On Monday, Matt Wilbourn, the founder of the Muskogee Atheist Community in Oklahoma, made a $100 donation in his organization’s name to the Murrow Indian Children’s Home. Later that day, his phone rang.
“I received a phone call an hour later from the lady who accepted my donation earlier telling me that her director asked her to call me and tell me that my donation was not accepted,” Wilbourn wrote on a Go Fund Me page. “She went on to say that they are funded by the American Baptist Churches Association and accepting a donation from atheists would go against everything they believe in.”
“I emailed the director and even told her that I’m raising the amount to $250. I’m awaiting her response,” he added.
Wilbourn and his wife, Keli, launched a fundraiser for the children’s home after their experience. As of Saturday night, they had raised more than $28,000 for the kids, from religious people and atheists outraged at Wilbourn’s rejection.
“I am a Christian who stands with the Muskogee Atheist Community today! Thank you for fighting back with love instead of spreading hateful words,” wrote Sherry Phillips-Kidd, and online supporter.
“My advice to Murrow Indian Children’s Home: Don’t perish while clinging to the steeple of your burning church because you rejected the rescue helicopter in favor of holding out for the firetruck you prayed God to send,” Joe Miller, another backer, wrote.
Wilbourn told the Friendly Atheist Blog that he wrote his initial check for the home when a representative came to print programs for a charity event at his place of work. While his employer had donated a free printing to the home in the past, they didn’t this time. That’s when Wilbourn—whose Facebook page warns that “If anti-religious material offends you, you may not want to friend request me”—decided to offset the costs by making out a check for $100, he told the blog.
“God bless you,” the staffer told him.
According to the home’s website, it is the only residential facility in Oklahoma exclusively for American Indian children.
“God has provided for Murrow Home for over a hundred years through the donors who have helped sustain Murrow financial and the mission groups and volunteers that have given countless hours to repair and refurbish the cottages,” the website reads. “Murrow would not exist without the hard work, donations and financial support of selfless men and women of God.”
It hosts 36 children who are in state custody or in the custody of native tribes. It runs on about $500,000 a year, according to tax filings.
Hours after receiving his donation, the staffer allegedly called back to tell Wilbourn they couldn’t accept his godless money. He offered to up the donation to $250, but it didn’t work.
Contacted by phone, a woman who answered the phone at the home declined to comment on rejecting Wilbourn’s donation. Asked whether she knew that by Wednesday, Wilbourn’s fundraiser had brought in $10,000, she remained firm.
“Like I said, we have no comment,” the woman said.
She directed further inquiries to board president Sharon Woolwine. Woolwine did not return a request for comment.
As Wilbourn’s campaign went national,supporters trolled the home on Facebook. Some questioned whether the bison meat auction they planned for an upcoming benefit would align with their values.
“Are you sure you want to do this? That meat may have been packaged by a dirty heathen atheist,” Natalie DeKeyzer wrote.
“Those bison probably don’t believe in god,” added Peter-John Matzig. “How can you be raffling off filthy atheist meat?”
Others gave the home a 1-star rating on Facebook, bringing its overall rating down to 2.1 stars Wednesday afternoon. By Saturday night, the page appeared to have been deleted.
On the Go Fund Me page, Wilbourn said he'd try to funnel just over $5,000 of the money raised to the home, through himself or a friendly church. The rest will go to an atheist summer camp.