IAA’s Response to Atheist Alliance International
Recently, the International Association of Atheists received an ultimatum from AAI, regarding an allegation of stolen data, which was a list of email addresses. We have no intention to extend this dispute any longer than necessary because AAI and IAA both have the same goal: to support atheists in need. And we prefer to work together with AAI. However, since AAI chose to go public, we feel the need to share our side of the story.
The data was obtained while our board members were employed by AAI and it was stored as a backup during a transition between website hosts. This SQL file, along with others, was partially and accidentally imported to our mailing list in the process of accessing other lists contained within SQL files. We sent out several newsletters with the email data until we received a complaint and looked into it. Realizing our mistake, we quickly deleted the imported emails and issued a statement on our blog. It's important to note the newsletters that were sent out were to solicit help for orphans in the Congo among other initiatives that benefit needy people.
Multiple attempts were made last fall to settle this amicably and with arbitration in place in order to ensure both sides were treated fairly. We offered a compensatory package after AAI had requested a donation to settle the matter. AAI then declined this offer. They are now claiming that this offer was a bribe when we were only responding to their President Howard Burman’s request for a donation to put an end to this issue.
In our settlement, which was drafted by our lawyers, we included clauses that ensured this would settle the matter. This is the purpose of any such settlement. The goal is to make things right and to put the matter to bed. Their interpretation of this is that we offered them a bribe to keep quiet. To be clear: they asked for the donation, we complied, and they took it as though we were bribing them. Clearly, we have no issue with AAI bringing this to the public's attention, as we had already posted about it months prior on our blog. It was not a bribe, rather a compromise we felt was reasonable in the hopes of making things right and putting an end to this matter.
For nearly a year, there has been a series of threats from AAI regarding legal action, which we are asking to cease. IAA will agree to discuss with AAI the terms of arbitration, as we did previously, regarding deletion of the file and proof thereof, if AAI will cease and desist with accusations and threats in a situation that did not warrant such hostility.
There has sprung from this situation a campaign of social media harassment of Courtney Heard, who has been repeatedly threatened and her character defamed in the most juvenile terms, which we think is a poor reflection on an organization that would like to achieve the same aims as us in protecting the human rights of our fellow citizens of earth. The personal defamation is unnecessary, unprofessional and ineffective. IAA is prepared to defend our cause and our practices in an amicable manner. We regret to say we have not received the same amiability from our counterparts.
As a personal statement, I also want to add that I’ve worked with Courtney for over a year now. I have nothing but respect for her. She is talented and above that, she only wants to promote atheism and help atheists at risk. The fact she is targeted by AAI, which has a platform that can reach people who can be motivated to do much more harm than just some silly internet threats, as a villain is ridiculous, untrue, unprofessional, and unnecessary. It is a sad reflection of the people who make up those organizations that their immediate reaction is threats and the defamation of a woman. Let’s resolve this issue in a mature manner.