Robyn Blumner

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Robyn Blumner
Robyn Blumner Photo (cropped).jpg
Born (1961-05-14) May 14, 1961 (age 58)
New York City
Alma materCornell University
New York University School of Law
OccupationJournalist, author, president and CEO at Center for Inquiry
Known forCenter For Inquiry
Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
American Civil Liberties Union

Robyn Ellen Blumner (born 1961) is a journalist, civil rights expert[1] and the current president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the secular educational organization Center for Inquiry (CFI) and executive director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. She holds a law degree and worked for several years as director of local affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union advocating for civil liberties and civil rights before becoming a newspaper columnist and editorial writer in Florida.

Early life[edit]

Blumner was born May 14, 1961[2] in Queens, New York City. Her parents were teachers and politically active union members, her mother being a registered Democrat, her father being an independent voter who occasionally voted Republican.[3] Her grandmother had been awarded a law degree but had not practised, as women in those days were unable to obtain an apprenticeship to practice law.[3]

Both her parents were Jewish, with her father actively practising. In an interview with the Richard Dawkins Foundation she states that she began questioning religion around age 11 and stopped attending Hebrew school and did not have Bat Mitzvah. Nevertheless she acknowledges a shared Jewish identity and said, “A belief in god is not essential to being Jewish. Humanist values were far more important than religious practice to Jewish identity.”[4]

She was raised in Glen Cove, Long Island and became interested in politics from a young age, leafleting for Senator George McGovern during his 1972 presidential campaign and organizing the Young Democrats while at school. In 1982 she was awarded a BA in Industrial and labor relations from Cornell University. From there she went to New York University School of Law and in 1985 completed a law degree.[2] While studying for her law degree she began working for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and the Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority where she became assistant director of labor-management relations.[3]

Around the same time Blumner first became active as a volunteer in the American Civil Liberties Union where she became absorbed by The Reproductive Freedom Project and soon decided that civil liberties was a field she wanted to pursue.[3]


Civil liberties[edit]

From 1987 Blumner held the position of executive director at the American Civil Liberties Union In Utah[5] where she frequently acted as spokesperson on topics such as freedom of speech (including for white supremacists such as Aryan Nations)[6] and abortion rights.[7]

From 1989[7] she was director of the ACLU for Florida[8] where she campaigned on various civil liberties issues such as reproductive rights, right to demonstrate, First Amendment rights and sexual discrimination.[7] That organization gave her the Gardner W. Beckett, Jr. Civil Liberties Award in 2001 and the Irene Miller Vigilance in Journalism Award in 2010 to honor her work.[9]

Controversially while with the ACLU, Blumner stated she is against affirmative action (also referred to as positive discrimination), saying “I can no longer sit silently while my cohorts defend a discriminatory policy that favors groups of people solely on their gender, skin color or national origin...An advantage granted me due to my sex demeans my individuality, reducing me to a walking immutable characteristic.”[7]


From 1998 to 2014 Blumner was an opinion writer for Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times), was syndicated in papers across the country[10] and is described as a columnist and editorial writer.[11] In 2012 Blumner, along with John Hill, Joni James and Tim Nickens, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing for their work at the Tampa Bay Times in conducting an extensive investigation of a state governor and the effects of his inexperience on the state.[12]

Blumner is an author and contributor to several publications including Center for Inquiry in association with the Council for Secular Humanism[13] and Time magazine[14] in her capacity as CEO and president of CFI, and for her experience in civil liberties. She has contributed essays and forewords to several published works by other authors.[13]

From 2008-2009 she was also a regular contributor to Huffington Post.[11]

Science education and secularism[edit]

Blumner speaking at CSICon in 2017

In 2004 Blumner was awarded the Emperor Has No Clothes Award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which describes it as an “award celebrating ‘plain speaking’ on the shortcomings of religion by public figures.”[15]

In February 2014 Blumner joined the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS) as executive director, replacing interim director Edwina Rogers who in 2013 had been director of the Secular Coalition for America when it and RDFRS formed a partnership.[16]

In 2016, following the merger of the RDFRS with the Center for Inquiry, Blumner took over from Ronald A. Lindsay as CEO and president of CFI,[17] a position which Hemant Mehta speculated would make her “one of the most powerful women in the world of organized atheism.”[17]

Blumner regularly speaks at science education, secular and atheist conferences including CSICon,[18] Reason Rally,[19] Apostacon[20] and DLD.[21]

In 2016 Blumner, as president of the Center for Inquiry, championed a new global initiative called Secular Rescue which aims to protect and provide emergency support to non-believers, atheists and apostates, if necessary giving them an escape route from violence and death threats as well as diplomatic and legal assistance. "It’s really an underground railroad of sorts for non-believers in countries where simply expressing doubt about religious belief is a criminal offense or where it may lead to grave physical harm." [22]Blumner addressed the 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on September 20, 2017 following a surge in discrimination against atheists in Malaysia, bringing pressure to bear on the issue of freedom of conscience. As of January 2018, Secular Rescue claims to have provided emergency aid to 30 individuals, including PEN Pinter Prize winning writer Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Blumner describes herself as an atheist,[24] a secularist and a liberal.[4] She is married and lives in Washington DC.[10]


  1. ^ Dench, Geoff; Giles, Robert; Hentoff, Nat (1999). What's Fair?: The Problem of Equity in Journalism. Routledge. ISBN 0765806169. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b Wroblewski, Eleanor. "Freethought of the Day". Freedom From Religion Foundation. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Sillitoe, Linda (1996). Friendly Fire: The ACLU in Utah. Signature Books. ISBN 1560850760. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Secular VIP of the Week: Robyn Blumner". Richard Dawkins Foundation. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  5. ^ "American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Utah records, 1957-1994". Orbis Cascade. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  6. ^ Robbins, William. "'Aryan Nations Hour' Mixes God and Hate in Utah". New York Times. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d Hentoff, Nat. "A JOYOUSLY INDEPENDENT CIVIL LIBERTARIAN". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  8. ^ "Chiles questions whether curfew can be enforced". Orlando Sentinel. February 15, 1994. p. 38. Retrieved 24 April 2018 – via Free to read
  9. ^ "Annual Dinner and Award Recipients". ACLU of Florida. July 1, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Blumner, Robyn E. "Blumner: Thanks for reading; it has been an honor". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Author bio". Huffington Post. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  12. ^ "The Pulitzer Prizes". Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Robyn Blumner, author". World Cat. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  14. ^ Blumner, Robyn; Dawkins, Richard. "Atheists Aren't the Problem, Christian Intolerance Is the Problem". Time Magazine. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  15. ^ "Emperor Has No Clothes Award". Freedom From Religion Foundation. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  16. ^ Anderson Youngblood, Lauren. "Dawkins Foundation Announces Robyn Blumner as New Executive Director". Secular Coalition for America. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  17. ^ a b Winston, Kimberley. "'Royal wedding' of atheist group, Richard Dawkins Foundation launches woman to top post". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  18. ^ Frazier, Kendrick. "CSICON Las Vegas 2017". Skeptical Inquirer. CSI. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  19. ^ "Robyn Blumner at Reason Rally 2016". Reason Rally Coalition. Youtube. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  20. ^ "Robyn Blumner and Stephanie Guttormson at Apostacon 2015". Apostacon. Youtube. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  21. ^ "Robyn Blumner". DLD. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  22. ^ Brayton, Ed. "Secular Rescue: The Underground Railroad for Atheists". Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  23. ^ Robson, David. "The 'Underground Railroad' To Save Atheists". The Atlantic. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  24. ^ Blumner, Robyn E. (8 August 2004). "I'm an atheist - so what?". St. Petersburg Times. p. 126. Retrieved 27 April 2018 – via Free to read

External links[edit]