A source from the Lawyers Secular Society (LSS) has given me the No case document given to LSS members before they voted on whether to take part in the Mohammed Cartoon event, which takes place next month in London. Unpublished till now, I reproduce the document at the bottom of this post. The source also makes a sensational claim: that their secretary, Charlie Klendjian, originally made the unilateral decision for the LSS to support the Mohammed Cartoon exhibition. It was only when other members conveyed their displeasure, that the matter was then put to a vote of the membership.
This is in stark contrast to the post by Klendjian, defending the decision to share a platform with Geert Wilders and Paul Weston at the event:
“Being a decent bunch of lawyers who respect the rule of law, the LSS’s decision was put to a democratic vote of the whole membership. The membership voted in favour of the LSS speaking at the event”.
My source remarks:
“Unfortunately for Mr Klendjian the reality of what happened is somewhat different. Mr Klendjian actually decided that the LSS was going to take part in the event without any of its members being consulted. This subsequently led to some hasty backtracking when some LSS members conveyed their displeasure.
The fact of the matter was that LSS members were only given an opportunity to vote on an event for which its Secretary had already decided the LSS was going to be a part of. And this event was already being widely advertised with the LSS’s slogan. Call me stupid but that does not seem to be very democratic to me. In fact it seems no different from the ‘sham elections’ that take place across the world in which the outcome has already been pre-determined.”
I have no doubt that Klendjian wanted to show his support for Anne Marie Waters and her event. But the claim is Klendjian had planned to do so using the LSS without asking for a vote. That had to be requested from him, by other members.
Since his LSS post on July 30th 2015 defending sharing a platform, Klendjian has withdrawn from speaking at the event citing “personal reasons.” On August 2nd the LSS blog revealed the news, stating “The LSS is still happy to fully support the event and to be publicly associated with it. In fact, the LSS is currently making every effort to send a replacement speaker.”
As of August 12th, we still await finding out who this replacement speaker is, that wants to share a platform.
The No Case Document
I have seen the documents that were given to LSS members to inform their decision for the vote. This included both a yes case for sharing a platform at the event (later revamped into the July 30th post on the LSS site) and a no case which dissented. Lastly, it provided advice on how No voters could respond to a Yes vote being in the majority.
Reassurance was given to No voters:
Almost two weeks after the post in favour of sharing a platform, there has been no dissent blog post on the LSS site. Does no one want to write one? Have no voters resigned from the LSS in protest? Why was the no case not published, to show there was “internal disagreement”? There is another possibility why no other post has occurred – that a particular LSS member may have been so outraged at the No case document sent to members, that a dissent, or posting the no case document, was never likely to be put on the LSS blog. They may have made their displeasure known to the Secretary.
The LSS member I speak of is:
Anne Marie Waters – the founder of Sharia Watch UK and the organiser of the Mohammed Cartoon Event.
Whatever the reason for not publishing a dissent or the no case document, in the interest of people knowing that there were objections to taking part voiced within the LSS, I reproduce below the No case for not sharing a platform, as given to LSS members.
The arguments are compelling, and draw the distinction between free speech and sharing a solidarity platform with the far right.
Update 13 August 2015
Charlie Klendjian this morning sent me an email reply about the above blog post. I appreciate their quick reply.
I wish to correct the claim in your blog post that the members “forced” a vote. They didn’t – a vote was my suggestion.
The LSS is a modestly-sized organisation and I am the only office-holder. A key part of our operating model is to remain agile and “get things done”, but with regular meetings and exchange of ideas so that I can take the pulse of the membership and ensure the actions of the LSS broadly reflect the wishes of the membership. This operating model has served the LSS very well. Voting on every single thing we do is not a practical course of action for the LSS and nor, I imagine, for other organisations of a similar size and structure to ours.
After I agreed to speak alongside Geert Wilders, three LSS members expressed concern. One of them resigned and in any case had not been an active member for some time, especially since leaving the UK.
I had detailed and friendly conversations with the other two members, who I shall call X and Y, and we discussed our respective positions very openly, calmly and amicably. The key message I wish to convey to you and your readers is that (a) it was me that suggested opening up the decision to a vote of the membership, and (b) X and Y were both perfectly happy to proceed on that basis.
It was also my own judgement that a vote might in any case be sensible because after I agreed to speak at the event, Paul Weston of Liberty GB was added to the speakers list. All things considered, I was comfortable with that, as you can see from my blog post on the LSS website. However, I thought some members might be prepared for the LSS to share a platform with Wilders, but not Weston. A vote seemed a sensible idea all round.
I have a good idea who your “source” is and I will call them X.
Although X was perfectly happy with my suggestion of opening up the decision to a vote of the membership, X then resigned from the LSS before voting even opened, and so didn’t even vote in the decision. As a courtesy to X, though, and because I wanted to remain on good terms with X, I shared the full internal LSS document with X (which naturally included the No case written by X and Y). It appears that X has subsequently repaid that courtesy by sharing the full internal LSS document with you.
So yes, the decision was initially mine, but this was fully in keeping with the operational model of the LSS that members are happy with. It was then my decision to open up that decision to a vote of the membership, albeit prompted by the concerns of a very small number of members – these are hardly the actions of a swivel-eyed dictator. Similarly, my suggestion to the members of a blog post for the No case, appearing on the LSS website, was hardly the actions of a megalomaniac who wishes to crush and silence internal dissent. I thought that might be a good way of ensuring civility despite differences. Unfortunately it appears that X isn’t too concerned with maintaining civility.
In fact a number of No voters have specifically thanked me for deciding to open up this decision to a vote, and for setting up such a thorough and fair process in a very short time. Having seen the internal LSS document, I imagine you will agree that it was thorough and fair (but I would ask you not to put any more of it in the public domain as it is a confidential internal LSS document). Having been involved with other similar-sized secularist organisations in the past, I don’t recall ever being given any input by way of a vote when there was a difficult issue. It has been very much a case of “my way or the highway”.
The result of the membership vote was a Yes, and sadly X clearly didn’t feel strongly enough about the direction of the LSS to remain a member long enough to cast a vote.
Perhaps the internal workings of the LSS will be fascinating to you and your readers. However, my main concern is challenging murderous blasphemous codes. The security consequences of being one of only three people in the UK publicly associated with this event have been rather awful. Perhaps people might reflect, occasionally, on the dangers involved.
I hope you will be kind enough to publish this email in full, as an update to your blog post (but please don’t publish my email address).
And by the way, the organisation is called the “Lawyers’ Secular Society”, not the “Law Secular Society” as you state in your post.
The central point of what my source says: only after members had expressed their concern, was a vote then suggested, still holds. There is no response as to why a dissent was never published on the LSS site. This was a central reason I believe that the No case document was shared with me, so that people could read and know how the No case was put to LSS members.
I have corrected Law Secular Society to Lawyers Secular Society in text – you have me there.
I do feel for Charlie and those involved with the event for the security concern, as organisers I cannot begin to imagine the stress they are going through – but that does not mean sharing a platform with the far right should not be scrutinised. I remember the President of the Atheist Alliance International asking me if a conference I was volunteering at should go ahead with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, because of bomb threats. My reply was that we could not be intimidated into not hearing things others disagreed with, or not having a particular guest speaker.
I can only repeat what I have written in previous posts regarding the event. It should go ahead even if Paul Weston still is platformed, and acts of violence or disturbance should not be tolerated.
I have been to enough events where my life was potentially in danger without needing to be lectured to on that score. I will defend the right of bigots to gather freely, discuss what they want, to freely associate with others who might not be bigots, and for all to go home safely. Do not expect me to join the far right on a solidarity platform on free speech, when they are opposed to free speech. More fool anyone else that does, and let them show their idiocy when they claim that for free speech they can work with those that are against free speech. [Countering Extremism and extreme Responses – includes my response to LSS blog post]
I hope that Anne Marie Waters enjoys her event, and the attempts to have it banned do not occur. Any threat of violence or disturbance, as there was with the secular conference last year, needs to be condemned without hesitation. The event should go ahead. [Anne Marie Is No Bridge Over Troubled Waters]
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