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Newfoundland and Labrador ends Operation Christmas Child in its schools

The Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador’s English School District (NLESD, which controls all but six schools in the province) has formally brought an end to the Operation Christmas Child (OCC) ‘shoebox appeal’ operating in its schools, citing concerns over the homophobia and extreme religious views in Samaritan’s Purse, the charity which runs the scheme. Humanists UK, which for many years has drawn parents’ attention to issues around religious proselytising through OCC, has welcomed the news.

In October, Humanists UK urged its members to write to schools about the appeal, pointing out that many parents and teachers don’t know that OCC uses families’ charitable donations as a missionary tool for converting people to Christianity. Humanists UK also promotes a list of ethical alternatives to the OCC scheme for parents and teachers who still want to engage children in charitable giving around the holiday season.

District trustees for NLESD voted at a public meeting in late November to formally end all links between public schools in the region and Samaritan’s Purse, with NLESD Director of Education Tony Stack citing Samaritan’s Purse’s requirement that all staff sign up to a ‘statement of belief’ that is ‘in direct conflict with our inclusive philosophy, particularly as it relates to the LGBT community.’ He emphasised the particularly negative effect of these views on children in the District who come from same-sex parent households.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘It’s encouraging news to see a Canadian district take responsibility for schools under their control and break ties with an organisation known for its homophobic agenda. Families and schools are entitled to know what their donations are contributing to, and councils and schools in the UK should be looking closely at what they can do to ensure families and staff are not being misled.’

Notes

For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.k o 0207 324 3078.

Read Humanists UK’s template letter for parents to send to schools: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017-10-18-FINAL-Model-letter-to-schools-re-Operation-Christmas-Child.docx

See Humanists UK’s alternative suggestions for charitable giving at Christmas: https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/humanism-today/humanists-doing/good-causes-and-charities/samaritans-purse/

See the Operation Christmas Child website: https://www.samaritans-purse.org.uk/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/

Read the HumanistLife piece ‘Why parents shouldn’t support ‘Operation Christmas Child’: http://humanistlife.org.uk/2015/10/14/why-parents-shouldnt-support-operation-christmas-child/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/

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