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JANUARY 6, 2010 1:43PM

Just the Facts (Is this "ethical" or "human?")

Rate: 8 Flag

Disclosure: the photojournalist talked about below is a friend of mine. Even still, though, this would be very disturbing to me and should disturb many others. What kind of a society are we becoming if we allow those who claim to be "ethical humanists" to do this to someone? This fact sheet was authored by the ad hoc committee named below, but I'm posting it to help spread the word.

Just the Facts


The facts speak loudly for themselves:


1) The Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago1 invited Sunsara Taylor2, a widely respected and outspoken critic of the status quo, to lecture Sunday, November 1, 2009, on the subject Morality Without Gods. She was to receive a lecture fee. Ms. Taylor has an extensive published, televised, and recorded track record that makes abundantly clear her positions on a wide variety of important issues relating to ethics and humanism. 


2) Less than two weeks before her scheduled, and advertised, Sunday lecture, she was informed that the Ethical Humanist Society Program Committee was cancelling it, apparently because they disapproved of what they believed Ms. Taylor would say. Ms. Taylor objected, saying plans had already been laid, reservations made, and that the Committee was mischaracterizing what she had said in the past and planned to say. The Program Committee remained resolute and the Ethical Humanist Society Board called an emergency meeting on October 26, 2009 at which time the cancellation was affirmed.


3) The Ethical Humanist Society Adult Education Committee invited Ms. Taylor to speak without an honorarium on Saturday, October 31, 2009, to discuss women's liberation and emancipating humanity. This meeting was attended by approximately 50-60 people, including members of the Ethical Humanist Society Board, Ethical Humanist Society members, and the general public. The discussion was friendly, thought provoking, and generally very well received. Questions from members of the Ethical Humanist Society resulted in an informative give and take. The independent photojournalist recorded the entire lecture in a professional, unobtrusive manner. For all intents and purposes, the meeting was a success and a credit to the Ethical Humanist Society’s stated purpose of, among other things, providing inspiring talks and encouraging ethical action.


4) Before the start of her Saturday lecture, Ms. Taylor announced that the she would make a brief announcement prior to the start of the Ethical Humanist Society Sunday meeting, objecting to conditions under which her scheduled lecture had been cancelled and inviting all interested parties to the nearby home of an Ethical Humanist Society member, who had graciously provided an alternative informal venue. Ms. Taylor was not advised that making such a statement on Sunday would be unacceptable. (Note: Many wanted to hear the lecture Ms. Taylor was originally scheduled to give and this alternative venue meeting the following day, Sunday, was attended by a crowd of 50-60 people.)


5) By the end of the day on Saturday, and behind the scenes, some members of the Ethical Humanist Society Board had arranged for the Skokie police to be present on Sunday. Some of the police were to be in essentially plain clothes and were apparently to be paid by the Ethical Humanist Society. The children’s regularly scheduled Sunday School had also been moved to a different location. 


6) On Sunday, Ms. Taylor, the independent photojournalist, many Ethical Humanist Society members, and the general public entered the Ethical Humanist Society building, were handed programs, and welcomed in a routine fashion. During the same period, a number of Skokie police cars and uniformed Skokie police officers arrived outside the building.   


7) The president of the Ethical Humanist Society Board approached Ms. Taylor in the meeting room and began a conversation. When the photojournalist turned his video camera toward them, the president grabbed his camera and told him to stop filming. The photojournalist stopped recording with his video camera. As well as anyone can determine, the president did not tell Ms. Taylor she could not address the assembled group and he did not tell the photojournalist to leave the meeting.


8) As promised, Ms. Taylor rose and stood by her chair to address those present before the regularly scheduled meeting. She attempted to make her brief statement over background music that became uncharacteristically loud. The photojournalist was documenting her statement with a cell phone. Ms. Taylor was finishing her statement and preparing to leave for the alternate venue, when an officer in plain clothes and one in uniform approached the photojournalist and immediately dragged him roughly from the meeting room and into the hallway.


9) In the hallway, the photojournalist was not given an opportunity to have a civil discussion regarding what was taking place. His clothes were ripped. He was slammed against a wall. He was thrown face down to the floor. He was handcuffed as 4-5 officers kneeled on his back. And he was maced in the face after he was handcuffed.


10) The independent photojournalist was taken to a Skokie Police Station in handcuffs and charged with criminal trespass, resisting arrest, and simple battery. After his release a few hours later, he was taken to the hospital where he was treated for his significant wounds, which resulted in a $996 hospital bill. The charge of criminal trespass is being pressed by the President of the Ethical Humanist Society, as a representative of the Society. And criminal trespass, which could carry a jail sentence, is not a laughing matter; the photojournalist’s court defense could cost him many thousands of dollars in legal fees. 


There are dozens of witnesses to these events.


Was the meeting open to the public – YES. Were Ms. Taylor or the independent photojournalist warned that they were trespassing when they entered the Ethical Humanist Society building on Sunday – NO. Did the independent photojournalist’s actions interfere with the owner's use of the propertyNO. Did any identifiable official of the Ethical Humanist Society ask either Ms. Taylor or the independent photojournalist to leave the building, prior to the initiation of the arrest of the photojournalist – NO. Was there any suggestion that police action was necessary to resolve what was essentially the exercise of free speech – NO. Was it possible that the precipitous and clearly heavy-handed action by the police might have caused panic and many injuries – YES. Did any member of the Ethical Humanist Society Board, who was present on Sunday, make a noticeable effort to defuse the situation – NO.





If you were the independent photojournalist, what would you hope for?


As an ethical person, what would you do to defuse this situation?


Ad Hoc Committee for Reason and Dropping the Charges



1 Ethical Humanist Society, 7574 Lincoln Ave., Skokie, IL 60077 (

2 Sunsara Taylor (contact in Chicago at




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This is indeed chilling. We need not only have to worry about attacks from the right, but apparently we must be concerned with people who consider themselves ethical and humanist... progressive forces worried about how they'll look if they allow someone who really does challenge the status quo to speak. Shame. And that they would continue to stand by these charges against this young man is neither ethical or human.
Oh my...I am so alarmed by this type of 'police state' attack without surveying the situation from both sides, neutrally, I am overwhelmed. I will go to the other links Jill provided me to look at, this appears to be absolutely unacceptable on all levels. Thank you calling attention to this.
Good post. Titles like, "Ethical" and "Humanist" are now suspect. Wonder what else they're up to. Will check it out. Rated.
Thanks @Sparking and @dragonlady.
I probably should clarify - I'm not the author. It was a team effort on the part of the ad hoc group coming together to help keep the photographer out of prison. You can also always try contacting the "Ethical Humanists" and ask them what the heck they think they're doing... I never got a response to my calls and emails, but hey... you might get lucky and get to talk to one of their humans.
This story got some attention right after it happened on the Pharyngula blog (a really good science blog, btw):
I am not sure how is this worse than rounding up protesters (against the war, for example), throwing them in jail; confiscating video tapes, finding the rest of the protesters, kicking their doors in and arresting them.

According to Dennis Loo's post in early November, the photojournalist was suppose to have his day in court on November 18th. Do you know what the result of that were?

Regardless, "ethical" and "humanist"are now pretty synonymous with "fascist" and "assholes" in my mind.
Welcome to the land of the free. Pfffft. This crap goes on all the time. The want us all scared to death. I would be looking for a good civil rights lawyer. this is a classic violation.
@Smithery, yes, it's shocking but when stuff like the NY Times Magazine politely interviewing the war criminal John Yoo as if he's just another lawyer or professor happens - on a regular basis - it sets a tone for the rest of "progressive people." Even more reason to puncture the silence with protest and resistance!
@Thoth - what makes this most disturbing (to me) - is that the entity silencing radical voices, calling for police repression, and pressing charges against a good person is claiming to be the "ethical humanist" society - and not the "society for police repression, McCarthyism, and beating people in our lobby."
@Safe_bet: some of the members of the Chicago society have left or been forced out now as a result. I think it's worth it to contact other Ethical Humanists around the country and ask them to take a stand and pressure their Chicago group to reverse this terrible direction. Do they really want this as their legacy?
I forgot - the last hearing in November only showed that the society is indeed pressing charges. Of course no one would plead guilty to something as ridiculous as this.

If anyone wants to make donations towards this guy's legal defense (and trust me, he's a "broke m-fer" who needs it!), send checks to:

Scott Frankel at Frankel & Cohen, 77 W. Washington, Suite 1720, Chicago, 60602, memo: Koger defense fund.
@Michael - it's up to us to stand up for people who are targetted like this and prevent the fear chill from setting in.
I am happy and sad that I read this.
Great read. It sure gets real nasty.
I wonder.
I traveled with a magnum photographer.

Canadian Photojournalist Larry Towel?
He's Canadian. I know Larry can relate.
I traveled with the gentleman in Hanoi,
Before official normalization relations,
A group of vets were Guest of Vietnam.
He was with us for almost two-months.
We did this 'gig' in 1990 in Yen Vien.

It was a construction project. Health.
It was to foster reconciliation. Peace.
The Vietnamese are mature in`Peace.
A problem wasn't the bombed` Peasant

We were Guest of `
The People's Committee.
This visit was approved by the US State Dept.

check Larry Towel (one 'L' sp) www./magnum?
He's such an experienced human-photojournalist.
The Magnum business card he has says just`Human.
That's all.
I'm not to say`Call or email Larry? But, maybe?

He did a book with photos of`births, jails, burials,
psychiatry center etc., I have the book with a photo.
A photo of a peasant with severed limbs, fingers -
- sighs -
The caption-poem under this former NVA quotes:`

A photo shows the NVA touching my leg scars.
I'd never win any leg beauty contest with hunks.
I mean my lower legs have big hunk hole scars.
I no limp.

huh. It's
amazing we
still kicking

A poem is from Ho Chi Minh's prison poems.

If? Tell Larry Towel I saw pretty Benita Keller.
Benita was on the two-month Hanoi project.
Benita's pretty.
wild photo B.K.
She teaches art.
Benita lives in Shepardstown, West Virginia.
I should say "Hi" to Larry. Towel is so human.
You will appreciate the top-quality website.
Thanks Lina, etc.,
You do peace work.
I wait for Valentine?
I mean`a senile date?
I also yearn fir peace.
Your 'outfit' `Peace.

If it were not for the cold and bleakness of winter
Spring would never be. Misfortunes have steeled,
and tempered me, and more so, strength resolve.
This is outrageous and reeks of a set up. The overkill by the cops -- not literally in this case fortunately -- is all too common. This organization needs to be made accountable and possibloy dismantled, starting at the top.
The whole Bill of Rights thing gets lost a lot, doesn't it?