An organization that has been filling Christmas boxes for children for the past two decades has fallen out of favour with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) board.
Concerns were forwarded to the board of trustees about the ideals and beliefs of the Operation Christmas Child charity’s founder, and were taken to its regular meeting for discussion.
Tony Stack, CEO and director of education (interim) for the NLESD, said the decision was made following a review of the co-ordinating organization and school community concerns brought forward to the district. Those concerns about Operation Christmas Child were discussed by the board at a public meeting on Saturday, Nov. 25.
Trustees passed a motion to direct all district schools to cease participation in the program.
“There was a concern brought to us and we determined the values of the board were not represented by the group, Stack said Thursday afternoon.
“Their organization and how it governs itself is a concern for us.”
He said the school district believes in inclusiveness, and the parent organization — Samaritan’s Purse — doesn’t adhere to those beliefs.
In particular, Stack said members of the LGBT community have taken a stance against the organization based on its governance.
He said inclusiveness is paramount for the NLESD, as there may be children in any of the district’s schools who have two moms or two dads and feel excluded because of its affiliation with Samaritan’s Purse, and that is unacceptable.
Additionally, trustees directed staff to develop guidelines for schools regarding their interactions with outside groups that wish to participate or organize activities within district schools.
“There are lots of fantastic local and international organizations out there that align with our values,” Stack said.
“We want to make sure we look at the broad guidelines, and any involvement with these external organizations has to align with our values.”
The problem centres on the views of Samaritan’s Purse’s president and CEO, Franklin Graham, the son of American evangelist Billy Graham.
A conservative Christian, Graham is pro-life, pro-family and pro-traditional marriage. He has used social media to spread his beliefs, deemed by some to be racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic and bigoted.
There are those who believe the organization is brainwashing children into adopting his beliefs and are upset that the organization is promoting Christian values.
In 2016, Kay Cossar of Burgeo made the news when, after 17 years of filling shoeboxes, her own beliefs saw her sacked as a volunteer for the organization.
Samaritan’s Purse wanted her to sign a volunteer form that said she didn’t believe in same-sex marriage or the right of a woman to have a legal abortion.
This went against Cossar’s beliefs, so she refused to sign the document, thus ending her time with the organization and bringing to a halt her efforts that saw more than 4,500 shoeboxes packed for children in need during her time as a volunteer.