A school in Ramsgate has withdrawn its support for a charity campaign after a couple with a child at school complained about the connection to American evangelist Franklin Graham, known for his views and comments against same-sex relationships and sex. ‘Islam.
Last year, St Lawrence College organized Operation Christmas Child where parents and pupils fill shoeboxes with items to send to children in poor and/or war-torn countries.
But Operation Christmas Child is linked to Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian relief organization run by Franklin Graham. Reverend Graham has publicly expressed his views against same-sex relationships.
The complaint led the school to drop its support for the campaign, but it has now angered other parents.
Complaint from parents
Thanet’s parents first complained in November 2021, but had to escalate their concerns through a three-step process. The complaint was initially dismissed by the school at stages one and two, but ultimately upheld in part by a panel that informed parents of its findings in January this year. The couple were supported by the organization Humanists UK which supports non-religious beliefs.
The parents said: ‘We were concerned that the school decided to support the charity Operation Christmas Child, which is run by a right-wing American evangelical organization. .
“We went through a long complaints process and during it we learned that the school sees itself as an ‘evangelical Christian foundation’ – even though we say it hides it from parents.”
The couple say they are troubled by the “fundamentalist” ethos of the 39 Articles and CofE doctrine expressed by the school chaplain and, they say, by extension the school. This dictates that marriage can only be between a man and a woman and that other relationships are sinful.
The couple complained they thought the view was homophobic, adding: ‘This is particularly concerning, we believe, for any child who may be confused or uncertain about their sexuality.’
The panel said additional due diligence on Samaritan’s Purse should have been performed because the college has a duty of care to all of its students, regardless of religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Supporting Operation Christmas Child, because of its connection to Samaritan’s Purse, meant the college failed in its duty of care.
He also found that the college should be clearer about its evangelical status saying it was not a lack of honesty but a lack of clarity.
The panel’s findings added that a narrow reading of the Thirty-Nine Articles, representing the college’s Christian ethos, may conflict with some UK laws, but is in line with Church of England law.
Panel members found the chaplain believed in this “narrow” reading and it was said that it also represented the college’s Christian ethos.
However, the college principal’s personal opinion was found to be “more liberal” and the school’s equal opportunities policy was declared inclusive of sexual orientation and gender.
Declaration to parents
A statement from the school to parents said: “The College exercised due diligence on Samaritan’s Purse…and felt that its values were consistent with the Christian ethos of the College. We now accept that our research, which was conducted in good faith, did not sufficiently consider the potential wider impact that support for Operation Christmas Child may have on the existing academic community, nor an assessment appropriate to the charitable purposes of Samaritan’s Purse. We have therefore decided not to support this association in the future…
“Having considered the implication that supporting Operation Christmas Child is an endorsement of Samaritan’s Purse, we recognize that this has sent a confusing message to our students, who are entitled to fair and equal treatment regardless of their religion, gender or their sexual orientation.
Parents said, “Parents and potential parents should be aware of the school’s ‘mission as an evangelical Christian foundation’. In an email they sent to us, they made it clear that they recognized that supporting the charity would “alienate some members of the community”. They had all the facts at the time, but chose to go ahead anyway.
However, another parent, who wished to remain anonymous, opposed the abandonment of Operation Christmas Child, saying: “I feel very disappointed because the school has not supported the children and the parents. Christians on this issue. It is a betrayal of the purpose for which the College was founded.
“Many Christian parents, especially in Africa, have spent huge sums of money to send their children to boarding school because of its Christian ethos. They would expect their children’s faith to be respected and not for support of a charity to be dropped on these discriminatory grounds.
“The school tries to have a foothold in both the secular and Christian worlds, which just won’t work.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said: “This school has an amazing history tied to its Christian roots and has sadly bent the knee to pressure from a small minority lobby group – Humanists UK.
“How sad to see a Christian school, with such an incredible heritage, forced to drop its support for one of the world’s most effective emergency relief organizations simply because it won’t dilute that by what she believes.
“Franklin Graham is a man whose faith drives him to serve the poorest and most needy across the world. What he has achieved through Samaritan’s Purse is nothing short of miraculous. He is a hero of faith, just like his father Billy.
“This is another in a long line of cancel culture stories where pressure from an ideological LBGT lobby has forced officials into submission because they are afraid to resist. This must stop.
St Lawrence College declined to comment due to “confidentiality obligations”. The school’s website states, “The school remains true to its Christian foundations but recognizes the needs of a community with multiple backgrounds.
“People with different worldviews are part of our family, bound together by mutual respect and recognition of the importance of faith and morality.”