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Judge Says Indiana School District Can’t Have Live Nativity Scene During Holiday Concert

In September, I posted about Concord High School in Indiana, where the holiday concert includes a full-blown Nativity Play:

In September, I posted about Concord High School in Indiana, where the holiday concert includes a full-blown Nativity Play:

You can even watch it happen on YouTube (1:20:09):

The Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote a letter to the District warning them against doing it again this year:

It is illegal for a public school to endorse religion to students by organizing a religious performance, such as acting out the exclusively Christian legend of Jesus’s birth. The performance has a clearly devotional message and thus would be appropriate in a church setting, but not in a public school…

Centering the high school’s holiday concert around the nativity is illegal even if participation in the nativity scene is voluntary…

The simple solution is for Concord Community Schools to devise a winter concert centered around secular values like family, giving, and community, rather than focusing on the religious aspects of one specific holiday.

At a School Board meeting that week, the room was packed with Nativity defenders who gave the usual Christian response for why they should keep the nativity scene in the show: Because Jesus!

“When you get to the part of the Nativity scene, it is the true historical part of what Christmas is, and that is celebrated in the United States of America,” said Elkhart resident Robyn Radford. “He came and he changed history. It’s a fact. If you take that away, you have taken out the only educational portion of this program … if you take that away, you are left with snow.”

A virgin birth is a fact, y’all.

And if that’s supposed to be the only educational aspect of this concert, maybe the District should reconsider who runs the high school’s music department.

There was at least one person who spoke against the nativity… but he wasn’t there in person because he didn’t want to deal with the wrath of angry Christians:

Ryan Mullet of South Bend read the board a statement on behalf of a friend he says is opposed to having the Nativity scene as part of the Christmas Spectacular and didn’t feel safe attending the meeting to voice an opposing view.

I am afraid of the consequences of going against the Christians in our community. I am afraid that my Concord student will be retaliated against by the Christians in our community,” Mullet read.

“The bottom line is the Nativity scene in a public school is a government endorsement of a religion (and) that has been deemed unconstitutional time and again,” he also read.

What’s appalling is that the Superintendent expressed support of the nativity scene, suggesting it would stay in the show:

District Superintendent John Trout read his prepared statement.

“For more than 30 years, the Spectacular has been an important part of the Concord High School holiday experience. It will continue to do so,” Trout said, adding that Concord Schools would not engage in a public media fight.

He also noted that participation in the Nativity scene is voluntary and the scene is rehearsed after school, and stated that this scene provides historical context to the holiday season.

Well, the ACLU and FFRF called for the courts to put a stop to this since the administrators were too irresponsible to do it themselves, and U.S. District Court Judge Jon DeGuilio issued a preliminary ruling against the Distrct today saying they may not have the Nativity Scene in the upcoming concert.

Because the live nativity celebrates a religious message, which a government entity like Concord cannot endorse, DeGuilio ruled, “the Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits on their claim that the inclusion of the living nativity scene in the show, as currently proposed, violates the Establishment Clause.”

“A live nativity is a shocking violation to encounter in a public school, which has no business directing students to engage in devotional, sectarian performances,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “This decision is a win for everyone who recognizes that there can be no freedom of religious belief without freedom from religion in government and in our public schools.”

The plaintiffs in the case included a student who would be performing in the show and his father. So don’t let conservatives get away with saying this is the work of groups that don’t even live in the area. The courts were only able to get involved because a student in the concert understood how illegal this was and had proper legal standing.

It’s irrelevant that participation in the Nativity scene was voluntary and that rehearsals took place after school. If it’s a part of the show, it’s an endorsement by the school, and that’s why it can’t remain in there. No other religion gets that much air time during the program, and there’s no secular purpose for including the birth of Christ in the show. It’s also irrelevant that the District, in response to FFRF’s initial letter, promised to include a couple of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa songs and eliminated direct Bible readings. That doesn’t balance out the Nativity reenactment.

If the people of Elkhart want to see a production about the birth of Christ, they’ll just have to find a local church. I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

(Large portions of this article were published earlier)

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