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Operation Christmas Child Tests Constitutional Limits of Kansas Public School

December 24th, 2021

A burial law in Ohio mandates that fetal tissue be buried or cremated, raising important questions regarding the separation of church and state.
Last year, the Freedom from Religion Foundation was able to stop a Kansas public school from taking part in Operation Christmas Child.

Last year, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) focused on and was able to stop a Kansas public school from taking part in Operation Christmas Child (OCC), a yearly nonprofit activity supported by the Christian organization, Samaritan’s Purse. This case highlights the constitutional limits between public schools and religious practice.

What Led to the Publication of the Statement

The FFRF released a letter alleging violations of the separation of church and state and that someone in the surrounding community noted that North Shore Elementary School recently participated in an OCC fundraiser. 

OCC is an activity designed to encourage participants to load shoeboxes with toys as well as school supplies and hygiene products for less fortunate children throughout the world. OCC is part of Samaritan’s Purse, which is an organization that is run by a devout Christian who has spoken out against both the LGBTQ+ community as well as vaccines for COVID-19.

Samaritan’s Purse describes OCC as a mission created to demonstrate “God’s love” for children throughout the world in a physical way. OCC has been around since 1993 and Samaritan’s Purse claims that over 188 million children in more than 170 countries have been positively impacted by the program. 

The FFRF reacted to this constitutional violation by mailing a message to the school district expressing concerns about involvement in the activity. The Freedom From Religious Foundation’s letter acted to inform the school of its constitutional violation. 

The Foundation then expressed support for the school district for following the letter’s request and ending involvement in the operation. The Foundation also stated that the school should participate in activities with charities that are not affiliated with a religious belief. The Foundation also notes that there are countless charities that are not affiliated with religious perspectives that the school could help. 

The school district responded that it was grateful to the FFRF for pointing out the violations and would cease to participate in Operation Christmas Child “upon learning that its mission is more sectarian in nature than we realized.”

The Constitutional Law That Applies to Operation Christmas Child

The Establishment Clause, which is found in the constitution, prohibits government entities including public schools from advancing or preferring one religion over another. This constitutional guideline prohibits public schools from either organizing or participating in charity drives that call on public school staff to collect donations for an organization that believes that these donations are furthering a religious principle. The Establishment Clause also applies to situations where school workers pray before team sports or place a moment of prayer in graduation ceremonies. 

This is not the first time that religious freedom organizations have argued that OCC is violating the Establishment clause. In 2015, another religious freedom organization successfully banned the program at a school in Colorado. In a disagreement over OCC in Kansas in 202, the FFRF was able to get the program banned, as well. 

Tracking Religious Rights Issues

While the fundamentals of religious rights in the United have existed since the country’s creation, each year, countless cases still test the exact boundaries of these rights. The Universal Life Church’s blog is dedicated to documenting the most noteworthy of these cases. We strive to do so in a way that objectively examines each side and which can be readily understood by readers.

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