"Center for Inquiry opens on the downtown canal

What do Christopher Reeves, Clara Barton, Katharine Hepburn and Thomas Jefferson have in common? Based on evidence as expressed in their writings and speeches, these individuals were Freethinkers, or, simply put, those who don’t take things at face value and want evidence. Honoring these icons and many others is the Center for Inquiry of Indiana, which proudly displays their images just inside the entrance of its new office/meeting space located on the downtown canal.

Located at 350 Canal Walk, Suite A, just north of the Indiana Historical Society, the CFI is a local branch of Center For Inquiry Transactional and is a nonprofit 501 (c) 3 organization. According to its mission, CFI “encourages evidenced based inquiry into science, pseudoscience, medicine and health, religion, ethics and society. Through education, research, publishing and social services, it seeks to present affirmative alternatives based on scientific naturalism.”

Open since April 1, the center is headed by Executive Director Reba Boyd Wooden, a former public school teacher, who started the local organization as Humanist Friendship Group of Central Indiana in 1990, which transitioned into Center for Inquiry Community of Indiana in 2005. Now with the opening of the center, the local organization has reached a new milestone.

CFI consists of members and supporters who are rationalists, skeptics and humanists. It sponsors events, lectures and educational programs. It also draws upon volunteers who are enthusiastic about its agenda and want to take part in the movement. Steve Duer, the most active volunteer at the local center, says he gains personal satisfaction from being involved with CFI. “I like to help get truth out there — get people to think about information they’re fed. Dig into it rather than accept authority blindly. I want to help spread scientific thinking, method, encourage more ethical behavior and more cooperation.”

The group also includes those who are atheists and agnostics, a situation that has caused some controversy for an organization that prides itself on being inclusive. The stereotyping of all CFI members as atheists or anti-religious is a misnomer and a pet peeve of Wooden, who says, “We are much broader than the religion part. However, we do want people to have a choice.”

With purposes that include socialization opportunities and education, CFI also focuses on activism and hopes to have more impact on issues it cares about. It encourages its members to write letters to newspapers and legislators and it collaborates with other organizations such as the Health Access and Privacy Alliance (HAPA).

Upholding humanist values that include equality and justice, CFI most recently allied with Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and Indiana Equality to help successfully defeat the SJR 7 amendment to ban gay marriage in Indiana.

It has also spoken out against what they believe is special preference granted by the state to those who purchase “In God We Trust” license plates and feel it compromises separation between church and state.

Hoping to strengthen CFI’s grass-roots emphasis, Wooden believes the center’s location will provide the organization with more visibility, plus make it more accessible for members and visitors as well as the campus of IUPUI, which has an active student group called IUPUI Freethinkers. CFI Indiana sponsored the 2006 and 2007 Darwin Day conferences at IUPUI and will continue to hold most major events on the campus.

With rooms in the center named after other famous Freethinkers such as Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Robert Green Ingersoll, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Isaac Asimov, Jonas Salk and Langston Hughes, CIF is open from 10 a.m. until dark. Social activities and discussions are held at scheduled times and are open to the public. For more information e-mail cfiindy@insightbb.com or call 317-423-0710, 317-797-5892 or go to www.centerforinquiry.net/indy



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