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?