Public school’s “I love Jesus Because ___” smoking gun surfaces

A controversial effort to spread Christianity across international borders might soon be stopped at Glenwood Elementary, a public school in McDowell County, North Carolina.

Soon after the story got out last Thusday, secular activists began contacting officials in McDowell County.

American Atheists has obtained a copy of the form that all students at Glenwood Elementary had to fill out.

This is part of Operation Christmas Child, an effort by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association that aims to spread Christianity internationally. The initiative is supposed to take place in participating churches, with children stuffing a shoebox of toys and Christian literature. Instructional videos repeatedly reaffirm that the entire point is to convert people, ‘saving’ them from their current and apparently inferior personal beliefs.

But Operation Christmas Child has strayed from the confines of churches, and public school children are now the instruments of a coordinated effort to convert people to Christianity. Statistically, many of these children themselves are non-Christian.

After hearing about the initial controversy, two families with students attending the school also came forward and provided these documents. These two families are requesting anonymity for their children’s sake. Personally identifying details have been removed or obfuscated along these lines.

Dr. Ira Trollinger, the McDowell County School District’s Superintendent, has assured concerned citizens that he will put a stop to it. He indicated that he simply needed to know in exactly which school this occurred to rectify the situation. It is hoped that Dr. Trollinger will indeed keep his promise to stop Operation Christmas Child from proselytizing any further now that the school has been identified.Luckily, legal action might not even be needed in this case. Many of these situations are fixed before the counties incur a costly and un-winnable legal battle.

Trollinger was not available for comment when the specific school was finally identified, as it was a district holiday. American Atheists is watching the situation as it develops. They expect to hear from McDowell County School District officials early next week.

Franklin Graham, who runs BGEA, is no stranger to blurring constitutional boundaries. He has even previously funded Arabic language Bibles and distributed them to US troops in the Middle East, and in both gulf wars he was ordered to stop. Franklin’s “Islam is Wicked and Evil” antics have recently earned him a ban from official Army religious events.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Yoritomo

    The link to the form pdf leaves me with a 404 error. A side effect of the FtB move?

    • Yes. I’m not able to fix it at the moment.

    • Justin Griffith

      Actually, I’ve got a JPG version in the link, but it cuts off some of the PDF (nothing important).


  • I have had similar situations at my son’s school. I actually wrote a blog about it. It blows my mind how people do not see how bad this really is. Just imagine if one of the students in that class were Jewish, Islamic or a atheist? This only opens the doors to allowing hate, discrimination on the part of students, teachers and community.

    My blog post can be seen here:

  • amyc

    I actually participated in Operation Christmas Child when I was a kid at the church I grew up in. They billed it as providing gifts to children in third world countries. I loved putting the shoebox together with my mom. We always went to Walmart to find things to put in the boxes, and it always made me feel really good to be able to give something to a child who lived half-way around the world. I don’t remember my shoe boxes ever having anything religious in them. They were filled with toy cars or My Little Pony, or Polly Pocket, crayons and tiny coloring books, socks, or other small items of clothing, etc. If they took out the proselytizing, I would definitely participate in it again.

  • Frank

    Our local news just had a report about this situation. I can look out and see other groups, such as the US Marines and their Toys for Tots program, doing similar things for children here in the states. Are there non-religious groups sponsoring similar large scale efforts for third world children? I think that the benefits of programs like Operation Christmas Child outweigh the downside of a single question on a piece of paper that will probably not be read by the receiving child or their family.

    If my child were to receive a similar flyer that asked for her to complete a question such as “Why I love Mohammed” then I would use the moment as an oppportunity to explain how that does not fit into our belief system. I would think that an atheist parent could use the same moment to explain their belief system, or lack thereof, to their child.

    Depending on the circumstances I would then either continue to participate in the effort or respectfully decline to participate. One option could be to build the box and not include the paper? I am sure that there are other options.

    Obviously I have my beliefs and you have yours. Obviously they are very different. I believe that Jesus is real, that Jesus is the son of God and he died for our sins. I also believe that we will all face a day of reckoning.

    Should our adult choices and decisions force our children to not participate in a cause that could bring a small amount of hope and cheer to a child that is undoubtedly in a very bad situation?


  • SDC

    Let me start off by saying i am a christian and i don’t care what your beliefs are since this started at the school with no religious base to it. It was all about community service and getting the kids involved with their world. If you go and read the article that was written in the local community you would find out that the school did this last year with the kids as well however there was no forms for them to fill out. The principle didn’t know the form was there this year because it wasn’t there last year. It was an oversight. I think that this is being blown way out of the manner in which it was intended. It is always good to teach our children to help those that don’t have the things ours do. Because they live in a third world country. I honestly believe that if you are going to write about something like this that is from a small town to make it more than it is shows how little compassion for others you truly have and I feel sorry for you.

    • Feel sorry for me? Why because I do not believe in fairy tales? Every child has a right to discover there own world view without pressure from people who have already decided. I have no problem with children giving to third world countries but why do they have to answer why they love Jesus? Isn’t that unfair to the students who do not subscribe to the Christian faith? I feel very sorry for you, because living with delusions and forcing them on others is very sad.

      Also, you say I have no compassion? Really? I think you have no compassion for children that do not share your faith, because if you did you would see how this guilts children into false belief. They know they are helping children who live in third world countries and when they get to that last question and honestly to not know or care about the answer, how do you think it would make that child feel?

      Honestly, your comment is actually what they want to happen. Make people feel guilty and ashamed because they have logical reasoning and know how to use it. If you really want to see what the religious do for the third world, take a look at the Pope’s policy on condom use in the Africa which has the largest AIDS problem in the world.

      • Bob

        My name is not Bob but you can talk about Bob as much as you want to because Bob will not be responding to any comments about this post. Bob is a christian who does not push his beliefs on anyone and respects their right to choose for themself. Bob is sick of all of the self centered cry babies out there desperate for their 15 seconds of fame no matter what the cost. Bob does not intend to bash Atheism or any other religion. Instead he responds to all of this in a manner that closely follows along with his interpretation of the message that is trying to be sent out to everyone. Bob is aware of separation of church and state so there is no need to bring it up in an effort to make yourself seem intelligent and educated. Bob will laugh heartily at all of the negative replies related to this post. Bob may or may not even check back to see if there have been responses because he cares about what you have to say so much. Bob wants you to be sure and grade him on his grammar and spelling in a separate document and submit it to Bob has copied this to a separate document so that he can repost it in the event that this post gets “misplaced”.

        “I have no problem with children giving to third world countries but why do they have to answer why they love Jesus?”

        You know what the beauty of the whole thing is?? You dont HAVE to do anything! What happens when the school sends home a fundraiser selling chocolate and you have an allergy to it? Was it a homework assignment? Was the child going to be graded on it? No? Then, while in front of your child, take the page out and with all the rage and hate in your being tear the page into 1 million tiny pieces and burn them on the fire that works solely by random chance. There are too many people out there that thrive on the attention and feed off of the drama and controversy they can create. Please tell me if I’m wrong and explain.

        You have your freedom of religion (or lack there of) and christians have the same exact right. Whether you like it or not, this particular charity IS run by a christian organization and if you do not like it then DONT participate. No one held you at gun point and made you do anything. I dont know how much easier it could be for you. Does everything you see honestly have to include a disclaimer and specific instructions on what to do with something if you dont agree with it? I put an example of said disclaimer at the top or my post. Did it help? Would you cry less if it did come with everything that passes in front of your delicate eyes and easily shaken foundation of beliefs? If this form had related to Islam or Buddhism or any other religion would you or any other representative from any other religion have made such a stink about it? You might say “yes” but I highly doubt you really would. I dont recall seeing any recent headlines relating to it. Better yet do you believe that a christian would have made such a huge deal about it had it been an Atheist based charity? Do those even exist? I can honesly say I don’t know if they do.

        Tell you what, since this ordeal has wounded so many of you so deeply you should write a book on it. You can call it “Killing CHRISTmas for 500+ kids”. I’m sure it would be a best seller in certain circles. You can title it that because I am fairly sure that after the heinous and grievous act commited by this evil elementary school has been brought to everyone’s attention, no school will ever participate in this charity again. So that “+” could be a considerable number more. Mission accomplished, job well done! You should all pat yourselves on the back. At least the self serving christians got what was coming to them, right? How dare they mention a factual historical figure whom their religion is based on in anything they send out. Who cares if numerous children in less fortunate areas of the world lose out on one of the few reliefs they get from their daily lives? At least you managed to stop the spread of christianity and may have another “battle won” here on the home front! That is all that matters right? You can say that its just a christian trying to “Make people feel guilty and ashamed because they have logical reasoning and know how to use it.” Use your logic and reason to see that my above statement about the impact of this is most likely very accurate and factual. It is simple cause and effect. The truth hurts sometimes huh? If you dont feel bad for those kids then good for you, because I do feel bad for them. Find yourselves some videos to watch about these terrible christian based shoe boxes. Look at all the damage they cause! How do these christians sleep at night, honestly?

        The author of this article states “Statistically, many of these children themselves are non-Christian.” Where did this statistic come from? A national average, the average number of christian families on the moon, or from the actual county in question? What exactly is “many”? Is it 2 out of 500 families? I’m just curious.

        I have one last thing to say in regard to this. One comment said “Every child has a right to discover there own world view without pressure from people who have already decided.” What would happen if said child wanted to go to a christian church so they could learn about Jesus and the christian faith in order to make their own decision about what they want to believe? Would you allow them to form their own opinion based on their own experience and support them or would you too be one of “those people” who pressure them into something because you have already decided? Answer honestly.



        • I do not expect a response from Bob, because Bob talks in the third person, which is a sign of Megalomania and now that I think about Bob’s post, it makes sense or he’s just a typical Theist who spouts out garbage and runs.

          P.S. Atheism isn’t a religion but a lack of belief in a god or deity.

  • Tony

    Frank @6:

    I think that the benefits of programs like Operation Christmas Child outweigh the downside of a single question on a piece of paper that will probably not be read by the receiving child or their family.

    Have you read the Constitution of the United States of America? The guiding priciples of our country were laid out by the founders within its pages. The First Amendment lays down the law with regard to the church and state. They must stay separate. From wikipedia:

    Public schools in the United States are administered at the federal level by the United States Department of Education, at the state level by state education agencies, and at the local level by local education agencies.

    Also, the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    If the school system allowed the Billy Graham Evangelistic Associate to spread their materials around, that is legally a violation of church and state. They can’t endorse anything religious. Perhaps if the evangelists went back and repackaged everything and removed all references to god, it might be acceptable (I’m still not certain it would work though).

    By the way Frank, as Justin pointed out here:

    Instructional videos repeatedly reaffirm that the entire point is to convert people, ‘saving’ them from their current and apparently inferior personal beliefs

    They were being highly duplicitous. Repugnant conversion tactics thinly disguised as Christmas gifts. I wonder what christians would say if an Islamic group did something similar. Or Scientologists. Or an LDS church.