A non-profit atheist group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has filed a complaint against Concord Community Schools in Indiana for including a nativity scene in the high school’s holiday concert.
Last week, the FFRF sent a letter to Superintendent John Trout referring to the nativity scene during the school’s annual Christmas Spectacular as “inappropriate.” The group demanded that the district make certain that all religious themes are excluded from the 2015 holiday concert, and threatened to consider legal action if the FFRF’s calls went unheeded.
In the letter, staff attorney Sam Grover said, “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.”
The role of the Freedom From Religion Foundation is to protect the separation between church and state, and the foundation has more than 22,700 members nationwide and about 350 in Indiana.
A video of last year’s Christmas Spectacular can be found online, and reveals that the nativity scene is the last in the almost two-hour long holiday show. All previous acts in the show seem to be secular, with more of a focus on Santa Claus and classic holiday tunes.
In the last 15 minutes of the Christmas Spectacular, however, students dressed as shepherds, angels, wise men, and Mary and Joseph gather on stage as a narrator reads the story of Jesus’ birth.
The school district has yet to reply to the FFRF’s letter directly, but did issue a statement that said: “Rest assured that Concord Schools routinely reviews all of its programs, curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular, to ensure not only that compliance with legal and financial standards, but also the education goals of the school corporation.”
The FFRF has previously dealt with a number of court cases related to public schools and religion. In his letter, Grover advised school officials to “devise a winter concert centered around secular values like family, giving, and community.”