A group of Upstate atheists plans to hand out care packages downtown this weekend after the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen wouldn't let them volunteer.
On Saturday, about 10 people are expected to gather across from the soup kitchen and hand out care packages to the homeless. The 300 packages contain socks, gloves, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, soap, rain ponchos, snacks, shaving razors, antiseptic wipes, deodorants, tissues and gum.
"I hope we can provide a package for everyone who needs one," said Eve Brannon, president of Upstate Atheists, a group started in 2011 that includes about 200 members. "Whatever we have left, we will donate to a homeless shelter in the Upstate."
Brannon, 25, said they decided to hand out care packages to the homeless after being told they could not volunteer at the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen.
"I told them we wouldn't wear our T-shirts. We wouldn't tell anyone who we are with. We just want to help out," Brannon said. "And they told us that we were not allowed."
According to the Soup Kitchen's website, the organization is dependent upon volunteers, having more than 600 community volunteers with a mission to serve the hungry in Spartanburg.
Lou Landrum, executive director of the Soup Kitchen, told the Herald-Journal she would resign from her job before she let atheists volunteer and be a "disservice to this community."
"This is a ministry to serve God" she said. "We stand on the principles of God. Do they (atheists) think that our guests are so ignorant that they don't know what an atheist is? Why are they targeting us? They don't give any money. I wouldn't want their money."
Brannon said the group has worked with Christian nonprofits, such as Habitat for Humanity, in the past.
"We can all work together to achieve something positive regardless of religion or lack thereof," she said. "We've raised money for March of Dimes, worked with the Generous Garden Project, done community park clean ups, adopted a highway, and sponsored local foster children for Christmas."
She said the group is used to its share of animosity within the community, but the exchange with the Soup Kitchen was unlike anything she had experienced.
"They are the only group that denied us the opportunity to volunteer," Brannon said.
Landrum said she does not have a problem with the group setting up across the street.
"They can set up across the street from the Soup Kitchen. They can have the devil there with them, but they better not come across the street," Landrum said.
The Upstate Atheists will be handing out care packages between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. or until all of the packages are gone.
Do you think that the soup kitchen was in the right to turn away volunteers from an atheist group? (Note: I'm not really talking about whether they have the legal right - I have no idea if there are discrimination laws surrounding the opportunity to volunteer. We can talk about that too if someone knows, but I'm more talking about: morally and rationally, were they in the right.)