- (Photo: Screen grab/Fox News' "The Kelly File")
Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association (AHA), which effectively stopped two schools from participating in Operation Christmas Child by threatening lawsuits, said he's satisfied with the outcome.
As previously reported by The Christian Post, AHA sent letters to East Point Academy in West Columbia, S.C., and SkyView Academy, a charter elementary school located in Douglas County, Colo., threatening to file lawsuits against the schools if they continued to participate in Operation Christmas Child, a project of evangelist Franklin Graham's international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse that seeks to deliver Christmas toys to needy children throughout the world.
Containing small gifts, the shoeboxes also include a small note inviting recipients to join in Christianity.
During an interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly on "The Kelly File" Thursday night, she asked Speckhardt if the secular organization was planning to help the students' embark on new charitable efforts since the program they were participating in is now banned, due to the actions of his organization.
He countered her assertion that AHA should help facilitate a new charitable effort by commenting that his secular group is "an advocacy group, not a charitable group."
"Our program is designed to help the kids to have a clean, neutral, free of church-state violations experience," Speckhardt added.
Even though Operation Christmas Child delivers thousands of shoe boxes stuffed with gifts to needy children throughout the world every year during the holidays, Speckhardt said AHA threatened legal action because, as he claims, the charity is merely "an effort to proselytize these poor kids."
"These are gifts with strings attached," he asserted. "They come with religious tracts and even places for kids to sign off on that they've converted to this particular brand of Christianity."
Students at the two schools, however, had no role in putting the religious material in the shoeboxes. Instead, their efforts were in filling the boxes with toys and books. Then, once the shoeboxes are received by Operation Christmas Child, they include the Christian literature.
"Their participation in the program is the problem," he told Kelly. "It's the fact that they partnered with an evangelical group. The whole program is designed to convert kids. If you check out Operation Christmas Child's website, they'll talk about the number of kids they've tried to convert, and how many they've successfully converted with this program. And that's not something that should run through public schools."
Not precisely knowing the content of the Christian pamphlets placed in the shoeboxes, Speckhardt reiterated that the students should have never participated in the program, because Operation Christmas Child talks about Jesus Christ.
In a statement to CP, Operation Christmas Child said it stands by its mission to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ.
"Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization. As our name indicates, and as is communicated in all of our promotional materials and website, we are a project that aims to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of Jesus. Our purpose is to show God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world. We do this by distributing millions of shoebox gifts to hurting kids to let them know that they are not forgotten. Operation Christmas Child is open to anyone who chooses to participate in this Christmas project," the statement read.
According to Kelly, the schools were forced to give in to the AHA's demands because financially, they couldn't fight a legal battle, so they "folded."
"They didn't just fold, there was a story out from the principal from the school in Colorado, admitting that the position was indefensible; it wasn't just admitting that they couldn't take the lawsuit," Speckhardt asserted before Kelly noted that she read the same report, and the principal denied ever making the statement.
According to The Denver Post, parents of SkyView Academy children have spoken out against the AHA, saying that the letter sent by the national atheist group is a bullying tactic. "It's the definition of bullying," said Kendal Unruh, a SkyView parent. "They know where these toys are going, and this effects innocent children all over the country."
Parents were so incensed by the threatened lawsuit that they organized a "Religious Rights Rally" in front of SkyView Academy on the public sidewalk on Wednesday afternoon. The purpose of the rally was to independently raise funds for Operation Christmas Child and show SkyView families' unified response to the atheist aggression.