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Kansas school cancels Operation Christmas Child after atheist group files complaint

A Kansas school has canceled its participation in Operation Christmas Child after an atheist group wrote to the school district alleging that the program “violates basic constitutional principles.”

The annual project is sponsored by the Christian nonprofit Samaritan’s Purse, through which shoeboxes filled with gifts are sent to children in more than 160 nations.

Liberty Middle School must “cease participation in Operation Christmas Child or taking any other actions promoting Christianity like including religious references over morning announcements,” the atheist legal group, Freedom From Religion Foundation, wrote to Tony Helfrich, the superintendent of Pratt School District, claiming “many egregious constitutional violations [are] occurring” at the school.

“Regarding our students’ participation in ‘Operation Christmas Child,’ we are discontinuing that effort upon learning that its mission is more sectarian in nature than we realized,” Helfrich wrote in a Nov. 7 response letter to FFRF.

Samaritan’s Purse is led by the Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of the late evangelist Billy Graham. When children worldwide receive the shoeboxes filled with toys, they also hear the Gospel message and receive a booklet that teaches them about Jesus Christ. In a recent interview with The Christian Post, Billy Graham’s grandson, Edward Graham, said shoeboxes filled with gifts were reaching more children and unreached people with the Gospel than the massive global evangelistic events his grandfather held over decades.

More kids have heard about Christ through these shoebox distributions than ever heard about Christ in stadiums with my grandfather,” said Graham, vice president of programs and government relations at Operation Christmas Child. 

Samaritan’s Purse says it has for over 40 years “done our utmost to follow Christ’s command by going to the aid of the world’s poor, sick, and suffering. We are an effective means of reaching hurting people in countries around the world with food, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ. This, in turn, earns us a hearing for the Gospel, the Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ.”

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