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Cayce School Cancels Christmas Toy Drive Under Legal Pressure

8:07 PM, Nov 14, 2013   |    comments
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Cayce, SC (WLTX) -- An elementary school in Cayce is canceling a Christmas toy drive after a threat of legal action.

East Point Academy is a publically-funded charter school under the South Carolina Public Charter School District. About 360 students attend.

For the past three years, the school has participated in "Operation Christmas Child." Under the program, kids collect toys, pencils and other small items, pack them into shoe boxes, and donate to needy children.

That now has to stop after the school received a letter Monday from the American Humanist Association, a national nonprofit organization with over 20,000 members and 125,000 supporters across the country, according to the letter.

The mission of American Humanist Association's legal center, according to the letter, is "to protect one of the most fundamental principles of (American) democracy: the Constitutional mandate requiring separation of church and state."

The letter called the school's involvement in Operation Christmas Child "unconstitutional."

"The letter was very explicit that there would be litigation against us if we did not stop," said school East Point Academy's principal, Renee Mathews.

Mathews said that of the two full years the school has participated, before the practice was stopped with the letter, about 100 families participated each year.

The letter came as a shock to her and others at the school because she hasn't had many issues from the local community.

"We have parents that ask questions, but in this case, it's not really a parent. It's an outside group," she said.

The letter was sent on behalf of a parent at the school. It points to the fact that Operation Christmas Child is part of "Samaritan's Purse," an international Christian based organization led by Franklin Graham, son of Evangelist Billy Graham.

"There's no religious literature tied with it," Mathews said. "There's no speakers who come. There's no religious affiliation at all."

The school's principal says there are a number of parents who've told her they already prepared boxes. She's encouraging them to donate those items to a charity of their choosing.

East Point Academy says they will continue to take part in other Christmas related programs, such as Toys for Tots.



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