It’s likely that more than a few people will be irked after reading that a local school abandoned a charitable project due to religious concerns.
Operation Christmas Child is an annual drive staged by Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian organization. Participants in OCC pack shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, hygiene products and other items, which are shipped to kids in a dozen different countries.
Dr. Thomas A. Swift Elementary will no longer participate in the program, after the school’s principal became aware that the effort may contravene the B.C. School Act, which requires that public schools be operated as secular institutions.
Initially, it was thought that religious materials were included in the gift boxes, although that turned out not to be the case. However, the shoeboxes are distributed at Christian events, and related books and pamphlets are offered in the course of those, which can be declined.
Many of the boxes are distributed in Muslim-majority West African countries.
Certainly, parents there can avoid having their children attend the Christian events, but that means missing out on the charitable gift. Therein lies the problem – and the possible contravention of the School Act.
One local student posed the question of why religion had any bearing on the initiative – why can’t people just help other people?
Why indeed? Many Christian organizations do exactly that, with local and overseas programs such as food distribution that do not require attendance at special religious events, or exposure to evangelizing or associated materials.
There is plenty of opportunity to spread the Christian belief without requiring attendance to receive charity – especially if that charity was undertaken with help from public schools, and the secular laws governing them.