Nov 20, 2013 4:28 PM by David Randall

Lawsuit threat shuts down school toy drive

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. - The threat of a lawsuit by a non-believers group has convinced a charter school in Douglas County to cut ties with a Christmas gift drive run by an evangelical Christian organization.

Parents upset with SkyView Academy's decision are planning a "Religious Rights Rally" outside the school Wednesday.

In past years, SkyView students have filled boxes with toys to be distributed to poor children in the developing world by Samaritan's Purse, a religious organization run by Franklin Graham.

9NEWS obtained an email to parents sent November 15 explaining the school's decision to drop the program rather than risk a lawsuit from the American Humanist Association.

"Our school has never endorsed any particular religious view," the email stated. "This decision is based on the importance of protecting our school's program, resources, and reputation, which would be at risk if we chose to engage in this national argument."

A parent called the situation "the definition of bullying."

"It's tragic our school was bullied down," said parent Kendal Unruh. "Understandably, our school doesn't want to engage in a costly legal fight. However, I still want this egregious violation of our legal liberties being violated to be known publicly."

The American Humanist Association sent a cease and desist letter to SkyView on November 13.

"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," the letter read.

"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 said.

The AHA encouraged the school to donate already prepared boxes to "an appropriately secular program, such as Toys for Tots."

SkyView's email to parents suggested they drop off the boxes at Operation Christmas Child locations other than the school.

"It is important to focus on the teaching moment that is present with this situation," the school told parents. "This situation offers an opportunity to discuss giving, citizenship and the need for healthy debate and discussion about our country's laws and government."



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