Hemant Mehta, “Friendly Atheist” blogger, Illinois high school math teacher and FFRF member, found that the third time was the charm for his efforts to donate $3,000 he raised from the freethought community for a worthy cause. The Niles Township Food Pantry accepted the $3,000 which had been turned down by the Morton Grove Park District and the Morton Grove Public Library board, the Chicago Tribune reported Jan. 10.
Mehta originally raised the money in October following news that an American Legion post pulled its support from the park district after a board member refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Park officials returned the check, citing a desire to avoid a “First Amendment dispute.”
Then, a library board trustee called Mehta’s blog a “hate group,” and questioned the legality of accepting a donation originally intended for the park district.
“I can’t believe how hard it is to get rid of $3,000,” Mehta said in a YouTube video, announcing plans to give the money to the food pantry.
Niles Township Supervisor Lee Tamraz said it was immaterial to him where the donation came from. “We should be appreciative of the donation and make sure it is used to the benefit of the people of Niles Township. I’m grateful for the $3,000.”
In another recent charitable act, Mehta raised $27,254 from 1,224 contributors to donate to Ryan Bell, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor who was asked to resign from his church and from two Christian schools at which he was an adjunct professor. Bell’s “sin” was announcing he was going to spend a year living without God, in effect, giving atheism a try to see where atheists were coming from.
“As an atheist, I want Bell to know that we appreciate what he’s trying to do and that we’ll support him even if his Christian community will not and (more importantly) even if he decides atheism isn’t for him when the year is over,” Mehta said.