Once Again, the American Cancer Society Mishandles the Atheist Donation Problem

Another article about how the American Cancer Society rejected the idea of the Foundation Beyond Belief’s nontheistic National Relay For Life teams. (Thanks, Greta Christina!)

Another half-assed excuse-for-an-apology by the ACS that doesn’t even address the actual issue:

I’m shocked by how horribly the ACS is handling this issue. It’s clear they’re just hoping no one notices, but their own Facebook wall suggests people aren’t letting them off the hook that easily. We need to keep the pressure on.

Remember what this is all about: Todd Stiefel and the Stiefel Freethought Foundation want to match the donations from Foundation Beyond Belief‘s Relay For Life teams across the country up to $250,000 — for a total of at least $500,000 — but the ACS refuses to acknowledge the teams on a national scale. They don’t want to have any media attention surrounding the fact that atheists are giving them so much money and that — potentially — atheist groups around the country could raise more money for cancer research than any other National team in the country.

They’re rejecting half a million dollars because they don’t want to be associated with atheist generosity.

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.

  • Tenleycherie

    Wow…this is really dissapointing. I was considering joining relay for life, but maybe the diabetes walk wouldn’t be such an ass.

  • Tenleycherie

    Wow…this is really dissapointing. I was considering joining relay for life, but maybe the diabetes walk wouldn’t be such an ass.

  • Nick

    You have to understand that people who run big organizations, corporations, even if they are charities/non-profits are INCAPABLE of telling the truth or feeling empathy in any capacity. It’s the way we’ve built up our society for a very long time, and these people simply CAN’T change now.

    • Pseudonym

      I’m looking forward to the day when FBB reaches that stage. At that point, Atheism will be truly mainstream in the United States.

  • Anonymous

    Why do we need to support American Cancer Society anyway? Look what atheists and non-believers have done with KIVA. Maybe it’s time to create an Atheist Cancer Society with lower overhead costs so more money goes to research.

    • Mary

      YES! Or don’t spend time and money re-creating the wheel – find a few charities with little or no overhead who are happy to accept your money and even honor you for giving it – and support them! There are plenty of foundations who know how to do cancer research & support well. All you have to do is find them and check some financial statements. Or ask your readers in non-profits who they would recommend.

      • momo

        Maybe FBB can put out a public statement to all cancer NPOs that they’re looking for a few honest NPOs that support cancer research to pour in support from the atheist communities, and these NPOs can compete for a 500,000 grant (or maybe two 250,000 grants?). 

        Then we’ll know which cancer organizations to support in the future, stop wasting money with the American Cancer Society, and put the money already collected towards a good cause. 

  • Tom

    What, exactly, do they hope to get in response to that “all of us fighting together” line, given what we all know they did?  A phrase like that could, and should, be a sincere expression of unity and shared purpose, but they’ve casually puked it out as a platitude: meaningless magic words to make the angry people go away.

    We shouldn’t tolerate such disrespect for language – it induces unhealthy levels of cynicism and distrust, and desensitises us to honest self-expression.  I really think this is deeply dangerous to civilisation.

  • Volunteer

    It says they welcome FBB’s participation in the relay. Assuming we won’t get an actual appology from them, is that all that was needed? Can the teams work with Relay for Life and get the recognition given to all other teams?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      The issue is that the National Team would *not* get recognized by the ACS. They’re refusing to recognize the team even if we raised incredible amouns of money.

  • Volunteer

    It says they welcome FBB’s participation in the relay. Assuming we won’t get an actual appology from them, is that all that was needed? Can the teams work with Relay for Life and get the recognition given to all other teams?

  • Tony

    It seems telling that they’re not even willing to say the name of the organization in their status update. Heaven help them if somebody saw that they were talking about atheists.

  • Mary

    I keep telling you – this group needs to shift their focus and give the money to a small, volunteer-run organization that knows how to use money well. Don’t you get that? ACS lives and breathes on cancer. It is their livelihood. Your donations pay their staff. Why not pay for actual research grants instead? Or actual patient assistance? I am getting so annoyed that you find the ACS worthy of this constant attention. They are a huge bureaucratic organization, a waste of your time. You may as well throw that money to the government and see what wonderful things society gets from it. This is coming from a cancer survivor who has volunteered thousands (yes, thousands) of hours in cancer support and advocacy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ryurack Rebel Yurack

      I’m confused as to who you are attacking with your “you”s. Hopefully it’s not Hemant, who is writing about the situation–he’s not creating it.

      ACS is worthy of this attention the way all organizations who discriminate are: to bring attention to their unspoken and prejudice policies for the public to judge.

      Thank you for your thousands of hours of cancer support.

      • Mary

        I don’t mean to attack, but I was speaking to Hamant. I am just frustrated that he keeps acting so shocked. They are a huge org with billions of dollars, and they are not going to apologize for what they did. They get hundreds of thousands, if not millions, from church teams. They probably made the best business decision for themselves, or at least they think they did. And all the money these two atheist groups have offered to give is just a tiny drop their bucket, won’t even pay one salary. You hear the frustration in my post because I wish we could move on and find a worthy charity to talk about, at least on this weblog that I enjoy reading.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maik.both Maik Both

    This is a prize comment from that FB thread:
    “I am currently fighting for
    my life and (THank God EVERYDAY FOR IT.) As far as I am concerned, if
    my cure for Cancer has to come from money from unbelievers of God. Then I
    say keep your money we don’t need it.”What a twisted world one must live in to ‘thank God’ for making them critically ill, and then volunteer to (essentially) die (and volunteer to have others suffer / die) just in case non-believers help fund a cure.

    • Gus Snarp

      I’m quite convinced that person is lying. Either they may not actually be fighting cancer and made the whole thing up, or if they really saw a direct connection between help from unbelievers and their own life and suffering, they’d accept the unbelievers help immediately. Of course, they already are, since a non-zero number of cancer researchers, donors, and doctors are atheist and have contributed to this individual’s survival. Maybe even their own doctors.

      • Rich Wilson

        There are people who will watch their own child die rather than seek medical help.  I had a relative who would have seen atheist money as giving in to Satan.  Better to die of cancer than burn in hell.  Never underestimate the depths to which people will go for their fantasy.

        • Rich Wilson

          And if further evidence is required, how about sacrificing children to make money.
          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-15255357

        • Gus Snarp

          I don’t deny that there are such people out there. I deny that the individual in the comment is one of them. They say they are fighting cancer, and that they volunteer for the ACS. There’s no suggestion that they’re the type who turn down medical treatment in favor of prayer. Those sorts are quite rare, and I expect the commenter was just trying to score points, not seriously thinking about their own life. It’s more likely the commenter is a liar than a religious zealot extreme enough to sacrifice their own health.

    • Mary

      A person who doesn’t want cancer to be cured by non-believers may be shocked to learn how many of his local cancer doctors, nurses, and researchers are not believers. Would he refuse to accept chemo because it was developed by a non-believer? Refuse surgery because the surgeon was a non-believer? Wow.

  • Gus Snarp

    I just don’t get this. I know that atheists are the second most hated group in America now (after the Tea Party), and I know that we are considered so small as to not be worth considering, but this still has to be a bigger PR nightmare than allowing the national team. Not to mention the money lost. I don’t see why someone with a higher pay grade hasn’t fixed this instead of doing a half assed job of spin control. All they have to do is say yes, you can have your national team, then add it to the database. The infrastructure is all there. Their website strongly suggests that all their excuses are outright lies. Either give the Foundation Beyond Belief a national team, eliminate all other national teams not associated with a for profit corporation to be consistent with the excuses, or provide a real, technical, believable explanation for why whatever it takes to do this isn’t justified by the $500,000 donation. 

  • Xeon2000

    Segregate donor funds into “believer” and “nonbeliever” sections. Continue to treat them as a single fund for the purpose of allocating to recipients. Provide recipients the option to “opt out” of either fund based upon their preference. Religious nutballs that “don’t want no charity from dirty atheists” don’t have to take it; however, they will receive less money. Those without prejudice will actually receive more money than before.

  • Ethyachk

    Why keep the pressure on ACS? Because what they did was wrong and they need to be called on it. If they had turned down even a tiny amount of money from an African American youth group, would the advice be to just quietly take your money elsewhere? No, we’d pounce on that like rabid wolverines and the ACS would take potentially fatal flak from that. This should be no different.

    • Anonymous

      Oh, I don’t want to QUIETLY take my money elsewhere… I want to shout it from the rooftops that we were discriminated against and this money COULD have gone to the ACS, but they’ve made it clear they don’t want it from US.  So… someone else who DOES want it will get it instead.  Quietly slinking away is not the answer… but continuing to fight to force them to take it?  Nope.  I don’t give in to pouting toddlers who refuse to play.

      • Mary

        Why not quietly take your money elsewhere, post a nice press release when you award it. Make a note at the bottom that the money was originally going to go to the ACS, but that the organizations chosen had lower overhead, which means that they should be able to do more good  with the money. Done!

  • Anonymous

    For me, I don’t understand why we are still fighting with them.  They’ve made it clear they don’t want our money.  I wouldn’t participate now if you paid me to walk, not if it goes to the ACS.  There are plenty of other organizations that are worthy and need money for research who would be MORE than happy to receive the generosity of nonbelievers, and they may miss out because we’re hell bent on FORCING ACS to acknowledge us.  Bah.  Let’s move on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000650798941 James Maehling

    ACS has to know that if they had just accepted the national team for FBB, at most all there would have been is probably just a press release that those who wanted to carry it would have and those who didn’t wouldn’t have. Heck, I’d bet it wouldn’t have garnered nearly half the coverage ACS is getting in bad PR now.

  • Anonymous

    I hope this continues to the point when ACS acknowledge the team on a national scale. And then FBB says thanks asshole and walks off with the money.

  • Sulris Campbell

    thats right they welcome our donations as long as they don’t have to admit they recieve them in public….  anyone remdinded of the pie scene blazing saddles?

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    We really don’t need to keep the pressure on here at all! There are a lot more cancer research foundations that will use the money a lot more efficiently. Instead of keeping the pressure on just give the money to others. As for the ACS, fuck em. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Schlicht/1566144898 Steve Schlicht

    To say the least, I am greatly disappointed and heartbroken.

    This has been one of our signature events over many years.

    I certainly hope Reuel Johnson of the ACS finds reason and allows for
    the Foundation Beyond Belief and the SFF to attain corporate national
    team status so that we can lend our support to their generous matching
    offer.Here is what we sent to her for consideration:
     
    “Our family and friends (atheists and secular humanists) have participated
    as a Relay for Life team here in Biloxi Mississippi for many, many years.
     
    We have donated thousands of dollars to the ACS on behalf of family members who have survived cancer/are in remission and to the memory of those who have not.
     
    We have made it our signature annual event.
     
    It seems as though the ACS is not going to budge on this issue and has chosen bigotry and discrimination over helping others.
     
    I don’t make that assessment lightly, but have put a great deal of time,
    heart and mnid reading the ACS responses to Mr. Stiefel and the Foundation Beyond Belief regarding the national team and monetary offer, and that really is the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn in spite of the very weak defenses of the ACS position.
     
    An organization looking at what amounts to a half a million donation would find a way to work with such a donor in a heartbeat.
     
    That said, it is with regret that we will no longer support the ACS.
     
    We will find a better, more reasonable and inclusive medical charity to
    donate to in the future in order to help those with cancer and to fund
    research into new treatments and cures!  
     
    This is, after all, really what it’s all about.
     
    Thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration in advance.
     
    Steve Schlicht, atheist friends and family.
    Biloxi MS
     
     
    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1603664102603.2070660.1566144898&type=1
     
    PS We will certainly remain open to reconsideration should the Foundation
    Beyond Belief and Stiefel Freethought Foundation be offered a corporate national team for matching donations that we can join to lend our financial support.”

  • superG

    It’s great to see all the posts on the ACS FB page!  I actually worked for them for almost a year… it’s a scary place.  You HAVE to drink their koolaid and they frequently speak about doing ‘God’s work’.  I couldn’t take it.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Ahhh. Well that would explain much, if not all of their lying, their excuse-making, and their passive-aggressive foot dragging and evading. Half a million bucks just isn’t enough to make them give up their bigotry. I wonder how much it would take… fifty million? Half a billion?

      “Doing Gods work” apparently doesn’t mean helping the sick and poor, it means reassuring themselves of their constantly sagging faith.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Vent your outrage directly to ACS on their non-pology Facebook page.  http://www.facebook.com/AmericanCancerSociety/posts/10150888420740301
    Here’s what I wrote:

    Apparently half a million bucks is not enough to get ACS to let go of its religious bigotry. The sad thing is, they probably think that shows they have integrity or strong faith. How much money from those “evil atheists” would it take for ACS to stop lying and making excuses? Ten million? Half a billion? If there’s a high enough figure, then a dollar should be sufficient. ACS has become fat, prideful, and conceited. This latest non-pology shows that they’re also dishonest and cowardly. It deserves to fail so that people’s charitable donations can go to more efficient organizations that have not lost track of their original goal.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X