MORTON GROVE, Ill. (CBS) — You’d think finding someone to take a check for $3,000 – no strings attached – would be an easy task, but a local atheist group recently found itself rejected twice by government boards in the North Shore when it tried to make a donation.
WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports followers of Hemant Mehta’s “Friendly Atheist” blog raised $3,000 intended for the Morton Grove Park District, after a local veterans group stopped giving money to the district after a board member didn’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Park District rejected the donation, so Mehta tried to give it to the Morton Grove Public Library, but they turned him down, too.
Now, in an online video, Mehta said he’s going to give the money to the Niles Township Food Pantry.
“I know I said this before, but I can’t imagine they’re going to reject the money, especially at this time of the year. There are no restrictions, there’s no strings attached to this money,” he said.
The controversy started when Morton Grove Park District Commissioner Dan Ashta decided not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, saying he’s defending the public’s First Amendment right not to participate in the pledge.
In response, the commander of the local American Legion post withdrew its $2,600 sponsorship for park district events, unless all board members stand for the pledge.
Mehta stepped in to raise the money the park district lost from the legion, but the district turned him down, and so did the library when he tried to give the $3,000 to them.
Mehta encouraged fellow atheists to continue donating on an individual basis to the Morton Grove Public Library, saying people who use the library shouldn’t be punished for the trustee’s actions. One trustee claimed the money was coming from a hate group.
“I still want to give it to the people of Morton Grove,” he said. Mehta said he hopes to fill the library’s wish list of furniture, supplies, and cash donations.
“If you can find it in your hearts, and in your wallets, to donate to the library so they can actually get all those things they need from the wish list, I think that would be a really nice gesture.”
It’s unclear if the food pantry will accept the donation.