San Marcos Middle School is working on a fundraiser to provide 14,000 meals to children in Tanzania. This worthy goal, however, has attracted the attention of the ACLU for its ties to a Christian organization.
The school is partnering with a local nonprofit called Friends and Family Community Connection, with the support of Illinois-based Kids Around the World … Kids Around the World “exists to reach children around the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” according to the group’s website.
This is where the difficulty for the school comes in — it runs afoul of California law for a public school (or other branch of the government) to partner with a religious organization. Says ACLU San Diego chapter’s legal director David Loy,
I think it’s wonderful work, personally, but California law is very clear that if it is a religious group — if it has a religious mission, in any part of its mission — then a public school cannot be supporting that financially or otherwise.
After Loy notified the school of the conflict, the middle school released a statement noting that no money will go to Kids Around the World; and, as of last Friday, references to the organization were scrubbed from the fundraiser’s website. The ACLU is still concerned about the school’s connection to Friends and Family Community Connection, due to its ties with Kids Around the World; they would like to see the funds go to a different organization to eliminate problems.
“If any support of aid flows to any part of the religious groups organization mission, or any part of its operation, then that’s prohibited for a public school to do,” Loy said.
For its part, the school seems to be taking the matter seriously, having implemented the changes noted as well as taking legal counsel to further consider the ACLU’s recommendation. Which is good, as it’s a great cause and an impressive effort. Hopefully they’ll get the legal issues sorted out, and hit their fundraising goal.