The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter Oct. 19 to the superintendent of a Texas school district “requesting” that the district cease its participation in Operation Christmas Child (OCC), an annual effort serving underprivileged children around the world, organized by Samaritan’s Purse.
Since OCC’s inception in 1993, Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization based in Boone, North Carolina, and led by Franklin Graham, has sent more than 188 million shoeboxes—filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items—to children in more than 170 countries and territories.
According to FFRF, a “concerned district community member” reached out to inform the atheist group that North Shore Elementary School, part of the Galena Park Independent School District, had participated in and promoted OCC.
Despite the voluntary nature of the fundraiser, FFRF claimed that school “violate[d] basic constitutional principles” by organizing a donation drive that “advance[d] the mission of a religious ministry.”
“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 wrote. “Certainly, there are other secular nonprofit organizations that offer charitable opportunities.”
Although FFRF presented the letter as a request, the group told Galena Park ISD Superintendent John Moore to inform them—in writing—of the steps the district is taking to “protect the right of conscience of non-Christian and nonreligious students, parents and teachers and to ensure that this type of violation does not occur in the future.”
In an Oct. 21 press release titled “Don’t Fundraise for Rev. Graham’s Group,” the FFRF went further and revealed its disdain for Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse.
“Franklin Graham, the one who runs Samaritan’s Purse, is an outspoken evangelist who has made several harmful comments over the years about the LGBTQ community and COVID vaccines,” the release read.
Ironically, Graham, who is fully vaccinated, has repeatedly expressed his support for the COVID-19 vaccines, telling CNN, “Vaccines are important. I would encourage people to pray about it, consider it.”
And in 2020, Samaritan’s Purse spent several months caring for critically ill COVID-19 patients with an Emergency Field Hospital in New York City. It operated similar Field Hospitals in Italy and the Bahamas, and stateside in Mississippi, North Carolina and California.
This is not the first year FFRF has opposed OCC.
In fact, last year, religious liberty law firm Becket awarded FFRF its “Ebenezer Award” for intimidating a Kansas school district into canceling its annual OCC shoebox drive.
“Worse than taking candy from a baby, FFRF is stealing Christmas presents from impoverished children,” said Montse Alvarado, executive director of Becket, “The Constitution does not require Americans to quarantine their faith when they go to class. In a year when hope and joy are scarce, intimidating school children into abandoning charity is shameful and wrong.”
Above: A girl receives an Operation Christmas Child shoebox during an OCC distribution event in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, July 2019.
Photo: Earl Davidson/©2019 BGEA