A public school in Kansas will no longer participate in Operation Christmas Child after a secularist watchdog group threatened that doing so “violates basic constitutional principles.”
According to the Christian Post, the Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded that Liberty Middle School “cease participation in Operation Christmas Child or taking any other actions promoting Christianity like including religious references over morning announcements,” in a letter to Pratt School District superintendent Tony Helfrich.
“Many egregious constitutional violations [are] occurring” at the school, the atheist-helmed group contended.
The annual holiday toy drive is run by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian humanitarian organization led by Franklin Graham. In the Operation Christmas Child program, shoeboxes filled with gifts are sent to children in need across the globe. When children receive their boxes, they also hear the Gospel message and receive a booklet that teaches them about Jesus Christ, Samaritan’s Purse explains.
Like many schools before them, Liberty Middle School caved to FFRF’s threats.
“Regarding our students’ participation in ‘Operation Christmas Child,’ we are discontinuing that effort upon learning that its mission is more sectarian in nature than we realized,” Helfrich responded to FFRF.
“A lot of these groups rely on school authorities being ignorant about their mission,” FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said in response to Helfrich’s decision. “We appreciate how swiftly the district discontinued the fundraising after our alert.”
The FFRF went on, calling Samaritan’s Purse “a pervasively sectarian religious organization.”
“While it is laudable for a public school to promote student involvement in the community by volunteering and donating to charitable organizations, the school cannot use that goal as an avenue to fund a religious organization with a religious mission,” FFRF added. “Certainly, there are other secular nonprofit organizations that offer charitable opportunities.”
While the act of filling shoeboxes itself is not necessarily an exclusively faith-based endeavor, Samaritan’s Purse and the Operation Christmas Child project are unashamedly Christ-centered.
“More kids have heard about Christ through these shoebox distributions than ever heard about Christ in stadiums with my grandfather,” said Edward Graham, vice president of programs and government relations at Operation Christmas Child, in a recent interview with the Christian Post.
For over 40 years, Samaritan’s Purse says they have “done our utmost to follow Christ’s command by going to the aid of the world’s poor, sick, and suffering. We are an effective means of reaching hurting people in countries around the world with food, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ. This, in turn, earns us a hearing for the Gospel, the Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ.”
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