A children’s charity has rejected the $25,000 donation of a man because of his religious preference—or rather, the lack thereof.
Matt Wilbourn, an Oklahoma atheist, tried to donate thousands of dollars to the Murrow Indian Children’s Home on behalf of the Muskogee Atheist Community, and was rejected. He and his wife co-founded the atheist organization, which is a private Facebook group.
According to the atheist website Patheos, which reported correspondence by Wilbourn and a staffer from the children’s home, the charity refused to accept his donations based on principle. Local news station KJRH also caught wind of the story and ran an interview with the atheist.
“She called my desk phone at work and told me that they would not be accepting our donation because it would go against everything they believe in,” Wilbourn said.
It all began when Wilbourn sought to give the charity $100, and was rejected. In response, he started a GoFundMe page to crowdfund an even larger sum from outraged Internet users to get the charity to change its mind. He took his story to Patheos the day after, on August 23, and the story went viral across the atheist blogosphere. The basic narrative, penned by Patheos writer Hemant Mehta, was repeated across the board.
Wilbourn says that the charity, which is “primarily funded by the American Baptist Churches Association,” will only accept the donation provided he changed the credit to something other than the Muskogee Atheist Community.
The Murrow Indian Children’s Home has since confirmed with KJRH that they did not accept a donation from Wilbourn for the reasons he stated. They said the Biblical principles their charity is based on prohibit them from accepting a gift that would have amounted to an advertisement for the “Muskogee Atheist Community.”
“We appreciate the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Matt Wilbourn for their thoughtful donation to the Murrow Children’s Home. This decision is not about money or personal matters. It is solely about our religious beliefs and Honoring God our Father.
“Mr. Wilbourn asked that his donation be noted in the ad, “In Honor of the Muskogee Atheist Community”. Murrow cannot Honor the Atheist non-belief in God our father, and Honor God our Father under our Biblical principles. Those two positions are totally opposite of each other. Therefore, we must respectfully decline the donation and the request to Honor the Atheist Community with the donation in an advertisement for a Murrow fundraising event.”
As the story made its rounds, the Wilbourn GoFundMe managed to collect up to $25,000. During that time, he made several failed attempts to donate to the Christian charity under the same premise. Given that the charity is refusing to accept the donation no matter the amount, Wilbourn says all the money will now go to Camp Quest Oklahoma, a secular humanist summer camp that promotes “rational inquiry, critical and creative thinking, scientific method,” and so forth. The money will still help children—just not the ones under the care of Murrow.
Aside from Camp Quest, there are no real saints in this story. Wilbourn used the Murrow Indian Children’s Home to boost publicity for his atheist agenda, and the charity, perhaps selfishly, refused to accept the donations, which would have ultimately helped the children who live there.
Be better than this.