AAI Attacks Kevin Sheehan With False Allegations

In their recently written ‘Disclosure Document’, Atheist Alliance International (AAI) has published false claims about an atheist activist of many years. Kevin Sheehan was a member of the National Executive at Atheist Ireland, who volunteered an untold number of hours campaigning on both national and international secular issues. For decades, Kevin was the epitome of an effective activist who didn’t seek the limelight, but rather devoted a huge number of hours to achieving specific outcomes in relation to the separation of Church and State. He also joined the AAI Board in order to take on a role relating to the membership database of the organisation.

AAI have now published the utterly false statement that Kevin resigned from their Board:

“… because he couldn’t cope with AAI’s failing systems.”

False statement in the AAI ‘Disclosure Document’

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it is a clearly demonstrable fact that Kevin was extremely successful in his role on the AAI Board, whereas it was those who took over from him (and who are now falsely attacking him) that couldn’t cope.

The notification email that was issued to all AAI members about the date of the 2016 AGM, is available in full at the bottom of this page. It is noticeable that an automated footer is appended to the end of this email reading, “empowered by Salsa”. The Salsa system is an online tool that has been designed specifically for nonprofits. This automated footer is present is because Kevin Sheehan worked diligently on the AAI membership list that he inherited within the Salsa system, in order to ensure that the database was current and accurate. He issued a Salsa email broadcast about the forthcoming AGM to the appropriate distribution list, according to the timetable in the Bylaws. Following the AGM, he also issued a recording of the meeting (and all associated documentation) to every valid member using the same Salsa system. There were no problems or difficulties whatsoever in the communications issued to all AAI members by Kevin Sheehan, and this was just one small part of the responsibility set that he successfully delivered against.

In contrast, those who took over from Kevin failed to arrange any AGM at all in 2017, and they blamed this on their inability to understand the Salsa system. The AAI ‘Disclosure Document’ states that:

“AAI’s membership system was expensive and complex, and no directors in 2017 properly understood how to use it.”

Admission in the AAI ‘Disclosure Document’

Kevin Sheehan could cope perfectly well with the Salsa system. Those who took over from him (including Bill Flavell who still claims to be on the AAI Board today) by their own admission, could not. Moreover, Bill Flavell and the rest of his so-called Board, also by their own admission:

  • failed to keep adequate financial records for many years
  • did not adhere to 2018 AGM notification requirements in the Bylaws
  • did not invite all valid members to their bogus 2018 AGM
  • awarded votes at their bogus 2018 AGM to those not entitled to vote
  • pretended to represent AAI for years despite never being elected

These are the people who have now published a document attempting to excuse their own wrongdoing by falsely blaming others. By their own admission, Bill Flavell and his AAI Board could not adequately cope with any aspect of their Director roles, or even figure out how to send an email to their members. In an effort at apologetics for their incompetence, they have published a deliberately dishonest document stating that Kevin Sheehan resigned, “because he couldn’t cope with AAI’s failing systems”.

Any atheist group who is currently portraying themselves as an affiliate member of AAI, should immediately ensure that this utterly false accusation is removed. It is bad enough that the current so-called Board at AAI has been involved in so much wrongdoing. However, that this purported AAI Board would now seek to excuse their own failings by falsely blaming those who helped build the alliance that they took over, is utterly shameful.

I spoke to Kevin Sheehan after he read the document recently published by AAI, and he told me as follows:

“The Salsa platform was not suitable for AAI. It was too expensive and too heavily featured for their needs. I had proposed that AAI should seek an alternative, but in advance of that I got done what was required. Like any online system, Salsa comes with support and tutorials and it was perfectly possible to issue email broadcasts to various categories of member, to send out invoices, and to manage other aspects of the AAI membership. I did not resign because I couldn’t cope with AAI’s failing systems. Those systems were not failing and I could use them entirely successfully. I resigned because I had developed a plan to expand the membership and I could not get support from the President to implement the plan. Based on early feedback I had received, I was very optimistic about growing the membership substantially, but I found the then President to be ambivalent.

It is quite pathetic that the Directors of an international organisation would now publish a document admitting that they couldn’t figure out how to send an email broadcast. How could it be that their best defence of their own misbehaviour, is that a group of actual adults were unable to send an email to the members of their nonprofit, using a system designed for nonprofits that already contained all the required email addresses? It is worse that they would then falsely and unethically portray others as incompetent in order to disguise their own failings.”

Statement from Kevin Sheehan

The dishonesty of the current so-called AAI Board gets even worse though. In fact, before they published their ‘Disclosure Document’ they had already been informed by Kevin Sheehan that the Salsa system was perfectly functional and that Kevin had used it entirely successfully. In addition, the AAI ‘Disclosure Document’ is also deliberately dishonest about Michael Nugent, as the Chair of Atheist Ireland. Michael had also told AAI that their claims about his statements were untrue before the AAI ‘Disclosure Document’ was published .

The extract from the AAI ‘Disclosure Document’ that refers to two specific Atheist Ireland members, is illustrated below:

Extract from AAI 'Disclosure Document'
Extract from AAI ‘Disclosure Document’

During the relevant period, only two people who had ever been members of Atheist Ireland were ever Directors on the AAI Board*. Kevin Sheehan was a member of Atheist Ireland and was responsible for the AAI membership systems. I was a member of Atheist Ireland and this statement about me resigning because I was “called a liar” is also entirely false. Since this issue has been raised by the current so-called Board of AAI, I am now publishing at the bottom of this page some emails that I wrote when I resigned from AAI. These contemporaneous emails include the explanations for my resignation that were described at the time.

As then Secretary of AAI, I had received a set of accusations with documentary support alleging that the then President of AAI was a danger to women. I didn’t personally find the accusations convincing (and happily they were later demonstrated to be unsubstantiated) but nevertheless I immediately informed the relevant authorities. I was admonished for doing this by another AAI Director. I resigned because I wouldn’t be involved with any Board that might prioritise the reputation of the organisation or other considerations, over the safety of people who may be at risk. I was happy to discover that the approach of some on the AAI Board subsequently changed, such that their actions better appreciated the gravity of these issues.

In fact, some of the people who wrote the words illustrated above in the AAI ‘Disclosure Document’ extract, were directly involved with the issues outlined within these emails about my resignation. I had also already explained to Bill Flavell directly why I resigned, before he published this ‘Disclosure Document’. As such, before AAI recently published their ‘Disclosure Document’, they absolutely knew that it was false to say that Kevin Sheehan resigned “because he couldn’t cope with AAI’s failing systems”; they absolutely knew that what they were claiming about Michael Nugent was false; and they absolutely knew that I did not resign because I was “called a liar”. They published deliberate and knowing lies.

Treating these issues as source material for the fabrication of self-serving lies, which seek to excuse their own wrongdoing by falsely blaming others, is despicable. Any atheist group that currently considers itself to be an affiliate member of AAI, can either do something about this mendacious behaviour or else wear it as their own. These deliberate lies about longstanding atheist activists like Kevin Sheehan, were published on behalf of the AAI affiliate member groups. Those groups can have the comments about Kevin Sheehan removed and have an apology provided to Kevin, or else they can accept that publishing such deliberate lies is something that their organisation is sanguine about.

Advertising that your organisation is part of an alliance comes with responsibilities. If these atheist groups don’t take responsibility for correcting this deliberately dishonest behaviour, then they will own the shame of it.

* A previous version of this article stated that no more than two members of Atheist Ireland were ever on the Board of AAI. In fact, another member of Atheist Ireland was on the 2011 AAI Board that wrote the constitution of the organisation. This update was made on 21st December 2022, the same day that the article was published.

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