Dear Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director of the American Humanist Association,
I am writing to you regarding your recent attempt, in the name of atheism, to prevent poor children from receiving charity Christmas gifts from public school students at the Skyview Academy in Colorado.
I am especially interested in this story because I teach future teachers. I introduce them to the complexities of church and state in relation to public education. I am also interested in this story because I have participated in charity. I am a former Peace Corps Volunteer and I donate to several charitable organizations. I am also interested in this story because I was a poor child, and I did receive charity gifts from a variety of sources. Finally I am interested in this story because my book "Save Send Delete" recounts my debate about God, and relationship, with a prominent atheist.
A clip of your interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly appears on the web. In that clip, you look like a clueless zealot eager to cause suffering to innocent, poor children. I thought that Megyn Kelly was playing "Gotcha." I thought that there must be more to the story.
I've read more about your efforts, including at your own website, and your group's Facebook page. Alas, Megyn Kelly played softball with you. You, your motivations, and your organization are actually worse than Ms. Kelly allowed her audience to see.
SkyView Academy is a small, charter elementary school in Colorado. Students there voted to participate in Samaritan's Purse's Operation Christmas Child. Operation Christmas Child, according to the Samaritan's Purse website, has distributed Christmas presents to one hundred million children in 130 countries. Most normal people would assess that as a wonderful thing. That SkyView Academy students voted to participate in this program demonstrates that they are maturing in the way that most of us want young people to mature. We want young people to learn, not just how to add figures or differentiate nouns from verbs, how to serve those less fortunate than themselves.
Needy children who would otherwise receive no Christmas present; fortunate American children who want to change that; a partnership: so far so good. But in steps the Godzilla foot of the American Humanist Association. Organized, militant atheists.
You sent a SLAPP letter. SLAPPs are "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation." You bullied the generous students at SkyView Academy into ceasing their generosity. You wanted to stop poor children from receiving Christmas presents. I can't imagine anything more perverse, blind, or pathological.
I visited your Facebook page. I see your members are frothing with hatred like rabid dogs. They are spewing false accusations against Christians. They are demonizing Christians. They are doing this in order to justify your own perverse, pathological decision to sabotage Christmas presents to poor children. You and your members are also stewing in the juices of your own hypocrisy.
Your argument runs like this: If poor children receive Christmas presents from Christians, they will somehow be forced to become Christians.
This is utter nonsense.
Let's confront reality, shall we? When organized, militant atheists give charity, they do so to improve their public reputation. This is true of you, Roy Speckhardt, and true of the American Humanist Association. On your homepage you trumpet that you raised money for victims of the typhoon in the Philippines. That money comes with a string attached. It's a very small, innocuous string. The string says, "Atheists care and help."
See USA Today, December 21, 2011. Headline: "Atheists Aim to Change Image of Penny-Pinching Scrooges" Atheists know that they have a reputation as stingy and ungiving and atheists are struggling to change that image by donating in the most public ways possible. Atheists are doing that because sociologists Robert Putnam and David Campbell published research in 2010 showing that atheists are less likely to donate than people of faith.
Atheists donate to charity: that's a good message. If I were a typhoon victim in the Philippines, I'd be happy to hear it. I do not begrudge you that message. I cannot imagine how disturbed my heart and soul would have to be for me to try to stop you from sending money to typhoon victims because I begrudged that message and wanted to spite atheists, at the expense of typhoon victims. I think the world is a better place for knowing that atheists can be good people. I support free speech.
All gifts have strings. All gifts communicate something. I received charity as a child. The Salvation Army helped us. The US government helped us. Our food had stamps on it. We used to receive something called "surplus food." We relied on it. I can't imagine anyone hating America so much that they would stop America from distributing surplus food to poor people like us. Without it, we would have gone hungry. In Peace Corps I saw sacks of US aid rice. Those sacks always came emblazoned with USA logos. Recipients knew that America had contributed.
Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child, unlike your aid to Typhoon Haiyan victims, is NOT just about "Atheists are nice people." It's about something much deeper. Operation Christmas Child doesn't just distribute toys that might be broken in a week or a month. Operation Christmas Child sends this message to poor children: "God loves you. No matter how pretty or ugly you are. No matter how rich or poor you are. No matter how fit or handicapped you are. Your life matters to God. The choices you make every day can make the world a better place, or a worse place. Make good choices. Be nice to other people. Everything will be okay, someday."
This magnificent message, totally different from the message than any message the secular world, including the most well intentioned atheists, have ever delivered, has been changing lives for the better for two thousand years.
There's something else sick, twisted, hateful and extreme in your action. You appear to believe that poor children are so dense that they can't decide for themselves whether they want to be Christians or not, and they need militant Atheists to protect them from their own thought processes. You seem to believe that the mere presence of a nice present from a Christian would so overwhelm a poor child that they would immediately be lured, by some malevolent magic, into becoming Christian.
You don't just want these poor kids not to get presents. You want them not to know. You want them not to hear. You want them not to think. You want them not to be allowed to decide for themselves about one of life's biggest questions. You don't want to just shut down love and joy. You want to shut down speech and thought and decision making. You are motivated by the same extreme hate, obsessive need for control, and destructiveness of a Robespierre, of a Stalin.
The American Humanist Association insists that the SkyView Academy's alliance with Operation Christmas Child is a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution. This is nonsense, as anyone who has studied cases related to that clause can attest. The Supreme Court has taken a variety of stances on these matters, allowing, for example, state funding of transportation to parochial schools and the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance. No one knows who would win were you ever to sue the school, but you don't have to sue. The goal of your SLAPP was to put the kibosh on the giving of presents to poor children, without the case ever going to court. You need never argue your position on its merits. Bullies never have to argue their position. You just smash, hate, destroy, and move on.