Religion

School, Atheist Group Battle Over Nativity (Video)

| by Nik Bonopartis
Concord High School's "Christmas Spectacular" featuring a "live" nativity scene.Concord High School's "Christmas Spectacular" featuring a "live" nativity scene.

When a federal judge told administrators at an Indiana high school to stop staging the school's "live Nativity" in December of 2015, the school responded by replacing the student actors with mannequins (video below).

But the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which filed the original lawsuit protesting the nativity at Indiana's Concord High School, isn't having it -- the Wisconsin-based anti-theist group says the nativity is unconstitutional regardless of whether the school uses mannequins or students.

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Now the group has filed a petition asking U.S. District Court Judge Jon DeGuilio to bar the school from "presenting the story of Jesus in any of its forms," according to the Elkhart Truth, a local newspaper.

The district's leaders may have thought they found a loophole in DeGuilio's earlier edict by replacing the students with mannequins, but the FFRF argues that it doesn't change the fundamental legal argument.

"There is simply no support for the proposition that the constitutionality of a religious display or performance turns on a governmental entity's decision to employ live bodies," the FFRF wrote in its motion to the judge.

The school has until May 27 to respond to the FFRF's motion, according to the Elkhart Truth. The FFRF will have another opportunity to respond by June 13, and the school will have a last shot at a counter-argument before July 1.

Officials from the FFRF and the school district told the newspaper that they expect the disagreement can be resolved without a trial.

The FFRF filed the original lawsuit against the Elkhart, Indiana, school on behalf of one student and three parents. None of the local plaintiffs have been named publicly, and the FFRF says it's received death threats and angry messages from people who are upset that the school's Christmas tradition is being challenged.

School leaders say they've done nothing wrong, and say they've technically complied with the judge's order.

"The injunction is a preliminary ruling and applies only to this year's Christmas Spectacular performance," Concord Community Schools Superintendent John Trout wrote in a statement last year, says WNDU. "For 2015, the court ordered that the school not present a live Nativity scene. That is, live performers cannot perform the Nativity scene in this year's Spectacular, and Concord Community Schools will comply with that order."

Sources: WNDU, Elkhart Truth, Freedom From Religion Foundation / Photo credit: Ed Man/Youtube