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UPDATE: Kansas City Atheist Group Barred From Delivering Thanksgiving Meals To Poor

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Kansas City Atheist Coalition
See update below: A group of Kansas City atheists have been forced to take their goodwill elsewhere after a Christian homeless shelter banned it from volunteering there during Thanksgiving.

Members of the Kansas City Atheist Coalition have spent the past two Thanksgivings distributing boxed meals for the Kansas City Rescue Mission, helping to feed thousands of the city's most impoverished during the holiday.

But this year the mission has chosen to include a religious flier along with those boxes. The proposed message will read: "God Loves You. You Are Not Alone."

"We are faith-based, and we've never contradicted that," says Julie Larocco, the mission's development officer. "It makes sense to us to send people out who are representative of who we are."

See also: St. Louis Archdiocese: No More Beer at Catholic Youth Events

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KCAC
More than three dozen atheist volunteers showed up to help distribute food for the Kansas City Rescue Mission during Thanksgiving 2012.
But Jozef Hanratty, director of philanthropy for the KCAC. insists distributing religious fliers wouldn't have stopped the group's members from volunteering.

"I don't mind if someone believes or wants to proselytize their beliefs," Hanratty says. "My non-belief has never gotten in the way of me wanting to help someone."

Hanratty says he received an e-mail on October 30 from the mission announcing its intention to include Gospel messaging in its food boxes. The e-mail read, in part:

We are probably not a good fit for KCAC this year. We are not a good fit for you.

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Kansas City Rescue Mission
KCRM runs both a men's and women's shelter.

Suffice to say, both parties feel offended. Larocco says the mission was simply trying to avoid putting atheist volunteers in a position where they could be asked about God.

"If you include a Gospel message and you send it along with somebody who doesn't believe the message, what happens when the person who receives it at the door asks: 'Tell me more?' That would be almost ridiculous," she says.

See also: Salem Library Told to Stop Wiccan Censorship: "We Are Pleased This Matter is Behind Us"

Like most religious conflicts, this argument could probably go 50 more rounds without losing steam. But unlike most religious conflicts, this one hasn't caused much tangible damage.

The Atheist Coalition will still be raising money to "adopt" a needy family. Though it's too late for the group to arrange a different Thanksgiving charity project, Hanratty tells Daily RFT that he has received an "outpouring" of offers from other local ministries with volunteer openings for godless do-gooders. (See update below)

On the other side of the schism, Larocco says, losing dozens of atheist volunteers won't hurt the food drive, as there are many "individuals and families" more than willing to deliver meals (and the Good News) this Thanksgiving.

Update November 14: The Kansas City Atheist Coalition announced on their website that it will partner with The Micah Ministry of Independence Boulevard to serve a sit-down meal to 500-800 guests on Thanksgiving.

Senior Minister Lee Chiaramonte says his ministry does not require an acceptance of faith from those who volunteer or from those who need a warm meal for the night.

Here's KCTV's report, which includes an interview with Larocco.

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com

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22 comments
Kasandra Tinajero
Kasandra Tinajero

This article made me giggle. An atheist can hand out food just as good as a Christian with the same end result: a hungry person has a meal. If the one receiving the food has a question regarding God, I am sure that between the Bible and the Church that they can find answers. People can be so silly.

Chris Davis
Chris Davis

Windel Mathes, that's exactly what they're doing. I think most people just find it silly that an organization is turning away free help when there are people in need.

Dennis Jones
Dennis Jones

Exactly Paul. So why would a person go to a Christian group and proclaim your an atheist unless your just looking for attention? Just hand out food!

Melissa Debus
Melissa Debus

I'm a little disappointed that there isn't a similar secular humanitarian group in St. Louis (or at least not one affiliated with the American Humanist Association).

Paul Burrows
Paul Burrows

Do you think the hungry people really care about your beliefs?

smdrpepper
smdrpepper

So they refuse help because someone does not believe in their mythology.  Wow, there are reasons organized religion is so ass backwards.

Dennis Jones
Dennis Jones

I don't understand what the issue is here. Why would any organization want to be affiliated with an organization that's has the complete opposite stance. Or why anyone would be surprised by this outcome. Pure sillyness

Ellen Clark
Ellen Clark

People stop being so biasedExactly why are they banned. They should be able to help the poor.

Greg Ballard
Greg Ballard

You could always just make two sets of delivery options - one with religious propaganda and one without. Both sides can then take part.

David J. McCutcheon
David J. McCutcheon

It is a moral strike to go out of your way to prevent someone from receiving the help that they need, especially in the name of pride. Religious idiots.

Windel Mathes
Windel Mathes

Why can't this atheist group simply collect food, and distribute it themselves? In other words, no one is "barring" them from doing anything...

Alex Rathgeb
Alex Rathgeb

I doubt this will affect the delivery of the meals...I don't, in one sense, have a problem with this--any organzation can shoose who they want...but I feel like dissuading anyone from serving is a bad idea. Hopefully, the Atheist group continues on doing their great works. As a Christian, I applaud their pragmatism and open-mindedness...and also understand and somewhat appreciate the Shelter's decision.

Lauren Brown Conner
Lauren Brown Conner

Yes I'm sure God would rather have people go hungry than to be served by non believers. Ridicoulous

Jazon Parker
Jazon Parker

what does thanksgiving have to do with god?i've never remotely considered it a religious holiday...

Ed Gibson
Ed Gibson

sounds like the "christian" thing to do...

the1observant
the1observant

It was a test of partnership for a common good. KCRM had the helpful resources. KCAC had the helpful muscle. KCRM rejected the muscle and failed the test. Their religious pride was more important than feeding the hungry.

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