A Kansas middle school decided to cancel its participation in Operation Christmas Child after a well-known atheist group filed a complaint claiming the program “violates basic constitutional principles.”
The atheist legal group, Freedom From Religion Foundation, wrote a letter to Pratt School District superintendent Tony Helfrich that Liberty Middle School must “cease participation in Operation Christmas Child or taking any other actions promoting Christianity…” The organization claimed that “many egregious constitutional violations [were] occurring” at the school.
In response, Helfrich said the school would discontinue participation in the program sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, which sends shoeboxes filled with gifts to children in over 160 countries.
“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 wrote in a Nov. 7 response letter.
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said she was pleased with “how swiftly the district discontinued the fundraising after our alert.” She claims that a lot of Christian-based groups and organizations “rely on school authorities being ignorant about their mission.”
Gaylor also called Samaritan’s Purse “a pervasively sectarian religious organization” and accused the organization of using “school staff and resources to convert people to Christianity.” She said this blatantly “violates basic constitutional principles.”
“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 noted in its letter. “Certainly, there are other secular nonprofit organizations that offer charitable opportunities.”
In an interview earlier this month, Edward Graham, the grandson of the late evangelist Billy Graham, said shoeboxes filled with gifts and Christian literature were reaching more children and people with the Gospel than any of the events his grandfather held.
Through efforts such as Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan’s Purse has “done our utmost to follow Christ’s command by going to the aid of the world’s poor, sick, and suffering” for over 40 years.
“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,” the organization’s website reads.