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What does it mean when one of the top crowdfunding platforms chooses to not provide service to Christians who chose not to provide service because of their beliefs?

GoFundMe is well known as one of the top crowdfunding destinations.

GoFundMe is also known for high fees and poor customer support, but the reason it gets attention in this article today is because it appears one might also add an anti-religious bias to that list of complaints. As someone who practices a major religion, I find that concerning.

Consider the case of “Sweet Cakes By Melissa”, the Oregon bakers who were fined $135,000 for standing by their Christian religious convictions which precluded them from making a wedding cake for the wedding of a same-sex couple. GoFundMe took down their campaign and thereafter changed its policy, declaring “GoFundMe has the freedom to make their own policies and do business with whom they choose.” Ironically, this is exactly the stance of the Oregon bakers minus the pro-religious convictions. (Note: “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” were able to find another crowdfunding platform that respected its religious beliefs called “Continue to Give,” where they successfully raised 280% of their goal).

Greg Scott, of the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, said of the GoFundMe anti-religious belief discrimination: “GoFundMe has facilitated fundraising for inane things like sending a man to a stranger’s bachelor party, but have now cut off families who face financial ruin and who’ve had their fundamental freedoms obliterated by unjust government action. If there is a better example of a company and culture with its priorities and loyalties completely upside down, I can’t think of it.”

In another case, a Washington state florist, Barronelle Stutzman, who also stood by her Christian beliefs and refused to provide flowers to a gay wedding on religious belief grounds, was also similarly rejected by GofundMe.


Neither of the campaigns above violated any rules of GoFundMe that existed at the time, but they evidently offended the sensibilities of someone there who either does not like people of faith or who seek to curb others’ right to freely practice the religion that they believe. The GoFundMe pattern of biased religious discrimination continues at this writing with what appears to be a campaign aimed at another belief system, albeit one newer than Christianity and sometimes controversial, the Church of Scientology.

While GoFundMe evidently does not allow the Christian belief system driven crowdfunding campaigns, they have allowed an anti-Scientology religion campaign that raised money to provide a billboard to challenge the Scientology Church’s tenet allowing members to shun others deemed a threat to their beliefs in a manner similar to the 'shunning' tenets within Christianity, Judaism, Bahá'í, and Catholicism.

The above three examples allude to the possibility that although GoFundMe’s terms of use forbids “the promotion of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination or terrorism, or racial, ethnic or gender intolerance of any kind,” they simultaneously discriminate against religions themselves at will.

Easy research on the Web indicates that GoFundMe’s policy of whose campaign to leave up and whose to scrub has been noted by many as inconsistent. The charge has been made that they will leave a controversial site up unless public pressure becomes too great—or as long as it brings in a lot of money, and the money is big. Huge, in fact. With fat fees of 5 percent assessed on GoFundMe donations—$2 billion and counting—that’s a hefty $100 million for the site’s owners. (There’s an additional 2.9 percent processing fee tacked on.) And numerous donors have found, to their consternation and anger, that money has not been used as they thought it would be. Among many others who have noted the lack of accountability, Gizmodo detailed this in an article entitled “GoFundMe Is a Great Way to Scam People.”

Online complaints I was able to find in my research beg for an investigation of GoFundMe, and when ignored, end up on places like scambook.com, where the many complaints against GoFundMe have been lodged. A dozen assert real trouble with GoFundMe, money missing, and so on.

Among the 88 items posted on GoFundMe Reviews, the average customer rating was only 1.4 out of a possible five stars, with every review this writer looked at being negative, including these samples posted this year:

“… the fees are unconscionable. It is better to simply give money to people directly rather than have a good portion of it go to waste.”

“Money was being raised for my son to have a second lung transplant…. We never saw a penny. It was almost impossible to get any withdrawal of the funds. My son has since died…. This has shown me that GoFundMe is a scam and that they are scamming people in need.”

“They should tighten up the process and try to help eliminate abuse to this program, making it harder for any low life out there to take advantage of good people.”

On and on the GoFundMe complaints roll.  In the untamed frontier that is the Internet, the vast majority of users are reluctant to call for any increase in government oversight.  But in the case of GoFundMe, a closer examination of its practices and procedures is certainly warranted, particularly when the freedom to pull in mountains of cash is exploited to forward religious belief discrimination.

Travis Weber, a lawyer and director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, said GoFundMe’s revised policy “could exclude and discriminate against all types of fundraising.”

“Who will determine what a ‘discriminatory act’ is? Will the term be decided according to legal standards? If so, which standards?” Mr. Weber was quoted as saying. “Or will it be subject to the same arbitrary decision-making we’ve seen from GoFundMe so far?”

Kristen Waggoner, the Alliance Defending Freedom attorney representing Arlene’s Flowers, said in an interview that GoFundMe’s decision to drop the page raises questions as to whether GoFundMe is discriminating on the basis of religion.

“We’re looking at legal options that she might have,” said Ms. Waggoner. “There have been other campaigns on GoFundMe that haven’t been shut down. To me, this may be discrimination based on religion.”

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