Atheist Charity to Award Baptist Group With $8,000 Grant

An atheist charitable organization has announced its intention to support a Baptist organization over the group's support for church and state separation.

Foundation Beyond Belief recently named the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty a beneficiary for the second quarter of 2014.

Dale McGowan, executive director for Foundation Beyond Belief, explained to The Christian Post how the Baptist Joint Committee received the honor.

"To qualify, a nominee must work for the common good - i.e. not just for those who share its worldview - and must not proselytize," said McGowan, regarding the specific category the Baptist Joint Committee was honored in.

"We then look for groups that share a key value with compassionate humanism, such as the responsibility to care for those less fortunate, advocating for equal rights and equal access to education, healthcare, food and shelter, etc. In the case of BJC, religious liberty and church–state separation are clearly shared values."

McGowan also told CP about the five categories for honored organizations, including education, human rights, natural world, poverty and health, and challenge the gap.

The Baptist Joint Committee fell under the "challenge the gap" category, explained McGowan, and thus will be eligible for "promotion and a grant."

"We promote five featured beneficiaries each quarter, publicize their work, and tell their story to our 1,600 contributing members and the extended humanist and atheist community," said McGowan.

"At the end of the quarter, 100 percent of funds designated for each charity are forwarded to that charity and a new slate is announced. BJC is likely to receive a grant of $8,000 to $10,000 in support of its work."

Based in Washington, D.C. and founded in 1936, the Baptist Joint Committee describes itself as an education and advocacy organization focused on church and state separation issues.

They have periodically filed amicus briefs for cases regarding religious freedom issues, including one filed in the Supreme Court case Town of Greece v. Galloway.

A case pertaining to sectarian prayers before town board meetings, the Baptist Joint Committee joined other religious groups to oppose the prayer policy of Greece.

They have also taken stances against "church electioneering" and assorted religious displays placed on government property.

The Baptist Joint Committee provided CP with a statement from J. Brent Walker, the organization's executive director.

"We are happy to have Foundation Beyond Belief name us as an organization eligible to receive donations from their supporters. We believe in religious liberty as a gift from God and the separation of church and state as a means of protecting it," said Walker.

"Freedom of religion goes hand-in-hand with freedom from state-sponsored religion. Baptists historically - going all the way back to colonial times - have worked in alliance with other believers and nonbelievers alike when we find common cause."

According to McGowan, the challenge the gap honor has been given out since January 2012 and has always featured religious charities as honorees.

"BJC is our tenth feature since the program launched in January 2012. We have featured charities in all five world religions," said McGowan.

Past beneficiaries include Buddhist Global Relief, Hindu American Seva, American Friends Service Committee, Islamic Relief USA, and Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.