Foundation Beyond Belief Issues Statement About American Cancer Society Rebuff

For the first time since the story broke, the Foundation Beyond Belief’s Executive Director Dale McGowan has responded to the rejection from the American Cancer Society:

It’s common practice for non-profits to decline support when they feel an association would result in a greater loss of support from other donors. Several such incidents have been in the news over the years. 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.

We are so grateful to Todd for his efforts and sorry for this disappointing outcome. Though both Todd and FBB are focused on other projects now, we have every intention of redirecting the positive energy of our community to another organization in the future. Thanks to all for your expressions of support and encouragement.


About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • treedweller

    I’m a little uncomfortable with demanding acknowledgment for my generosity personally, but at this point I am resolved that atheists as a group need to get credit for being compassionate, loving members of society in order to counteract the ongoing negative stereotypes that keep surfacing. I hope the next cause FBB supports will include some kind of similar team-oriented component so other contributors can’t help but see there are non-religious supporters out there. It might even spur the churchies to donate more so they can beat us, gaining more money for the charity.

    But, having said all that, I really hope the next cause gets a high rating here.

  • Blaine Higgy

    Certainly any charitable entity is free to decline donations as they see fit. However, I disagree with FBB’s decision to remain quiet about “naming names”. 

    While FBB wouldn’t necessarily need to try and make a big deal of this in the mainstream media I think they should at least inform those of us that are atheist/agnostic/skeptics as to who openly appreciates our donations and who would rather we either give quietly or not at all.

  • Anonymous

    I think what we need to do is this: every time we get a snail mail solicitation from a group like this, who deems our  money just not good enough for them, we need to write across their solicitation just why we won’t be donating to them, and return it, if need be with our own stamp. Just so they know why they have lost us as donors.

  • State of Disbelief

    They can choose who to accept donations from, as we decide whom to make our donations to.

    I would like a list of charitable donations that refuse FBB and other non-religious support groups contributions so I can save both of us some time.

    • Pollracker

      Agreed

  • Mickey

    This is the letter I wrote to the American Cancer Society after reading about this issue. I hope this is an appropriate place to share it. If not then please delete it without hesitation.
     
    October 12, 2011 I am writing to see if the story is true about the American Cancer Society refusing to take a charitable donation from a concerned philanthropic group. Am I to understand correctly that not only will the ACS not allow walkers to participate in the Relay For Life under the banner of the Foundation Beyond Belief, but that it will not accept a matching offer of up to $250,000 from Todd Stiefel? That the ACS would shrug off a potential $500,000 in contributions? I am shaking, I am so upset about this. My daughter has cancer. Let me repeat that: My daughter has cancer. I am a Humanist, otherwise known as atheist. I live in the present. And presently, my daughter has cancer.   Not long ago people thought you could catch cancer from drinking from the same cup. I remember the PSA commercials telling people to learn more about cancer back in the 70s and 80s, trying to demystify the illness. And now in 2011 one of the most forward thinking, progressive organizations in the world is refusing to take hard cash from a group of ATHEISTS??? Who does the ACS think we are? The Klu Klux Klan? Jihadi terrorists? Demons?  The American Cancer Society does know that even atheists get cancer, right? That we have loved ones who will get cancer? That we have lost loved ones to cancer? That we mourn when our loved ones die and we grieve for them like everyone else on this planet? That we paint our daughters’ nails when the hair falls out because they feel ugly? That we tell them they are princesses, especially when they throw up from the chemo or radiation, because to us they are and we don’t want them to forget it? That we care about curing cancer here and now because after people die from it, it’s too late to cure them? Why does it feel so unsavory to the ACS to take money from people like me who would do anything in my power to save my daughter and keep this from happening to anyone else?  If the ACS feels that prayers work better than donations then you don’t need my help. But my daughter does and I am here for her, right here, right now, living in the present. And she doesn’t care that I’m a Humanist. She just knows that she can count on me to be there when she needs me. If this story I’ve heard is true then I will never be able to look again at the Relay For Life as an affirmation of LIFE. $500,000…Half a million dollars and thousands of people who would wish to share in the vision of hope under their own banner. American Cancer Society, get your priorities straight. 

  • Mickey

    This is the letter I wrote to the American Cancer Society after reading about this issue. I hope this is an appropriate place to share it. If not then please delete it without hesitation.
     
    October 12, 2011 I am writing to see if the story is true about the American Cancer Society refusing to take a charitable donation from a concerned philanthropic group. Am I to understand correctly that not only will the ACS not allow walkers to participate in the Relay For Life under the banner of the Foundation Beyond Belief, but that it will not accept a matching offer of up to $250,000 from Todd Stiefel? That the ACS would shrug off a potential $500,000 in contributions? I am shaking, I am so upset about this. My daughter has cancer. Let me repeat that: My daughter has cancer. I am a Humanist, otherwise known as atheist. I live in the present. And presently, my daughter has cancer.   Not long ago people thought you could catch cancer from drinking from the same cup. I remember the PSA commercials telling people to learn more about cancer back in the 70s and 80s, trying to demystify the illness. And now in 2011 one of the most forward thinking, progressive organizations in the world is refusing to take hard cash from a group of ATHEISTS??? Who does the ACS think we are? The Klu Klux Klan? Jihadi terrorists? Demons?  The American Cancer Society does know that even atheists get cancer, right? That we have loved ones who will get cancer? That we have lost loved ones to cancer? That we mourn when our loved ones die and we grieve for them like everyone else on this planet? That we paint our daughters’ nails when the hair falls out because they feel ugly? That we tell them they are princesses, especially when they throw up from the chemo or radiation, because to us they are and we don’t want them to forget it? That we care about curing cancer here and now because after people die from it, it’s too late to cure them? Why does it feel so unsavory to the ACS to take money from people like me who would do anything in my power to save my daughter and keep this from happening to anyone else?  If the ACS feels that prayers work better than donations then you don’t need my help. But my daughter does and I am here for her, right here, right now, living in the present. And she doesn’t care that I’m a Humanist. She just knows that she can count on me to be there when she needs me. If this story I’ve heard is true then I will never be able to look again at the Relay For Life as an affirmation of LIFE. $500,000…Half a million dollars and thousands of people who would wish to share in the vision of hope under their own banner. American Cancer Society, get your priorities straight. 

    • Rachel

      Not inappropriate in the least. Thank you for sharing.

      • Sulris Campbell

        it isnt that they wont accept the money… they just wont accept it publicly.  you know like the old lady that gives a pie to the sherif in blazing saddles

        • Pollracker

          That’s honestly a good comparison. I agree the group needs the money, but it is a thing of common human respect to wallow those who raised iit to say we are here for you. I still like the acs they help people all the time and its sad that they are so bigoted against us simply because wee don’t believe in god. Both I and the acs believe that a cire can be found. Let’s focus on what we have in common reather than spit on each others diffrences.

  • Anonymous

    I’d sure like to know the names of the other three charities that don’t want my money

    • Lyra

      Meeeeeeeee tooooo.

    • Sulris Campbell

      me too

  • Anonymous

     I’m sure you guys donate to these organizations, but they are my favorites. Doctors without Borders, Amnesty and Red Cross

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.j.jordan Scott James Jordan

    So it seems their attitude is:

    “We’re not anti-atheist.  We’re happy to take your money.
    But since we get less money from atheist groups than we get from bigoted Christians – who care less about curing cancer than boycotting an organisation tainted by your money – we wouldn’t want them to find out about your donation!
    So let’s not let them know, OK?”

    Am I right?

  • Mary

    For $250,000, the Foundation could fund an International Collaborative Research Project on a rare childhood cancer like osteosarcoma. The reason to consider a project like this is that there are several childhood cancers, sarcomas, that are underfunded on the national and private level, yet they are severely aggressive. Studying these complex cancers may shed light on the behavior of the more common cancers as well. See this link: http://sarcomahelp.org/childhood_sarcomas.html

    The organization I work with recently funded one study like this on an adult cancer. It is one of the most unique and promising studies to date on liposarcoma. Studies like this can lead to new therapies in a much faster time than the standard ten years from the lab to the treatment center. See this press release: http://sarcomahelp.org/research_center/grant025.htmlWhile I understand FBB’s desire to get the most publicity possible out of its donations, I also hope that they want the funds to achieve something substantial. Organizations like ours have extremely low overhead. We use 97% of research donations for actual peer-reviewed research. And we are more than happy to give credit to our donors publicly on our website and in press releases. We would love to compete for a grant from FBB! This disease is so awful. Whoever donates to help is golden…and need not believe in saints. :)

    By the way, I have avoided mentioning the organization I support because I hate trolls! But I saw people start to mention specific charities that they suggest, so I thought it would be okay to throw this out there.

  • Mary

    Oh – I’m also a regular contributor to Doctors Without Borders…love their work too. :)

  • AABelin

    Might I inject some helpful information?

     http://notesonabusinesspage.blogspot.com/2011/10/phony-war.html

  • Nohad

    I’m an atheist and I support you guys. However, I’m really disappointed that you gave this example under “several such incidents”: http://www.ejpress.org/article/28373  
    You are very wrong to compare your story to the story of ‘Philanthropist who support terrorism’ Lev Leviev. You obviously don’t understand the story of Palestine/Israel, or you wouldn’t have compared.  Lev Leviev supports Israel and it’s criminal activities against the Palestinians. Please look at this video and learn about Israel, and people like Lev Leviev, who support Israel in constructing settlements on Palestinian lands: http://youtu.be/b4gymxY2zM8


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