Evangelical school drops Operation Christmas Child after parents complain about homophobia

1 April, 2022

An independent evangelical faith school has abandoned its support of Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse, and its annual shoebox appeal Operation Christmas Child (OCC). St Lawrence College in Ramsgate dropped OCC following a complaint from parents about the charity’s links to homophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric. OCC uses Christmas gifts to proselytise to vulnerable children in the developing world. The President of Samaritan’s Purse is US preacher Franklin Graham: he has made frequent homophobic and anti-Muslim remarks. Humanists UK has been supporting the parents, and has welcomed the school’s decision.

Rev Franklin Graham obtained notoriety in the United States by claiming that Barack Obama had ‘allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to become part of the US government and influence administration decisions’. He has also spoken out in defence of Vladimir Putin’s homophobic ‘gay propaganda’ law, and called for all Muslim immigration to be banned.

The parents originally raised their concerns about OCC in November 2021, but the school defended its association with the charity on the basis it was in line with its Christian ethos. This was also the school’s position when the parents raised a formal complaint, which was dismissed at stages one and two of the complaints process. It was not until a stage three hearing that the school finally upheld the complaint, and has now agreed to stop supporting OCC.

In a joint statement explaining the decision, the chair of governors and the head teacher said: 

‘The College carried out due diligence on Samaritan’s Purse… and believed its values were in line with the College’s Christian ethos. We now accept our research, which was conducted in good faith, did not give sufficient consideration of the wider potential impact that supporting Operation Christmas Child may have on the existing College community, or a proper assessment of the charitable purposes of Samaritan’s Purse. We have therefore decided not to support this charity in future.’

The statement went on to reference how Samaritan’s Purse is opposed to same-sex marriage, and the school makes clear that ‘such views are not in line with a school where pupils can be themselves and are respected and celebrated for who they are.’

Commenting on their complaint, the parents said:

‘We were appalled to learn that the outwardly tolerant Christian ethos of the school concealed tacit support for such a bigoted individual as Franklin Graham, and remain unconvinced that the school was not aware of his opinions earlier on.

‘While we were pleased that our complaint was eventually upheld, and the association with Operation Christmas Child ended, we were saddened and frustrated that it took so long and so much effort on our part to get the school to change its view.’

Humanists UK’s Education Campaigns Manager Robert Cann said:

‘This is another disappointing example of the intolerant religious dogma that sometimes hides beneath the outwardly benign facade of a faith school. The school has now done the right thing and disassociated itself with Franklin Graham’s charity – but it’s a shame it took until stage three of a complaint to take action.

‘Operation Christmas Child is promoted by a number of other faith schools, some of which are state-funded. That even a private evangelical Christian school has now seen fit to withdraw its support, really shows how out of step the charity is with our tolerant and diverse society. I urge other faith schools to reconsider their support for Operation Christmas Child.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read our article on a Catholic Diocese banning a gay author.

Read more about our work on private faith schools.

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