The people of Elkhart, Indiana, reportedly take great pride in their holiday concert, Christmas Spectacular. Hosted by Concord High School, the annual concert has been a tradition featuring music, holiday cheer and a Nativity scene. That Nativity scene, however, is now being challenged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, whose members assert that a Nativity on public school grounds is illegal.
FFRF sent a letter to Concord Community Schools Superintendent John Trout on Aug. 25 -- four months before the holiday concert would be held -- requesting that the Nativity scene be removed from the program. Wisconsin-based FFRF advocates for separation of church and state.
“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’ birth,” the FFRF letter reads.
Many Elkhart residents have rejected the request to cut the Nativity from the Christmas Spectacular.
Concerned members of the community have created a Facebook group called “Save Concord’s Christmas Spec’s Nativity Scene” to garner support. T-shirts emblazoned with “Save Concord’s Nativity” are also being made to raise awareness, according to The Elkhart Truth.
The district’s school board meeting was held Sept. 8 at Ox Bow School with nearly 100 Elkhart residents attending, many of whom voiced their opposition to the possible removal of the Nativity scene, reports South Bend Tribune.
“For more than 30 years, the Spectacular has been an important part of the Concord High School holiday experience,” Trout said at the meeting. “It will continue to do so.”
One Elkhart community member, wishing to remain anonymous, wrote a statement, and a friend read it during the board meeting.
“I am afraid of the consequences of going against the Christians in our community,” the statement 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.”
"The problem is the school district can't promote one specific religion," FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover told WNDU. “I hope the community will recognize that as private citizens, they have the right to worship any way they choose and to practice any religion they want. But when the government gets involved, when it's the public school district, that story is different."
FFRF has said that litigation against the school district would be a last resort.
Photo credit: Screenshot via Save Concord’s Christmas Spec’s Nativity Scene