A Couple Updates on the American Cancer Society Fiasco October 19, 2011

A Couple Updates on the American Cancer Society Fiasco

No, the American Cancer Society still hasn’t come to its senses. They still refuse to recognize an atheist National Team.

But at least the story is getting picked up by more media sources…

The Young Turks covered it yesterday and they don’t hold back at all:

Also, I taped an interview with Jon Grayson of Overnight America on CBS radio in St. Louis and it should have aired by the time you read this.

Hopefully, this story is only beginning to pick up steam…

(Thanks to Thiago for the link!)

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  • reminder

    I reiterate that this was not a half-million that could have gone to researching cancer. It was a half-million to the ACS, of which some would go to cancer research, but lots more would go to operating expenses.

  • Greg

    I am an ardent atheist and a big Relay For Life guy, having led teams that have raised $35,000 in the last two years and raised $5,000 myself. I lost my mom to cancer early this year and participating is very important and meaningful to me.

    So when I heard about the ACS rejecting an atheist organization’s attempt to support them I was pissed off and looked into it. I went to the list of all the faith-based organizations that they HAVE accepted into the program — there aren’t any. : / The program is for businesses, and that’s what I see on the list: http://relay.acsevents.org/site/PageServer?pagename=RFL_FY11_NationalCorporateTeams

    So in my book their position is fine and the FBB/we should participate in the same way that a very large number of faith-based groups do — at the local level.And to counter the slam about how much isn’t going to cancer research, the ACS does more than just fund cancer research: they provide all kinds of support programs in areas such as self-esteem (wigs and makeup for cancer patients), transportation (free rides to chemo) and stuff like that.

  • Greg

    By the way I’m not a total ACS fanboy or expert, I’m just reporting my initial sense of the situation. If I’m convinced that their actions are representative of discrimination or bigotry against the atheist community I will reconsider my participation and take my fundraising efforts elsewhere.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    I only looks that way, Greg.  ACS had at least 12 teams participating in the non-corporate national team program.  However, ACS just quietly deleted information from their website not very long ago.  Mr. Stiefel and FBB were working with ACS a very long time before this.

    Take a look at the Relay brochure from 4/11–


  • Rich Wilson

    Instead of assuming anyone would boycott the ACS for taking FBB money, they should put it as a challenge, and let churches donate more.  I’d be more than happy to be beating by religious people in that arena.

  • Greg

    I don’t see any non-big-company teams in that brochure. I see massive nationwide brands with tens of thousands of employees: BestBuy, Geico, Lockheed Martin, Staples, Walgreens, Walmart, etc. That just doesn’t seem like a list FBB belongs on. : / I keep looking for faith-based organizations on the list we’re trying to get on, as evidence of exclusion, but not seeing any.

    I’m actually very concerned that there might be exclusion of atheist support, because I pour a lot of my time and energy into Relay For Life.

    I’m trying to sort through the spin on what was offered when vs. what was rejected and why, but it seems like FBB/we are mostly offended that we’re being excluded from a club we shouldn’t really be in.

    I’d like to know more about how big national churches and faith-based organizations engage with the ACS. Do they support/foster local participation? Do they match funds?

  • Anonymous

    Did you just look at the logos and not read the brochure?  There are several sections about clubs, organizations and associations having national teams.

  • Greg

    Love that line of thinking. I am pretty active in raising money and awareness for what I believe to be good causes, and like to periodically sneak in mentions of how I do it absent any affiliation with a church or belief in god. If I didn’t already have a Relay team rocking with my college alumni crew, I’d totally start an atheist themed team myself, and associate it with FBB if they’d match our funds.

  • TheBlackCat

    In addition to Isilzha’s point, if that was their policy then they should have told the FBB that from the beginning.  Instead, after workign with the FBB for months, they suddenly just stopped responding to emails or phone calls.  The ACS claimed they just changed their policy, but if that was the case why not tell the FBB that instead of just ignoring any attempt to get in touch?  Why did the ACS claim they were “accelerating” their student team program, then minutes later (after the FBB asked to apply) turn around and say they were “de-emphasizing”, refusing to let them participate the same way other student teams were?

    And where has the ACS ever said that they don’t accept faith-based programs, or admitted that the beliefs of the FBB had anything to do with the decision?  The ACS has been claiming all along that it was the fact that the FBB is no a “corporation”, which is simply false.   The have never mentioned any policy against faith-based groups.

  • Blaine Higgy

    As Isilzha said – READ the brochure. They explicitly mention participation by groups and organizations NOT JUST corporations

  • Rich Wilson

    See this post: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2011/09/28/an-open-letter-to-reuel-johnson-of-the-american-cancer-society-from-todd-stiefel/

    and search down for ‘Girl Scouts’.

  • Greg

    Yes I READ the brochure and noticed language about clubs and organizations, but I have yet to see evidence of any faith-based organizations being granted that which FBB is asking for.

    Yes, it seems like they should be able to accomodate what FBB wants to do, and it seems like they mis-managed the offer in a way that hints at possible hinkyness, but maybe they’re this bad about money/participation coming from all kinds of non-corporate entities, secular or religious.

    I don’t have time to research this to the nth degree, especially given all the rhetoric and spin. If I see signs that ACS is denying FBB some program or privilege that IS being granted to faith-based organizations, or turning away atheist money while accepting similarly structured churchy donations, then I’ll get all pissed off about it. Until then, call me a skeptic but I’m just not seein’ it.

  • Trina

    I’m another of those concerned about an affiliation with ACS to begin with.  Some ‘charities’ aren’t all they’re cracked-up to be, and looking at ACS’s numbers, they’re not ranking too well in money actually going toward their stated goal.  I’d rather see money going toward an organization that ranks higher.  BTW, I very briefly did some data entry work for a company that processed contributions for a number of charities, and discovered through research how many of them (and they’re big names) were the same as ACS in regard to where their money goes.  Moral: contributor, beware!

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    Go to Team Blitz support resources and open Targeted Team Recruitment–ServiceSocial.doc–

    National Relationships

    there are 6 National service organizations that are affiliated with Relay For
    Life.  At a National level, they have
    chosen Relay For Life as their signature activity.  This does not mean all chapters will
    participate in their local Relay event, but a relationship at the National
    level already exists and gives you a warm lead.


    out where your local chapter is located and introduce yourself to them.  Ask if your committee can come and present to
    them on Relay For Life and get the involved. 

    could get involved as Committee members and teams! 

    if Relay could be involved in their local chapter communications to their


    United States Junior Chamber

    Phi Beta Sigma

    Parrot Heads In Paradise, Inc

    National Funeral Directors Association

    Knights of Pythias

    Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc

    are also several youth service and social organizations that have a National
    Relay For Life relationships.  These
    clubs and organizations exist at your local middle schools and high


    Technology Student Association

    Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA)

    American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO)

    DeMolay International

    Girl Scouts of the USA

    Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society

  • bluezinnia

    Please check out the bigwigs’ salaries at  Charity Navigator before bemoaning the fact that the  ACS refuses FBB money.

    How can  anyone  justify those salaries for a charity?

  • Anonymous

    BTW, DeMolay International requires a belief in god to join.

  • Greg

    Thanks for compiling/presenting this info. I’m already into the cycle of working on this year’s Relay as a member of the planning committee and am not going to bail on them, but it seems like this situation will settle out and be more clear in time for me to reconsider my participation before next year. Needless to say, I hope the ACS gives atheist supporters all of the rights, privileges and exposure as faith-based or “just not so obviously atheist” groups.

  • TheBlackCat

    I repeat the question: where has the ACS said anything about excluding faith-based programs?  Where is that policy mentioned by any official or any document, anywhere?  Are you aware of any faith-based groups that applied to be national teams and were turned away?

    There is absolutely zero evidence for such a policy.  You are blaming the decision on a policy that there is no reason to think even exists, and if it does they have flat-out lied about it.

  • TheBlackCat

    So there you have it, Greg.  An explicitly faith-based program is a national team.

  • TheBlackCat

    Just looking briefly, so does the Knights of Pythias, which is one of the adult national teams.  In fact the very first thing in the oath members has to taken says they believe in a “supreme being”.

    So there you have it, Greg.  At least two explicitly faith-based groups, one for adults and one for youth, were allowed in with no problem.  It was only when an atheist group tried to join that the policy changed.

  • TheBlackCat

    Sorry, I didn’t think this was successfully posted.

  • Anonymous

    Did your segment on Overnight American air?  I can’t seem to find it.

  • Tamug93

    You are just as stupid as the atheist community.  I believe that people should be able to believe whatever they want to believe in.  If you don’t believe in a God, then that is your right but you don’t have a right to try and tell everyone that they have to think YOUR way and if they don’t, then sue them.  The ACS is a private organization and they have the RIGHT to believe what they want.  If their organization believes in God, then that is their right and if they choose not to accept your donation because you are an atheist, then get over it.  That is their right and you have no recourse to make them take it. 

    You are so full of yourselves.  You think that your believes are the only correct ones.  You are trying to get away from the historical “Catholic” views and what they forced people to believe, but you are doing the same thing with your views.  If you believe it, great.  But other people have a RIGHT to believe in what they want.  If you don’t like their believes, then close your eyes, look away, don’t listen or WHATEVER it takes to not pay attention to it (if that is your choice).  The same thing applies with MERRY CHRISTMAS, GOD, JESUS and any other thing that I say and believe in.  If you don’t like it, then don’t listen but don’t tell me I CANNOT SAY IT.  You are just a bunch of bullys trying to force other people to accept your views.  You are no different than the same
    religious persecutions that you are running from. 

  • Rich Wilson

    I probably shouldn’t bother since you’re probably a drive-by,  but oh well.

    Being a private organization does not give you carte blanche to discriminate.  Civil Rights act of 1964.  Go do some reading.  Having said that, the ACS isn’t coming right out and saying “We don’t take atheist money”.

    If you run a business which serves the public, then no, you can’t turn away atheists, or Muslims, or African Americans, or people with one arm.  You can wish them all Merry Christmas, and adorn your business with religious icons, but you have to treat all your customers equally.  If you decide to take down all your religious messages, it’s not because any credible person or group asked you to, it’s because you think it’s good for business.  That’s it.


    Your perception of the ‘War on Christianity’ is nothing like reality.

    NOBODY is telling you to stop saying Merry Christmas, God, Jesus, or anything else.  As long as you’re not doing it in your capacity as a government employee, then NONE OF US CARE.

  • Laurance

    Um, I got the impression that the ACS wouldn’t mind having the half million bucks as long as the FBB quietly donated it and then got out of the way, not expecting any recognition.

    I did some Googling, and I don’t know that I want to give ANY money to the ACS.  I was disquieted by Big Pharma ties and emphasis on researching drugs which cost money and treatments that cost money, and mammograms which cost money but aren’t what they’re cracked up to be – but no real emphasis on prevention of cancer in the first place.


    Ditto the Komen for the Cure, and other pinkwashing endeavors.   Barbara Ehrenreich has some choice things to say about Komen and all this pink cancer awareness.


    The book, “Pink Ribbon Blues” goes into this with more detail.

    I don’t know that I want to give my money to any of this pinkwashing stuff.  No racing, no relays – I don’t feel good about it.

  • Anonymous

    I emailed DeMolay International using the contact page on their website and asked if they had a national team for Relay.  The response I received was, “Yes we do!”  I then replied asking for clarification and included part of  the ACS statement about ending the program.  The person at DeMolay had no idea what I was talking about and questioned the legitimacy of the statement.  I replied to them again and included screenshots of statements made by ACS on their Facebook page and a link to the ACS statement given on AskAnAtheist.  At the moment I have received no further replies from DeMolay.

    Based on that exchange I am doubting ACS’s claim that they ended the non-corporate national team program and notified those who had been participating.  I wonder how DeMolay would respond to FBB?

  • Anonymous

    No, personally I am attempting to pressure the ACS into telling the truth.  If they don’t want to publicly accept money from atheist/freethought/secular donors then they need to be honest about that fact.  ACS’s behavior looks very suspicious and every explanation they’ve tried to give seems to make it worse.  I have a right not to give my money to any group that behaves in such a despicable manner and I also have the right to let others know what I think of that behavior.

  • Anonymous

    I just saw this comment on ACS FB page. Someone claiming to work for
    ACS says that, “The Society has never even been formally approached by
    [FBB] itself.”

    AG Acs
    I work for the American Cancer Society. We apologize for any
    misunderstandings about our relationship with FBB. We could have done a
    better job communicating. The ACS has been successful because it does
    not discriminate. Relay For Life has become the most successful event of
    its kind because of a history of respect for and inclusion of ALL views
    and beliefs. The ACS never turned down a $250,000 do…nation from
    Foundation Beyond Belief. The Society has never even been formally
    approached by the group itself. One man did apparently offer a $250,000
    matching gift in 2012 if FBB teams could raise an equal amount at 2012
    Relay events. As I understand it, the matching gift offer was dependent
    on having FBB become a National Team Partner. The ACS eliminated the
    program for clubs and organizations in order to put more resources at
    the community level. We have repeatedly offered alternatives. We have
    and continue to encourage the group’s participation in Relay.

  • Anonymous

    American General Life and Accident (AGLA)
    National Team Program


    AGLA’s Relay History:
    • Sixth year n the N TP
    • 2005: 86 teams, raising $137,600
    • 2006: 50 teams, raising $133,000
    • 2007: 66 teams, raising $117,895
    • 2008: 127 teams, raising $137,000
    • 2009: 77 teams, raising $106,000
    • 2010: 46 teams, raising $98,001

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