Just days after a South Carolina charter school came under fire and subsequently dropped support for Operation Christmas Child, an annual outreach to poor children that is operated by Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian organization, another public school in Colorado has done the same.
But while SkyView Academy, an elementary school in Highlands Ranch, Colo., officially cut ties with the group, parents are fighting back with an effort of their own to make sure that the outreach goes on as planned.
The school announced last week that it will be severing its relationship with Operation Christmas Child, ending two years of participation in the outreach, The Christian Post reported.
Students at the school had been raising funds and were preparing to put shoe boxes together for children in need. This was halted, however, when the American Humanist Association recently wrote a letter threatening a lawsuit if the charter school didn't stop working with Operation Christmas Child.
The letter warned that the school is violating the separation of church and state by facilitating student participation in a Christian outreach -- one that shares the Bible's central message along with items for kids in need.
So, looking to avoid a lawsuit, SkyView Academy sent a subsequent note to parents and explained that the school would be halting to project.
An e-mail to parents allegedly read, in part, "In an abundance of caution because we do not want to expend school financial resources defending a lawsuit, we are not going to accept Operation Christmas Child boxes. If you and your child had planned to donate a shoebox of supplies, you are encouraged to find a charity of your choice for the gift."
Some parents were so frustrated by the development that they planned a "Religious Rights Rally" on Wednesday, where they assembled outside of the school to show support for Operation Christmas Child and to collect funds independent of the school.
It is unclear how much money was raised on Wednesday or whether the "Religious Rights Rally" was successful, but it seems some parents aren't so willing to back down. Ruth VanSant's daughter, Michaela, is one of the students who founded the Operation Christmas Child outreach at the school.
VanSant said that the effort "is still happening, according to The Denver Post. In addition to the Wednesday effort, materials will be collected on public property outside the school before and after each academic day starts.
Another parent responded to the American Humanist Association's lawsuit threat by calling it "the definition of bullying."
Kendal Unruh said that it is "tragic" that SkyView Academy "was bullied down." And while she understands that the school does not want to enter a legal battle, she is hopeful that word gets out about the situation.
"I still want this egregious violation of our legal liberties being violated to be known publicly," she told KUSA-TV.
SkyView Academy board president Lorrie Grove added that she and others were "shocked and disappointed" by the humanist group's legal threat.
"It was hard to believe we were receiving a threatening letter based on the good intentions of our students," she told The Denver Post.
KUSA is reporting that Principal Mike Munier admitted in a private email received by a reporter that the school was involved in an "indefensible" violation of the separation of church and state, although it is unclear what, exactly, he was referencing.
The email reportedly claimed that the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group, had advised the school that due to an error in their handling of the Operation Christmas Child situation, participation was not permissible. But a lawyer from Alliance Defending Freedom told KUSA that it is possible for schools to participate in the outreach within the confines of the law.
SkyView Academy's cancellation follows similar action that was taken by East Point Academy, a charter school in West Columbia, S.C., after the American Humanist Association sent a similar letter warning about a perceived church vs. state infraction.
(H/T: Christian Post)
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