.
While the Michigan case is ongoing, in 2019 a judge in Texas rejected CFI’s case, callously asserting that Secular Celebrants are unable to treat weddings with sufficient solemnity. CFI has already begun the process of appealing the ruling, so we shall see how well that idea holds up in the Fifth Circuit in 2020. The story was covered in outlets such as the Washington Post, United Press International, and Above the Law.
“What business is it of the state of Texas what the level of solemnity in your marriage ceremony is? What if you want to get married by an Elvis impersonator? That’s not the state’s business!”
– Nick Little, CFI Vice President and Legal Counsel, to the Washington Post
CFI Youtube Subscribers
1.8 million channel views
CFI & Skeptical Inquirer Twitter Followers
CFI & Skeptical Inquirer Facebook Likes
RDFRS Youtube Subscribers
3.25 million channel views
RDFRS Twitter Followers
RDFRS Facebook Likes
RDFRS Instagram Followers
Through legislation, the courts, and grassroots activism, CFI leads the resistance against the religious Right’s quest to dominate and discriminate.
From pro-discrimination “conscience rules” to calls from the president to endorse public school Bible study, 2019 saw a flood of religious incursions into public policy into the nation’s capital, statehouses, and local municipalities. CFI fought them on every front through litigation, legal briefs, direct lobbying, grassroots activism, and exposure in the media.
When a public charter school in Memphis rented classroom space from the local Catholic diocese, teachers were expected to sign a “morality clause” forbidding them from teaching anything outside the narrow bounds of Catholic dogma. The Center for Inquiry threatened legal action, drawing the attention of media outlets throughout the region, including television news and extended coverage by the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
“We will be watching this closely to ensure that Tennessee public schools do not violate the Constitution, and we will not hesitate to bring legal action to protect the rights of Tennessee students and their parents to a secular public education.”
– Center for Inquiry letter to Tennessee state officials
CFI Director of Government Affairs Jason Lemieux, a Marine combat veteran, called out Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie’s claim that Christians were being “bullied” by groups seeking to have Bibles removed from a New Hampshire VA hospital, which was covered by the Union Leader. Plus, the New York Times highlighted CFI’s support of omitting the phrase “so help me God” from congressional oaths.
Often in collaboration with allies in the freethought movement, CFI authored and contributed to several amicus briefs to the Supreme Court: opposing state funding of religioius private schools in Espinoza v. Montana; fighting draconian abortion restrictions in Louisiana with June Medical Services LLC v. Gee; and standing up to government endorsement of religious symbols in the infamous Bladensburg cross case, for which CFI’s Jason Lemieux and Nick Little took to the steps of the Supreme Court to eloquently champion the secular principles of the Constitution.
“That cross doesn’t honor every fallen veteran. That cross leaves behind the fallen veterans who weren’t Christian, or who didn’t believe in God. It tells everyone who’s looking that the Christian veterans are the ones who matter, and the rest of us should just be grateful they did anything at all.”
– Jason Lemieux, CFI Director of Government Affairs, on the steps of the Supreme Court
CFI’s Office of Public Policy led diverse coalitions of organizations and spearheaded important initiatives to advance reason and science in the laws and regulations that affect all of us. Led by Director of Government Affairs Jason Lemieux, CFI met with every single Member of Congress newly elected in 2018 and convened a meeting between secular organizations and White House agencies to address concerns about discrimination by federally funded faith-based organizations.
Working closely with allied groups and members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, CFI helped persuade Members of Congress to take Facebook to task over its complicity in the persecution of ex-Muslims who rely on its platform, worked for the reauthorization of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and saw to the inclusion of support for secular addiction recovery programs in reports to the House Appropriations Committee.
10 federal bills, 6 state bills
Action Alerts Sent
Meetings with Lawmakers and Federal Officials
CFI promotes reason and science by connecting great minds and invaluable educational resources to inform and inspire people of all ages.
2019 was an extraordinary year for the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES), as this beloved program became a truly national phenomenon, now having held workshops in all 50 states. Through free in-person workshops, online seminars, and a library of educational resources, TIES helps middle school science teachers across the country share the wonders of science with their students and navigate opposition to evolution education.
Workshops and webinars in 2019 featured several special guest experts such as Dr. Nathan Lents, author of Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes; Dr. Abby Hafer, author of The Not-So-Intelligent Designer; and thirteen-year-old activist and author Bailey Harris, who is donating half the proceeds of sales of her Stardust series of children’s books to TIES when bought through this link.
And the vast trove of free TIES resources now has its own, fully updated website at tieseducation.org.
“I loved that this [TIES] session dove into a subject that we tend to feel hesitant about discussing. We need more up-front explanations to feel comfortable discussing them with our students.”
– Kim Hughes, teacher, Rockwall, TX
On September 30, 2007, the so-called “four horsemen of atheism,” Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris, gathered around a table to discuss their thoughts on religion and belief. That conversation has become a watershed moment for modern atheism, and its video has been viewed millions of times.
In March of 2019, the text of what would prove to be a literally once-in-a-lifetime discussion was released as the book The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist Revolution. The book included brand new essays by the surviving participants as well as a foreword by the incomparable Stephen Fry. All proceeds from the sale of The Four Horsemen benefit the Center for Inquiry.
More than 650 skeptics came together for four and a half days of inspiration and insight, right in the heart of the city of illusions, at CSICon 2019. Scientists, entertainers, activists, and other leading lights of the “reality-based community” from across the country and around the world came to the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas to engage with hands-on workshops, fascinating talks, and some very serious fun.
The stellar lineup of speakers included actors John de Lancie and Julia Sweeney, string theory pioneer Brian Greene, ex-naturopath Britt Hermes, thirteen-year-old skeptic and author Bailey Harris, Fantasyland author Kurt Andersen, Snopes founder David Mikkelson, entertainers Banachek and Piff the Magic Dragon, and of course our own Richard Dawkins, among many, many others, with all of it delightfully helmed by conference M.C. Leighann Lord.
“Atheists have the intellectual courage to accept reality for what it is—wonderfully and shockingly explicable. As an atheist you have the moral courage to live to the full the only life you’re ever going to get, to fully inhabit reality, to rejoice in it, and to do your best, finally, to leave it better than you found it.”
– Richard Dawkins at CSICon 2019
Skeptical Inquirer, the magazine for science and reason, continued to honor and extend its legacy as the flagship journal of the skeptic movement for more than four decades. Highlights from 2019 included:
TIES workshops in 2019
TIES webinars in 2019
New TIES states in 2019
TIES states (all time)
Skeptical Inquirer Circulation
CFI tapped into the talents and passions of the secular and skeptic movements like never before.
The Center for Inquiry expanded its reach as an institution with the establishment of a new base of operations in Los Angeles, the all-new CFI West. Along with CFI’s primary headquarters in Amherst, New York, and Executive Offices in Washington, DC, CFI West is now the organization’s official home on the west coast.
At a standing-room-only event on October 21, leading lights from the worlds of science, skepticism, and the arts celebrated the grand opening of the new CFI West in an event that also marked the inauguration of the Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan Theater and the Eddie Tabash Bookstore, named for CFI’s board chair. Druyan, who cocreated Cosmos with her late husband, was on hand for the evening, with special appearances by Richard Dawkins, actor John de Lancie of Star Trek fame, and comedian Matt Walsh of Veep.
“This theater—[Carl Sagan] would have loved it. Another candle in the dark! Here’s to CFI. What an inspiring organization! From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for this great honor.”
– Ann Druyan, cocreator of Cosmos,
at the opening of CFI West and the Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan Theater
Free Inquiry, the journal of secular humanism, thoughtfully engaged with some of the most pressing and controversial issues surrounding religion, politics, philosophy, and history. Highlights in 2019 included:
The Freethought Trail is both a real-life historical experience and a deeply researched website that honors the legacy of Western New York’s 19th-century radical reform movements, anchored by the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden. In 2019, the trail expanded both physically and digitally with a special emphasis on woman’s suffrage and the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women in the United States the right to vote.
Plus, CFI’s Council for Secular Humanism introduced the Robert Green Ingersoll Chronology, a comprehensive search engine and database specific to the Great Agnostic, comprising 1,345 public lectures, 113 political speeches, 344 letters, 217 interviews, and 2,517 events in all.
The number of historical sites on the Trail grew to 137, with dozens more slated for 2020.
Point of Inquiry is the Center for Inquiry’s flagship podcast, where the brightest minds of our time have engaged in deep conversation about the big questions in science, religion, politics, and culture since 2005. Special guests sharing their insights on Point of Inquiry in 2019 included CFI’s newest board member, actress and playwright Julia Sweeney; “Gwyneth Paltrow’s worst nightmare,” OB/GYN Dr. Jen Gunter; Veep star Matt Walsh; comedian and former Jehovah’s Witness Jerry Minor; New York Times science writer Carl Zimmer; psychologist and magician Richard Wiseman; Adam Conover of Adam Ruins Everything; and many others.
Beloved actress, comedian, and playwright Julia Sweeney was formally elected to the Center for Inquiry’s Board of Directors in 2019. Delighting audiences for decades as a performer in television, film, and theater, Sweeney has been a singular pioneer for atheist acceptance in mainstream culture, grappling with the personal challenges of being a nonbeliever with raw honesty, eloquence, and humor. At CSICon 2019, Sweeney treated attendees to a performance of a selection from her latest stage piece, Julia Sweeney: Older & Wider.
“I’m such a big supporter of the organization [CFI]. I love their mission. I want to further the culture of knowledge, inquiry, and skepticism and everything that they’re trying to promote.”
– Julia Sweeney on “502 Conversations”
Before a sold-out crowd at London’s Troxy theater on September 3, 2019, the incomparable comedian and actor Ricky Gervais received the Richard Dawkins Award. “Thanks to the Center for Inquiry for my award for exceptional service in the fight for reason,” tweeted Gervais after the event. “It’s going on the shelf.”
This year’s Richard Dawkins Award was particularly special, as it marked the first time it was bestowed under the official auspices of the Center for Inquiry and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science.
On the heels of the publication of his latest bestselling book Outgrowing God, Richard Dawkins returned to the U.S. in the fall of 2019 for a four-city tour presented by the Center for Inquiry. Dawkins enlightened audiences with stimulating, unscripted conversations with luminaries from a wide variety of fields, joined on stage by M.I.T. physicist and cosmologist Max Tegmark in Boston, actress and activist Amber Heard in Phoenix, Cosmos cocreator Ann Druyan in Los Angeles, and neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky in San Mateo, California.
CFI’s local branches and campus affiliates were bustling with exciting and enlightening events and activities, from lobbying state representatives to hosting educational lectures and social gatherings, fostering welcoming and engaged communities of freethinkers. CFI branches in Indiana and Michigan held Civics Days, where attendees became educated about policy issues, learned about the process of lobbying lawmakers from expert activists, and met in person with their state representatives.
Plus, several branches held wonderful celebrations for occasions such as Darwin Day, Carl Sagan Day, and the Winter Solstice, along with hosting dozens of fascinating lectures and fun family activities.
Serving your reality-based retail needs, the CFI Store was fully redesigned and stocked full of great gifts for the enlightened people in your life (including you), including apparel, stickers, DVDs and Blu-rays, mugs, jewelry, and a variety of fantastic books by authors such as Richard Dawkins, Susan Jacoby, Paul Offit, Joe Nickell, and more. There’s even some “retro” swag from CFI’s past events and campaigns. So yes, you can even get an old-school CSICOP T-shirt!
Speaking of old-school: Are you pining for a divinely irreverent voice to deliver some secular scriptural scholarship? Hoping to find a peer-reviewed jewel of alt-med myth-busting? Now you can delve into the rich history of the Center for Inquiry’s previous publications and programs at the new CFI Archives website. It’s never been easier to check out episodes of podcasts such as The Human Bible or Center Stage or browse the contents of The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine or the Spanish-language skeptics’ journal Pensar.
CFI Branches in the US and International
Total Events held by CFI Branches
Free Inquiry Circulation
Point of Inquiry Podcast Downloads
David Cowan: Venture capitalist
Richard Dawkins: Evolutionary biologist
Brian Engler: Operations research analyst, nonprofit executive
Kendrick Frazier: Editor, Skeptical Inquirer
Barry Kosmin: Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut
Y. Sherry Sheng: Nonprofit executive, educator
Julia Sweeney: Comedian, actress
Eddie Tabash (Chair, Board of Directors): Attorney, activist
J. Anderson Thomson (Vice Chair, Board of Directors): Psychiatrist
Leonard Tramiel: Physicist, educator
When you give to the Center for Inquiry and its programs, you want your donation to be stewarded with care and attention to the mission. That’s why we report our revenue and expense ratios here. In addition, our Form 990 is available on our website.
In 2019, we generated $5,402,763 in revenues. Seventy-six percent came from individual donors, and the balance came from magazine sales, events, and similar earned income. CFI receives no government funding and very limited corporate support.
We are keenly aware of the responsibility we have to our donors when it comes to expenditures. This commitment is reflected in our expense breakdown:
These figures do not include bequests or support for the CFI Development Fund. Please note that these are not final, audited figures. We save costs by having our audit done later in the year. If you would like to see final, audited figures, please contact the Development Department at firstname.lastname@example.org in August.
* denotes member of CSI Executive Council
None of our work would be possible without the steadfast support of our donors and subscribers. We are very grateful for their generosity.
There has never been a greater need for an organization like the Center for Inquiry, championing facts, reason, truth, science, and secularism, all at a time that they are all under threat by the changing tides of national and global events. Everyone who shares these core values will be needed. CFI needs you to be part of the solution, to join the good guys.