Todd Stiefel’s Gift to Religion News Service is an Ethical Investment

Different websites are reporting on the fact that philanthropist Todd Stiefel, through his foundation, gave $65,000 to the Religion News Service over the past two years so that they could write stories about the non-theistic movement.

Rob Kerby at BeliefNet wonders about the ethics. Billy Hallowell at Glenn Beck‘s site, The Blaze, just takes that article and puts a right-wing spin on it.

***Update***: Billy Hallowell wrote the piece that appears on both websites, though I still feel like raising the ethics question in the Blaze headline was unfair. My apologies to Billy for the error.

I’ve said this before: I think Stiefel’s grant to RNS is one of the smartest investments he can make. He doesn’t get any editorial power over their articles and while he admits to suggesting article ideas, RNS usually doesn’t take his suggestions.

He’s not paying them to make atheists look good.

He’s paying them to cover things that are going on in our world — things that even non-atheists might be interested in. (Did I just use the term non-atheists? Yes. Yes I did.)

Anyway, I hope other groups join Todd and support RNS in the future. The organizations and individuals in our movement do a lot of good work and we deserve to have it covered just as churches do.

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.

  • Paul Fidalgo

    And what are the two stories Kim Winston just did? How atheists are arguing about sexual harassment and the Aan petition failure. She is totally fair, but by no means a ringer to make us look good.

  • Billy Hallowell

    Hemant, allow me to assist you here (this is Billy Hallowell). There was no “right wing spin” placed on the article Beliefnet REPUBLISHED the original article on TheBlaze (if you look at the top of it, you’ll see my byline). Feel free to correct yourself…

  • A3Kr0n

    Non-Atheists. This is getting weird.

  • LanceThruster

    I fully agree. Since religion colors almost every aspect of our society and political life; non-religion deserves a seat at the table. Particularly in light of the fact that religion is used as a club by politicians on a regular basis.

  • zach

    Hey everybody!
    Today is a beautiful day in a world that is wonderful to discover with our minds and love with our hearts. It might do us all some good to take a break, just for a few moments, from our word-splitting and idea mongering and allow ourselves to be tuned into the goodness of the physical, aesthetic, and intellectual glory all around us in nature, science, and art.

    And how much more thrilling are these moments of reflection when we think of all that we are and all that is around us as the gifts of a Great Lover, who longs to give us everything, even Himself.

    How about that? Gives me all kinds of happy.

    Hope this wasn’t too irritatingly optimistic. Have a great day and God bless!

  • RobMcCune

    The great lover, somebody sure thinks highly of himself.

  • JD

    Hmm. Where have I heard the topic of this story before?  Oh, that’s right, it’s been around for months.  In one example, Stiefel funded both an atheist event and the favorable news coverage of that same event.  That worked out well for him.

    Winston has been doing this for a year — and has never once acknowledged RNS was funded for that specific purpose.  Journalistic integrity requires at least acknowledging the coverage is influenced by the donation.  If Stiefel wants to eliminate that disclaimer, he needs to eliminate the restriction on the donation.  That he has any interaction AT ALL with the writer proves he continues to use his donation as a means of access to press, which is questionable ethics on the part of the RNS.

  • allein

    “a Great Lover”?
    I find that idea supremely creepy.

  • phantomreader42

     JD, being a pathological liar, a bully, and a traitor, is not qualified to comment on imaginary ethical lapses of others. 

  • KTSA

    By freekin’ far RNS is the best religion “newspaper” out there. Better than the lame CNN Belief Blog, Washington Post on Faith, Huff Po Faith and anything and everything…well, maybe besides Religion Dispatches. so frackin good.


  • LanceThruster

     This “Great Lover?”

    “God sent God to die for God, so that God could forgive God’s creations according to God’s unbending rules.” ~ LanceThruster

    Too Rube Goldberg for me.