On Nov. 25th, the board of trustees for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District voted to end the province’s participation in Operation Christmas Child for the 259 schools under its jurisdiction. Trustees also gave instructions for schools to develop guidelines to help determine which charities are appropriate to support, that are in line with the values of the district.
Simply put, Samaritan’s Purse has no place in our secular school system in Newfoundland and Labrador, and that includes Operation Christmas Child.
Homophobic organizations have no place in society, let alone having access to developing minds spreading their hateful vitriol; and whether homophobia is presented as religious freedom, putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t change the fact that it’s still — and always will be — a pig.
What people do with their time outside of our non-denominational school system is their own choice, but as society we value inclusion, diversity and equality, and that includes every LGBTQ Newfoundlander and Labradorian. Therefore, the students of the province should not be force-fed a false bill of goods about the intentions of the Samaritan’s Purse, especially with regards to Operation Christmas Child.
It’s is disingenuous to think that Operation Christmas Child, while under the instruction of Samaritan’s Purse, would ever provide a shoebox to an LGBTQ child or to a same-sex-partnered parent in need. Samaritan’s Purse has gone on record as saying that “human sexuality is to be expressed only within the contexts of marriage,” and that real marriage is only between a “genetic male and genetic female.” It would be so horridly obtuse, with such wilful blindness, to tolerate this blatant homophobia to be allowed near our schools or near our students.
A child who themselves may identify with the LGBTQ community, or comes from a family with two mothers or two fathers, is put in the impossible situation of having to decide whether or not to hide who they are or where they come from in order to fit in with their peers and take part in activity presented by an organization that fundamentally disagrees with the mere existence of LGBTQ people.
That question is not a choice that a child should ever have to make — to deny themselves or their family to fit in, when they have nothing to be ashamed of or have to hide.
Thankfully, we won’t ever have to see children make that choice again because of our participation in such a program.
The province successfully adopted the non-denominational system at the start of the 1998-99 school year and it remains in effect to this day. For many years thereafter, relics of the denominational persisted: morning prayers, clergy members presenting at school assemblies, and Operation Christmas Child, among others. Slowly, these practices were also phased out over time, and the remnants of the religious influence faded away; Operation Christmas Child being nixed is yet another artifact of the denominational system now being placed where it belongs, and that is in the past.
Congratulations to the English School District’s Board of trustees for making this decision. This is a clear demonstration of their commitment to the values that we as a province do truly hold dear, and that is that no one gets left behind and no one is left out; the circle can always get a little bit bigger — including for our LGBTQ youth and our LGBTQ parents.
In this time of goodwill to all, please do remember that Christmas is for LGBTQ families, too.
Director of external affairs
St. John’s Pride Inc.