Last week, I posted about several concerns I had regarding the group We Are Atheism. They misled donors about their non-profit status, collected tens of thousands of dollars in the aftermath of tragedies to help victims and then redirected some of that money to individuals who had no connection to the events, and lacked the sort of accountability you’d expect from a non-profit group.
We Are Atheism’s President Lee Moore issued a response to my post earlier this week.
Since then, I’ve heard from several people involved with We Are Atheism (past and present), including four former board members who wanted to issue a formal statement to explain their own experiences with the organization.
Why bother? They told me they were concerned that the WAA board is making the same mistakes it had in the past in regards to co-founder Amanda Brown‘s behavior.
Brian Fields, one of the former board members, said:
I personally had no knowledge of what happened previously, and it seems to me that any reasonable board would take all of this behavior into account in deciding what to do going forward. Given that they don’t appear to be doing so, I believe that this statement may help put public pressure on We Are Atheism to get them to do what’s necessary to fix things.
With those board members’ permission, I’m publishing their statement below (with minor edits for clarity):
In June 2014, Brian Fields, EllenBeth Wachs, Shayrah Moran and Bridgett Crutchfield were asked to serve as board members for We Are Atheism. In that time, we worked very hard to help prepare the organization for the expected upcoming 501(c)(3) approval.
As part of this preparation, all four board members worked with the rest of the board in various capacities to provide their expertise to the organization. During that time concerning behaviors were observed.
- The bank account for the soon-to-be nonprofit was held in one person’s name: Amanda Brown. Brian was asked around September to serve as treasurer (by legal vote of the board of directors). In an attempt to get a handle on the expenses, he asked for copies of the books for the organization. The only thing he received were passwords to a web login for Amanda’s personal accounts as well as an account for We Are Atheism, and to a PayPal account. No other books or list of financial categorizations was available. It was pointed out to Amanda that this was not going to work for a non-profit, and that we needed to set up a separate, corporate account and start using proper books to track our financials.
- Several decisions were made solely by Amanda Brown, and attempts at questioning those decision were met by resistance from Amanda. We were told that We Are Atheism was her organization, and that “these are the rules.” Amongst those rules was a requirement that we use Adam Brown for all of our website and design work (attempts to open this up for bid were met with derision and anger on Amanda’s part). We questioned expending money to travel to certain conferences, when we weren’t receiving donations or exposure to match the investment. We were expected (without question) to approve these expenses for her and Adam Brown who was not even a board member. In fact, the plans were made and presented to the board before we had voted on them.
- Shayrah Moran was unavailable to attend certain board meetings due to personal reasons. The board decided that we would hold her position open for her, but no alternative was decided on for note-taking.
This was following several meetings where outbursts from Amanda were common when questioned on previous actions or to review corporate records. The final straw was a board meeting around October 2nd  when she yelled at the entire board for “not helping her,” claiming that she was “the only one working” and stormed out of the meeting. This tantrum occurred after being questioned about the financial report that was totally void of detail and the expenses for that upcoming conference, and other, already related, concerns.
After that meeting the remaining board members informally met and decided that it would be appropriate to suggest that Amanda resign rather than formally require her to resign. [Vice President at the time] Lee Moore approached Amanda about it to suggest she resign. Days later, she responded.
This is the communication we received from Amanda on October 6, 2014:
Dear Acting WAA Board of Directors,
First I want to personally apologize for what happened at the last board meeting. My outburst was unprofessional and should’ve been handled differently. I was justified in my frustration with the current pace of the board but not in how I handled my reaction. But we can’t change what happened all we can do is move forward. I have listened to the concerns regarding my leadership of We Are Atheism and have come to the conclusion that the current board cannot exist as it stands. When someone thinks the founder of an organization should be removed for reasonable issues it should be brought before all parties concerned. I understand why this hasn’t happened yet but due to what has happened I contacted not only the lawyer who helped draft our 501c3 status but also has been kept on retainer for instances like what has happened.
After speaking with the lawyer this is the proper procedure for what needs to happen next to ensure the board functions properly from here on out.
1. The current board of 8 does not have any legal standing to make any decisions regarding the advancement of We Are Atheism. Sorry, but unfortunately because the bylaws were never agreed upon as well as the original 5 never went through the proper procedure for resignation/removal of the board members along with the original 5 never signing the bylaws all legal matters revert to the original incorporation which is in my name. In order for us to remain compliant with our 501c3 status the original 5 must approve the bylaws, sign them and have it recorded in the meeting minutes that the action occurred.
2. The bylaws have been rewritten to make the board consist of only 5 members. So not all 8 of us will be returning to continue the advancement of the organization
3. All Board members AFTER the original 5 approve the bylaws will not be allowed to serve on any other board for any other atheist organization. Your sole focus should be the advancement of the mission of We Are Atheism. This will fall under the conflict of interest document that has been revised and will be signed by the original 5.
4. All Board members MUST commit 5-7 hours each week to the advancement of WAA through their specific duties as well as post on social media when applicable
5. I cannot be removed from the board of directors at any time, for any reason, only my resignation may be approved by a super majority of the board.
6. All Board meetings will be video taped or audio recorded and saved for documentation and reference
I think that is all the changes that are being made. I appreciate all of the help each one of you has given for the past few months. If you would like to remain on the board or be considered for the 3 open positions please message me personally via facebook, email, or text. It must be in written form. This is not because any of you have done anything wrong or ill advised. I know this is the proper way to proceed to ensure the success of the organization. If you have any questions or issues please comment below or respond via reply all to the email.
Again, Thank you so much for all you have done to get WAA where we are now. You will not be forgotten and have been appreciated for what you have done. But moving forward, only those who are solely dedicated to the mission and advancement of WAA need to be involved.
Thanks, Amanda Brown
This was after the board worked on and voted to adopt an entirely different set of bylaws that did not include such clauses.
Brian resigned first, immediately after receiving the above letter:
I want to be clear It is my opinion that you are wrong on several of these points, but I have no desire to quibble about it. So to cover my own responsibilities:
I hereby resign from the Treasurer office and any board of director position that I may hold with We Are Atheism under the laws in which the organization is incorporated, effective immediately. I have no desire to get involved in any protracted battle over control of the organization, nor do I wish Amanda or anyone else on the board ill will. I do not have the time to devote to the organization, whether it is to build up the mission or to make sure that we are following the law when it comes to our incorporation or following 501(c)3 regulations. Additionally, I do serve on the board of one other organization, am in the process of starting another, but even still it is not the role of the president to declare organization policy by fiat.
I do have some organization property in my possession. I have sold one cup out of the property, and I am happy to send the proceeds of those sales and any other sales should the organization wish me to do so. I’m also happy to send it back to any recognized representative of WAA, at WAA’s expense. Please let me know how you wish me to resolve that.
Thank you all for what you have done for WAA, and I wish you all the best.
Nate Phelps resigned immediately as well:
Please accept this as my formal resignation from the Board.
Bridgett Crutchfield resigned in the internal facebook group with:
I resign effective immediately.
Please remove me from the distribution list, thanks.
EllenBeth Wachs resigned in Facebook group as well and asked Amanda to not use her legal work product for We Are Atheism.
Later, Shayrah Moran resigned, concerned that Amanda was still on the board after it was promised that Amanda’s role would be phased out during the first round of resignations.
After the resignations, it is our understanding that Lee Moore took over as President and helped find a new board to try and work on the issues we outlined from our time on the board. There’s a new bank account set up, and we trust that he has the best intentions in trying to right the ship for We Are Atheism. But we too have grave concerns about the past and think that the only reasonable way forward is for a Certified Public Accountant to review the records from the corporation’s history and ensure that the community’s trust is not irrevocably broken. We are not certain how We Are Atheism can hope to maintain credibility with Amanda still on the board. Whether mistakes were made or, as we hope not, worse issues happened, we feel that there’s a huge trust gap remaining while she remains involved in corporate decisions.
By recent statements we have read, it saddens us that we are certain that Amanda has not accepted responsibility for her missteps in managing the finances of the organization since it was formed (officially) in May of 2013. We hope that a full accounting of the books is forthcoming. We are even more disturbed to find out that prior to May of 2013, Amanda Brown fundraised for We Are Atheism promoting it as a 501(c)(3) but actually only held a sole proprietorship for-profit business that was Amanda Brown [doing business as] “We Are Atheism.” We hope that Amanda will be public about exactly how that money she raised was spent, as well as demonstrate that the appropriate legal obligations were met as far as reporting to government agencies such as the IRS.
Bridgett ‘Bria’ Crutchfield
Lee Moore, the current President of We Are Atheism, sent me a reply to this statement (via email):
I will not dispute the statement issued by these former board members of We Are Atheism. I consider them all friends and I count them among the very best of people I have ever had the privilege to work with. Watching them resign was quite disheartening, but I understood their reasons. I stayed the course because of the potential for our organization as far as what it has done and can continue to do to not only bring aid to those in need of it, but for the hope it has given and can still give to so many who have used it to come out publicly and discover that they were not alone.
Amanda Brown was responsible for so many of the amazing things We Are Atheism has accomplished over the years. She stepped down from her role as our President over all of this and I was elected to replace her. I have been working to correct our problems ever since and have insisted upon full financial transparency.
To further that end and to set the record straight I have secured the services of an independent tax firm, complete with CPA and tax attorney on staff, who will settle and correct the WAA books from 2011-2015. The tax firm has my permission to make their report public upon completion. Like any good Atheist, I will follow where the evidence takes me and I hope you will do the same.
President, We Are Atheism