St Lawrence College in ‘Operation Christmas Child’ row after complaint over sexual orientation views

St Lawrence College Photo Akafinto via Wikimedia Commons

A Ramsgate school has removed its support for a charity campaign after a couple with a child at the school complained about the connection with American Evangelist Franklin Graham, who is known for his views and comments against same-sex relationships and Islam.

Last year St Lawrence College ran Operation Christmas Child where parents and pupils fill shoeboxes with items to be sent to children in poorer and/or war torn countries.

But Operation Christmas Child is connected to Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organisation which has Franklin Graham as president. Rev Graham has publicly aired his views against same-sex relationships.

The complaint resulted in the school dropping its support for the campaign but this has now angered other parents.

Parent complaint

The Thanet parents first complained in November 2021 but had to escalate their concerns through a three-stage process. The complaint was originally dismissed by the school at stage one and two but finally upheld in part by a Panel which notified the parents of its findings in January this year. The couple were backed by the Humanists UK organisation which supports non-religious beliefs.

The parents said: “We were concerned that the school had decided to support the Operation Christmas Child charity, which is run by a right-wing US evangelical organisation. .

“We’ve been through a long complaints process and during this, we learned that the school considers itself to be an ‘evangelical Christian foundation’ – though we say it hides this from parents.”

The couple say they were disturbed at the ‘fundamentalist’ ethos of the 39 Articles and the Doctrine of the CofE expressed by the school’s chaplain and, they say, by extension the school. This dictates that marriage can only be between a man and a woman and other relationships are a sin.

The couple complained that they believe the view is homophobic, adding: “This is particularly worrying, we feel, for any children who may be confused or uncertain about their sexuality.”

Panel findings

The panel said further due diligence on Samaritan’s Purse should have been carried out, as the college owes a duty of care to all its pupils whatever their 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.

It also found that the college should be clearer about its evangelical status saying it wasn’t a lack of honesty but there was a lack of clarity.

The panel findings added that a narrow reading of the Thirty Nine Articles, representing the Christian ethos of the college, may be in conflict with some UK legislation but was in line with the law of the Church of England.

Panel members found the Chaplain expressed belief in that ‘narrow’ reading and it was said this also represented the Christian ethos of the college.

However, the personal view of the Head of College was found to be ‘more liberal’ and the school’s Equal Opportunities Policy said to be inclusive of sexual orientation and gender.

Statement to parents

A school statement to parents said: “The College carried out due diligence on Samaritan’s Purse… and believed its values were in line with the College’s Christian ethos. We now accept our research, which was conducted in good faith, did not give sufficient consideration of the wider potential impact that supporting Operation Christmas Child may have on the existing College community, or a proper assessment of the charitable purposes of Samaritan’s Purse. We have therefore decided not to support this charity in future…

“Having reflected on the implication that supporting Operation Christmas Child is an endorsement of Samaritan’s Purse, we recognise that it sent a confusing message to our pupils, who are entitled to fair and equal treatment irrespective of their religion, gender or sexual orientation.”

The parents said: “Current and prospective parents should be aware of the school’s “mission as an evangelical Christian foundation.” In an email to us they said clearly that they recognised supporting the charity would “alienate some members of the community”. They had all the facts at that time but still chose to go ahead.”

Anger at decision

However another parent, who wished to be anonymous, has objected to the ditching of Operation Christmas Child, saying: “I feel very let down as the school has failed to stand with Christian children and parents on this issue. It is a betrayal of the purpose for which the College was founded.

“Many Christian parents, especially in Africa, have spent vast amounts of money sending their children to board at the school because of its Christian ethos. They would expect their children’s faith to be respected and not for support for a charity to be dropped on these discriminatory grounds.

“The school is trying to have a foot in both the secular and Christian world, which just won’t work.”

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern, said: “This school has an amazing history linked to its Christian roots and has sadly bowed the knee to pressure from a small minority pressure group – Humanists UK.

“How sad to see a Christian school, with such an amazing heritage, pressured into abandoning its support for one of the most effective emergency relief organisations in the world just because it won’t water down what it believes in.

“Franklin Graham is a man whose faith drives him to serve the poorest and most in need across the globe. What he has achieved through Samaritan’s Purse is nothing short of miraculous. He’s a faith hero just like his father Billy.

“This is another in a long line of cancel culture stories where the pressure of an ideological LBGT lobby has forced people in charge into submission because they are scared to resist. This has to stop.”

Christian Concern is an advocacy group described as ‘one of the most prominent evangelical organisations in the United Kingdom.’ The group says it “communicates God’s truth in public debate.”

St Lawrence College declined to comment due to “obligations of confidentiality.” The school website states: “The school remains true to its Christian foundations but recognises the needs of a community from many backgrounds.

“People with different world views are part of our family, bound together by mutual respect and recognition of the importance of faith and morality.”


  1. Once again a small minority,with more clout than the majority, with schools, institutions, just about every body, bowing down to them.
    This country has gone mad!

    • Are you referring to the evangelical Christian ethos of the school or parents challenging this dubious version of Christianity?

      • As I read it there was one set of parents who complained. I think the school has over 600 pupils, did they not have a say?
        Regarding Christian beliefs, that is a personal thing to all.
        What one finds offensive another doesn’t

        • I think that homophobia being taught in a school and endorsed by senior management is extremely concerning. Fortunately these parents were concerned enough to challenge this as being unacceptable.

          • As I said, a minority who took offence. I reiterate, what about the parents of the other 600 pupils. Why have they not complained?

  2. I think that the Chaplain, a member of the Senior Leadership Team, holding views which are described as homophobic is very concerning.

  3. Not really it’s pretty vague actually. It’s more about how the bible writings are interpreted. Difficult to defend homophobia.

    • Both UK courts and the ECtHR have recognised a belief that marriage should be preserved for men and women was an element of Christian faith.

      • Geoff – marriage already is preserved for men and women. Men and women are both free to marry whoever they choose, regardless of the gender of their beloved.

  4. It’s a private school

    If you dont agree with the school just move your children to another private school. I am sure there must spaces at other schools.

    • That would be the obvious thing to do.
      Unfortunately, this appears to be more about this one set of parents who are not named and backed by a minority group, rewriting what this excellent school stands for.
      Woe betide anybody who disagrees with them!
      You will be cancelled out.

      • Than the majority move there children to a school that supports their ideas.

        Leave the minority at st Lawrence and see how long the schools survives in it support of them.

        I would guess with covid19 private schools are crying out for pupils. As someone who worked in private school I was surprised how much say the kids and parents have. Than again they are paying the wages of the teachers. So it’s easy to see the tail waging the dog.
        If kids didnt want to do a subject they just didnt turn up. The school wont take action because it needs the parents money !.

        Parents have the upper hand so just move your children

        • PS

          I am not implying that’s the case at st Lawrence. But just what I saw at the school I worked at.

    • What message is it sending a young person to avoid something that is tricky or contentious by simply moving school? “Don’t worry darling, we’ve got lots of money so we’ll move you somewhere we don’t have to fret about anything. We can make that nasty real world go away by throwing money at the problem. And we’ll get nanny to tuck you up in bed with some hot milk now” “But mama, I’m 15. I want to smash the patriarchy”

      • Most people with money dont really care about the minions. They go on television to get the minions to donate money they dont have whilst driving home to their million pound houses in their flash car.
        Some do great work for charity mostly in private, just the ones who want the headlines do it in public like Rashford.

        I have worked in private schools and most of the kids wouldnt even say hello or good morning as we were working class and below them.

  5. In the case of Islam, Franklin Graham is right to oppose a set of ideas that are “incompatible with democracy and human rights”
    Source: European Court of Human Rights Annual report 2003

    “The Assembly considers that the various Islamic declarations on human rights, adopted since the 1980s, while being more religious than legal, fail to reconcile Islam with universal human rights, especially insofar as Sharia is their unique source of reference.”
    Council of Europe resolution 2253 (22/01/2019) which the UK voted to pass.

  6. The complainants , the “Thanet Couple” must be somewhat thick .School has a CofE chaplain , a Cof E chapel , a Christian ethos that does embrace many other faiths ( which do and have previously attended the college )
    To attend school you have tours , application process etc and you are also informed of the all the multifaith /Christian ethos of the school . It is also very apparent .
    The Cof E chaplain following the CofE interpretation of the bible etc is not at all hidden and is not thought to be surprising.
    The Thanet Couple maybe do not know the area and have “paid” for a education they do not wish their child/ children to have – quite simply leave – that is the flexibility for those fortunate enough to index into independent education sector.
    Have had children educated at this school ( one is still there ) we have a mixed race , foreign name , one of us a believer , the other an Atheist .
    As with any community/ society there are homosexual, lesbian , non binary etc etc- there are at St Lawrence – pupils know and are not unkind , many are friends , staff are embracing to all – there is no discrimination.Many of the staff are of different faiths .
    We thank the “Thanet Couple “ for highlighting the well known facts about Samaritans purse ( we have never donated to it for this reason )- however it is a shame the Steiner school was closed – it may be worth a look for some !

  7. If you believe in god there is only one. All the other fraudsters are con artist. Everyone knows that’s but most afraid to say it.

  8. Hi Kavinder, It’s great that you are happy with the school. However, you are wrong on all your assumptions regarding the parents. The previous chaplain was not on an evangelical mission. This chaplain most definitely is. I’ve heard his sermons where he told a room full of children post Lockdown that life is very hard and it’s always going to be full of terrible things but don’t worry, if you believe in god, when you die, you’ll go to heaven. This sermon was uncaring and thoughtless and incredibly irresponsible and was of no help to children who had like all children during Lockdown,had faced real trauma. I have also heard of his teachings made directly to pupils…. one child in particular who couldn’t tell their parents he was gay was told homosexuality is a sin. So where does this child go after hearing that from the very person at the school who is charged with his pastoral care? We are in the 21st century… gay people in this country fought for decades for the rights that us heterosexuals have always taken for granted. Gay children have been directly and very negatively affected by this man’s opinions and that is totally unacceptable anywhere in our society but especially in a school. The school needs to make it very clear what their position is.

    • Hi Dave
      Apologies to parents .Previous Chaplain superb .
      Should not this matter of zealousness regarding 39 Articles etc be administered by by the ecclesiastical Bishop of the Diocese ?
      Any child being distressed at school is a safeguarding issue at least . The school should be transparent in this matter .
      We have not experienced an issue like you state during our children’s years at school when children were freely identifying their sexual orientation – there were no such ignorance and spite then -differing years it is thought

  9. All forms of religion are utter madness.
    Every normal person knows it.
    Everyone knows that religion is designed to control and profit. Especially the people who control and profit through it.

  10. The minorities always win the fight these days. Everything is set up so they can.
    What I would say though is, if the charity does not go with the flow then change the charity you are donating to. But do check it out fully before hand.

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