A woman's 17-year-long dedication to filling Christmas shoe boxes for underprivileged kids has ended in disappointment in Burgeo, N.L., after she was denied a volunteer position because of her personal beliefs.
'I thought it was all about the children and the generosity and kindness … It isn't really.' - Kay Cossar
Since 1998, Kay Cossar has been a co-ordinator for Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan's Purse, a non-denominational evangelical organization. Cossar estimates she has helped package nearly 4,500 shoe boxes over that time for children in need.
Recently, Samaritan's Purse asked her to sign a revised statement of faith, which included a new section asking volunteers to confirm that they do not believe in same-sex marriage or a woman's right to have a legal abortion.
"I couldn't sign that, I didn't sign that and I returned it to explain to them that these were not my beliefs," she told the St. John's Morning Show.
"I do believe that same-sex people should be able to marry and I do believe that a woman has the right to make a choice regarding abortion."
'Not on the same page'
Cossar said she sent the letter back to Samaritan's Purse in late January, and last week got a call saying she couldn't be a co-ordinator anymore because of her refusal to sign the statement.
"They told me that I couldn't be in a leadership role with Samaritan's Purse unless I was on the same page as the rest of the group," she said.
"It took me a few minutes to think — and how do you respond to it really? When you're being told that you can't participate because of your beliefs?"
Cossar said the caller from Samaritan's Purse told her she was "unsuitable" for such a position — something that has changed how she sees the group.
"It's made me open my eyes a little bit. I don't want to discourage people from supporting the group, but I do want everybody to know what my experience was. People can then make up their own minds if they want to contribute or withdraw support," she said.
"I thought it was all about the children and the generosity and kindness and then it made me stop and realize that it it isn't really. It's about adults and their antiquated points of view."
CBC asked Samaritan's Purse for a response to the incident, and the group replied by saying it has specific beliefs that it wants volunteers to hold if they are to represent the group.
"We included these specifics in our statement of faith NOT because our views on these issues have changed, but simply because the world's views has changed to the point where we felt the need to remind our volunteers that our organization accepts the Bible as the inspired and infallible word of God," the statement read.
"The Bible does not condone sex outside marriage, it defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, and it upholds the sanctity of life."
The statement goes on to say that the group does not require people donating to the shoe box campaign to sign a statement of faith, but that it would be unfair to have year-round volunteers who do not share the Samaritan's Purse values.