After posting herself as an "auction item" on eBay for a chance to attend a Christian church, Eve Brannon of South Carolina-based Upstate Atheists said her ad was removed multiple times by the company without explanation, deterring the purpose of her auction meant to raise funds for her organization's charitable events.
"I feel like they [eBay] didn't like the ad so they removed it. Each ad has notes about it for the staff to see. The notes about our ad specifically stated that it violated no policies, yet it was still removed," said Brannon to The Christian Post.
Brannon's "Take an Atheist Leader to Church" auction was removed days after she initially published it. However, she posted it again, prompting eBay to take it back down for a second and third time.
"The second ad was removed due to a 'no item' policy. Instead of showing the typical 'item has been removed' page, the link I was using to share the ad was being redirected to very specific search results for a Christian rock CD," said Brannon.
According to eBay, the company can remove a listing if it either violates the law or one of their policies. However, Brannon said she spoke to a staff member who told her the ad should not have been removed and assured her that it could be relisted.
"There would be no way to make sure that it wouldn't be taken down again though," said Brannon.
At the time it was permanently removed, the auction had reached $255 and she says each time it was removed, there was a bidder in the lead. One of the bidders was the Rev. Marcus Buckley of Riverside Baptist Church in Greer, S.C., who bid for the opportunity to have Brannon as a guest at his church.
Upon learning that the auction was taken down, Buckley said he would still love to have Brannon and her family attend.
"Considering some of the crazy things I've seen auctioned online I'm not quite sure why they would cancel her auction, but I can understand eBay not wanting to get involved in something that could be perceived as controversial," said Buckley to CP. "I'd still make a donation matching the bid I put in if she would be willing to come to our church for a worship service on a given Sunday morning."
He even offered for his family to take Brannon out for lunch to learn more about her background and "talk about things other than church."
"I feel strongly enough about it to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak, regardless of the auction outcome…she grew up in church, yet something happened that turned her away from faith. Everyone has a story, and I'd like to know hers," said Buckley.
He added, "I think it is important that people with different beliefs be able to engage one another in a meaningful way, without resorting to stereotypes or name-calling. I would sincerely love to have the opportunity to do that with Ms. Brannon."
Brannon says she is open to Buckley's invitation but said she would have to discuss it with her organization's board.
She has decided not to post the ad again because some bidders became frustrated, she says, and her organization is currently partaking in other initiatives to raise funds.
"We appreciate each person that bid, and we apologize for being unable to complete the project...we are trying to raise money in other ways to try to keep the homeless warm and with clean water," said Brannon.