Wounded Warrior Project is refusing to accept a Florida Christian church's money because it is "religious in nature," Fox News' Todd Starnes reports. Liberty Baptist Church and Academy, located in Fort Pierce, Fla., is also a K-12 school.
“We were heartbroken,” Pastor Wallace Cooley told Fox News.
It wasn't until after Liberty Baptist Church and Academy had already paid a $100 registration fee to raise funds for Wounded Warrior Project that the they received an email from the non-profit organization.
"We must decline the opportunity to be the beneficiary of your event due to our fundraising event criteria, which doesn’t allow community events to be religious in nature," WWP's community events team wrote in an email. "Please note your registration fee will be refunded within the next 7-10 business days."
Because Wounded Warrior Project considers itself to be a nonpartisan organization, the group says it can't accept fundraising from companies "in which the product or message is religious in nature."
The church was reportedly planning to accept a special offering on the last Sunday in February and students were collecting money from family and friends to give to WWP.
“We had to tell our children and parents we can’t give to the Wounded Warrior Project…We are second-class citizens now because we are people of faith," Cooley told Fox News.
The pastor said the church anticipated bringing in roughly $50,000 for military veterans.
Fox News has more details:
A Wounded Warrior told Fox News they would look into the matter. The organization did not respond to subsequent telephone calls.
The fundraising project was a joint effort by the 400-member church and the 460 students who attend the academy. The pastor said he first learned about WWP by watching Fox News Channel.
“We appreciate the freedoms we enjoy in this country and the fact that our soldiers have fought for freedom of religion,” he said. “We teach patriotism in our school.”
Kindergarten teacher Tanya Sue Albritton posted a message on the Wounded Warrior Project Facebook page, explaining that her students were devastated.
"They were very sad,” she wrote. “One little girl wanted to know, ‘Why can’t we share with the soldiers?’”
“I was at a loss as to what I should tell her because I don’t understand it myself…Well, WWP, why can’t we share with the soldiers," she added.
In delivering the news to his congregation, Pastor Cooley penned what he described as "one of the saddest letters I have ever had to write":
"We are very disappointed that we, as a religious organization, are being discriminated against. But they are a private organization and have and should have the freedom to make their own rules."
Cooley said the donations that were made have been returned and the church is currently looking for another veterans group to help -- one that will accept their generous donation.
TheBlaze has reached out to Wounded Warrior Project and will update this story as additional information becomes available.
To read Fox News' full report, click here.