Abbotsford school stops charity giving due to religious concerns

Operation Christmas Child, which gives gifts to poor children, contravenes School Act: district

A Costa Rican child receives a shoebox from Operation Christmas Child.

Dr. Thomas A. Swift Elementary will no longer participate in a program that sends gift boxes to kids in need around the world, due to the religious practices of the organizing charity.

Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is an annual drive staged by Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian organization. Participants in OCC pack shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, hygiene products and other items, which are shipped to kids in a dozen different countries.

Swift students have participated in the program in past years but participation was pulled this year after the school’s principal “became aware religious materials were being added to the shoeboxes,” according to a district spokesperson.

“This was decided in consideration of the district’s administrative procedures and the B.C. School Act, which requires that public schools be operated as secular institutions,” Kayla Stuckart said in an email.

But there is no religious material added into the shoeboxes themselves, according to the Samaritan’s Purse spokesperson Frank King.

The shoeboxes are distributed to children who attend events put on by the organization, and Christian books and pamphlets are offered to, but not forced on, the kids afterwards, King said.

In Muslim-majority west African countries, where many of the shoeboxes are handed out, the events are explicitly advertised as Christian and still attract strong turnouts, King said.

Noah Lochbaum, a 12-year-old whose younger sister attends Swift Elementary, sent a letter to the district (which he shared with The News) expressing disappointment in the decision.

“So basically you are saying we should help people as long as there is no mention of religion,” he wrote. “Why can’t we just do the right thing and look at the big picture: human beings caring about and helping other human beings?”

Stuckart said Swift Elementary staff are looking at alternative options for charity participation around the Christmas season but will not do so through OCC.

“We want our students to develop empathy, understanding and respect for others, regardless of race or religion,” she said. “We will continue to celebrate Christmas, Diwali, Chinese New Year and many other diverse cultures that make Canada the great multi-cultural society that it is today.”

Just Posted

If it snows, move your car

Streets in Mission that have cars parked on them, won’t get plowed this winter

Three days in the ER, not uncommon in Abbotsford: report

One in 10 admitted patients spends more than 69 hours in emergency

#MeToo at work: How reporting sexual harassment works – and how it doesn’t

British Columbians have four options to report harassment or assault, but none of them are easy

Man accused of shooting at border agents loses final bid to appeal extradition order

Nathan Hall was arrested in Abbotsford following cross-border manhunt in 2013

#MeToo at work: B.C. women share horrifyingly common sexual assaults

It happens to more people than you might think and impacts women inside and outside of the workplace

VIDEO: Average Canadian food bill to rise by $348 in 2018

Atlantic Canada and B.C. will see the most increases for consumers

BREAKING: Train collides with car in Maple Ridge

Mother and child both uninjured

Chinese Lantern Festival at PNE starting Friday

Event billed as the largest festival of its kind in Canada

Woman, 75, killed in Vancouver pedestrian crash

The death marks Vancouver’s fifth pedestrian fatality of 2017

B.C. government to launch coastal ferry review in January

The Province will begin a comprehensive review of the coastal ferry service in British Columbia in 2018

5 to start your day

A rhyming MP getting into the Christmas spirit on the hill, Langley boy chased by two men and more

Federal Crown drops appeal after charges against pot activist dismissed

Dana Larsen said he was served notice at his home in Vancouver and the case was to be heard July 2

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to marry May 19

Kensington Palace announced the date to the public Friday

Debt-to-household-income ratio rises in third quarter

Total household credit market debt grew to $2.11 trillion in the third quarter

Most Read