The American Library Association’s Bill of Rights which is displayed on the Morton Grove Public Library’s web site, states that libraries “should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.” Unfortunately that is not the reality, as atheist blogger and board member of Foundation Beyond Belief, Hemant Mehta recently discovered.
Following a Morton Grove Park District board member’s refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance or–more dastardly–say “under God,” the group did the Christian thing, a veterans’ group pulled its donations from the organization in October.
Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist blog spoke up for Commissioner Dan Ashta’s bravery in standing up for the Constitution and free speech, and asked his readers for help in recovering the lost money, approximately $2600. Within a few weeks, readers brilliantly helped collect more than $3000. However, there was a problem. As explained in an e-mail Mehta received from Tracey Anderson of the park district:
Mehta announced the sad news to his readers:
[box type=”shadow”] “I know everyone who gave money wanted to help the Park District make up for that injustice that happened…”Unfortunately, the Park District would rather lose money than take the charity of atheists and their supporters.”[/box]
Mehta gave the matter some thought, and elected to donate the $3,088.03 to the Morton Grove Public Library. “The money was meant to support the people in the community, after all, and if the park district doesn’t want it, then I can think of no other place more deserving of the donation,” Mehta said.
After what the Chicago Tribune describes as a fiery debate, the Morton Grove Public Library voted 5-2 not to accept the dirty atheist money. The excuses varied, but at least three board members, trustees Barbara Novick and Paul Berg, and treasurer Cathy Peters, stated that they did not feel it would be ethical, as the money was not intended for the library to begin with.
During the debate on the issue, however, treasurer Peters offered some different and interesting viewpoints, as reported by the Morton Grove Champion. “No. 2 [reason], they’re a hate group,” Peters offered as an explanation of her decision that atheist money was not welcome. She asked a fellow trustee, Arthur Goldstein,”Would you accept money from the Klan?” Goldstein replied that yes, he would, if there were no strings attached. Peters revealed during the meeting that she had exercised her right as treasurer to prevent the check from being cashed.
Peters cited some cherry-picked anti-religion statements from the Friendly Atheist Facebook page as evidence that this vile group of nonbelievers deserves the same classification that one would give to the KKK or the Tea Party. Apparently, her definition of “hate group” is “any number of individuals that would forego their own needs to help replace money unjustly withheld from an organization because of bigoted ideologies.”
Mehta says he is frustrated with how difficult it has been to give $3,000 away, and accused the board of trustees of making excuses. “I get 2,000 comments a day and don’t always look through all of them,” said Mehta, “Anyone who operates a forum understands that. I stand by my own posts, but them being bothered by random comments is a weak argument.”
Mehta is once again considering what to do with his evil atheist money.