On May 23rd, the organizers of the FreeOK Oklahoma Freethought Convention decided to hold a fundraiser for Rebecca Vitsmun. Vitsmun, as you might recall, was the woman who famously told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that she was an atheist when he asked her if she was thanking the Lord following the tornado:
The fundraiser put Vitsmun’s phrase, “I’m actually an atheist,” on t-shirts:
These shirts will be sold online and at the FreeOK Convention in June for a $25 donation to a relief fund designated to help our heroine and her son get through this very difficult time. All tees are black, 100% cotton with “I’m actually an atheist” screen printed in white with the scarlet letter A that has come to be associated with atheism. Ladies cuts are available. When ordering, you may choose to have your tee shipped or have it waiting for you at the convention on June 22nd. As always, your support is appreciated.
Awesome, right? You got a shirt and Vitsmun’s family received some money to help them out through their difficult time. In fact, FreeOK sold over 1,000 shirts — they’re still fulfilling orders as we speak, but we’ll know very soon how much money will be given to the Vitsmuns.
Here’s where things get weird.
On May 25th, two days after the fundraiser began, a San Francisco-based man named Richard Cox bought the domain name ImActuallyAnAtheist.com and began selling t-shirts that were clearly a rip-off of those sold by FreeOK:
Cox also extended the line of clothing to phrases like “I’m actually a Buddhist” and “I’m actually an Improviser” and other things that made no sense at all outside of any context. Why did he do that? Who knows. Maybe to throw people off.
We also don’t know how many shirts he sold.
Either way, none of the money from his shirts went to Vitsmun’s family (or any relief efforts that we know about).
Kai Tancredi, the Events & Social Media Coordinator for the FreeOK conference, told me via email why this was so upsetting to her:
… I’m less concerned with the legality of his actions and more irritated with the opportunism. We’ve spent way too much energy preserving the design and intent of the Actually merchandise we sell for strictly non-profit purposes.
… I have contacted both CafePress and Mr. Cox via email with a cease and desist request and 72 hours to comply before the matter is escalated.
I don’t know who this guy is — given his name, “Dick Cox,” it may just be a pseudonym — but I hope he does the right thing, shuts the store down, and gives any money he made to charity.
What a horrible thing to do, to take a wonderful act of generosity and repurpose it in order to divert the funding and make money for yourself.