Tuesday, October 11, 2011

American Cancer Society: The sick do not ask if the hand that smooths their pillow is pure

The sick do not ask if the hand that smooths their pillow is pure, nor the dying care if the lips that touch their brow have known the kiss of sin.

This is not the first time that I have quoted these very words, employing them now on two previous occasions, and latterly quite recently. The bit that is relevant I reproduce here.

That's the trouble with (self righteous) principles, they do tend to get in the way of purpose.

I have just done a little search of the web, looking for the story of Mandy Rice-Davies in order to use it analogously with how I perceive this statement from Greenpeace. I was then, having found a reference, going to write a few words on charities and my relationship with them. Funny then, that the Google search threw up these few lines on the very subject, not so funny though, that I can't even remember writing them, but write them I did, back in 2005, albeit under a different handle.

And the hooker? yes, she still haunts me on occasion.


"The sick do not ask if the hand that smooths their pillow is pure, nor the dying care if the lips that touch their brow have known sin"


During the mid sixties two, enthusiastic amateur prostitutes, Mandy Rice-Davies and Christine Keeler, gained, in the quintessential English way, great notoriety. The latter was instrumental in bringing the government down.

Whereas a cabinet minister sleeping with a prostitute was hardly new, a cabinet minister sleeping with the same prostitute that was also sleeping with a KGB officer did cause a slight ripple in the then government of Harold McMillan.

Mandy Rice was a beautiful society girl who got her kicks out of hooking. The detail escapes me after so many years, but there was at the time, some terrible famine in the world.

Mandy held a hunt ball, the proceeds to go to Oxfam, the largest famine relief charity in the UK. Now I don't think you have to be in possession of a crystal ball to see where this story is headed. Sure enough Oxfam were too righteous to accept the money.

From that day to this, not one copper penny have I donated to organised charities, (the lifeboat service apart and latterly SSCS)

This attitude being further hardened over the years, when a fellow wises up to the constitutional set-up of some of these so called charities. Ten cents on the dollar, or two bob in the pound so to speak, being considered the best return the object of the charity might possibly hope to receive. The rest of the revenue going to the executive, enabling them to live high on the hog off the donations people had made in good faith. To wit.

All my giving since, has been to the man and woman on the street. I have given directly to those in need.

Whilst I am writing of money and prostitutes, I want to try and get rid of a ghost:

Amsterdam, six am. I am approached by a hooker, a poor wretch of a woman offering her services. Said offer was always going to be doomed to failure, she being possessed of both eyes and both legs, and me being totally off my face.

But there was a fear and hopelessness in those eyes. It was obvious she dare not go home without turning a trick. I could well have afforded to have given her the money and sent her home, I didn't. It haunts me still.

- - -

Is Atheist Money Too Controversial for the American Cancer Society?

The American Cancer Society may have turned down a potential half-million dollar donation because it came from a non-theistic organization.
October 10, 2011

I'll say this clearly, right up front: The American Cancer Society did not explicitly reject a massive donation offer from a non-theistic organization on the basis of it being a non-theistic organization.

That was not the stated reason given for rejecting a matching offer of $250,000 from the Foundation Beyond Belief and the Todd Stiefel Foundation to sponsor a national team in the upcoming Relay for Life. (An offer that, as a matching offer, was likely to bring in a total of half a million dollars for the American Cancer Society.) Nobody at the ACS has ever said, in words, "We don't want our organization to be associated with atheists. It's too controversial. We don't want atheist money." And when asked if this was the case, they have denied it.
It's just difficult to reach any other conclusion. In the place of clear explanations, there has been an ongoing series of evasions, imprecisions, conflicting answers, moved goalposts, apathy, and even hostility.
Here's the deal. A few months ago, Todd Stiefel -- philanthropist and founder of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, which provides financial support to atheist and other nonprofit and charitable organizations -- approached the American Cancer Society with an offer. He wanted local atheist groups around the world to participate in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life program, as a national team, under the banner of the humanist charitable organization Foundation Beyond Belief. In order to make this happen, he made a generous offer: a $250,000 matching offer from the Todd Stiefel Foundation, which, as a matching offer, was likely to bring in a half million dollars to the American Cancer Society.
And he was stonewalled.

The offer was initially approved, and the Foundation Beyond Belief even brought on an intern to manage the program. But then the American Cancer Society stopped responding. Repeated emails and phone calls from Stiefel were not returned for over a month. And the eventual responses from the ACS ranged from apathetic at best to hostile at worst. As Stiefel told AlterNet:

Reuel Johnson of ACS was completely disinterested in the matching gift. He made no effort to try to gain the money and attempted to ignore that the offer was even made. When I brought it up to him, he referred to it as merely "fine" and then started complaining about how it was a hassle to ACS to have to try to track the challenge. Of course, it should not have to be a hassle; they have an automated system to track team and individual performance. I don't know why he acted like this, but something clearly was amiss.

After many go-arounds, Stiefel was finally told no. He was told that the Relay for Life program was focusing on corporate sponsors for the National Team program, and was no longer including nonprofits in the program. Despite the massive size of the offer from the Stiefel Foundation -- and despite the fact that several nonprofits are currently participating in the program, including Girl Scouts of the USA, Phi Theta Kappa and DeMolay International -- the ACS insisted that nonprofit participation in this program wasn't cost-effective, and would no longer be welcome.

Every attempt to find an alternative form of participation for the Foundation Beyond Belief was stymied. Stiefel offered to participate as a corporate team, since the FBB is a 501(c)(3) corporation. This offer was rejected. Stiefel asked if they could simply be put on the drop-down list of national team partners (which, again, does include several nonprofits). This offer was rejected. Stiefel even offered to have the FBB participate as a National Youth Partner -- they have a network of hundreds of non-theist youth groups who were eager to participate. This offer was rejected, in an especially contradictory series of statements, first telling Stiefel that the youth program was being accelerated, then saying it was being de-emphasized.

he American Cancer Society was certainly happy to accept a $250,000 donation from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation and/or the Foundation Beyond Belief. They made that very clear. They just weren't willing to let them have any sort of national participation in the Relay for Life. They could participate at the local level only. (You can read more detailed background on this story, including comments from both Stiefel and the American Cancer Society, at the Friendly Atheist blog, here, here, and here.)
Now, in case you're wondering if this is standard behavior, find someone who works as a development director for a nonprofit. Ask her what her response would be to a $250,000 matching offer from a philanthropic foundation. And ask if her organization would be drooling, celebrating wildly, and bending over backward to make it happen -- or if they would be evading, delaying, dodging, deflecting, changing their stories, treating the potential benefactor with irritation and dismissal, and finding an endless series of excuses for not accepting the offer?
And now ask: Why did it unfold this way with the American Cancer Society and the Foundation Beyond Belief?
Is it because the Foundation Beyond Belief are atheists?
For those who might be thinking this is just paranoia, a bit of context: Anti-atheist bigotry is an unfortunate reality. And even among people and organizations who aren't personally bigoted, atheists are still frequently seen as bringing unwanted controversy. Atheists put up billboards saying simply, "You can be good without God" -- and people freak out. Atheists march in a Christmas parade -- and people freak out. Atheist veterans march in a Memorial Day parade -- and get booed to their faces. Atheist students in public high schools try to organize groups -- and get routinely stonewalled by their school administrations. Atheists try to take out ads on buses -- and the bus company changes their policy and stops accepting any ads from religious organizations, just so they don't have to run ads from atheists. Atheists get threatened, hounded from their communities, disowned by their parents, denied custody of their children, when they come out as atheists. Atheists customarily get treated as if association with them is a potentially controversial embarrassment at best, a dangerous toxin at worst.
So it's not unreasonable to think that an individual might be personally disinclined to have any dealings with atheists... or that an organization might want to avoid any public association with atheists, for fear of blowback. In fact, just a year and a half ago, the Mississippi chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union rejected a donation from atheist organizations... not because they personally had anything against atheists, but because, "the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word 'atheist.'" (A decision that, to their credit, they later rescinded.) If the freaking ACLU is reluctant to be associated with atheist money because it's too controversial, it's not unreasonable to think the American Cancer Society might be as well.
But is that really the case? What, exactly, does the American Cancer Society have to say about all this?
Not a lot. When AlterNet contacted the American Cancer Society to comment on this story, Reuel Johnson, the primary person Stiefel had been dealing with over this matter, declined to be interviewed. Instead, the ACS gave this response:
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. Go to page three.

Ref. A woman of No Importance
Update 09-03-15 It never quite struck me before, just what the darling Oscar expected of his players. Learn your lines!

No comments: