The Freedom From Religion Foundation has stopped a Texas school from collecting money for a proselytizing Christian group headed by none other than Rev. Franklin Graham.
FFRF had previously informed Galena Park Independent School District that Samaritan’s Purse is a pervasively sectarian religious organization led by a zealous evangelist and that having a fundraiser for this group violated basic constitutional principles. According to the website of Samaritan’s Purse, the organization does its “utmost to follow Christ’s command by going to the aid of the world’s poor, sick, and suffering. ... This, in turn, earns us a hearing for the Gospel, the Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ.” The website also mentions that the purpose of its shoeboxes, the group's fundraising gimmick, is to attract children in the developing world to convert to Christianity.
Franklin Graham, the preacher who runs Samaritan’s Purse, is an outspoken evangelist who has made several harmful comments over the years about the LGBTQ community and Covid vaccines.
“It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that a public school may not advance, prefer or promote religion,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to Galena Park Independent School District Superintendent John Moore. “Organizing a donation drive that employs school staff and resources to collect donations and advance the mission of a religious ministry violates basic constitutional principles.”
FFRF’s letter worked well as a constitutional alert. The state/church watchdog has been assured, in a communication from the school system, that the district had been unaware of the school’s participation in the evangelical fundraising and that this will no longer take place. FFRF has pointed out that it is laudable for the school district to involve children in charitable work but it must work with secular organizations that do not exist to promote religion.
“Our tipoff had the desired effect,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We applaud the school district for being so responsive.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 1,500 members and a chapter in Texas. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.