MUSKOGEE, Oklahoma (Christian Examiner) – The Murrow Indian Children's Home in Muskogee, Okla., under fire for politely refusing to accept and publicize a $100 donation from an atheist, has been forced to shut down its Facebook page after hundreds of atheists posted vitriolic and anti-Christian comments on it.
Many of the comments, obscene in nature, cannot be reprinted by Christian Examiner. Others, however, reflect atheist sentiments such as referring to God as "your imaginary friend" and others calling the Christians who refused the donation "hypocrites" and "bigots."
On Sunday, a fresh search for the Facebook page yielded only a statement that said the content was unavailable.
Last week, the children's home was offered a $100 donation from atheist Matt Wilbourn. He requested the children's home, which publicizes its donations in an annual fundraising program, list the donation as given "In Honor of the Muskogee Atheist Community."
The children's home refused and returned the donation. It said accepting money in honor of the atheist community would "be contrary to those biblical principles upon which we at Murrow stand. We are Christians, believing in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit."
Wilbourn then offered to up the donation to $250, but the children's home refused the donation again. That angered the atheist, who then launched a GoFundMe page inviting atheists across the country to donate to the cause. They raised $28,280 before Wilbourn cut off the donations.
He claimed on the page that he would donate $5,106.47 to the Murrow Indian Children's Home through an anonymous third party donor. The remainder, minus fees and taxes from the fundraising website, will go to a camp for children of so-called "freethinking" parents.
"All of you have proven that love wins over bigotry," Wilbourn wrote on the page.
In the meantime, Murrow is receiving support from the church missions agency that helped found it.
The American Baptist Home Mission Societies issued a statement when the controversy erupted last week that said the ABHMS "stands in solidarity with the Murrow Indian Children's Home as this century-old ministry exercises its right to refrain from lifting up a religious view that is not aligned with its own."
However, assuming the party donating the funds is identified and linked to the atheist group, the ABHMS said the children's home would still not accept the donation because to do so would promote another world view "so antithetical to its own."
"It challenges the integrity of Murrow's most central values and principles," the ABHMS statement said.
"Standing true to its faith and principles, the children's home has also declined to accept funds raised through a GoFundMe page, initiated by the Muskogee Atheist Community. The crowd sourcing effort was not requested or authorized by Murrow. It would be even more contradictory to accept these funds just because the donation would be greater. Murrow's principles, faith and values are not for sale to the highest bidder."
Jeffrey Haggray, executive director of ABHMS, said the atheist group was using "its muscle to shame and embarrass Murrow," and its supporters were guilty of "blatant bullying."
He said the children's home had not provoked the campaign against them, but had only taken a stand in favor of the beliefs underpinning their work among the Native Americans for more than a century.
Susan Gillies, the interim general secretary of the 1.5 million-member American Baptist Churches USA, also said she support Murrow's decision and the "faithful ways it brings God's love to the most vulnerable among us, nurturing children in crisis to physical, psychological and spiritual wholeness."