For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, email@example.com
(Florence, SC, Dec. 14, 2015)—The American Humanist Association applauds Florence School District One in Florence, South Carolina, for choosing to support secular charities instead of continuing to endorse Operation Christmas Child, a program with a mission of Christian proselytizing to children in developing countries.
“In ending its participation in Operation Christmas Child, the school district is respecting students’ First Amendment right to be free from religious intrusion in their public schools, while supporting charities that freely give to children in need without expecting anything in return,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
A parent, whose child attends Delmae Elementary School, contacted the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Legal Center after receiving a letter from the school describing its participation in Operation Christmas Child, run by Samaritan’s Purse and founded by evangelical Christian minister Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham. Delmae Elementary School has participated in Operation Christmas Child since at least 2006, and Sneed Middle School has also taken part in the program for a number of years. The Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a warning letter stating that “the purpose and effect of Operation Christmas Child is to coerce impoverished children to convert to Christianity” and the public school district’s support of this religious program violates the Establishment Clause.
“Public schools can encourage charitable giving but must remain neutral on religion,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Public schools shouldn’t participate in proselytizing programs like Operation Christmas Child.”
The American Humanist Association has now received written assurances from the district that it will no longer endorse or participate in Operation Christmas Child in the future. Instead, donated toys and other items would now be given to local secular charities.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., 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.