ACLU rejected $20,000 AHA donation for McMillen's alternate prom
The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississipi (ACLU-MS) rejected a donation of $20,000 from the American Humanist Association (AHA) and later apologized for the error in judgment of a staff person at the ACLU of Mississippi who allegedly sent an inappropriate email to the AHA rejecting the donation. The AHA's donation was intended to help fund an alternative prom for Constance McMillen.
- Miss. School Cancels Prom to Ban Lesbian Constance McMillen
- Constance McMillen: Mississippi School Sued For Canceled Prom
- Constance McMillen: School Won't Be Forced To Hold Canceled Prom
No Authority To Reject Donation
A spokesperson for Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition.(MSSC) that is organizing the alternative prom said the ACLU did not have authority to reject the donation.
According to Matthew Sheffield, a spokesman for the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, the organization arranging the event, the A.C.L.U. of Mississippi did not have authority to decline the gift.
“We asked someone at the A.C.L.U. to assist us in handling all the donations, and that person told them we were not interested and that is not true,” he said.
ACLU Staff Person Feared Donation Would Stir More Controversy
“Although we support and understand organizations like yours, the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘athiest,’ ” Jennifer Carr, an ACLU of Mississippi fundraiser, wrote in an e-mail to the AHA, according to The New York Times.
ACLU Legal Director Claimed AHA Attached Conditions To Donation
Kristy Bennett, the legal director of the A.C.L.U. of Mississippi, said in a telephone interview that the Humanist Association had attached conditions to its gift that the organizers of the event would have trouble meeting, among other issues.
“Constance has had a lot of controversy around her over this, and in looking at the best interest of our client, I don’t know any more controversy would have benefited her,” Ms. Bennett said.
Member of Humanist Association Extremely Disappointed
Todd Stiefel, a member of the Humanist Association who donated the money with his wife, Diana, said he was “extremely disappointed in the A.C.L.U.”
“You’d think they would have learned a lesson from the very case they’ve been working on,” he said. “The school board was trying to avoid a controversy by silencing a controversial minority, and now the A.C.L.U. is making the same mistake.”
ACLU Apologizes For Inappropriate Email
In an apology written by ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director Nsombi Lambright to Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director of the American Humanist Association, Lambright states in part:
The sentiments expressed by the ACLU of Mississippi staff person in the referenced e-mail do not reflect the views of the ACLU of Mississippi or the National ACLU in any way. The ACLU remains a stalwart defender of freedom of belief and expression for all.
Will MSSC Accept Gift From AHA?
Mr. Sheffield said that after getting answers to a few questions, their board would decide whether to accept the gift.
The alternate prom is scheduled for May 8, 2010. It will be held at the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo, Mississippi. For details visit Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition.
Most Recommended Comment
New York, United States