An Atheist in Lynchburg Has a Dilemma

Do you have any advice for this atheist reader?

I’m an atheist living in Lynchburg, Virginia: Home to the Falwells, Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church. Last year, I went (as a huge, huge, huge favor) with my mother to the church’s Christmas Show. Towards the end they started their pitch about how the proceeds from ticket sales goes towards the Liberty Godparent Home. It was the first time I’d heard of the program, and it was hard to understand what exactly it was about through all of the marketing/Christ speak. Eventually I heard the words “women struggling with an unplanned pregnancy and a difficult choice” and a pit formed in my stomach and I tuned out everything else (being a staunch pro-choice advocate). I wanted to leave immediately, but I’m chicken and love my mother. I was just grateful we’d managed to get free tickets.

I assumed that the Godparent home was a place for unwed soon-to-be mothers struggling with a “difficult choice” to come and be indoctrinated and kept from having an abortion.

Fast forward to this year, and my girlfriend (an agnostic atheist with a pro-choice stance who went with me last year to the Christmas show) mentioned that she didn’t want to go again this year, even though it went to “a good cause.”

You can imagine my horror, hearing that coming from her… but it turns out she’s just a better listener than I am.

In reality, it turns out the Godparent Home is actually a place for women to go and receive full support while they decide whether to keep the child OR give it up for ADOPTION. THAT was the choice they were referring to, not an abortion stance.

Now, to my dilemma: Although I support a woman’s right to choose, I also feel that more should be done to support single women with an unplanned pregnancy who cannot afford a child. But I also don’t want them pressured to marry the father (something I fear the Godparent Home may do, but I don’t know, the Web site isn’t very complete.) On the other hand, I like to think locally and try to aim charitable contributions to my immediate area.

Lastly, and on the biggest hand of all, I find the actions and belief systems of the Falwells to be reprehensible and hate the idea of contributing to an organization on the wrong side of nearly everything I stand for. Based on the actions of the church (TRBC) I don’t feel as though I can trust them to use any money I might donate as I would wish.

But I don’t know of any secular organizations locally that provide support for unexpected pregnancies with the option of adoption.

What should I do? I’m feeling charitable with the state of the economy the way it is, but I feel nauseous supporting an organization that is so closely tied to something that I hate.

Any ideas?


  • Matt

    Like the letter-writer, the thought of giving money to organizations that promote hateful ideas, regardless of their other good works, makes me shudder. If there isn’t an organization in the area that does what LW wants, why not create one? Sure, it’s hard work to get started, but why not use the money in a way you know you want it used?

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    The Virginia Department of Health funds a Program that has several chapters throughout the state of Virginia. It is called the Resource Mothers program. This program supports pregnant and parenting teens, providing information, transportation to medical services and prenatal care, support for continuing education and the prevention of repeat pregnancies. These programs are run by secular non-profit agencies. Although they do get funding from the VDH, they can always use additional funds to buy supplies (diapers, baby clothes, etc.). The agency in Lynchburg is:

    Alliance for Families and Children
    Contact: Melissa Johnson
    Tel: (434) 845-5944, ext. 262

    2600 Memorial Ave., Suite 201
    Lynchburg, Virginia 24501
    Fax: (434) 845-3633
    email: Melissa@allianceva.org

  • The Vicar

    Step one should be “find out more”. Maybe the letter is misleading, but it sounds very much like the writer doesn’t really know whether LGH is incompatible with his politics or not.

    Sure, the Falwells were and are horrible human beings, but the knee-jerk “I will do the opposite of what they want” reaction is foolish. It means you’re letting the Falwells have control over your actions. Instead, find out more about what’s going on first, and then decide, without reference to whether the organization is supported — or even run — by the Falwells or not.

  • Bill

    I am theist and I think abortion is a very bad thing but I am pro-choice – staunchly so.

    I have no place in my heart for people who hate abortion and then don’t do anything to try to deal with the real issue. Overturning Roe is not the answer.

    I don’t know much about the LGH, but I do know that Dr. Falwell always supported programs that open-mindedly (seriously!) supported women with unwanted pregnancies. Say what you want about the guy (and I’ve said plenty of bad things about him) but he really did have a habit of doing something about the issues. Yes, I am sure he wanted Roe overturned too, but he did more than just sit back and try to criminalize abortion. In the meantime, he was doing something tangible to help.

    While I vehemently disagree with the Falwells on almost every issue, they are not horrible people.

    I actually attended LU and I was a bit of an outcast because of my theology and politics. I remember fighting with Jonathan Falwell over the 1988 presidential primaries. Nothing drives me nuts more than irrational people, but that’s another story isn’t it.

    Now to the writers dilemma. If the funds are being used solely in support of the LGH and our Lynchburg atheist is in support of the program at LGH, then I would say to support the local program. If the funds, on the other hand, support other programs; then I think I would find another place to contribute.

  • Gullwatcher

    Move?

  • Autumn

    I now live in Charlottesville, VA but grew up in Lynchburg and definitely understand his pain.

    One organization that does exactly what he is looking for is Planned Parenthood. The organization in Lynchburg actually was the first of the chapters to start an adoption assistance program. They also provide sex education and pregnancy assistance for wed or unwed parents.

    They do accept donations and I know the Lynchburg chapter is looking for volunteers for various advocacy activities. I volunteer for the one here in Charlottesville and I love it. Check out this site on how you can get involved: http://www.pphsinc.org/advocacy/index.html

    Good luck!

  • Kelly

    I see someone else already responded with this, but I wanted to second the Planned Parenthood suggestion.

  • http://www.doublesingledouble.com Amanda

    I don’t really understand the writer’s issue. Is that s/he is driven to help single women but can only find THIS group to donate to? S/he would consider donating money to a group that s/he finds “reprehensible?”

    Planned Parenthood is a wonderful organization with lots of local offices.

  • Pseudonym

    I’m with Amanda on this one. There’s more than one charity, even in Lynchburg. Look around and find another one, perhaps even one with a relatively low profile who might need the money more than something backed by the Falwells.

  • http://www.atheistactivist.org Barry McGowan

    Start a secular equivalent to this cause or find another worthy secular cause. Never send secular money to religious organizations.

  • http://ransomedhome.com Step

    Seems to be fairly unanimous here, from all points of view. I’m a Christian and also can’t stand Falwell.

    Either way, you need to know more before you give to charities about what you’re giving for, and don’t give here if it doesn’t align with your beliefs – but don’t use that to let yourself off the hook for doing something you know you should/want to give.


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