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Humanists UK warns parents to be wary of Operation Christmas Child

Parents and schools are being advised to discover the full facts behind an ostensibly benign Christmas gift-giving organisation that operates in schools throughout the UK. Operation Christmas Child encourages parents and children to donate gifts to fill ‘shoeboxes’ which are then sent to vulnerable children in developing countries. However, schools often fail to realise that Operation Christmas Child is in fact an offshoot of Samaritan’s Purse, which is run by the notorious American Christian evangelist and homophobe Franklin Graham. Humanists UK said that schools should provide parents with the ‘full facts’ before encouraging donations, and offer suitable alternatives.

The Operation Christmas Child annual shoebox appeal is promoted by many schools as a positive way of helping the poor in other countries at this festive time of year. The appeal sends shoeboxes full of toys, books, and other presents to vulnerable children in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. But Samaritan’s Purse uses a trojan horse approach of adding religious literature alongside the gift boxes after they leave schools. The literature aims to convert children to Christianity.

Furthermore, the head of Samaritan’s Purse, Reverend William Franklin Graham III, is the son of well-known American evangelist Billy Graham. He has a long history of making homophobic and racist comments. He also said Muslims ‘should be barred from immigrating to America’ and has called on Christians to convert Muslims. In 2020, Graham participated in the ‘March for Life’, calling for a total ban on abortion.

Earlier this year, parents at an evangelical faith school in England raised the alarm with the school about supporting Operation Christmas Child. The school looked into the organisation and agreed with them, deciding that the organisation’s views were ‘not in line with a school where pupils can be themselves and are respected and celebrated for who they are.’

Humanists UK education campaigns manager Robert Cann said:

‘Christmas is a time for giving, and children love to feel that they might be helping others less fortunate than themselves. So it’s little wonder that Operation Christmas Child has such success in getting donations from schools across the country. However I’m sure many parents would, once they know the full facts behind this campaign, prefer that their support was directed elsewhere.

‘There are plenty of suitable alternatives, and so far from being a Grinch, I would simply encourage parents to liaise with their children’s school to find other ways to bring Christmas joy to disadvantaged children – minus the veiled evangelism and homophobia.’

Causes such as Aquabox and Link to Hope (itself a Christian charity) also run similar shoebox appeals, but with no ulterior motive. Other charities like Plan UK, Oxfam, and Children in Need all have Christmas appeals.

Humanists UK has drafted a template letter addressed to schools highlighting what their donations are contributing to. It urges them to reconsider their support for the scheme. The letter can be downloaded at


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

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigning on Operation Christmas Child and alternative appeals.

Read our article about how a school dropped Operation Christmas Child after parents complained about homophobia.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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