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Christians circle the wagons to support student toy drive

Denver-area Catholics stood with members of the SkyView Academy community in Highlands Ranch at a rally Nov. 20 after the religious liberty of students at the charter school was threatened by the American Humanist Association.

SkyView ended their affiliation with Operation Christmas Child, an evangelical-run toy drive for impoverished children, after receiving a letter from AHA demanding the school cease participation on grounds it violated separation of church and state. The American Humanist Association advances a “humanist” worldview encompassing atheism, agnosticism, rationalism, naturalism and secularism, according to their website.

“Our school has never endorsed any particular religious view,” the SkyView Administration and Governing Board wrote in a letter to parents Nov. 15. “Sadly, the parent that objected to the OCC project did not reach out to the school before escalating the issue with the AHA and the media. This contradicts SVA’s … parent handbook procedures for conflict resolution. In any case, we are taking action today to remedy the situation.”

Students running the voluntary service project continued the toy drive off school grounds, according to school parent Kendal Unruh, an evangelical Christian.

“Obviously the school has chosen not to engage in a costly legal battle,” she said. “But these students, trained not to be bullied by bullying tactics, are demonstrating their … constitutionally-guaranteed rights to exercise their Christian faith.”

At least 200 shoeboxes plus $1,000 cash were collected before and during the rally, attended by more than 70 parishioners from nearby St. Thomas More Church in Centennial.

“I was so impressed with the support from St. Thomas More, it was beautiful to see,” Unruh said. “Catholics and Evangelical Christians standing side-by-side working together in this cultural war.”

She believes publicity from the American Humanist Association threat strengthened the drive.

“This threat of a lawsuit resulted in the largest shoebox drive in the history of (Operation Christmas Child at SkyView),” she said. “Ultimately those kids get more toys!”

For more on Operation Christmas Child, visit www.samaritanspurse.org. To support SkyView students, contact Unruh at wallyunruh@aol.com or 303-475-2857.

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