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UPDATE: James Randi, D.J. Grothe Named In Atheist Sexism Scandal

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

This is a picture of one eighth of an iceberg.

Carrie Poppy was with the James Randi Education Foundation for only six months before she alleges (via published correspondence with prolific skeptical blogger P. Z. Myers) that sexual harassment perpetuated by D. J. Grothe and sanctioned by skeptical icon James Randi himself drove her from the foundation. Poppy has stepped forward to support, confirm and expand upon the allegations made by notable female skeptic author and speaker Dr. Karen Stollznow against Ben Radford, a speaker and author affiliated with the Center for Inquiry.


While names like Stollznow, Grothe and Radford may have been glossed over by those not associated with the online atheist community, Randi's name generally provokes a response. James Randi is a skilled illusionist who actively discredits other practitioners of illusion who claim paranormal phenomena are real. He is viewed by many as one of the fathers of the modern, photogenic skeptic movement. His organization JREF is famed for a long-publicized, never claimed 1,000,000 prize for anyone who can provide definitive evidence of paranormal phenomena. There is an asteroid named after him.

Poppy alleges that in her tenure, Ben Radford's alleged sexist behavior was functionally endorsed by JREF president D.J. Grothe, and that he neglected substantial opportunities to curtail the behavior and protect future victims by inviting Radford to speak at Stollznow's explicit request he be excluded on basis of harassment.

(ETA for clarity: JREF, which employed Poppy and employs Grothe, is an entirely separate entity from CFI, which employs Radford and Stollznow. However, JREF has a major conference called "The Amazing Meeting" (TAM) at which CFI and anyone who's anyone in skepticism is heavily represented. An individual claiming to be Stollznow's husband reached out to me to let me know that Stollznow now has no major argument with JREF as they have agreed not to invite Radford back to TAM, but I was not able to verify that statement. Seize 20:45 8/12/13).

Additionally, Poppy claims that she and another unnamed high-level staffer at JREF lobbied James Randi himself to fire Grothe for unethical conduct, and that Randi continually assured both of them that Grothe would be fired. Randi never made good on his alleged promise; Grothe remains ensconced as JREF president. Poppy is by all accounts a talented speaker who departed JREF voluntarily and abruptly and has refused to discuss the reasons behind her departure until now.


Skeptical feminists are not in short supply, and these new allegations have most outraged. There are too many individual posts to link, so here is a neat compendium which includes links and a visual guide to many notable female atheist thinkers.

Today is a dark day for the atheist blogosphere. However, the iceberg has been floating here for decades. This new revelation casts many respected thinkers into shadows of doubt; however, this a community uniquely equipped to thrive on new data, and be strengthened by doubt.


This scandal provokes, hell, it requires comment. We will be judged when we learn which side other atheist luminaries come down on.

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