MUSKOGEE, Okla. (Christian Examiner) – A children's home founded by a Baptist missionary among the Native Americans of Oklahoma just after the Civil War has taken a costly stand to honor its commitment to God.
According to a press release from the Murrow Indian Children's Home in Muskogee, the group will not accept a large donation from a group of atheists because the atheists asked that the donation be recognized as given "In Honor of the Muskogee Atheist Community."
The press release, which does not contain the name of a contact for the children's home, said the home was founded on biblical principles that "include believing and trusting in the Trinity; God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
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"To accept money for an advertisement which would indicate 'In Honor of the Muskogee Atheist Community' in the advertisement, would be contrary to those biblical principles upon which we at Murrow stand. We are Christians, believing in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit," the statement said.
On Aug. 22, Matt and Keli Wilbourn – members of the Muskogee Atheist Community –donated $100 to the children's home. Within an hour, according to Wilbourn, the donation was returned because of the request to see it noted as being in honor of the atheist community.
Afterward, Wilbourn raised the donation to $250 but the children's home would still not accept the gift in honor of the atheist community.
"We appreciate the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Matt Wilbourn for their thoughtful donation to the Murrow Children's Home. This decision is not about money or personal matters. It is solely about our religious beliefs and Honoring God our Father," the statement from the children's home said Aug. 24.
"Murrow cannot Honor the Atheist non-belief in God our father, and Honor God our Father under our biblical principles. Those two positions are totally opposite of each other. Therefore, we must respectfully decline the donation and the request to Honor the Atheist Community with the donation in an advertisement for a Murrow fundraising event."
The children's home also said it hoped the donor would "respect the biblical principles of the Murrow Foundation for over 100 years and understand why our principles are different and that we must Honor our God."
Wilbourn, however, wouldn't leave it there.
He started a GoFundMe page inviting atheists across the country to donate to the cause. So far, more than $24,000 has been raised – and so has the ire of the atheist community.
The page is replete with comments about "shameful" Christians, and even some comments from Christians – including one Southern Baptist – who claim the charity is "doing it wrong."
Another atheist site also publicized the refusal. That site is drawing even more vitriolic comments.
One commenter wondered if the children at the home are "ferociously indoctrinated," while another called the children's home staff "hateful, hateful Christians."
Another, however, said the Christians were placed in a "dreadful position" and encouraged his fellow atheists to be more discreet when giving – without trying to make a case for atheism when doing charitable giving.
Dale Wilbourn, atheist Matt Wilbourn's father, also commented:
"I am Matt's Dad. 64 Year Old Cherokee Indian. Yes, my son Matt has Cherokee blood running through his veins. I am very proud of him. In fact ... To quote another famous 'author' (?), MATTHEW 3:17 KJV, 'And lo a voice from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.' King James Bible."
Wilbourn has announced plans on the GoFundMe page to give all but $5,000 of the money to Camp Quest Oklahoma, a camp giving children of "freethinking parents" a place to improve humanity through "rational inquiry, critical and creative thinking, scientific method, self-respect, ethics, competency, democracy, free speech, and the separation of religion and government."
But Wilbourn said the remaining $5,000 donation will be given to the Murrow Indian Children's Home through an anonymous donation. If the home will not take it, Wilbourn said he would give it through one of the churches who criticized the home for not accepting his original donation.
"I'm sure that one of them would be glad to donate the money to Murrow and I trust that they will. Whether the Murrow Home likes it or not, they are getting $5,000 for those children from all of this," Wilbourn wrote on the GoFundMe page.
On its website, the Murrow Home praised God's provision for the home for more than 100 years and the workers who volunteered to help build and sustain the home.
"Murrow would not exist without the hard work, donations and financial support of selfless men and women of God," the website claims.