Cayce, SC (WLTX) -- An elementary school in South Carolina is canceling a Christmas toy drive after a threat of legal action.
East Point Academy is a publicly-funded charter school under theSouth Carolina Public Charter School District. About 360 studentsattend.
For the past three years, the school has participated in "OperationChristmas Child." Under the program, kids collect toys, pencils andother small items, pack them into shoe boxes, and donate to needychildren.
That now has to stop after the school received a letter Monday fromthe American Humanist Association, a national nonprofit organizationwith over 20,000 members and 125,000 supporters across the country,according to the letter.
Themission of American Humanist Association's legal center,according to the letter, is "to protect one of the most fundamentalprinciples of (American)democracy: the Constitutional mandate requiringseparation of church and state."
The letter called the school's involvement in Operation Christmas Child "unconstitutional."
"The letter was very explicit that there would be litigation againstus if we did not stop," said school East Point Academy's principal,Renee Mathews.
Mathews said that of the two full years the school has participated,before the practice was stopped with the letter, about 100 familiesparticipated each year.
The letter came as a shock to her and others at the school because she hasn't had many issues from the local community.
"We have parents that ask questions, but in this case, it's not really a parent. It's an outside group," she said.
The letter was sent on behalf of a parent at the school. It points tothe fact that Operation Christmas Child is part of "Samaritan's Purse,"an international Christian based organization led by Franklin Graham,son of Evangelist Billy Graham.
"There's no religious literature tied with it," Mathews said."There's no speakers who come. There's no religious affiliation at all."
The school's principal says there area number of parents who've toldher they already prepared boxes.She's encouraging them to donatethoseitems to a charity of their choosing.
East Point Academy says they will continue to take part in other Christmas related programs, such as Toys for Tots.
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