Prayer-Soldier writes "
OPINION: On 18 Nov 2013, Townhall.com reported that the American Humanist Association (AHA) forced a South Carolina charter school to cancel its annual Christmas toy drive. The article quoted Principal Renee Mathews as telling Townhall.com, “We received a letter saying we had to cease and desist immediately or they would take legal action against us.” Mathews related that while the school project donated the toys to a Christian charity, the project was voluntary, non-religious, and not tied to any graded assignments. Mathews told Towhall.com the school had no choice but to cancel the event as the school did not have the budget to fight a legal action.
According to Matthews, the AHA letter to the school stated, “The boxes of toys are essentially a bribe, expressly used to pressure desperately poor children living in developing countries to convert to Christianity, and are delivered with prayers, sermons, evangelical tracts and pressure to convert.” The letter continued, “Because the purpose and effect of Operation Christmas Child is to induce impoverished children to convert to Christianity, the school’s promotion of this program violates the Constitution.”
On 21 Nov 2013, FOX News reported that the AHA sent the same letter to a Colorado charter school. The FOX News article quoted parent Kendal Unruh as saying, “We know this is a bullying tactic.” Unruh told FOX News, “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.”
The FOX News article related that while the Colorado school was forced to cancel the Christmas Toy Drive, the students were not willing to give up. The article related that on 21 Nov 2013, hundreds of the SkyView Academy students and parents gathered on the sidewalk and held a religious liberty rally in protest of the actions of the AHA.
The First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,...” To accept the AHA position, we must believe a student led Christmas Toy Drive has the same force and effect as Congress enacting legislation to establish a state run religion with legal consequences for all who violate the tenants of the Congressionally established religion.
While the schools chose not to expend precious education funds on challenging the AHA position, the outcome is that the AHA is able to force their agenda upon and essentially suppress the rights of school children guaranteed by the First Amendment to “free exercise” of religious practice and “freedom of speech.” The First Amendment does not suppress these rights whenever government is in presence of the activity.
On 21 Nov 2013, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) quoted Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), as stating, “Schools can offer Operation Christmas Child, as one of many choices of community service projects students can voluntarily participate in, without violating the constitution.” Tedesco goes on to say, just because a religious organization is involved in sponsoring it, doesn't turn it into something the school district can't participate in in some way; that goes for any school in the country.”
While Tedesco summarizes existing legal precedent, schools are prohibited from supporting the Constitutional rights of their students because of the costs of our legal system. Atheistic and Secularist organizations such as the AHA have learned they can intimidate officials by mere legal threat of action. How ironic that the very amendment put into place by our founding fathers to protect our religious liberty and freedom of speech is now the club used to silence any reference to God, even in silent prayer, while we are within the public square. The phrase, “...or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,...” does not say, “except when in the sight of any government agency of official,” or, “only when outside of any public view,” or “unless anyone might be offended.” While these phrases, to include the immortal “separation of church and state,” are not found within our Constitution, it is amazing how they seem to get penciled in by the media and anti-religious organizations.
Cited Articles and Posts:
Townhall.com (18 Nov 2013)
FOX News (21 Nov 2013)
Catholic News Agency (21 Nov 2013)