Hemant has the scoop on yet another charity refusing to allow a group of atheists to help them achieve their goals. This time it’s the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen in South Carolina. Upstate Atheists wanted to volunteer there to help feed the homeless but the charity refused the offer:
We asked the director… whether or not it would be permissible for us to wear t-shirts with our organization’s logo on them. She told us that we were not welcome to volunteer at the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen because they are a “place of God,” and she knew “our motivations.”
Even after the group said they wouldn’t wear the shirts, the kitchen still said no to their offer to help. So to their credit, the Upstate Atheists decided to take action on their own and are putting together care packages for the homeless people in that area and distributing those packages themselves.
Not all charities do this, of course. I had an amusing experience about a decade ago when I was helping cook and serve Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter run by a Catholic organization. When we were ready to take the food out and serve it, the priest who ran the shelter asked all the people in the kitchen to say a prayer and he actually asked me to give it. I said, “Oh, I’m an atheist, that wouldn’t be appropriate. Probably better for someone else to say it.” So someone else did. Afterwards, the priest came up to me and asked why, if I was an atheist, I was helping out at a Catholic shelter. I told him that I think it’s important to help others any way we can, regardless of our religious beliefs. And he smiled and said, “Well we’re happy to have you here. Thank you for your hard work.”
One of the things I really like about the Foundation Beyond Belief is that they do fund religious charities, as long as they don’t use their charity work to proselytize. We’ve funded Buddhist Global Relief, for instance, and a Quaker peace group. What people do is far more important to me than why they do it.