Leukemia and Lymphoma Society accepts donations from atheists turned down by American Cancer Society

by Erin MuellerCharitable giving is one of the areas in which the nonreligious community often appears to fall short.  We don’t have the built-in outlet for regular giving that the churchgoing community has, and when we do give, it’s not as visible.  We aren’t publicly giving as atheists or freethinkers, so our contributions are often going unnoticed with regard to our beliefs.  Making it even harder are organizations who stand in the way of non-theist fundraising projects for fear of associating themselves with atheist societies.  The Foundation Beyond Belief and Todd Stiefel are trying to change that, and we have the opportunity to be part of it!You may recall hearing about the American Cancer Society (ACS) rejecting “atheist money” as the story made the rounds on the Internet last fall.  If you missed it, here’s what happened.  Last summer, Todd Stiefel (president and founder of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation) approached the Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB) with a great idea.  He wanted to start an international fundraising team for ACS’s Relay for Life.  He envisioned gathering atheist, agnostic, and freethinking societies from around the world together under the umbrella of an FBB international team.  Even better, Todd’s foundation offered to match all donations made through the FBB team, dollar-for-dollar, up to $250,000 (for a total donation of up to half a million dollars).  It should have been pretty straightforward, signing up local teams under a National Team on the Relay for Life’s website.  At first the ACS sounded excited about it, but then Todd was suddenly stonewalled and his inquiries were met with silence.  To make a long story short, the FBB team was rejected, and ACS gave a number of vague and contradictory explanations.  It appeared to many people that the ACS rejected the offer out of fear of repercussions from associating with an “atheist” organization.  You can read more about what happened, including the official response of ACS in this AlterNet article by Greta Christina from October 2011: http://www.alternet.org/belief/152685/is_atheist_money_too_controversial_for_the_american_cancer_society_?Thankfully, Todd and the FBB did not give up on the idea.  Fast-forward to February of this year.  The Foundation Beyond Belief announced the formation of an international fundraising team, this time for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Light the Night walk.  To sweeten the deal, Todd Stiefel has pledged to match donations up to $500,000! The FBB team has a goal of creating a minimum of 100 local teams worldwide and raising a million dollars for cancer research.  Not only will we be raising funds for a great charity, but by teaming up with FBB, we will also be helping to highlight non-theist giving.So let’s get together to rally behind something big that reflects our reason-based values and the things we believe in:  the healing power of scientific research, education, and compassionate patient services.  For more information about our team, you can visit and “Like” our Facebook team page, www.facebook.com/CFIPortlandLTN, or contact our Team Captain, Erin Mueller at erin.c.mueller@gmail.com.  If you are ready to join the team and walk with us, visit our fundraising page at http://pages.lightthenight.org/oswim/PortlndL12/CFIPortlandFBB .  There, you can either click to join the team or make a tax-deductible donation to LLS through the CFI Portland team.  Please join us in this unique opportunity to raise money for a great cause while we also raise awareness for the good things the freethought community can do when we work together!