The ACS has been stung by accusations of anti-atheist bigotry in its fundraising. Is it making things worse by trying to cover its tracks?
“What really hurts in matters of this sort is not the fact that they occur, because overzealous people in campaigns do things that are wrong. What really hurts is if you try to cover it up.” — President Richard M. Nixon, August 29, 1972
The American Cancer Society is not happy. It insists that it is not discriminating against atheists. It insists that its recent decision to deny the Foundation Beyond Belief a national team in their upcoming Relay for Life — and its decision to reject the $250,000 matching offer that would have gone with it — had nothing to do with the fact that the FBB is a non-theist organization. It insists that it had already decided to do away with non-profit participation in the Relay for Life on a national level, and that the FBB’s request just happened to come at the time when it had made that decision. And it really, really wants atheists — and believers who are equally outraged by this controversy — to stop bugging them about it.
The problem is this: The facts don’t match their story.
Actually, the facts strongly suggest a cover-up. 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. (Supporting documents for this story are available on the author’s personal blog.)
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. And their attempts at damage control have turned into an ugly attempt to blame Stiefel and the Foundation Beyond Belief for raising the issue in the first place.
Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, Has the American Cancer Society Been Caught Covering Up a Rejection of Atheist Money?. To read more of this follow-up on the ongoing controversy — with serious concerns about the ACS’s actions in the wake of the story, and their baffling refusal to respond to direct questions about it — read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!