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CFI–Florida Holds First Conference

by Miriam Basart

The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 19, Number 1.

Center for Inquiry–Florida, held its inaugural conference on February 7–9, 2003, at the Radisson Hotel in Pinellas Park, Florida. It was indeed an history-making event, hosting speakers from near and far away places such as Australia and New Zealand. Each speaker gave a fresh and stimulating lecture.

The weekend provided camaraderie and chances for new contacts with likeminded people. The speakers were first class in their knowledge and entertainment value. Many gave audio/visual presentations while others simply used a few notes.

Paul Kurtz, chairman of the parent CFI–International in Amherst, New York, spoke of current world affairs. Then later in the day he gave the audience a chance to support CFI–Florida with contributions and showed a short movie showcasing the work of Dr. Kurtz and staff at the CFI Centers.

The topics of the other speakers ranged from Deborah Roffman who spoke about correct sex education for children to Tampa Bay Skeptics President Gary Posner, who gave a good PowerPoint-assisted explanation of how even the police can be hooked into believing the so-called fact-finding powers of a psychic. Richard Lead from Australia added humor and sadness with his animated talk of how upscale scam artists with fancy office addresses can separate gullible people and their money as easily as the wide-shouldered, moustached con artists depicted in films.

Throughout the meeting rooms the work of St. Petersburg Times and Free Inquiry cartoonist Don Addis was displayed on easels. Don told me that he attends the newsroom meetings every morning in order to produce topical political cartoons.

The new CFI–Florida intends to operate a faith-free community center in order to unite people of varied economic, racial, and cultural backgrounds. As the world appears to grow smaller, it becomes necessary to incorporate scientific naturalism through education, dialogue, and communal cooperation.

Its staff includes Toni Van Pelt, executive director, and Andrea Steele, who, along with Jan Loeb Eisler as chair will join the other Centers for Inquiry in Amherst New York; Los Angeles, California; and Metro New York. They will follow the vision to educate, serve, and provide enrichment through activities such as Camp Inquiry for children.

The goals of the camp are to help children develop objective skills in reason. Andrea Steele is leading CFI’s pilot program, Families in Reason.

Among other regularly planned events, the Center will support Secular Sobriety meetings, African Americans for Humanism, Campus Freethought Alliance groups, Ethics in the Evening, discussion groups, and a speaker series.  

Miriam Basart has been a member of the Rocky Mountain Skeptics and Tampa Bay Skeptics, and is a CFI–Florida founding member.

Magician Robert Steiner
Magician Bob Steiner (standing) entertains conference attendees Miriam Basart (left) and Nat Owen (right) with a magic trick at the Friday evening banquet.

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This page was last updated 12/04/2003

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