by Preston Jensen
This is the story of my brief relationship with Atheist Alliance International, and how it ended.
I will set the scene by recounting details of a very specific episode that occurred last year.
In the summer of 2022, around the time of their last so-called "Annual General Meeting" (AGM), I noticed that there were many allegations being made against those who claimed to be directors of AAI. Those allegations dated back to 2017, and centred around a purported "AGM" on 20 May 2018.
During 2022, Bill Flavell - the so-called Secretary of AAI - was being challenged on Facebook about some of the continuing allegations. One of the claims being made was that there had not been a quorum of members at the 2018 "AGM". This allegation had not come out of thin air - some months after the meeting in 2018, Bill Flavell had told one of the members who had been excluded from the meeting that their votes wouldn't have made any difference, because the three (3) members who did attend all voted the same way. At the time a quorum was 5 members, which means that if Bill's earlier statement was true, then there was no quorum at the 2018 "AGM".
In the conversation about this on Facebook last year, Bill said that he had not seen the minutes of the 2018 meeting at the time that he made his earlier statement, and that he had got the information from another "director". He had subsequently checked the minutes of the meeting and found that there was in fact a quorum. The critics were sceptical. How was it possible to know which of these differing accounts was true? Of course, someone asked Bill to publish the minutes of the 2018 "AGM", which he did. The minutes showed prima facie that there had been a quorum, although this was again thrown into doubt when it was later admitted by the current "board" that some members who voted at the meeting were ineligible.
To confuse things even more - shortly after publishing the minutes last year, Bill admitted that he was the one who had saved the minutes to AAI's Google drive just one week after the meeting, but that he had no memory of seeing the minutes back then.
The obvious question then was - had the minutes been changed at some point after they were loaded to AAI's Google drive? Eventually Bill presented the evidence from document's edit history that showed conclusively that the document had not been tampered with. The allegation of document tampering has never been mentioned again by AAI's critics.
This was a great example of how a well-founded and falsifiable allegation could be dealt with by AAI - just present the evidence to prove the allegation false. Quick and simple. However, as we shall see, Bill has used this episode as an excuse for why he should not have to present evidence related to other well-founded allegations.
Shortly after this episode, someone asked Bill The Four Questions That AAI Refuse To Answer. The linked article explains in detail how the "board" of AAI refused to answer four simple and well-founded questions, which could be answered within minutes by someone with access to AAI's electronic records.
The "board" of AAI wasn't just staying silent about those four questions. Between July and December 2022, the entire "board" was keeping a low profile and saying or writing almost nothing in public. There were running jokes made about the fact that, despite credible allegations of serious wrongdoing, the "Acting President" of AAI had still made absolutely no public statement about anything, months after he was appointed to the position.
Suddenly, at the start of December 2022, the "board" of AAI released what they called a "Disclosure Document" to their Members, Supporters, and Advisory Council. Here is how they characterised the purpose of the Disclosure Document to their audience:
“The board has prepared a disclosure document that sets out to openly acknowledge everything the organization has done that could be called into question. Nothing is held back. Honesty is the best policy.”
- AAI website (members only section)
“... it is intended to present a complete list of these things [that have not been done properly] in the spirit of full disclosure–it is only in the knowledge of what was not done properly that informed decisions can be made about how to put things right. This document is not about avoiding criticisms, it is about openly facing up to them. If members wish to understand why some things were not done properly, they are free to send questions to the AAI Secretary … The board will tell you what they know or have discovered without spin or deception.”
- Disclosure Document
“Our intention is to clear the air and allow AAI to make a new start”
- Brian Kernick (Acting President), in a letter to AAI members
“You Can Never Forget The Past Unless You Face Up To It”
- Brian Kernick (Acting President), in a presentation to AAI members
As an Individual Member of AAI, I was given access to the Disclosure Document on a members-only area of the AAI website and, as can be seen in the quote from the document itself, members were invited to send the Secretary questions. So I did.
On 12 December 2022 I sent an email to the AAI "Secretary" (copying the "board") asking a list of questions about what I'd read in the Disclosure Document.
I received no reply to that email, not even an acknowledgement.
On 16 December 2022 I sent another email to the AAI "Secretary" (copying the "board") asking for them to please acknowledge my earlier email.
I received no reply to that email.
On 17 December 2022 I sent an email to the AAI "Regional Director" for Europe, asking them to please acknowledge my earlier email.
I received no reply to that email.
On 22 December 2022, in frustration at having received no reply to any of my emails, I sent an email to all the AAI Members whose email addresses are publicly listed on the AAI website (copying the "board"). I included my list of questions and explained that I had received no reply from the "board" to these very important and well-founded questions.
I received no reply to that email from any AAI Member or "board" member.
On 24 December 2022, Bill Flavell (AAI "Secretary") sent some Members a document containing three comments related to the Disclosure Document. Two of these comments directly addressed questions I had asked. The document was not sent or otherwise made available to Individual Members, and I was not aware of the contents of that document until I first saw it on 13 January 2023.
On 6 January 2023 Michael Nugent sent an email to the AAI "board", asking them to publicly correct misrepresentations of him that were made in the Disclosure Document.
Michael received no reply to that email, and no correction was ever issued by AAI, publicly or privately.
Also on 6 January, I sent another email to all AAI Members (copying the "board"), making them aware that I was not the only one who had been treated poorly by the AAI "board".
I received no reply to that email from any AAI Member or "board" member.
On 14 January 2023, the day before an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) that had been called by the "board" to discuss the Disclosure Document, I sent a final email to all AAI Members (copying the "board"). I had accepted an invitation to attend the EGM as an observer, but as an observer I was not allowed to table motions or to speak at the meeting. A few days before the EGM the "board" had announced that, in contravention of the Bylaws, new motions could be proposed during the EGM, then debated and voted on immediately. In my email on 14 January I asked the Members to consider proposing a motion that the "board" answers the questions I had listed in my email of 12 December 2022.
On 15 January 2023, minutes before the "EGM" was due to start, I received an email from Kareem Muhssin, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Former Muslims (an AAI Member), saying that he intended to propose a motion similar to the one I suggested.
There have already been other articles and much commentary about what went on at AAI's "EGM" on 15 January 2023. For this article, I will refer readers to a complete transcript of what was said - both verbally and in the text chat - during the "Any other business" part of the meeting, which is where Kareem proposed his motion.
The debate on Kareem's motion lasted around one hour, so it is a very long transcript.
If you read nothing else in the transcript, you should read the contributions from Kareem Muhssin. The arguments he gives in support of his motion are perfect. He states clearly and powerfully exactly why the "board" of AAI must answer questions like the ones I asked.
In contrast to Kareem's outstanding speeches, contributions from others during the debate clearly demonstrate everything that is wrong with the current illegitimate incarnation of AAI. They have Advisory Council members like Lawrence Krauss, who is happy to ignore the Meeting Protocols to let supposedly "silent" observers make false and prejudicial allegations against Michael Nugent; they have members representatives like Meredith Doig, who is prepared to openly and shamelessly lie to cover up the truth on serious corporate governance issues; they have a majority of "members" who demand that the board go along with the lies and the cover up; and they have a "board" that is happy to oblige.
I encourage you to read the transcript in its entirety. Then, scroll up and read those four quotes again.
You can see in the transcript that Bill Flavell used the episode about the minutes of the 2018 "AGM", which I described above, as an example of why he should not be expected to answer any more well-founded questions. For some reason, Bill thinks that clearing up allegations that he himself raised is a waste of his time.
You can also see in the transcript that, in front of the 50+ attendees at the meeting on 15 January 2023, Brian Kernick made the following offer:
"if Preston wants to have a phone call with myself, Bill and whatever, like to answer, like real questions, great! Let's do that. But I don't feel like that's the aim of what they want here”
- Brian Kernick (Acting President)
On 23 January 2023 I sent an email to Brian Kernick accepting his offer of a phone call, and proposing some suitable dates.
I received no reply to my email.
On 30 January 2023 I sent an email to Lawrence Krauss, who had facilitated the meeting on 15 January, asking him to ask Brian (on my behalf) if he intended to honour his offer of a phone call. Lawrence replied the following day, with the note "have forwarded this on to him.. with suggestion that he have the phone call.."
At the time of writing, I have received no reply from Brian Kernick.
What is shocking about this latest episode is the apparent ease with which the so-called "Acting President" of an international non-profit is able to make what appears to be a good-faith offer in front of more than 50 people, while knowing that he has absolutely no intention of honouring that offer.
Brian Kernick is an unprincipled liar, and this is the person who claims to represent us at the highest international levels. God help us.
Why is this article titled "Goodbye AAI"? Firstly, I will not be renewing my individual membership of that corrupt organisation. The current "board" and their supporting "members" are like a posse of outlaws who rode into town, shot the sheriff, robbed the bank, and are now in the saloon, laughing, with their feet up on the tables. No one is going to stop them from wrecking the place.
But there's another reason for the title. The booty that the current "board" of AAI stole from the legitimate members - including the assets, the brand, and the goodwill - will soon be spent. They are paying expensive lawyers to help them cover up their misdeeds. Their income will soon dry up. They have already lost AAI's Participatory Status at the Council of Europe, and for the last 5 years they have squandered AAI's Special Consultative Status at the United Nations.
The AAI "board" are now no more than the self-important organisers of a few online fundraisers. That doesn't need an international alliance of atheist organisations. Anyone with a laptop and an internet connection can do that, and plenty of individuals do. Atheist Alliance International, a once proud organisation, is finished.
I have done my best to help save AAI, but I now agree with Michael Nugent:
"Sadly, at this stage, I think AAI is beyond rescue."
† Update: One hour after publishing this article, I received an email from Bill Flavell (AAI "Secretary") stating that the board had decided to revoke my membership of AAI under section 13 of their current "bylaws":
"The Board may suspend or revoke any Supporter if it judges that the Supporter’s activities are incompatible with the best interests of the Alliance as a whole or if the relevant Supporter fees are not paid when due."
Bill also offered to refund all my membership fees.
Thanks to Martin Boers for hosting this article on his blog, and to the publishers of the Adlington43 Blog for hosting the documents referred to in this article.