Dear David Silverman, …

I’m delighted to see that you have recently returned to making YouTube videos. I was happy to see you look hale and hearty, and also that your initial priority was to focus on the ethical and governance standards that must at all times apply within organised atheism. I would like to compare the standards that you have outlined, with the behaviour of organisations where you have direct personal responsibility. I am not doing this to make allegations of hypocrisy. Rather, I accept entirely that you are approaching these issues in good faith. Instead, I would like to make an honest and genuine attempt to convince you that your approach to these issues has been wrongheaded, and that you should immediately change this approach.

You have decided to accept a Chairperson role at Atheists for Liberty, which is a member of Atheist Alliance International (AAI). I know you don’t consider AAI to be an insignificant or irrelevant organisation, because you also previously decided to accept a role as Executive Director there. This was at a time when AAI was failing to deal with some very serious wrongdoing by the Board that you were reporting to. I’m sure you’re aware that this very serious wrongdoing also continued well after your time at AAI, not least because your friends like Shirley Rivera (who also had a senior within AAI) have been very public about the corruption within the alliance. Shirley’s recent public statement on some of these issues, published on behalf of the atheist groups in Latin America, is available in full at the bottom of this page.

I accept entirely that the responsibility to address these issues is not yours alone, David. However, you are a Chairperson at a current member group within AAI, and a former Executive Director at AAI, in a context where other former Executive Directors have not been cowed into a cowardly silence. You have also recently been very vocal about the ethical standards that must apply within organised atheism, in a context where you have previously been a victim of lapses in those standards. There are now other victims of similar lapses and it is time for you to show the same fortitude that you have demanded of others. You are not the only person with responsibilities in this area, but given your current and former roles, there is nobody else in the world who has more responsibility to speak out on these issues than you personally.

Silverman On Nonprofit Bylaws

Some of your recent commentary has related to the importance of Bylaws within nonprofit atheist organisations. In the short clip below, you describe adherence to the Bylaws as the “prime objective” and the “number one duty” of Directors in any nonprofit.

David Silverman on Bylaws

Your comments have the benefit of being intuitively accurate, and also of being captured in blackletter nonprofit law in California, where AAI is registered. Notwithstanding this, AAI has recently published a ‘Disclosure Document’ that admits to the most serious breaches of Bylaws imaginable. That document is available in full at the bottom of this page. In fact, the document is full of demonstrable lies designed to cover up even more serious wrongdoing, but just those transgressions that have now been accepted include the following:

  1. A large number of member groups were unlawfully excluded from the most consequential vote in the entire history of AAI. Page 8 of the AAI ‘Disclosure Document’ admits that, “they should have been invited to the AGM. So this was an infringement of the Bylaws.”
  2. This vote unlawfully transferred control of AAI from the members to a small number of individuals on the Board, who had illegitimately claimed Director roles without election. Page 12 of the AAI ‘Disclosure Document’ admits that they, “took substantial powers from Members and transferred them to the Board. Members lost the powers to elect Directors and change the Bylaws, and Annual General Meetings were abolished”.
  3. A significant number of groups were allowed to cast ballots for the most consequential vote in the entire history of AAI, when those groups were not entitled to vote. Page 10 of the AAI ‘Disclosure Document’ admits that, “members that voted at the 2018 AGM were associate members so their votes should not have been counted.”. This unlawful manipulation of the electorate, was more than enough to change the outcome of the vote.
  4. After they had transferred control of AAI from the members to themselves, those responsible for this very serious wrongdoing continued to act as Directors for many years without ever having been elected. Page 13 of the AAI ‘Disclosure Document’ now admits that, “any directors who were co-opted, should have either resigned or have been offered for election at the next AGM. Six directors fell into this category … none of these directors resigned or were offered for re-election at the 2018 AGM. Failure to offer these six directors for election at the 2018 AGM would have been an infringement of the 2013 Bylaws …”

Totally contrary to the Bylaws, a small group of individuals took personal control of AAI from the atheist groups who had built the alliance. When challenged about this at the time, they lied repeatedly. Despite now admitting the contrary, for years they maintained that everything they did adhered strictly to the Bylaws. Below is a short clip of Bill Flavell (who still claims to be Secretary of AAI today) lying about the most consequential vote in the entire history of the alliance, and which member groups he invited to participate in that vote.

Bill Flavell Lying About his Bogus AGM

Every single word of this is a deliberate and calculated lie. When he made these comments, Bill knew that he had not followed the notification timetable in the Bylaws; he knew that the electorate he had created for the vote had nothing to do with which groups were paid up members on the relevant date; and he knew that there were not 10 affiliate groups that had voted. He has spent years lying to cover up his corruption and calling anyone who pointed out his lies “mendacious and toxic”. Now that his AAI ‘Disclosure Document’ admits that the critics had been right all along, he wants groups like Atheist for Liberty to continue supporting him as Secretary of AAI without any consequences whatsoever.

There is a very specific issue that I would like you to consider in this regard, David. That issue relates to the improperly expelled atheist groups that had been the longstanding members of AAI, which included those activists who had built the alliance. These groups were unlawfully terminated by AAI and they were not afforded any due process whatsoever. Do you think that atheist activists of many years should have been afforded due process before being terminated by Bill Flavell and the others on the purported Board of AAI? Having just recently admitted to unlawfully terminating so many, after falsely denying it for years, do you think it is acceptable for AAI to carry on regardless without any accountability for the wrongdoers who remain in place, or any remedy for the victims who were denied due process?

Silverman On Due Process

You have very valid personal reasons for taking a particular interest in issues relating to due process. You have personally been the victim of circumstances when due process was denied in the past, and relatively few of your friends defended you then. The short clip below includes some of your recent comments on due process.

David Silverman on Due Process

You have said that, “due process is not optional under any circumstances, even when it is politically expedient”. Perhaps as a Chairperson at Atheists for Liberty, it is currently politically expedient for you to ignore corruption within the alliance that your organisation is a member of? However, I do not believe that you are a coward, David. Rather, I believe that you will be able to muster the fortitude to do what is right in terms of due process for longstanding atheist activists, even if that is not currently politically expedient for you. The only due process that has been offered to the unlawfully terminated atheist groups, has been as follows:

  • A large number of atheist groups were unlawfully terminated by Bill Flavell and his co-conspirators on the AAI Board. This included the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Atheist Ireland, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, and many more.
  • After those groups were unlawfully terminated, the people responsible for this corruption (such as Bill Flavell and his co-conspirators) illegitimately changed the Bylaws to transfer control of AAI from the members to themselves.
  • Having taken full personal control of AAI, Bill Flavell and his co-conspirators then invited the unlawfully expelled groups to rejoin AAI. This was on the basis that those responsible for the wrongdoing would retain their illegitimate positions, with full control of AAI according to their invalid and anti-democratic Bylaws.

That is, the only due process offered involved the victims of the wrongdoing being required to accept the full validity of everything that had been done by those responsible for the wrongdoing. Of course, this is no due process at all. With regard to the termination of your own involvement at AAI, David, there is no way that you would have supported a process whereby you had to accept the full validity of everything that was said and done by those responsible for the wrongdoing that you were a victim of. I’m certain you can similarly understand why the unlawfully terminated atheist groups did not accept the process described in the bullet points above.

Onur Romano is a former President of AAI and a current member of the so-called AAI Advisory Council. He has made the following public statement on these issues:

“AAI told Atheist Ireland and Freedom From Religion Foundation to take their corporate bullying elsewhere. Yes, AAI practically said ‘take a hike’ and terminated their memberships.”

Quote from an Onur Romano social media post

You know what it is like to be terminated without due process, David. You have been very vocal on this issue. Are you going to be part of an alliance that will terminate the longstanding atheist activists in Atheist Ireland and Freedom From Religion Foundation without any due process? I don’t believe you will. I believe that you will adhere to the principles that you have already outlined in coherent and cogent terms on this issue.

Silverman On Lying About Harm

It is not acceptable for anyone to publicly tell deliberate lies about others causing them harm, when they know that this isn’t true and that no such harms occurred. Lying about fictitious harm caused to them, is something that the purported Board of AAI have been doing for years. Below is a short clip describing what you have recently had to say on this topic. This includes the statement that someone making an untrue allegation, which falsely claims that they have been caused harm, is an “assault” on the subject of the false claim.

David Silverman on Lying About Harm

As part of a dishonest effort to explain away their own wrongdoing, the so-called Board at AAI have been lying about their predecessors causing a range of fictitious harms. They have repeatedly and falsely stated that it was the Board that came immediately before them, who caused harm to them and to AAI. It is easy to identify the people who were the Officers on that predecessor Board, who have been falsely blamed for causing harm to AAI (and to Bill Flavell and his co-conspirators who purportedly had to deal with these imaginary harms). Those people include myself as the Secretary of that AAI Board, and Christine Shellska as the President of that AAI Board.

The allegations of harms supposedly caused by Christine and myself, include the idea that we left AAI “on the verge of bankruptcy”. This is just not true, and it has been rebutted in detail using published accounts that were reconciled with bank statements. Despite the claims by Bill Flavell and his co-conspirators, Christine and I did not leave AAI “on the verge of bankruptcy”, and we did not harm our successor Board by requiring them to deal with any such financial crisis. In the short clip below, Bill Flavell makes a series of other false claims about the imaginary harms caused to him and to AAI by myself and Christine.

Bill Flavell Falsely Blames Predecessors for Failings of His Own Board

When Bill Flavell made these comments, he knew he was lying about the crisis in membership numbers that he supposedly inherited from myself and Christine. He also knew he was lying about having to fix serious security problems that he supposedly inherited from myself and Christine. This is not least because after his imaginary security fixes, his Board was responsible for the single biggest data loss in the entire history of organised atheism.

David, you are a Chairperson at an atheist group that is a member of AAI. The alliance that you are a part of continues to make false allegations that myself and Christine Shellska caused harm to AAI and to those on our successor Board, when it is demonstrably the case that the supposed harms have been entirely invented. Various atheist activists around the world have spoken out about these false allegations of harm, including Carlos Diaz whose letter to Bill Flavell on this topic is available in full at the bottom of this page. Given how outspoken you have been when you have observed false allegations of causing harm, I’m sure you will not be any less vocal than Carlos Diaz on these issues. I’m certain that you will not be silent when Christine and myself and others are being falsely accused of causing harm, by the alliance of which you are a part.

Moreover, I’m also certain that you will have been astounded to hear Bill Flavell in the short clip above, claim that it was acceptable for him and his co-conspirators to appropriate tens of thousands of dollars that was properly under the democratic control of the AAI members. Bill Flavell argued that he and his co-conspirators were justified in taking person control of this cash, because the AAI Bylaws did not explicitly say that the assets are owned by the members. Of course, you will be not be at all surprised to see that blackletter law clearly states that Directors cannot just do whatever they like with the assets of a nonprofit, without a vote among the members. That Bill Flavell would argue that it is perfectly fine for him to take control of other people’s money in this way, speaks to conflicts of interest within nonprofits, which is another topic you have been vocal about.

Silverman On Conflicts Of Interest

In the short clip below on conflicts of interest within nonprofits you have said that, “every Board member has the responsibility to raise the issue of conflicts of interest if they see it”. Of course this is entirely correct, and in fact blackletter law contains a rigorous set of regulations in relation to self-dealing in the assets of nonprofits, by those in control of those assets.

David Silverman on Conflicts of Interest

One of the first things that Bill Flavell did after unlawfully appropriating control of the AAI finances from the members, was to award a no-tender contract to his own daughter. This was at a time when Bill Flavell and his co-conspirators were publicly claiming that AAI was “on the verge of bankruptcy”. In fact, they also used this false claim of a financial crisis to terminate the contract of Rustam Singh without due process. Rustam had been awarded a contract following an open application process that was managed very transparently by the AAI Board of Christine Shellska. Terminating this contract may have been reasonable if the supposed financial crisis was real. In fact, because this purported financial crisis was the reason given to Rustam for his termination, he actually offered to continue executing the contract for AAI at no cost. Bill Flavell and his co-conspirators clearly knew that there was no financial crisis though, because instead of allowing Rustam to continue executing the contract at no cost, they just paid the cash to themselves.

In the most clear conflict of interest imaginable, they secretly awarded the AAI contract to themselves (without advertisement or tender) after terminating without due process the contract that Rustam had won following an open and transparent application process. The money that they awarded to themselves was not theirs to disburse. They had no authority or mandate to do anything at all with these funds. This was cash that had been accumulated from donations and membership subscriptions, by the affiliate member groups and atheist activists who had built the alliance before them.

Moreover, during the three years that this kind of financial mismanagement took place, Bill Flavell and his co-conspirators failed to keep any adequate financial records. Page 15 of the AAI ‘Disclosure Document’ admits that:

“AAI has been criticized for removing from the bylaws the need to present financial reports at AGMs. This indeed happened … our investigation found that full accounts for the financial years 2017 – 2019 were not compiled at the end of each year … For the years 2017 – 2019, the supporting paperwork for some expenses was missing or incomplete. Consequently, it was necessary to infer the categories for these payments (for example, which project they related to) from context such as emails or minutes. It is unacceptable that accounts were not compiled in full at the end of each year …”

Quotes from Page 15 of the AAI ‘Disclosure Document’

International organised atheism is now being asked to accept an AAI Board that admits to this kind of financial impropriety, and then collectively proposes to simply ignore all of the attendant conflicts of interest. You have been very clear David, that ignoring such conflicts of interest is not acceptable for any Director within any nonprofit.

No previous Board at AAI ever behaved in this way in the entire history of the organisation. Despite being among those blamed for the debacle by Bill Flavell, Christine Shellska’s AAI Board did not award secret contracts without advertisement or tender. In stark contrast, Christine’s AAI Board arranged an open and transparent application process that awarded the contract to Rustam following interview. You know David, that it is totally unacceptable for any AAI Directors to terminate Rustam without due process, and then award the contract to themselves in secret. Yet those who now insist on such conflicts of interest being ignored, are the same wrongdoers who also insist that they carry out all of the investigations into their own wrongdoing. Are you really surprised that the result of their “investigation” indicates that AAI should carry on regardless without any accountability, while retaining the same people in control of AAI?


In contrasting the standards that you set for others, with the behaviour within the alliance that you are a part of, I make no allegations of hypocrisy. In contrast, I assume that you are approaching these issues in good faith with the very best of intentions. Consequently, I’m confident that upon considering these issues you will come to the conclusion that your current approach to AAI is wrongheaded, and that you will make some commensurate changes.

Your current approach has been to state that you are “staying out of that for now”. This is entirely wrongheaded, David.

David Silverman is "staying out of" the issues at AAI
David Silverman is “staying out of” the issues at AAI

It’s too late to decide that you’re “staying out of” these issues. You already decided to take a role as Executive Director at AAI. You are currently a Chairperson of a member group within the alliance. You are already right in the very center of these issues. There is nobody else in the world who has a greater duty to speak out about these issues than you, David.

I’m fully confident that you will decide to be a “Firebrand For Good”, and not merely a firebrand for whatever is most convenient for David.

2 responses to “Dear David Silverman, …”

  1. Thanks for this letter. It is received as a matter of debate, not attack.

    I have read, and been reading, everything and have strong opinions. I’m not “Staying out of this now” for no reason, but for good reason. But please rest assured that not commenting publicly does not imply I’m not paying attention, or doing anything.

    • Thankyou, David.

      I appreciate that and I accept entirely what you have said here without caveat or qualification. Specifically, I totally understand that there may be issues you cannot discuss for good reasons, which I am unaware of.

      If I could add one more piece of topspin to your ongoing considerations in this area, your role at Atheists for Liberty is very public and the Atheists for Liberty support for AAI is also very public. It does not seem commensurate with this, that steps to address these issues cannot also be public. I believe you have commented in the past on those who will express a view in private but will not express the same view in public, and so I don’t think I need to expand any further upon that point. Suffice to say that a position favouring an AAI Board which has a valid democratic mandate, does not seem like a controversial position to hold. If any of the current so-called Board wished to continue in their roles, why would they object to the idea of seeking a valid mandate, and instead insist that they should only work according to the current illegitimate and anti-democratic Bylaws (see the last sentence of the current Bylaw 59)?

      Be well, David.

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