Why Is the American Cancer Society Covering Up Their Rejection of an Atheist National Team?

Greta Christina has a follow-up to her article about the American Cancer Society. If you recall, they refused to recognize an atheist National Team even though it could have raised upwards of $500,000 courtesy of Foundation Beyond Belief and philanthropist Todd Stiefel.

I know some of you are tired of hearing about the story, but there’s a reason we’re still talking about it. There is mounting evidence that the ACS not only rejected the atheist team — but they lied to us about why they did it.

And we can prove it.

… the facts strongly suggest a coverup. An online trail clearly shows non-profit organizations with national teams in the Relay for Life, and shows the ACS actively soliciting non-commercial organizations to participate in the program — right up until the original AlterNet article about the FBB controversy appeared. At which point, the national teams of these non-profits abruptly had their status changed to “Youth Affiliates.” And the online trail clearly shows that several non-profits are still participating as Youth Affiliates with national teams in the Relay for Life — a form of participation that is still being denied to the Foundation Beyond Belief, with no explanation from the ACS…

What’s more, the American Cancer Society’s attempts at damage control have included contradictions, distortions, deceptions, and flat-out misinformation: about the Foundation Beyond Belief, about Todd Stiefel (the atheist philanthropist whose family offered the $250,000 matching offer in the first place), even about AlterNet.

I don’t even know if there’s anything the ACS can do at this point to make things right. They’re had multiple opportunities to clear up their mistakes and apologize… and instead of doing that, they’ve only made things worse.

Could we still raise money for them? Sure.
Would they accept it? Yes.
Would they acknowledge that it was an atheist group that raised the funds? Nope.

And that’s the problem.

As Greta writes, atheists “want, in some cases, to give away a quarter of a million dollars to help fight a terrible disease. But they are not willing to do so as second-class citizens.”

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Erik

    Keep on pushing!
    Did you mean to say ‘mounting evidence’ instead of ‘mounting experience’?

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

      Damn auto-spellcheck.

  • Anonymous

    they failed to follow rule #1.

  • Rich Wilson

    Well said Greta.

    My printer is just churning out a letter (on paper no less!) for Nancy Pelosi that ends with

    I will never again support either financially or in vote, any candidate that doesn’t include in her or his campaign platform a statement affirming that religion is neither a requirement for, nor guarantee of morality.

    That’s in relation to the re-affirmation of the national motto, but the principle is the same.  You want my money?  Acknowledge my basic humanity.

  • Anonymous

    Man, this sucks. I’ve been helping out a local Relay for Life with their website for the last couple of years. I’ve met some really good people there, and they are truly sincere in wanting to beat this disease once and for all.

    Unfortunately, it really looks like ACS got cold feet when it came to FBB. To paraphrase Orwell, some donations are more equal than others. They must get a shitload of donations from religious groups that would somehow be offended by recognizing an atheist organization.

    I’ve been dragging my heels on this, but I’m going to have to pull the plug on my participation. I can’t work with ACS in good conscience based on all the stuff that’s gone down over the last month.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      mattand,
      Don’t just quietly disappear from ACS’s radar. Write them a paper letter telling them exactly why they have lost your support.

      • Anonymous

        Richard:I’m working on it. I have a close personal friendship with a person on the local team that may get damaged due to this person’s faith. I know them well enough that it’ll probably blow over, but who knows?

        End of the day, though, this is out-and-out discrimination on the national office’s end. I can’t let this pass unnoticed.

        • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

          mattand, I appreciate that these situations can be delicate. I hope that your friendship survives, but if it does not, then someone who would reject you for doing the right thing isn’t much of a friend to lose.
          May your life go well. 

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

      There are a lot of other organizations out there, and a lot of them are much better organizations in terms of efficiently using the money to fight cancer and go to real research. In that regard, you should just donate the money and time to one of them. 

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    Wrote the ACS an email yesterday. Told them my money is going to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute instead. It’s a loss for them but not for cancer research.

  • Erik

    Hemant, maybe you should make a post with a list of alternative cancer charities. It would at least help people who want to write letters to ACS

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

      I’ll be announcing something else soon.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    Several years ago I stopped donating anything to the “pink ribbon” groups because of the kind of overpriced and even harmful products they used to raise money.  Now I raise money to try to help our environment, so people don’t get cancer in the first place.    Even if a “cure” is found, who will be able to get it?  We already have millions of people without health care.
       I’ll be in D.C. this Sunday protesting the Keystone pipeline.  Get rid of fossil fuels, watch cancer rates plummet.

    • Michael Appleman

      Yeah I’m kinda sick of it too. I work in a grocery store, and last month EVERYTHING was pink. The weirdest was the mushrooms. They come in a small shrink wrapped plastic tub, each with a pink sticker on it with a pink ribbon. Ont he sticker it says “[so-and-so company] has donated $50,000 to breast cancer research and mushrooms”. What the heck does that mean?! Mushroom research? or did they just spent a bunch of money on actual mushrooms? To feed cancer researchers? Or maybe mushroom based cancer treatments?

      • Rich Wilson

        Ya, I didn’t even know breast cancer EXISTED until all my woman facebook friends started posting these cryptic statuses with colors in them.


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