The current purported Board of Atheist Alliance International (AAI) is entirely illegitimate. It is the product of a process whereby a small group of corrupt individuals; carried out an unlawful coup to improperly take personal control of the organisation from the members; and then spent years lying about what they had done. Many of the same people who helped perpetuate this anti-democratic behaviour and cover up very serious wrongdoing, still maintain control of AAI today through unethical and improper means.
Consider as just one example, the recent appointment of Christine Shellska as a Director on the current self-styled Board of AAI. Many organisations allow for a Board to co-opt a new Director in extremis. For example, if an elected Director has to leave the organisation in some emergency situation, then the Board can appoint a temporary replacement until the next Annual General Meeting (AGM). The currently published AAI Bylaw 51 describes such a process, and of course requires that anyone appointed in this way without a democratic mandate, “must face election at the next AGM”. However, if a Board owes its entire existence to an unlawful and anti-democratic coup, then it might not be so surprising if they find the need to “face election” to be something of an inconvenience.
In May of this year, Christine Shellska was co-opted onto the AAI Board without election. This means that she was required to “face election” at the AGM on 12th November 2023. However, just a few days before that meeting, it was announced that Christine Shellska had left the Board. Subsequently, just a few days after the AGM, she was again co-opted onto the Board without election, according to Bylaw 51. Despite an insistence within the Bylaws that Christine Shellska, “must face election at the next AGM”, she continues to act as a Director on the Board without acquiring any mandate or facing any election.
If someone would like to dishonestly pretend that they have a democratic mandate from dozens of atheist groups all around the world as a Director of AAI, then this would be a good way to go about it. If an AAI Board would like to make utter fools of atheist groups all around the world by deceptively sidestepping their democratic imperatives, then this would be a good way to go about that too. However, given the anti-democratic record of Tonoy Emroz Alam (the new self-styled President of AAI) none of this mendacious manoeuvring should come as a surprise.
Just last year, Tonoy Emroz Alam was involved with fixing elections for Officer roles within AAI, then lying to cover up his wrongdoing. In May of 2022, AAI announced that David Orenstein had been elected as President, but this was a sham. The corrupt Board created a patina of democratic legitimacy by suggesting that this was a result of democratic elections among the members, when in fact David Orenstein had already been introduced as “the new President of AAI” by the previous Board as early as February 2022. For clarity, Tonoy Emroz Alam and the rest of the previous Board had absolutely no authority whatsoever to select the new Board, let alone appoint the Officer roles within it. The authority to make appointments to the new Board was entirely the purview of the members, but this didn’t stop Tonoy Emroz Alam and his co-conspirators from fixing the election months in advance. Such was the brazen nature of how the authority of the members was usurped, that the supposed AAI Board even broke The Stringer Bell Rule by recording their wrongdoing in the minutes of their meeting.
The Stringer Bell Rule is derived from a TV show called The Wire, and may be summarised as follows:
If your meeting is going to engage in illicit behaviour, do not record the details of your own wrongdoing in the minutes.The Stringer Bell Rule
Of course, if there were any ethical people on the Board then at this point they would have objected. If their objections were not listened to, they would have resigned and become a whistleblower. In fact Shirley Rivera did exactly that, and her principled honesty explains why the email illustrated above has become available outside of the corrupt AAI Board. However, Tonoy Emroz Alam preferred to continue with the wrongdoing, and also sought to cover it up by lying about it while purporting to speak on behalf of AAI. He repeatedly claimed that “David was not involved in this process”; even though David Orenstein was interviewed for the role of President; even though David Orenstein was introduced to several Board meetings as “the new President of AAI”; even though the Board promised to support David, “as he transitions into the role of President”; and even though they recorded all of this wrongdoing in their meeting minutes, then emailed those minutes to David Orenstein himself and the entire Board.
When Tonoy Emroz Alam realised that his Board were recording their own wrongdoing in the meeting minutes, he did not seek to put an end to the illicit behaviour. He did not insist that his Board had no authority to select the new Board, let alone appoint the Officer positions. Instead, he sought to cover up how the Board were fixing elections more than four months before the vote, while keeping all of this secret from the members. His main concern was not the very serious wrongdoing itself, but that the wrongdoing was being recorded in the meeting minutes.
When Tonoy Emroz Alam realised that AAI were breaking The Stringer Bell Rule, he responded by breaking what we might call The Tonoy Emroz Alam Rule. That rule could be summarised at follows:
“If your meeting has engaged in illicit behaviour and you wish to cover this up by excluding it from the minutes, do not memorialise this cover up of your own wrongdoing in a written message to the same audience.”The Tonoy Emroz Alam Rule
The only ethical response to this behaviour was the example provided by Shirley Rivera. If he was an honest person, Tonoy Emroz Alam would have insisted on what he clearly knew to be the case, which was that the then purported Board had no authority whatsoever to select the subsequent Board or its Officers. He clearly knew that to do so was to anti-democratically usurp the role of the members. However, Tonoy Emroz Alam decided to continue with the wrongdoing, while hiding this from the members and seeking to excise the details from the recorded minutes. He knew this behaviour was entirely wrong when he engaged in it, otherwise he wouldn’t have lied about it during the podcast clip above, and he wouldn’t have suggested excising the details from the minutes. If there was nothing wrong with David Orenstein being interviewed for the role of President; if there was nothing wrong with David Orenstein being recorded as the new President of AAI in meeting minutes four months before the supposed election; if there was nothing wrong with the Board supporting David Orenstein “as he transitions into the role of President” during these four months; then during the podcast Tonoy Emroz Alam would have openly described David Orenstein’s involvement. He only lied during the podcast, and he only sought to excise the details from the minutes, because he knew that what he was doing was unethical and improper.
In the current illegitimate incarnation of AAI, the supposed President is Tonoy Emroz Alam and he maintains this position based on support from a purported Board that includes Christine Shellska. Unfortunately for AAI, Shirley Rivera is no longer involved with the organisation. Conversely, if an AAI Board were to be constructed in the best interests of international organised atheism, then Shirley Rivera would be the President and those who currently owe their positions to anti-democratic corruption would no longer be involved.