A Missouri Christian organization has turned down a local atheist group’s offer to help distribute Thanksgiving meals to the poor because the faith group says the two wouldn’t be a “good fit.”
Volunteers with the Kansas City Atheist Coalition have worked with the Kansas City Rescue Mission over the holidays for two years, but this year the Christian group has decided to include religious materials with each of the 500 meals that will be delivered, The Kansas City Star reported.
The Kansas City Atheist Coalition stated on its website: “Kansas City Rescue Mission has decided to use the meals they deliver as a chance to proselytize to its recipients by inserting religious literature into the meals. They informed us that we ‘would not be a good fit’ (emphasis theirs) for volunteering with them, and declined to respond to any further inquiries.”
Julie Larocco, a development officer for the Kansas City Rescue Mission, told the Star the group is “unapologetically Christian” and that their work has always been faith-based in nature.
“We want to share the message with the people we serve that ‘God loves you, and you are not alone.’ It seemed to us that this (atheist) group probably would not want to deliver those meals,” she told the newspaper.
In an interview with TheBlaze, she said, “(We told them) we don’t feel like we would be a good fit for you. We didn’t say that you wouldn’t be a good fit for us.”
Atheist blogger JT Eberhard said he has volunteered with the Kansas City Atheist Coalition in the past and they have “provided the Kansas City Rescue Mission with, by far, its largest group of volunteers every Thanksgiving.”
Kansas City Atheist Coalition President Josh Hyde said his group is disappointed by the decision not to allow them to participate.
“We want to bridge the theological divide and get atheists and theists together for the common good,” he told KSHB-TV. “It’s unfortunate when religious organizations refuse the help of atheist organizations simply on the basis of lack of belief that they can’t come together with atheists for the greater good.”
But Larocca said the decision has much to do with the rescue mission’s stated goals of spreading the Christian gospel.
“If someone was to say ‘tell me more’ and the person can’t because it’s against their convictions, I don’t feel like that’s representative of the Kansas City Rescue Mission,” she told KSHB. “We believe that God is our hope.”
Larocco said they appreciate the atheists’ help over the past two years, but said Thanksgiving and Christmas are prime time for volunteers and that the Kansas City Rescue Mission often has to turn prospective helpers away.
“Had they been a large church, we would have done the same thing,” Lorocco told TheBlaze, noting that the organization is now focusing on attracting individuals and families instead of large groups.
She said they like the non-believers who have helped in the past and invited them to assist on other projects. For now, they want to give others an opportunity to volunteer — those who can help spread the Kansas City Rescue Mission’s Christian message.
A soup kitchen in South Carolina caused similar controversy last year after it turned atheists away who had offered to help feed the poor.
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