A school district in Canada has ended its participation in the Samaritan's Purse children's charity program Operation Christmas Child after complaints were received about the Franklin Graham-led evangelical organization's stance on human sexuality.
The Canadian Press reports that the 259 schools in the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District can no longer participate in Operation Christmas Child, a Church-driven annual drive in which donors fill thousands of shoeboxes with small gifts and toys that are eventually delivered to children in need around the world.
After receiving complaints about Samaritan's Purse's views on marriage and sexuality, the school district's board of trustees voted on Nov. 25 to end the district's participation in the program.
"This organization is on record with its statement of beliefs that it requires its co-ordinating volunteers to sign statements of faith that are in direct conflict with our inclusive philosophy, particularly as it pertains to the LGBT community," Director of Education Tony Stack said, according to CBCNews.com.
Stack added that school involvement with Samaritan's Purse could pressure children of lesbian and gay couples to participate in Operation Christmas Child just to fit in with their classmates.
"For example, a child with two moms or two dads, unfortunately, has been put in the position of choosing between fitting in and partaking with other classmates in an activity, or supporting an organization opposed to the very existence of that very child's family unit."
According to The Canadian Press, Stack assured that the district is involved in other charities that help children in developing countries.
"Additionally, trustees directed staff to develop guidelines for schools regarding their interactions with outside or third party organizations who wish to participate or organize activities within district schools," the district stated in a press release.
The move comes as Samaritan's Purse requires volunteer leaders who represent the organization to sign a statement of faith that expresses that marriage is only a union between a man and a woman.
"We believe God's plan for human sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage, that God created man and woman as unique biological persons made to complete each other," the statement reads. "God instituted monogamous marriage between male and female as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female. Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5-6; Mark 10:6-9; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9."
Samaritan's Purse amended the statement of faith in 2016 to include the language on marriage and abortion. Headlines were made that May when a pro-choice and pro-LGBT Canadian who had volunteered with the organization since 1998 had been denied a leadership position after she refused to sign the amended copy.
"They told me that I couldn't be in a leadership role with Samaritan's Purse unless I was on the same page as the rest of the group," Kay Cossar of Newfoundland said at the time.
The amendment to Samaritan's Purse statement of faith came after the United States Supreme Court ruled in 2015 to legalize same-sex marriage.
"The amendments include a specific mention that 'human sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage,' that a marriage by Biblical definition is between 'a genetic male and genetic female,' and that 'human life is sacred from conception to its natural end,'" Samaritan's Purse Canada spokesperson Jeff Adams told The Canadian Press in May 2016.
"We included these specifics NOT because our views on these issues had changed, but simply because the world's views on these has changed to the point where we felt the need to again remind our volunteers that our organization accepts the Bible as the inspired and infallible word of God."