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Atheist Teacher Hemant Mehta's $3,000 Donation Turned Down Twice

“I can’t believe how hard it is to get rid of $3,000,” Chicago-area math teacher Hemant Mehta said when a donation he had raised was denied not only once, but twice.

In addition to teaching, Mehta runs the well-known atheist website and blog “Friendly Atheist.”

He raised the money late last year, intending to donate it to the Morton Grove Park District. When an atheist park board commissioner refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, the American Legion, a veterans’ organization, terminated its $2,600 annual funding of the Park District. In response, Mehta began his online fundraising campaign, which ultimately raised over $3,000.

Citing unwillingness to engage in a potential “First Amendment dispute” concerning “any particular political or religious cause,” the Park District refused to accept the check.

When Mehta tried donating the money elsewhere, this time to the Morton Grove Public Library, the library’s reaction was far from grateful. A library trustee referred to his blog as a “hate group”, and, because of questions regarding the legality of accepting money that had initially been intended for the park district, the check was again turned down.

The teacher has expressed disbelief over “how hard it has been as an atheist to give away money with no strings at all to people who you would think would want the money.”

Mehta announced his next course of action in a YouTube video posted by The Atheist Voice: he would try donating the money to the Niles Township Food Pantry.

Prior to the check’s arrival, Township Supervisor Lee Tamraz said, “We could certainly utilize the funding.” He continued to express gratitude for the money, saying, “It’s immaterial to me who the individual is making the donation. We should be appreciative of the donation and make sure it is used to the benefit of the people of Niles Township.”

According to Niles Township Clerk Charles Levy, the check was deposited along with other contributions that came in earlier this week.

In total, it took two months for Mehta’s donation to be accepted.  After seeing that the funds had finally been withdrawn from his account, he said, “I’ve never been so happy to see a $3,000+ debit in my account.”

Sources: Chicago Tribune, the Christian Post

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