The disciplinary committee of the Atheist Alliance International board met today with our Executive Director, Michael Sherlock. The meeting was to review a series of Tweets that took place on Monday this week involving Michael Sherlock, Kaitlyn Gleason et al.
The committee reviewed the Tweets and Michael explained his recollection of events.
Whilst AAI expects to encounter controversy in the public sphere, it is our strict policy to treat everyone with respect. Our job is to attack bad ideas or behaviors but not to attack people and certainly never to resort to personal insults. The committee found that Michael fell short of these ideals in this exchange. Specifically,
1. In the Tweet that triggered this incident, Michael referred to religion as “a retarded relic”. Kaitlyn followed up by politely asking him to reconsider the use of the word “retarded”. This exchange escalated into an argument. The committee found that Michael used the word without intending any disrespect or offense to anyone. However, this word has a history of being used to make fun of people with learning disabilities and that has made it a word that upsets many people, consequently using the word is insensitive. The most appropriate action would have been for Michael to have apologized for any offense caused. Instead, he launched into an argument to justify using the word.
2. This argument culminated in Michael referring to Kaitlyn using a completely unacceptable profanity. The committee found there was no excuse for insulting Kaitlyn and no excuse for using that particular word.
On behalf of AAI, the committee unreservedly apologizes to Kaitlyn and any other people who were affected. We are very sorry. We will not tolerate such behavior and will take steps to ensure it does not happen again.
In deciding, what steps to take, the committee noted that Michael very much regretted his behavior and had already issued a personal, public apology. Nevertheless, in view of the seriousness of this incident, the committee determined that:
1. Michael will be suspended from all AAI duties for a period of one month without pay.
2. A Final Warning will be posted to Michael’s employment record immediately and remain for a period of two years. This means any future repetition of such behavior within this period will constitute grounds for dismissal.
Finally, the committee wishes to state that, despite the fact that Michael is a hard-working Executive Director who is extraordinarily passionate about saving atheists at risk, our policies apply equally to everyone at AAI. There are no exceptions.
July 15, 2020