HIGHLANDS RANCH - More than 100 parents, kids, and community members lined the sidewalk outside of SkyView Academy in Highlands Ranch Wednesday to continue their project of collecting toys to send to kids in third world countries as part of an international effort called "Operation Christmas Child."
"The school was threatened with a lawsuit. They needed to not support this as a school. We are in complete support of that," parent Kelly Butler said.
In past years, SkyView students have filled boxes with toys to be distributed to poor children in the developing world by Samaritan's Purse, a religious organization run by Franklin Graham.
However, a non-religion group called the American Humanist Association sent a letter to the public charter school stating it was crossing the line of church and state by promoting Operation Christmas Child. The AHA says it tries to convince these kids in foreign counties to convert to Christianity.
"The boxes of toys are essentially a bribe, expressly used to pressure desperately poor children living in developing countries to convert to Christianity, and are delivered with prayers, sermons, evangelical tracts and pressure to convert," the letter said.
READ: School leader privately admits 'indefensible' breach of church and state
The school stopped all actions. But the parents did not.
"As free citizens in this country on a public sidewalk we feel definitely compelled to keep it going, so that these kids can get their boxes for Christmas," Butler said.
Parents, students, and community members made sure to stay off of school grounds, but went ahead and started collecting toys for the Operation Christmas Child.
People drove by and dropped off their gifts and monetary donations to show support for parents who say they have a right to support a religious cause.
Despite the threat of a lawsuit and the school cutting of its participation, they collected two truck loads of toys Wednesday and say they turned a negative into a positive.
"There were people coming from Conifer and all over our Denver metro area to bring boxes," parent Lori Frederickson said. "They would never have heard of our school or our cause otherwise."
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)