Home / News / Secular fundraising not good enough to help others — American Cancer Society refuses donation from Foundation Beyond Belief
Secular fundraising not good enough to help others — American Cancer Society refuses donation from Foundation Beyond Belief

Secular fundraising not good enough to help others — American Cancer Society refuses donation from Foundation Beyond Belief

The Foundation Beyond Belief offered to raise $500,000 for the American Cancer Society (ACS) in the Relay for Life, but ACS declined it.  They issued a formal statement about this today, October 13, 2011.

Humanist Todd Stiefel, whose family suffered with cancer, initiated the idea and offered to organize it, which the ACS initially met with enthusiasm.

Supposedly, it is common for an organization to reject a donation if they feel that association with the donors would result in a loss and/or negative media.  However, the ACS denies that they rejected the donation because Foundation Beyond Belief is an atheist and humanist group.  Dale McGowan, Executive Director of the Foundation Beyond Belief noted in a written statement,

Unfortunately, such policies can have the effect of reinforcing stereotypes by keeping a perceived pariah on the cultural margins. Regardless of any short-term benefits to an organization's cash flow, the maintenance of pariahs simply isn't good for the culture.


This is not the first time we have been declined by an organization we had hoped to support—it is the fourth, in fact—nor is it likely to be the last. But in each previous case, we have chosen not to talk publicly about it, preferring to focus on the more than 70 charitable organizations who have been happy and grateful to accept our partnership in alleviating suffering and injustice around the world. This time, however, the frustration became part of a public conversation.

Foundation Beyond Belief is grateful for Stieful’s and sorry for the disappointing outcome.

Michael Stone, a humanist and writer for the Examiner, feels the ACS rejected the donation based on the organization’s non-theism.

While the American Cancer Society (ACS) claims their inability to work with the Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB) has nothing to do with the Foundation's godless stance, the evidence indicates otherwise. The fact is, the ACS allows other non-profits to participate in the national relay, and the only conceivable reason for the ACS to disallow the FBB from participating is their somewhat controversial position towards religious belief.

The reaction from the atheist and humanist community, as well as others, is disbelief and anger, with the ACS Facebook site flooded with angry responses.

Stone quoted one person, who stated on Facebook that she is Christian  angered by the ACS rejecting the donation:

What kind of group that claims to be trying to cure cancer turns away donation money? You guys are idiots. You've lost a donor for life.

Way to go. Turn away a organization just because they are Atheist. Think of all the good that $500,000 could have done. Even the lives it might have saved or made easier. But as long as you don't take any of that dirty Atheist money it doesn't matter does it?

I am NOT an atheist. I am a christian. God doesn't turn anyone away. How could you turn money away? I am a mom of a child who is a Leukemia survivor.

It is truly reprehensible that any organization that purports to be about helping everyone would discriminate in who can donate based on theological belief, or lack thereof. It's sad to say, but my (apparently tainted) atheist money will not be going to your organization either.

Won't be donating to ACS ANYTIME soon. I am ready to donate to Foundation Beyond Belief however.

Cancer doesn't discriminate, so why does this cancer foundation?

That is the truth.  Cancer does not discriminate against anyone.  It does not care if one is an atheist, humanist, Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, or Muslim.  However, even Christians appear to view this rejection of money as discrimination at the expense of more than just money, but also cancer victims too.

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
  • I thought the American Cancer Society needed money. What was their reason for denying $500,000? If the reason was because it was a humanist group, the decision is reprehensible.


    • There was no report for their reason for denying the money, except they reject any claims that they denied the money because FBB is an atheist organization. You would think they would be grateful for any donations that would help them help cancer victims. IMHO, their saying, "No, we don't want your money. Because you don't believe as we do, then you can just die." All of this at the expense of others who do believe in some form of a deity and forgetting that all of us are in this fight against cancer together, because it doesn't discriminate. I found it interesting that even Xians saw this as [religious] discrimination without thought of cancer victims as a whole. Makes you wonder if 50 years ago, the ACS would have rejected money from the SCLC too.

  • Lee

    ACS didn't tell them that they couldn't participate, just that they couldn't be a national team. National teams are just companies, not non-profits.
    Non-profits and other groups, like churches, all participate at local events. FBB didn't want to be treated like everyone else, so they caused this firestorm to discredit ACS. Now instead of looking for facts and the truth, people are reading articles like this, and getting angry about the situation.
    FBB doesn't even want a team with ACS anymore and people are still saying they should take the donation.
    Check your facts.

  • colourmegone

    This is a truly despicable act by a charity that should be responsive to all cancer patients, whatever their beliefs or lack of them. It shows a deeply ingrained flaw in the American psyche.

    • I agree and I don't know if I would want to deal with them in a fund raiser because of this.

  • Without knowing more about how the American Cancer Society generates most of its fund, I can't condemn them out of hand for not taking the money from Foundation Beyond Belief.

    It can be difficult for organizations with donors from varied walks of life to straddle the line between accepting support, and endorsing a position which while perfectly valid, could offend or alienate other supporters.

    This is even more difficult in large established non-profits with entrenched cultures.

    Hopefully, future opportunities will arise that capitalize on the good will of all parties involved.

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