Published November 21, 2013
When a national humanist organization threatened to sue SkyView Academy for collecting toys for needy children, students at the Colorado charter school decided to fight back.
Officials at SkyView Academy announced earlier this week that they were dropping its participation in Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. The project involves stuffing toys, candy and hygiene items to disadvantaged children around the world.
But the American Humanist Association said the school’s participation in the program violated the U.S. Constitution and sent a letter demanding they cease and desist.
A small charter school in South Carolina received a similar letter last week and complied with the AHA’s demands.
Even though the project at SkyView was student-initiated and student-led, school officials determined they could not afford to pay for a court battle. The school’s board said they were disappointed by the humanists’ threats.
“We know this is a bullying tactic,” parent Kendal Unruh told me in a telephone interview. “We know that they target small schools that don’t have a budget to defend themselves. In lieu of a fist, they use a letter. We don’t have the money to invest in a long, costly legal battle.”
Unruh said it’s not coincidental that the South Carolina charter school received the exact same letter.
“Because they don’t like the message that we convey under our religious liberty, they have to shut us down and that is a tactic of bullying,” she said. “They don’t believe in equal access. They believe in shutting down anybody who doesn’t comply with their view of what society should be – and that is completely godless.”
And while the South Carolina school completely shut down their Operation Christmas Child project, the students at SkyView decided to defy the humanists.
On Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of students and parents and well-wishers staged a grassroots act of defiance. And while they meant to send a message to the humanists – it was really about making sure poor children had toys on Christmas day.
“The young people weren’t concerned about the politics of it,” Unruh told me. “They were asking, ‘what about the kids?’”
Instead of collecting the shoe boxes inside the school – the students just moved their entire operation outside – on a public sidewalk.
Volunteers loaded shoe boxes into trucks and vans, while students held a religious liberty rally – hoisting signs condemning the humanists.
“Humanists hate kids,” read one sign. Another declared, “You won’t steal Christmas from children.”
Unruh said yesterday’s rally was a great life lesson for the young students.
“You stand up to bullies,” she said. “You don’t stand down. You stand up for your belief system.”
Kimberly Saviano, a member of Humanists of Colorado, defended the national organization’s attack on the school.
“The school was promoting it and they were using school resources to get it together,” she told the newspaper. “By promoting it during school time, it gives the air of authority to it, as if the administration endorses the religion.”
But Unruh said Operation Christmas Child was student-organized and student-led – and based on what happened Wednesday – they aren’t going to be scared away by a bunch of non-believers.
“It’s the right thing to do,” she said. “It’s the merciful thing to do, the compassionate thing to do.”
Some critics have tried to compare the humanists to Ebenezer Scrooge – but that’s really unfair. Even Scrooge had a heart.
I’m not sure why the humanists want to take toys away from impoverished children. Maybe they suffered some sort of psychological crisis as young children. Maybe Santa gave them a pair of underwear instead of a Rock-Em, Sock-Em Robot.
In fairness, nobody likes getting Fruit of the Loom on Christmas Day.
But even worse than that, nobody likes a humanist who gets their underwear in a bunch over American school kids trying to make sure poor children have a merry Christmas.
In the words of the Grinch, “pucker up and kiss it,” humanists.