A humanist organization has threatened lawsuits against two public schools for promoting Christianity by participating in Operation Christmas Child, which is an evangelical project by Franklin Graham’s international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse that aims to distribute Christmas toys to underprivileged children across the world.
The American Humanist Association sent notices to two public schools telling them that they would be compelled to take legal action against the schools if they continued to participate in Operation Christmas Child. Apparently, the shoeboxes from the organization do not only contain gifts for underprivileged children but they also carry notes inviting recipients to become Christians. According to the AHA, Operation Christmas Child’s agenda to “share the life-changing Good News of Jesus Christ” implies that public schools in the United States cannot participate in the program. While one of the schools is situated in South Carolina, the other is located in Colorado.
“Because the purpose and effect of Operation Christmas Child is to induce impoverished children to convert to Christianity, the school's promotion of this program violates the Constitution. The school must immediately suspend its unconstitutional participation in Operation Christmas Child… The boxes of toys are essentially a bribe, expressly used to pressure desperately poor children living in developing countries to convert to Christianity, and are delivered with prayers, sermons, evangelical tracts and pressure to convert. While a private religious group is free to pursue such a goal, even through such questionable means, a public school cannot affiliate itself with, endorse, promote or support such a group's program without violating the Establishment Clause,” said the letter that was sent to East Point Academy in South Carolina.
After receiving the letter from AHA, East Point Academy said it would dissociate itself with Operation Christmas Child to avoid getting involved in a legal battle.
“In an abundance of caution because we do not want to expend school financial resources defending a lawsuit, we are not going to accept Operation Christmas Child boxes. If you and your child had planned to donate a shoebox of supplies, you are encouraged to find a charity of your choice for the gift,” said Renee Mathews, school director at East Point Academy.
A similar letter was sent to SkyView Academy in Colorado but the school has still not responded. On the other hand, Operation Christmas Child went on to reiterate its mission, which according to it, is to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of Jesus Christ.
“Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization. As our name indicates, and as is communicated in all of our promotional materials and website, we are a project that aims to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of Jesus. Our purpose is to show God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world. We do this by distributing millions of shoebox gifts to hurting kids to let them know that they are not forgotten. Operation Christmas Child is open to anyone who chooses to participate in this Christmas project,” the statement read.
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