Christmas is usually the time of year where people are the most giving, attempting to spread Christmas cheer wherever they go. Operation Christmas Child, an annual charity created by Christian relief agency Samaritan’s Purse, says that its mission is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need worldwide. Each year, families from around the United States come together to pack shoeboxes to be delivered to young people internationally. Since 1993, more than 188 million people in over 170 countries have received a shoebox filled with toys, gifts, school supplies, personal care items, and a gospel message.

The Galena Park Independent School District in Texas recently participated in fundraising efforts for Operation Christmas Child. However, one atheist group is working to put a stop to their actions. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an organization based in Wisconsin, released a statement saying that a concerned district community member reached out to them, complaining about North Short Elementary School’s participation in Operation Christmas Child. The organization says that their participation in this Christmas effort is a violation of First Amendment rights. They also noted that other charitable options not tied to religion would be a better fit for the district.

Taking things one step further, Chris Line, the FFRF’s staff attorney, wrote a letter to the Galena Park Independent School District superintendent John Moore. Attorney Line says that employing school staff for a donation drive to advance the mission of a religious ministry violates basic constitutional principles. FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gayle asked that the school swiftly discontinue fundraising for Operation Christmas Child. The organization also took time to criticize Reverend Francis Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse. In their criticisms, they said Graham was an outspoken evangelist who’s made harmful comments about the LGBTQ community and COVID-19 vaccines.

This pushback against Operation Christmas Child isn’t an isolated incident. In 2015, another secular humanist group successfully discontinued the program from a school in Colorado. In another disagreement over the presence of Operation Christmas Child at a Kansas school in 2020, the FFRF was effective in halting the program. This act led Becket, a nonprofit law firm that defends religious liberty, to grant the 2020 Ebenezer Award to the FFRF. The Ebenezer Award isn’t exactly a good thing, more like a dishonorable mention.

The future of Operation Christmas Child fundraising efforts at North Short Elementary School has yet to be determined. The Galena Park Independent School District hasn’t responded to FFRF’s demands. However, the original Facebook post that supposedly showed support for Operation Christmas Child appears to no longer be present on the district’s official Facebook page. Christmas time is supposed to be a time for cheerful giving. A time where you put your differences aside and come together for the greater good of man. The FFRF isn’t precisely disputing that, but they say that the school district should seek another charitable option instead of Operation Christmas Child. Whatever the outcome of this dispute is, both sides should remember that the only thing that matters is giving back to the less fortunate.

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