Update: School administrators end participation in evangelical program. Read letter from the school’s principal, Renee Mathews, here.
Appginani Humanist Legal Center takes action after complaint by parents
For immediate release
(Washington, DC – Nov. 13, 2013) – The American Humanist Association is asking administrators of a South Carolina public elementary school to stop promoting student participation in Operation Christmas Child, a program run by the evangelical Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse. A letter was sent by the American Humanist Association’s Appginani Humanist Legal Center following a complaint from a parent of a student at East Point Academy in West Columbia, SC about the school’s push for student participation.
“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 letter states.
Operation Christmas Child sends toys to impoverished children overseas expressly as a means to deliver proselytizing messages. The stated mission is to “demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.” The school has participated in the program since 2011, which has not only included the use of children to assemble the boxes of toys but asks them to donate money to Samaritan’s Purse.
“It is a clear constitutional violation for administrators of a public school to push students to participate in a proselytizing religious program,” said Monica Miller, an attorney and legal consultant for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Students at East Point Academy should not be used like this.”
“The boxes of toys are essentially a bribe, expressly used to pressure desperately poor children living in developing countries to convert to Christianity,” the letter states, “and are delivered with prayers, sermons, evangelical tracts and pressure to convert.”
The Appignani Humanist Legal Center is waiting for a response from school administrators. A copy of the letter can be found here.
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Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.