A school district in Canada passed a resolution urging schools to drop any involvement in Operation Christmas Child (OCC), a charity project that has sent over 94 million shoeboxes with Christmas gifts to poor children across the world. The district ruled out any further involvement because Samaritan’s Purse, the Christian nonprofit behind the project, opposes same-sex marriage and transgenderism.
The Newfoundland & Labrador English School District (NLESD) Board of Trustees agreed to drop OCC after the interim superintendent raised concerns about “inclusion.” At least 11 of the 259 English-language schools in the province have taken part in the program, and just those eleven schools have sent over 1,300 shoeboxes in recent years.
Nevertheless, interim superintendent Tony Stack said the schools should not send thousands of shoeboxes to children in need because Samaritan’s Purse holds a traditional Christian perspective on LGBT issues.
Stack told the Canadian Press that Samaritan’s Purse “doesn’t fit with the English School District’s philosophy of inclusion and has been the centre of complaints, particularly as it relates to LGBT acceptance.” In other words, the Christian organization does not support same-sex marriage or transgender identity, and NLESD has ruled that such positions are not “accepting” of students and are therefore unacceptable.
In a news release Thursday, the district reported that “trustees discussed Operation Christmas Child. Trustees passed a motion to direct all District schools to cease participation in this activity.”
This is particularly tragic because a cursory search of schools in the district found at least 11 which have encouraged participation in OCC, and four which have sent at least 100 shoeboxes, as noted in annual reports.
“Operation Christmas Child provides an opportunity for people of all ages to be involved in a simple, hands-on project of Samaritan’s Purse,” the St. Matthew’s School 2011-201 annual development report noted. “Samaritan’s Purse is a humanitarian organization that works worldwide to meet the needs of people suffering from war, poverty, disaster, disease, and famine. Each November Operation Christmas Child collects shoeboxes filled with hygiene items, toys, and school supplies and distributes them to children worldwide regardless of gender, race, religion, or age.”
“To date, Operation Christmas Child has distributed over 94 million shoebox gifts globally. The past year St. Matthew’s families filled nearly 400 shoeboxes for children throughout the world,” the report concluded.
Paradise Elementary gathered 300 shoeboxes in 2013-2014, and another 300 more in 2014-2015. St. Peter’s Elementary School donated over 200 boxes in 2011-2012, and Queen Elizabeth Regional High School gave more than 100 in 2012-2013.
Many schools gave fewer than 100 — Mount Pearl Senior High School sent 44 in 2014-2015, and others merely encouraged participation in the program or did not report exactly how many shoeboxes were sent.
These reports are accessible on the NLESD website, and represent only results from the first two — of seven — pages of results found in a search for “Operation Christmas Child” on that site. It is extremely likely that the 1,300 poor children blessed with Christmas presents thanks to these eleven schools represent only a drop in the bucket of Operation Christmas Child gifts from this school district.
Even so, the trustees decided that more than 1,300 children in poverty-stricken areas should not receive gifts on Christmas — because the organization sending out these gifts has an unacceptable position on LGBT issues.
As a Christian nonprofit, Samaritan’s Purse has a statement of faith emphasizing the truth of the Bible, the divinity of Jesus Christ, His promise of salvation for all people, and the beliefs that inspire the group’s outreach to the world. In recent years, the organization added a provision on sexuality:
We believe God’s plan for human sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage, that God created man and woman as unique biological persons made to complete each other. God instituted monogamous marriage between male and female as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female. Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5-6; Mark 10:6-9; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9.
This statement of traditional Christian doctrine clearly conflicts with the LGBT movement. Churches have traditionally held (and the Bible clearly teaches) that marriage is between a man and a woman and that God made humans male and female (intersex people born with both sets of genitals are a different story from transgender identity).
Many schools and educational programs not only advocate for same-sex marriage and transgender identity but push every child to do so in an attempt to prevent bullying. LGBT advocates and fellow travelers do not understand they are presenting what amounts to a different religion on sexuality, with a different idea of what it means to be human.
Christians have been divided on whether or not to hold to traditional teaching on sexuality. In May 2016, Kay Cossar, a resident of Newfoundland-Labrador and 17-year volunteer with Operation Christmas Child, refused to sign the updated statement of faith.
“I was asked by Samaritan’s Purse to sign a document which included..1. I do not believe in same sex marriage and 2. I do not believe that a woman has a right to have an abortion,” Cossar said in a Facebook post. “I refused to sign this document and returned it unsigned along with a letter to support my decision.” She was no longer allowed to volunteer with the group.
Cossar told the Canadian Press that she supported the NLESD’s decision to drop Operation Christmas Child.
Jeff Adams, a spokesman for Samaritan’s Purse Canada, confirmed that Cossar had been removed and that all leaders representing the group must reject gay marriage and abortion.
“We included these specifics NOT because our views on these issues had changed, but simply because the world’s views on these has changed to the point where we felt the need to again remind our volunteers that our organization accepts the Bible as the inspired and infallible word of God,” Adams told the Canadian Press in an email statement last year.
Samaritan’s Purse has made it clear that, despite its opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, it does not discriminate against people when it comes to distributing the shoeboxes to the poor. Children receive the boxes “regardless of their religious faith, race, gender, or socio-economic standing.”
Operation Christmas Child has been criticized for requiring recipients to attend religious services, however. Furthermore, the group does partner with local pastors and community leaders to teach the gospel in impoverished areas. The shoeboxes often include gospel tracts.
These practices might provide grounds for dropping Operation Christmas Child due to concerns the schools might be seen to support Christianity (Canada has no official church, and the country has made pains to separate religion and government).
Furthermore, the president of Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham, has made controversial statements in support of President Donald Trump — even saying “God showed up” in the 2016 election. Franklin Graham is the son of renowned evangelist Billy Graham and has inherited his mantle at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Graham has been an articulate defender of the gospel, and Samaritan’s Purse is a stellar nonprofit organization. But the NLESD could easily have used Graham’s controversial support for Trump or OCC’s decision to present the gospel along with these shoeboxes as an excuse to drop Operation Christmas Child.
Instead, the board of trustees chose to focus on LGBT issues, prioritizing same-sex marriage and transgenderism over blessing more than 1,300 poor children at Christmas. That is a real shame.