Schools in Newfoundland and Labrador have withdrawn support for a campaign which gives schools and individuals the opportunity to fill a shoebox with small gifts to send to children in need in more than 150 countries.
The reason? According to this report, Operation Christmas Child is way out of step with policies of inclusiveness adopted by the province’s education authorities.
District trustees recently passed a motion during a public meeting to end any provincial school participation in the programme after issues were raised about the policies of Samaritan’s Purse, the group that runs the campaign.
Said Director of Education Tony Stack, above:
This organisation is on record with its statement of beliefs that it requires its coordinating volunteers to sign statements of faith that are in direct conflict with our inclusive philosophy, particularly as it pertains to the LGBT community.
For example, a child with two moms or two dads unfortunately has been put in the position of choosing between fitting in and partaking with other classmates in an activity, or supporting an organisation opposed to the very existence of that very child’s family unit.
In May, 2016, it was reported that Kay Cossar, a Burgeo woman was denied a volunteer position with Operation Christmas Child because she wouldn’t sign a statement of beliefs confirming that she didn’t believe in same-sex marriage or a woman’s right to have a legal abortion. Cossar said she believed OCC was all about children and generosity and kindness but discovered that:
It it isn’t really. It’s about adults and their antiquated points of view.
Stack said there has been virtually no opposition from school staff or students about ending participation. But there have been some nasty calls from the public.
Some of these reactions have been, frankly, explicitly homophobic. So there’s a disturbing element to that.
Writing in 2015 for HumanistLife, Emma C Williams said:
Operation Christmas Child is run by Samaritan’s Purse, a huge and zealous organisation led by Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist Billy Graham. Not only is the organisation openly homophobic, it seeks to proselytise in a manner that most people, including liberal Christians, find unacceptable.
As a humanist, I am naturally disquieted by the idea of people performing evangelical work with the intended purpose of conversion; but I am positively offended when this work is performed at the expense of vulnerable children in desperate situations across the globe.
Several other charitable organisations and reputable businesses, including the Cooperative, have withdrawn their support for Operation Christmas Child. The charity Save The Children has questioned its effectiveness and expressed concerns about the use of evangelism in the context of people in need.
Some leading teachers’ Unions, including the NASUWT, have pointed out the difficult position that schools are placing themselves in when they support such charities without giving careful thought to their stated mission.
But despite all of this, hundreds of schools will still take part in Operation Christmas Child this year, unwittingly supporting the work of a right-wing evangelical organisation, with little or no idea of what it stands for.