ACLU Rejects Atheist’s Money

***Update***: The ACLU of Mississippi has apologized to the American Humanist Association.

***Update 2***: There are some choice quotations from this whole debacle:

From the ACLU:

A staff person at the ACLU of Mississippi made an error in judgment in sending an e-mail to the American Humanist Association expressing concerns about accepting its donation and sponsorship offer. To our understanding, MSSC has not made a decision regarding the acceptance of this funding and sponsorship offer. The decision is up to MSSC. The American Humanist Association has been made aware of the error, and the ACLU of Mississippi has expressed its apologies to the association for that error and the sentiments expressed in the e-mail.

The sentiments expressed by the ACLU of Mississippi staff person in the referenced e-mail do not reflect the views of the ACLU of Mississippi or the National ACLU in any way. The ACLU remains a stalwart defender of freedom of belief and expression for all.

From the AHA:

“We accept the apology, but we feel that an apology is owed not just to us but to the people of Mississippi,” said David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association. “To suggest that the good people of Mississippi are so unenlightened that they can’t be accepting and welcoming to the goodwill of a humanist group is insulting to them, not just to us. We are confident that our involvement would have been met with warmth and Southern hospitality.”

From donor Todd Stiefel‘s Facebook page:

Hooray! The ACLU apologized to the AHA. They should have also apologized for misleading people into thinking that the AHA was making unreasonable demands. The AHA was not putting conditions on their donation, it was the ACLU that was putting a condition on accepting it. ACLU would only accept it if they could hide who the money came from, which would mean AHA would have to hide the gift from their members.

They should also apologize to the people of Mississippi and Southern Baptists for insinuating they are intolerant bigots.

The best news is that it looks like Constance and her school will get an amazing “Second Chance Prom.” Hopefully, the AHA will be one of the sponsors.

From the Secular Coalition for America:

The Secular Coalition for America has repeatedly lobbied the Obama administration for safe schools legislation that includes gay students as well as nonbelieving students. The behavior of this local school underscores the clear need for schools that are safe and welcoming environments for gay students and nonbelievers as well. More broadly, the notion that a civil liberties organization would themselves ‘tremble’ to associate with a positive, humanitarian group like the AHA, simply because they are nonbelievers, makes clear the necessity of the work of the Secular Coalition for America as it advocates for federal law that increases the visibility and respect of the nonreligious in American society.

From the ACLU of Louisiana (in an email written to members of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association (NOSHA)):

Harry, Charlotte, and the rest of NOSHA: I’m just reading the story in today’s NY Times about the ACLU of Mississippi having rejected money from the American Humanist Association for a prom for Constance McMillen. I’m shocked, embarrassed, and appalled that any ACLU entity would turn down such a generous offer from good friends to help a client with a worthy cause. This is not a reflection of the entire ACLU, certainly not the ACLU of Louisiana, and I want to assure you that we do not shy away from the word or the concept of “atheism,” or from our friends who support us in our work.

Please accept this as an apology on behalf of the ACLU of Louisiana for the actions of the ACLU of Mississippi, over which we have no control.

Remember the Mississippi high school that canceled prom because one of the students, Constance McMillen, wanted to attend with her girlfriend (and wear a tux)?

Remember how atheist Todd Stiefel donated $20,000 to the American Humanist Association so that they could help hold an alternative prom that would be inclusive of GLBT students?

Well, the ACLU is helping with the alternative prom, and they have a message for Stiefel and the AHA:

We don’t want your money.

They’re rejecting the gift.

You’ll never believe why:

“Although we support and understand organizations like yours, the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist,’” Jennifer Carr, the fund-raiser for the A.C.L.U of Mississippi, wrote in an e-mail message to Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the humanist group.

Regarding the A.C.L.U. move, Ms. Carr wrote to Mr. Speckhardt: “Our staff has been talking a lot about your donation offer and have found ourselves in a bit of a conflict. We have fears that your organization sponsoring the prom could stir up even more controversy.”

Mr. Speckhardt said he was “really shocked” to hear the gift had been rejected. “We’ve worked with the A.C.L.U. many times in the past,” he said, “so this really felt like a slap in the face to me.”

“You’d think they would have learned a lesson from the very case they’ve been working on,” [Stiefel] said. “The school board was trying to avoid a controversy by silencing a controversial minority, and now the A.C.L.U. is making the same mistake.”

The Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition (MSSC) is organizing the alternative prom and they don’t know why the ACLU is acting this way. They could certainly use the donation.

According to Matthew Sheffield, a spokesman for the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, the organization arranging the event, the A.C.L.U. of Mississippi did not have authority to decline the gift.

“We asked someone at the A.C.L.U. to assist us in handling all the donations, and that person told them we were not interested and that is not true,” he said.

First of all, why is the ACLU shying away from atheists and the word “atheist”? The ACLU, of all groups, ought to be on our side in making that term acceptable. There’s no reason to reject it on account of potential controversy. Of all the controversial issues here, that atheists want to help the situation is not the biggest one.

Secondly, there are a lot of distractions in this whole story, but ultimately, I hope Constance gets to attend prom. A prom. Her school’s being ridiculous and that’s just sad. But I held the ACLU in far higher regard. They’ve really let me down with this one.

I give money to the national ACLU. I don’t want to have to think twice before renewing my membership next time. What the Mississippi ACLU is doing may turn some progressives away from being members.

It’s not too late to rectify the mistake, though. The ACLU could accept Todd’s donation on behalf of MSSC and throw in some of their own money as a way to make amends. I’m sure everyone would appreciate that — especially the kids brave enough to attend the alternative prom.

  • http://blocraison.blogspot.com Paul Fidalgo

    This is about as ridiculous as it gets. There’s no better example of progressives’ need to coddle religion and treat atheists like pariahs than this, other than maybe the DNC’s near panic attack at the prospect of having atheists at the 2008 convention’s “interfaith” event.

  • http://spsein.blogspot.com/ Gabriel G.

    Wow… this is just disappointing. I can understand where they’re coming from, but this is bull.

    So they’ll willingly defend one minority group, but will deny donations from another minority group because the majority group might not like it?

    Isn’t the whole point of the ACLU to make sure minority groups get treated the same way as the majority group? To make sure that ALL Americans, regardless of age, sex, skin color, religion OR lack of religion, get the same rights and treatment?

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    Atheists’ are Controversial, Loose Understanding.

  • Sue

    Ridiculous. I just went to the ACLU of Mississippi website and sent the following email through the Contact option. I encourage others to ask for clarification and a reversal as well.

    “Dear ACLU of Mississippi leaders–

    I recently read a claim that I hope is false.

    On the blog “The Friendly Atheist,” Hemant Mehta reports that a recent $20,000 donation from the American Humanist Association to the Mississippi Safe School Coalition, in support of the alternative prom being coordinated in support of Constance McMillen and LGBT students, was rejected by the ACLU of Mississippi. The reasons Mehta cites for for rejection of the donation are Mississippians’s possible opposition to atheist organizations and fear of stirring up more controversy.

    Is this actually true? Is the ACLU rejecting assistance because of a group’s religious affiliation (or lack there of)? If so, I find this amazingly counter to the ideals the ACLU proposes to uphold.

    Please write back to confirm of deny this information. I sincerely hope your reply will be a denial–or that you will reverse this early decision and state that it was wrongfully made.

    Concerned,

    Sue
    Atheist and ACLU supporter”

  • Richard P.

    “the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist,”

    Way to go you guys, You got those bastards on the run.
    Ha ha ha….they tremble in terror.

    Where is your god now???? you cowards….

  • http://base8.lavenderliberal.com/index.html Buffy

    WTF?

    A facepalm won’t even do it right now. It’s time to flat-out bang my head on something.

  • Epistaxis

    What? This is outrageous! Somebody notify the… oh.

  • Jeff

    COWARDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Iason Ouabache

    The majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist,’

    They also tremble at the word “homosexual” but that doesn’t seem to be stopping you from helping Constance. WTF, man?

  • http://atheonomics.blogspot.com Richard H.

    Well done. You had me, and I approve of posting these things a few hours early.

    Edit: Wait, the NYTimes link checks out. Hm.

  • Sarah

    Great email Sue!

    “Tremble in terror” of Atheists? Really, Mississippi? I am so glad I do not live in the south.

  • Matto the Hun

    As I recall the ACLU handled a NAMBLA case. I guess we are worse than pedophiles.

    Thanks ACLU, thanks a lot.

  • J Myers

    What the Mississippi ACLU is doing may turn some progressives away from being members.

    Count me among them. I had never donated to the ACLU before, but I was planning to do so this year after hearing about the loss of their largest contributor. I was preparing to give a fairly substantial (well, for me) amount, but hey–I’m not going to force it on anyone who doesn’t want it.

    I’ll give them a few days to straighten this out, and if they don’t, I’ll find another, more deserving recipient.

  • Justin

    Hey, if they didn’t want atheist contributions, why didn’t they say so earlier?

  • Ben Isgur

    TBQH, this makes sense to me. They don’t want the media or the citizens of Mississippi painting it as a prom for gay people put on by atheists. I think they want to deal with one hated minority at a time. This situation seems like a catch-22 for the ACLU of Mississippi to me.

  • Mark Wheatley

    I donate to my local ACLU chapter, I know each chapter is an affiliate but I think most see it as one big organization and this will reflect badly on all chapters of the ACLU. Not a good deal.

  • Neon Genesis

    Didn’t the ACLU kick their own founder out of their organization because their founder was a communist? But I’m confused, is this an April Fool’s joke or is this real?

  • Ike

    I actually live in Mississippi, although not the region where this incident is occurring. I moved here to the Jackson area ten years ago and have been a open atheist for the last three. I have been very surprised at how accepting the majority of people have been of my lack of belief. This “terrified of atheist” comment is just as ignorant as the people the comment is meant to represent. I suggest that anyone who feels Mississippi is nothing but backwoods rednecks come visit for a week and see how nice and accommodating most people down here are. While ignorance, racism, and bigotry is still an issue occasionally; you might be surprised to find that it’s in the opposite direction most people think.

  • Miko

    The ACLU is also reconsidering their support of free speech. Troubling times all around.

    But one thing that they’ve still got right is absolute opposition to “preventative detention.” And make no mistake: that is the moral issue of the day, the abolitionist battle of our times. As long as they’re fighting that fight, they’ll have my support, no matter how far they fall short in other areas.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    J Myers, unless you live in Mississippi, I’m not sure this should affect your donation decision. The national ACLU doesn’t have control over the decisions of the Mississippi ACLU.

    On the other hand, I will point out that the ACLU spends a fairly large portion of it’s budget on fundraising – about 1/3rd. That’s not unheard of for nonprofits, but if you can shop around, you can do a little better – e.g. the Center for Constitutional Rights spends significantly less, proportional to budget, on fundraising.

  • Neon Genesis

    “But Thursday’s Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, which would enable corporations to spend freely on political causes, is forcing the ACLU to address what one internal memo describes as a “Skokie moment,” a reference to the controversy in which the organization defended the right of American Nazis to march in the Chicago suburb of Skokie. The moment is often seen as one of the acid tests of the ACLU’s willingness to stick to its First Amendment principles.”

    So, atheists are more controversial than Nazis?

  • Fastthumbs

    Being close to April 1… you gotta wonder. However, as the old saying goes, “Truth is stranger then fiction, because fiction has to make sense… Lord Byron,1823″.

    Hey wait… reviewing Christian lore, this doesn’t hold…

    ummmm????

  • http://reanhouse.blogspot.com Sarah

    I sincerely hope this is an April Fool’s joke or something innocent has been misinterpreted by someone. It seems very un-ACLU like to refuse money on those grounds. POE?

  • Claudia

    I hope this is a really, really bad April Fools joke. Otherwise the ACLU of Mississippi is an irony-free-zone.

    - School cancels a prom rather than let a gay teen attend with her date because that would be “distracting”. Distraction ensues due to their actions.

    - ACLU rejects donation from atheists for the above case because accepting atheist money would “stir up controversy”. Controversy and outrage ensues from the very people who are usually the ACLU’s natural allies.

    Seriously, when they were “talking about it” no one pointed out the raging hypocrisy involved in this decision? Do they really believe that the kind of people who “tremble in fear” at the word “atheist” (nice way to fight that stereotype ACLU!)DON’T tremble in fear at the words “GLAAD” or “PFLAG” or “Gay Straight Alliance” or “Wanda Sykes” or “Ellen Degeneres” or “Dan Savage” (gay and atheist)?

    The more I think about this, the more pissed off I am. I simply am shocked that the ACLU would choose to fight one kind of bigotry by affirming another. We’re talking about the people who represented Fred Fucking PHELPS, because they are for everyone’s rights, not just those with popular views.

    So I’m guessing we’re welcome to give them money, just as long as we take the back door, do it quietly, no need to let anyone know that “those people” are supporting them? Well fuck you too then!

    Here’s hoping they reconsider this foolish decision and apologize.

  • Claudia

    My email to the Mississippi ACLU
    To whom it may concern,

    I’m writing in regards to a recent story in the New York Times that reported that your organization had rejected a monetary gift from the American Humanist Association based on the fact that this organization is explicitly non-theistic. I’m writing in the hopes that this is some sort of mistake or your decision was distorted in the report. Otherwise I would have no choice but to conclude that your organization implictly supports bigotry towards atheists.

    It seems impossible to my mind that you would make a valiant effort to defend a girl who was discriminated against by her school under the ridiculous justification that she would “cause controversy” only to turn around and reject the sincere offers of assistance from another hated minority because it would “cause controversy”. Is the ACLU of Mississippi an irony-free zone? These people who “tremble in fear” from the word atheists also “tremble in fear” when they hear “GLAAD” or “PFLAG” and especially when they hear “ACLU”, and yet it is only the American Humanist Association that you reject. The article alludes to “conditions” placed on the donation that were unacceptable but the AHA says virtually no conditions were given. I would be very interested to know what those unacceptable conditions were.

    Surely you are aware that the non-theist community heavily overlaps with the people who usually support the ACLU? You find slapping away their offered hand something in keeping with the spirit of your organization? The non-theist community has been supportive of Constance from the start, both in our words and our wallets. Is it the position of the ACLU that atheists should not engage in these fights, or that we should do it quietly, without showing ourselves as we are, much the same way Constance was invited to go to the prom with a boy? I’m very interested on this point, as it will heavily condition my reaction the next time I get an alert to support the ACLU.

    Best regards,
    Claudia XXXX

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    This is systemic problem for many organizations with bean counters in charge. Jennifer Carr and others are doing a risk analysis weighing the potential $20000 donation against the risk of loosing other donations and concluding that their fundraising budget might be better off by rejecting that $20000 donation. What the ACLU is supposed to stand for is given only second consideration. Also, it might be the case that Jennifer is one of those people that tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist’.

  • Ron in Houston

    Maybe I’m a little wacky, but I get it on one level. If you’re working on exposing and counter acting prejudice against a particular group (in this case gays) you don’t want those efforts made more difficult by a group that brings its own set of prejudices to the table (atheists in this case.)

    While I appreciate the ridiculousness of this, on a certain level the ACLU is simply reflecting a practical reality.

  • http://helctic.wordpress.com Alex

    I’ve been having a bad nonbeliever couple of days now…this is just the condensation on the cherry on the icing on the cake. I sincerely hope this IS a bad April Fool’s Day joke. Please say it is.

  • Dan

    LESSON:

    Make sure, before you raise donations, that the charity/organization you’re raising money for, has been asked weather they’d even accept your money.

  • Freak

    @Autumnal Harvest:

    IIRC, the ACLU doesn’t apply for non-profit status.

  • mkb

    I am deeply offended by the words of the ACLU of Mississippi’s spokesperson but there may be a valid reason for their turning down the money. The ACLU of Mississippi is representing the young woman in court. She is their client and it may not be in her best interest for the ACLU-M to accept this money. The problem is that the ACLU-M should not be involved in the prom if funding for the prom could create a conflict of interest. Another entity should handle fundraising for the prom.

  • Karen

    I totally agree with Ron in Houston, I was going to write the same thing but now I don’t have to :).

  • Luther

    Ron said:

    you don’t want those efforts made more difficult by a group that brings its own set of prejudices to the table (atheists in this case.)

    While I appreciate the ridiculousness of this, on a certain level the ACLU is simply reflecting a practical reality.

    So not believing mythical characters pull strings to run the world is a prejudice? If only we believed in the FSM or Zeus we would not terrorize Mississippi!

    Quite the crime. Once all the good people of Mississippi were all terrorized by those different black folk.

    Perhaps the prom will all be financed by those without prejudice…or more likely those with acceptable prejudices.

    Now everyone has a reason to boycott the prom.

  • stogoe

    A facepalm won’t even do it right now. It’s time to flat-out bang my head on something.

    I believe the term you’re looking for is *headdesk*

  • stogoe

    Seriously, WTF. The only people who could possibly care that atheists have donated to the ACLU are those who already hate the ACLU and want to destroy it. Those people are not your friends or allies, and they never will be. This makes absolutely no sense.

    Also re: Citizens United, there’s no conflict with the First Amendment. Money isn’t speech, and corporations aren’t people. Individuals still have all their right to free speech, but Nuketheworld, Inc is not a person and is not endowed by its creator (the US Legal Code) with any inalienable rights. The CEO can spend all the money he wants defeating Tammy Workersrights, but no way in fuck do you get to call it a business expense and charge it to the corporate account.

  • fritzy

    Ummm…I would guess that most Southerners in general are also deadly scared of the ACLU. They really have nothing to lose by allying themselves with atheists. Except $20000 for a great cause in this case. And my donations. And the donations of many other atheists I’m sure. This is truly disappointing. Epic fail, ACLU!

  • Chris

    I don’t think an consolation prom is the solution, anyway. It’s the school that must change.

    As far as I have read, in certain Mississippi schools there’s still a problem with racially segregated proms (not that the school holds a segregated prom, but that the school doesn’t hold a prom at all, and then parents set up two separate proms, one for whites).

    But imagine if, hypothetically, your school did indeed ban you from attending the prom because you were black. How is it a solution to attend a black-friendly prom. What does that fix?

    I think the girl in question was smart to say that she didn’t want a “consolation” prom, and that she wanted to attend her own school’s.

    I’m all for a general event to be held in that region where GLBT can safely attend, which is a nice idea, but it shouldn’t be in response to this school’s actions. The only response to this school’s actions should be for the school to fix itself.

    Such a GLBT-friendly event should be an optional alternative/extra to a school prom that already allows you, but not a consolation for a school prom that won’t allow you.

  • Aaron

    I sent this to the ACLU.
    I have heard that the Mississippi ACLU has refused a donation from a Humanist group because people in Mississippi are afraid of atheists. The donation was meant to help Constance McMillan have her prom. Would you deny a gift from a black man because people in Mississippi are afraid of black people?
    Why is the ACLU, whose lofty goals include protecting minorities, refusing to accept a donation from the member of a minority? Are we just “too evil” for the ACLU?
    I will not join the ACLU or donate. You ideals seem to mirror my own, but I see your true colors now. I suppose I will take my money elsewhere. I hope this is simply a misunderstanding and that the ACLU will correct this error promptly. If you do not, you are the hypocrites your opponents say you are.
    Aaron Harmon

  • pinksponge

    Why doesn’t Mr. Stiefel simply give his $20,000 directly to the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, the group who is actually organizing the prom?

  • ethin

    This is disturbing. I realize that it’s the Mississippi branch of the ACLU, and so I would like to hear the national ACLU respond to this issue before it comes time to renew my membership.

  • Anonymous Atheist

    How could they possibly need more than $20k to put on a high school prom anyway? No need for middlemen to have stepped in to ‘coordinate donations’ (and reject some) for the prom, just do it with that one big donation.

  • Luther

    I have just sent this to my state ACLU:

    I have recently joined the ACLU as a member with my wife’s family membership.

    Am I welcome?

    I have just leaned that the Mississippi ACLU rejected a contribution from an atheist because:
    “the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist,’”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/01/us/01prom.html

    To paraphrase Grocho Marx, I would not like to be a member of an organization that would NOT have me as a member.

    Let me know,

  • Jeff Dale

    This may be the good news we’ve been hoping for:

    ACLU Apologizes To American Humanist Association

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Iason Ouabache

    Jeff Dale already beat me to it. The ACLU is reversing course and blaming this on an overzealous staffer. Curse you, Overzealous Staffer!!!

  • Epistaxis

    Dear ACLU,

    I have just found out that your Mississippi branch rejected a $20,000 gift from the American Humanist Association because you are uncomfortable with atheists. I have given $___ to the ACLU over the years, and now I feel obligated to warn you that I am an atheist myself. Naturally, I will immediately cease donating to avoid compounding your problem, and if you would like to return the amount I have already given, you may do so at this address: _______

  • Jake

    Luther, the quote is actually “I sent the club a wire stating, “PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER.”

    Which is the opposite of what you’re trying to say.

  • Alex

    I would be interested to know if Jennifer Carr has any personal religious affiliations. Lots of UUs and other liberal religionists see Atheists as being more part of the problem than the solution.

  • http://helctic.wordpress.com Alex

    The LGBT community and the atheist community have a lot in common, and we have learned a lot from the inroads they have made, but what I deeply fear and this case approaches, is the day when gays and lesbians are finally accepted nationwide, we all feel the rush of accomplishment, and the LGBT community turns to the atheist community and effectively says “”screw you, I got mine.” I really hope I am wrong about it. But when the ACLU rushes to the aid of a lesbian in Mississippi and then recoils at the mere existence of an atheist wanting to help financially, I am just speechless. Where are we going? This picture is just so deeply flawed in so many ways. I feel lost in the wilderness.

  • Claudia

    Hi all!

    I just heard back from the ACLU. The response is promising:

    We have no authority to turn down funding from the American Humanist Society. The gift is being considered by the MSSC. The messages that were quoted in the Times were from staff members who made inappropriate statements that were taken out of context by the Times. The members of MSSC are making the final decision on whether to accept the gift and we are acting as fiscal sponsors for the group.

    A statement will be posted to our website shortly.

    Thank you.

    So either its a misunderstanding, a distortion in the report, some low level staff going off the reservation (which is what they say in the apology above)or all of the above. It could also be that they made the decision and are sprinting it back after recieving complaints but given their quick response and unconditional apology I’m inclined to take them at their word that this was the act of an individual and not the organziation.

    :-)

  • Claudia

    Oh I should note that its signed by Nsombi Lambright, who’s apparently the Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi and is probably having a No Good Very Bad Day. I would encourage everyone who emailed the ACLU to do it again thanking them for their quick response and support.

  • Tiffany

    I agree with what Ike says. Most people have this preconceived notion about Mississippi, and the South in general. This could have just as easily happened anywhere else. I also live in the Jackson, MS area. Well, Clinton to be exact. Ironically, I attend Mississippi College, a Christian University. Anyway, while there are still racists, homophobes, etc. in Mississippi, they exist everywhere else also.

  • idioteque

    My e-mail cued up to be sent:

    To Whom It May Concern,

    I was going to make a donation, being a resident of nearby Arkansas, but seeing as you don’t take money from atheists, I’ll donate my money elsewhere.

    sincerely,

  • noah

    “First of all, why is the ACLU shying away from atheists and the word “atheist”? The ACLU, of all groups, ought to be on our side in making that term acceptable. There’s no reason to reject it on account of potential controversy. Of all the controversial issues here, that atheists want to help the situation is not the biggest one.”

    -I agree that the ACLU shouldn’t reject this money. But the above quote continues the recent spate of stupid questions asked on blog posts here. It’s clear that the “why” is exactly the reason you reject – because most in Miss. are afraid of the idea of atheism. And there are plenty of reasons to reject money based on political controversy. On balance, I also disagree with the decision, but to say there is no reason to reject money on this basis is absurd.

  • inmyhead9

    Sarah, I am a damned Yankee living in the south and it IS scary. ;) I can see a giant baptist church from my window and I live in the country.
    I always thought that the aclu was kind of on our side. It is sad really.

  • Sackbut

    The ACLU has apologized.

    The AHA has accepted the apology and issued a response.

    “We accept the apology, but we feel that an apology is owed not just to us but to the people of Mississippi,” said David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association. “To suggest that the good people of Mississippi are so unenlightened that they can’t be accepting and welcoming to the goodwill of a humanist group is insulting to them, not just to us. We are confident that our involvement would have been met with warmth and Southern hospitality.”

    “There has been some confusion about alleged ‘conditions’ placed on our contribution,” added AHA’s executive director Roy Speckhardt in responding to ACLU-MS’s Kristy Bennett’s statement that the AHA attached conditions to its gift that would provide difficulty for organizers of the event. “We have no conditions other than the expectation that we will receive the same level of recognition as other sponsors donating similar amounts. If anyone was providing a condition, it was the ACLU chapter not the AHA, in suggesting that we contribute anonymously.” Speckhardt referred to the spokesperson’s statement that “If you would still like to contribute we would be thrilled, but I understand if you do not feel comfortable contributing a donation that you will not be recognized for.”

  • Sue

    In response to the email I sent the Mississippi branch of the ACLU, I received the same email @Claudia received in response to her inquiry. An additional statement was added: “Thank you for not immediately believing what you read.”

    I believe it is always best to check multiple sources. Hemant does this, I know, and I generally trust his information. (In fact, I see he has updated this posting to add some new information.) However, it can save a lot of angst to go directly to the source.

    In fact, I just received another email as I am writing this, informing me that there is now information posted on the Mississippi ACLU website. Going to check it out…

  • Ron in Houston

    @Luther

    Perhaps my comment was phrased poorly.

    It’s not that atheists have prejudices – it’s that folks are prejudiced against atheists.

    I don’t think Martin Luther King would have been particularly thrilled if atheists had tried to assist him back in the 1960′s. Unfortunately, on the issue of atheists, I doubt Mississippi has progressed very much since that time.

  • Skepticat

    I am a Mississippi atheist and I live about 20 minutes from the school in question. No one has ever “trembled in terror” or run from me because of my atheism.

    I have, however, seen the Mississippi ACLU refuse to help local atheists who were being persecuted for standing up to another school district regarding religious instruction and prayer in the elementary school. Not only did the ACLU refuse to help but they also made some hurtful remarks to my friends.

    I hope they have changed since that encounter a few years ago but it looks like they haven’t.

  • http://perotostellarclouds.blogspot.com Mat Wilder

    I know I’m late to the party, but just had to say right on to Epistaxis and stogoe.

  • Aj

    If you’re going to claim something is out of context, at least publish the full context and explain how it means something else in context. Also, if you’re going to make claims about “conditions” and “other issues” that organizers would have trouble meeting, at least state what these “conditions” and “other issues” are. Seems like bullshit to me.

  • Alex

    According to ACLU directory
    JENNIFER CARR, ACLU-MS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR

    Jennifer is a Mississippi native, currently residing in Fondren. She has a B.A. in Communication from Mississippi College. She was previously a development officer for “The Salvation Army” and Mississippi College School of Law before joining the ACLU of Mississippi.

  • Michael

    I’m an Atheist, and a member of the ACLU, and they’re asking me for money all the time! I need to inform them……. Maybe I can get out of paying their dues!!! What a capital Idea!

  • Michael

    Dear @Luther…. Mississippi hasn’t progressed much since 1865!

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  • Max

    Update on the prom story.

    They end up holding a prom. The girl goes to it… …only to find out that all of the REST of the students were at a different prom that everyone kept secret from her.

    http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2010/04/05/ACLU_Investigating_Fake_Prom/

  • Truth

    Jennifer Carr is an atheist. She is an avid ACLU supporter. She took a special interest in the kids of the MS Safe Schools Coalition because
    the abuse those great kids were getting broke her heart. Her only mistake was saying some shit that was real. Her problem was that she cut past the bullshit and said the reality: having a gay prom sponsored
    by an atheist organization in MS could create an unsafe environment. Causing controversy? Thats fine! Would you not think she’s accustomed to that? All she had in mind was protecting those kids. She NEVER rejected the money, merely cited her concern for the repercussions on the kids. Ms. Carr has no religious agenda and was merely a MS
    native who knew how some Mississippians could react (of course, not
    ALL Mississipians.) For the record, Ms. Carr was fired from the ACLU shortly after the appearance of her misconstrued statements in the NY Times. However, after her dismissal she still spent several days organizing and attending the prom, by request of the students.


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