An atheist activist group is demanding that a Texas school district halt participation in fundraising efforts for Operation Christmas Child, an annual charity created by Christian relief agency Samaritan’s Purse.
The Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes that are packed by individuals, families, churches and community groups each year include toys, gifts, school supplies, personal care items and the gospel message for children around the globe.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an organization based in Madison, Wisconsin, published a statement on October 21, noting that a “concerned district community member” reached out to the organization to complain that North Short Elementary School, a public school in the Galena Park Independent School District, recently took part in an Operation Christmas Child fundraiser.
The FFRF argued that public school participation in the Christmas effort is a violation of the First Amendment and that there are secular charitable options that would be a better fit for the district.
“It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that a public school may not advance, prefer or promote religion,” FFRF staff attorney Chris Line wrote in a letter to Galena Park Independent School District Superintendent John Moore. “Organizing a donation drive that employs school staff and resources to collect donations and advance the mission of a religious ministry violates basic constitutional principles.”
FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor asked that the school “swiftly discontinue” fundraising for Operation Christmas Child.
The atheist group also took aim at the Rev. Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, calling him an “outspoken evangelist” and claiming that he has made “several harmful comments over the years about the LGBTQ community and COVID vaccines.”
Operation Christmas Child’s mission is to “demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world.” Each year, children, adults and families all over the U.S. come together to pack boxes that are delivered to young people in America and around the globe.
Since 1993, more than 188 million kids in over 170 nations have been reached with a shoebox filled with gifts and the gospel message.
As CBN News has extensively reported, this is not the first time atheists have pushed back against Operation Christmas Child. In 2015, another secular humanist group successfully banished the program from a Colorado school.
And in a separate dispute over the presence of Operation Christmas Child at a Kansas school last year, the FFRF was successful in halting the program — an act that led Becket, a nonprofit law firm that defends religious liberty, to grant the 2020 Ebenezer Award to the FFRF.
Far from an actual accolade, the Ebenezer Award is more of a dishonorable mention than anything else.
“As if things weren’t bad enough this holiday season, America’s most notorious grinches, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), a noted anti-Christmas activist group, has found a way to steal presents from children,” a description of last year’s “award” read. “FFRF intimidated a Kansas school district into canceling its annual charity drive that sends Christmas gifts and necessities to underprivileged children abroad. The reason: the drive was sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian international disaster relief organization – and FFRF can’t abide the thought of a religious organization helping school children spread Christmas cheer.”
It is unclear what response the Galena Park Independent School District will have to this demand, though the original Facebook post that purportedly showed support for Operation Christmas Child appears to no longer be present on the district’s official Facebook page.
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