IN AWARDING a 2020 Ebenezer [Scrooge] Award to the US-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty – ‘a Roman Catholic ultraconservative outfit’ – said the non-believers’ advocacy group has ‘found a way to steal presents from children.’
Becket, labeling the FFRF “a noted anti-Christmas activist group” and “America’s most notorious grinches” declared:
Last month, FFRF intimidated a Kansas school district into canceling its annual charity drive that sends Christmas gifts and necessities to underprivileged children abroad. The reason: the drive was sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian international disaster relief organization – and FFRF can’t abide the thought of a religious organization helping school children spread Christmas cheer.
FFRF’s crusade makes the Grinch’s ransacking of Whoville look tame, which is why the atheist organization has earned Becket’s lowest (dis)honor, the 2020 Ebenezer Award, awarded for the biggest bah humbug of the holiday season.
It pointed out that, as part of Operation Christmas Child, students at Liberty Middle School in Pratt, Kansas, were anticipating partaking in a charity drive to gather Christmas gifts and other “necessities” – in reality Christian propaganda – to send to underprivileged children abroad. But the school district abruptly canceled the programme after FFRF attorney, Chris Line, sent a letter to the district’s superintendent claiming that:
Organizing a donation drive that for all intents and purposes employs school staff and resources to convert people to Christianity violates basic constitutional principles.
Regrettably, FFRF’s stunted idea of how constitutional law (and gift drives) work and their general aura of Grinchiness succeeded in shutting the charitable endeavor down.
Said Montse Alvarado, above, Executive Director of Becket:
Worse than taking candy from a baby, FFRF is stealing Christmas presents from impoverished children. 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.
Far from hanging its head in shame, the FFTF announced that it’s “the proud recipient of the 2020 Ebenezer Award” and regards it as “an honor” – and posted this image on its website:
The fund conferred this honor upon FFRF after the national state/church watchdog properly persuaded a public school in Pratt, Kan., to stop enlisting young students to support a Christian ministry seeking to convert children by offering them Christmas presents.
FFRF says it faced stiff competition.
It was in good company, since the runners-up included New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, all of whom promulgated public health orders to protect the lives and health of a combined tens of millions of Americans. They were nominated because those orders applied equally to religious worship, which has been shown to spread the coronavirus at a fearful rate.
It is true that FFRF stopped the public school’s partnership with a Christian ministry called Operation Christmas Child. Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian organization run by Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, runs Operation Christmas Child, a ‘shoebox ministry’ whose purpose is to convert children in the developing world to Christianity.
The ministry describes itself as ‘a powerful tool for evangelism and discipleship – transforming the lives of children and their families around the world through the Good News of Jesus Christ!’
That isn’t charity, but predation. There are many secular charities with no ulterior motives that exist solely to help children or families in need with which public schools may partner. Yes, FFRF proudly stopped a public school from taking part in a campaign to convert children to evangelical Christianity because doing so is inappropriate and unconstitutional.
This is not all the school was doing. The vice principal was also abusing his secular authority to impose his brand of conservative Christianity on a captive audience of students, leading them in prayer and using the morning announcements to read bible verses and preach.
He said, ‘We need to remember to give all the glory to God, whether others agree with it or not, and I don’t care if I offend anyone by saying that.’ In other words, he knew that what he was doing was wrong. FFRF Attorney Chris Line wrote a letter to stop this abuse, and the superintendent stepped in to fix things.
FFRF then asked:
Why did Becket Fund leave these facts out of its press release? The Becket Fund’s full name is The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. If it truly believed in religious liberty, it would be fighting this gross violation alongside FFRF, instead of bestowing mock honors.
Said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, who has debated Becket personnel a number of times.
The award shows that the Becket Fund is intent on codifying religious privilege in the law and is willing to ignore facts and reality to do so.
Becket’s naming of FFRF to receive the “Ebenezer Award” is actually an admission that its true aim is dismantling the constitutional principle of separation between church and state. If the Becket Fund were fighting for genuine religious liberty, instead of religious privilege, it would be thanking FFRF for keeping divisive religion out of our public schools.
So, from FFRF to Becket, thank you for showing your true colors. This is an ‘award’ we’ll cherish.
In 2018, Libby Anne, who had supported Operation Christmas Child wrote:
The Operation Christmas Child model assumes that children in Africa, or East Asia, or South America, want and need the same sorts of gifts American families will pick out – the sorts of gifts I picked out as a child. Due to cultural differences, however, this is often not the case.
A woman working at a Kenya-based nonprofit put it like this:
Toys don’t play as large of a role in East African culture as it does ours, so there really isn’t any need to send them by the container full, because the actual result is comically anticlimactic: African kids trying to figure out what to do with American toys, and then adult African men trying to teach them what to do with them … Incorrectly! And don’t even get me started on the hair bows and headbands!