American Cancer Society Moves from Dodging to Covering Their Tracks

And the plot thickens.

The American Cancer Society is now not just evading the issue with bland denials and passive- aggressive little digs at atheists for bringing it up. They’re now apparently taking active steps to cover their tracks.

I just got this email from Todd Stiefel, regarding the story about the American Cancer Society refusing to let the Foundation Beyond Belief participate as a national team in the Relay for Life… and declining a $250,000 matching offer from the Todd Stiefel Foundation to make it happen.

Hi all,

I hate to even have to write this, but the plot is thickening on the ACS front.

A second article was written on this story:

Since then, and this is a bit shocking, the American Cancer Society has begun to cover things up. When Greta Christina was working on the article, I sent her some links to where on the ACS site they listed out their non-profit youth partner national teams. They had links to those teams on the main Relay for Life page and on their college Relay page. Both of those links have been removed since Greta’s article came out. It appears they are trying to hide the fact that they have youth partner national teams with other non-profit groups. The info on their youth teams is still on their site, but you can’t get to it through the site anymore, because the links are disabled. You have to get there by directly typing in the URL. Fortunately, I still had that from the email I sent to Greta:

I also got a call from one of the charities in their youth partner program. They are pretty upset about what is happening. They also told me that they checked last night, and suddenly their access to their youth partner team webpage had been cut off by ACS. The ACS may try to say that they were already phasing them out, but that would be untrue. They were prominently featured on the new college Relay for Life website that was launched on September 1, 2011. It is only in the last week that they have pulled them off.

The most obvious form of unequal treatment was their denying us of a youth partner national team, like they give to other non-profits, especially student groups. The result of their disabling the links is that now the uninformed will go to their site and find absolutely no evidence that they are working with other non-profits.


So now they’re alienating other non-profit organizations who are participating in this program — just so they can avoid admitting their mistake and letting the Foundation Beyond Belief take part? And they’re changing their website in a way that makes it harder to see the discrepancy?

I’m sorry, but this does not look good. This does not look an organization that made a good-faith decision based on an institutional policy change that was already in the works. This looks like an organization that’s trying to cover its tracks.

If you’re angry about this situation: Here, once again, is the American Cancer Society’s Facebook page, and their contact info on their Website.

American Cancer Society Moves from Dodging to Covering Their Tracks
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20 thoughts on “American Cancer Society Moves from Dodging to Covering Their Tracks

  1. 2

    Silver lining: Perhaps this money is better spent elsewhere, anyway. According to CharityNavigator, their CEO’s compensation as of 2009 was over $900,000. It’s hard for me to believe that any charity that’s offering executive compensation packs like that really has its priorities in line. Let alone for me to think of it as a nonprofit – someone’s clearly managing to extract quite a bit of profit.

  2. 3

    I have no idea if it will be followed up on but I emailed the newsdesk at MN public radio to see if they would cover the story.

    I’ve also posted on the ACS facebook wall.

  3. 4

    I’m sure cancer victims would love to know that the research that might save their lives is only being funded by completely unobjectionable groups. It’s a good thing cancer research doesn’t need money particularly or anything.

  4. 5

    It’s incredible how much effort the ACS is still putting into obfuscation and stonewalling. There must be someone highly placed in that organization who really, really doesn’t want to take any money from atheists – I can’t think of any other plausible reason explaining their behavior thus far.

  5. 6

    I complained on their contact page, noting that I’m a volunteer driver for the ACS and an atheist, and maybe they’d like me to not drive patients to their appointments? I got a personal reply today and although it is lengthy, I think I’ll paste it here in full. I am not competent to sort out the assertions Ken is making but at least this will show you what they are saying now.

    Thank you for your support of the American Cancer Society and volunteering as a driver to help cancer patients. Please accept our apologies for the unpleasantness caused by hearing about the Society’s relationship with Foundation Beyond Belief. Please know that your support helps make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by cancer in your community. Please know that it is never the intent to offend our supporters and volunteers. I have forwarded your feedback to the appropriate staff members for further consideration. Please be assured that we value your input.

    Over the past several months, the American Cancer Society has engaged in discussions with Todd Stiefel and the Foundation Beyond Belief regarding a very generous donation offer. We have repeatedly tried to come to an agreement regarding the offer but have been unable to do so. The public debate that has ensued, we believe, undermines the shared passion both organizations have for our mission of saving lives from cancer.

    It’s important to note that the Foundation Beyond Belief’s request to be a National Team Partner was not turned down because the Foundation Beyond Belief is a non-theist organization. To be clear, the American Cancer Society turned down Mr. Stiefel’s request that the Foundation Beyond Belief become a National Team Partner in our Relay For Life program. We have not turned down his offer of a donation to our mission, and we certainly don’t want to discourage his or the Foundation Beyond Belief’s participation in Relay For Life. We are grateful for their interest in saving lives from cancer.

    The Relay For Life National Team Partner program is aimed primarily at commercial corporations and their employee bases nationwide. Over the years, several non-commercial organizations have participated in the Relay For Life National Team Partner program; however, those engagements have not proved to be operationally efficient or cost effective for us. So we made the decision earlier this year to phase out the non-commercial part of the National Team Partner program. We have notified the participant organizations and are working with each of them to ensure their continued participation in Relay For Life and the Society’s mission. For this same reason, we had to respectfully and regretfully decline the Foundation Beyond Belief’s request to form a nationwide team.

    The Society has not turned down the Foundation Beyond Belief’s generous donation offer and encourage the group’s continued participation in Relay For Life.

    I hope this information is helpful to you in addressing your concerns.

    Again, thank you for sharing your feedback with the American Cancer Society and making a difference in the fight against cancer!

    Online Cancer Information Specialist

  6. 7

    This is likely motivated by pressure from a large funder, probably a religious one. They’re more afraid to lose this large source of support than to piss off what they see as a small one.

    And given that the link to DeMolay International’s Fact Sheet PDF on the link above redirects to the home page now, while the other fact sheets seem to be available… that’s a good hint who it might be. DeMolay is a Masonic youth organization. Here’s a fun little PR video I found for them:

    Given what a former friend of mine, who is now a Mason, has said about atheists, I would bet money that these are the folks they’re bowing to pressure from, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone (or someones) highly placed in the organization is a Mason.

  7. 8

    dave cortesi @ #6: This is the boilerplate response that they’re apparently giving everyone who contacts them about this issue. It doesn’t address the issues raised in the original article — among other things, why the FBB’s offer was initially green-lighted and then turned down after weeks of evasion; why other non-profit organizations and youth groups are participating with national teams but the FBB is not; and why the stories they’ve been giving about this have been conflicting. It’s basically just repeating the same line they’ve been giving all along — “Sure, we’ll take their money, they can participate on the local level, we just aren’t going to let them have a national team” — only with more words and a more conciliatory tone.

    I’m also personally irritated by the line about “The public debate that has ensued, we believe, undermines the shared passion both organizations have for our mission of saving lives from cancer.” It’s basically saying, “Atheists should shut up about this.” But maybe that’s just me.

  8. 10

    I posted t his on the American Cancer Society’s Facebook Page:

    I am LIVID. Does the American Cancer Society refuse help to Atheists?

    I suffer from esophageal cancer. I live on the Gold Coast about an hour’s drive from Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. I am Atheist and I get fantastic assistance from the Queensland Cancer Council. I get free mini bus transport from my home to the Mater Hospital in Brisbane for Radiotherapy. The Queensland Cancer Council grants me up to $500.00 per year for my bills like rates. etc. They know I am Atheist and it does not bother them.

    Australia does not suffer from the serious Virus poisoning the United Christian States of America, the GOD VIRUS. Atheists in Australia are not considered vermin as they are in the United Christian States of America.

    I wonder what Mr. Christopher Hitchens thinks of you bigots.

  9. 11

    Go to the section “Team Blitz Support Resources” and open the document titled “Targeted Team Recruitment – ServiceSocial.doc”. I copied the relevant portion of it here:

    National Relationships
    Currently there are 6 National service organizations that are affiliated with Relay For Life. At a National level, they have chosen Relay For Life as their signature activity. This does not mean all chapters will participate in their local Relay event, but a relationship at the National level already exists and gives you a warm lead.

    Find out where your local chapter is located and introduce yourself to them. Ask if your committee can come and present to them on Relay For Life and get the involved.
    They could get involved as Committee members and teams!
    Ask if Relay could be involved in their local chapter communications to their members.

    1) United States Junior Chamber (US JAYCEES)
    2) Phi Beta Sigma
    3) Parrot Heads In Paradise, Inc
    4) National Funeral Directors Association
    5) Knights of Pythias
    6) Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc

    There are also several youth service and social organizations that have a National Relay For Life relationships. These clubs and organizations exist at your local middle schools and high schools.

    1) Technology Student Association
    2) Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA)
    3) American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO)
    4) DeMolay International
    5) Girl Scouts of the USA
    6) Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society

  10. 12

    2011 Brochure for Relay for Life

    It have a revision date of 4/11.

    It says that a National Team Program can be done by a corporation, club, organization , or association. Also, it lists national benefits for clubs, organizations, and associations to include “recognition of participation in the Relay For Life year-end report” and a “dedicated Web page on” It also states that companies that raise $500,000 or more which get “recognition on the corporate partners section of”

    I think it’s that last bit that made them particularly nervous.

  11. 13

    I found the following on the Relay For Life history page:

    A Means of Unifying Communities

    Cancer is indiscriminate and knows no boundaries. As voluntary organizations in the United States must serve an increasingly diverse population and customer base, the way in which the American Cancer Society does business will need to shift. Our ability to communicate appropriately and utilize partners in our efforts will facilitate our growth in reaching diverse communities and ultimately in reaching the 2015 goals of the Society. Inclusion is imperative.

  12. 14

    Ironica says:

    “This is likely motivated by pressure from a large funder, probably a religious one.”

    Hadn’t thought of that. I bet you’re right. My guess is that its the Catholics. They’ve been known to threaten to pull funding over such insubordinations…

  13. 15

    The ACS has to keep this under cover. Imagine those whose lives have been affected by cancer hearing that the ACS is refusing funds from an organization. The ACS is gonna have a lot more of a problem trying to soft sell their position to folks who are angry and scared (rightfully so on both accounts)

  14. 16

    I just saw this comment on ACS FB page. Someone claiming to work for ACS says that, “The Society has never even been formally approached by [FBB] itself.

    AG Acs
    I work for the American Cancer Society. We apologize for any misunderstandings about our relationship with FBB. We could have done a better job communicating. The ACS has been successful because it does not discriminate. Relay For Life has become the most successful event of its kind because of a history of respect for and inclusion of ALL views and beliefs. The ACS never turned down a $250,000 do…nation from Foundation Beyond Belief. The Society has never even been formally approached by the group itself. One man did apparently offer a $250,000 matching gift in 2012 if FBB teams could raise an equal amount at 2012 Relay events. As I understand it, the matching gift offer was dependent on having FBB become a National Team Partner. The ACS eliminated the program for clubs and organizations in order to put more resources at the community level. We have repeatedly offered alternatives. We have and continue to encourage the group’s participation in Relay.

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