The group American Atheists is urging people who want to contribute to relief efforts in Japan to donate to secular charities rather than "religious buffoons."
American Atheist President David Silverman told The Christian Post on Wednesday that he and many other atheists believe that faith-based charities, such as The Salvation Army and various Catholic groups, use part of the money donated for relief efforts to disseminate Bibles.
"They (Christian charities) push religion rather than give food and aid which the people really need," Silverman accused faith-based groups of doing.
But Jennifer Byrd, the special public relations director for The Salvation Army, said the group was one of the first organizations to help, being that it was already on the ground in Japan when the tsunami struck. Since the disaster, the group has distributed 1,000 hot meals and drinks.
On the actual night of the disaster, The Salvation Army provided food, water and shelter at its Tokyo headquarters to Japanese citizens who could not go home because public transportation was shut down, Byrd said.
So far, the charity has received a total of $2.1 million to help the people of Japan. The money, Byrd said, will be used to continue providing hot meals, shelter and basic necessities such as blankets and diapers to those affected by the disaster.
When asked about the sharing of the Christian faith during relief efforts, Byrd said workers only pray with victims if they are requested to do so.
"If someone feels moved to do so they can ask," she stated.
However, prayer is not forced, she emphasized. She also said she is unaware of any Bible distribution by The Salvation Army in Japan. In the United States, The Salvation Army does not distribute Bibles during its relief efforts.
American Atheists President David Silverman, however, insists that donation is better used when given to Richard Dawkins' Non-Believers Giving Aid Disaster Relief Fund, which in turn gives the money to non-religious groups such as the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.
But in Japan, Doctors Without Borders has only an 11-man team on the ground providing medical services. The Red Cross, meanwhile, has about 700 staff members and 80 medical teams treating the wounded in tented clinics and giving food and shelter.
By comparison, The Salvation Army has 1,000 staff members in Japan helping the homeless and wounded. The Salvation Army also has two hospitals and 80 centers providing housing and rehabilitation for men, women and seniors in Japan. Moreover, since The Salvation Army has been in Japan since 1985, Byrd said the group has been given access to roads that are closed to the public.
Byrd also clarified that neither The Salvation Army nor its affiliate s have said that Japan's natural disaster is a punishment from God. The American Atheist had asserted on its blog that funds should not be given to faith-based charities because they blame victims for the natural disaster.