***Update***: American Atheists has issued this statement corroborating the reporting below.
American Atheists announced today that President David Silverman has been suspended until further notice. A leader in the organization forwarded a letter that will be sent out to members later this afternoon.
The reason? None was given.
The board said only that a complaint was received Saturday night, an independent investigation is now being conducted, Silverman has “pledged his full cooperation,” and he’s been placed on leave until the investigation is complete.
The email added:
We are committed to transparency and openness about this process and will release more information as it becomes available.
The specifics are obviously (and frustratingly) not included. We don’t know if this is related to finances, harassment, or something else.
Silverman has been the President of American Atheists since 2010, and has been employed by the group since 2004 when he became their National Spokesperson. For a few years, when atheist billboards were making headlines across the country, Silverman made several appearances on FOX News, one of which was forever immortalized in a meme. He’s also the author of the book Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World in which he made his case for “firebrand” activism.
Give his public presence over the past decade, Silverman is arguably the highest profile atheist currently running an atheist organization.
On a personal note, this is disturbing news in part because we don’t know the specifics of the allegations (and critics will inevitably use that to their advantage) and in part because I’ve known Dave in a professional context for about 15 years and think the world of him.
I sincerely hope the investigation comes up empty.