After Pressure from Atheists, Church Cancels Student Matinee Performance of Merry Christmas Charlie Brown

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding Terry Elementary School’s decision to take students on a field trip to a local church to watch a performance of Merry Christmas Charlie Brown (a play that, in part, promotes Christianity).

Jesus is his security blanket

My own take on it was that a public school had no business taking children to a church on a field trip, even if direct proselytizing wasn’t on the agenda. As I told Maressa Brown at The Stir:

If a school took kids to a mosque to see a play where a main character talked about the beauty and value of Ramadan, conservative Christians would be up in arms.

Attorney Anne Orsi, representing a parent of one of the schoolchildren, explained why she was pushing back against this trip:

“We’re not saying anything bad about Charlie Brown,” said Anne Orsi, a Little Rock Attorney and Vice President of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers.

“The problem is that it’s got religious content and it’s being performed in a religious venue and that doesn’t just blur the line between church and state, it over steps it entirely.”

Now, it looks like the atheists’ message has finally gotten through: Agape Church has canceled the matinee performance of the play that the students would have attended:

A Little Rock church has cancelled a student matinee performance of “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” after critics complained the show was too religious and therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“It is not our desire to put hard-working, sacrificial teachers and cast members in harm’s way,” said Happy Caldwell, pastor of Agape Church, in a statement to Fox News. “While we regret the loss of students who will not get this particular opportunity right now, we have taken the school matinees off the table.”

Of course, “harm” was never on the table. That’s just Happy trying to blame atheists for doing the right thing instead of school officials for doing the wrong thing.

As someone who acted in many plays in high school and college, I feel bad for the actors for having to cancel a performance, but the blame rests entirely on the school administration for making the wrong decision and then sticking by it for no good reason.

The church isn’t entirely in the clear, though. Check out this hilarious excerpt from a FOX News Radio article and see if you can find the hypocrisy contained within:

Caldwell praised what he called the “courageous stand” that the school’s principal took in “not succumbing to the pressure of one complaint voice to the Arkansas Society of Free Thinkers and the media.”

He said it was clear “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” did not pose a constitutional issue.

“Christmas is a Christian holiday — hence it’s name — Christmas,” the pastor wrote in his statement. “Our program addresses its origins with light-hearted songs and theatre. The context of the birth of Christ is broadly described in both Old and New Testament texts.”

In other words, “Our show is totally Constitutional! It just highlights the birth of Christ as described in the Bible…”

I’m glad there’s no lawsuit, though. The students at Terry Elementary won’t suffer because of the ignorance and stubbornness of the school’s leaders.

(via Atheist Lutheran)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • cris

    I grew up agnostic; my family never went to church. But I recall us going to churches (public school) for plays because it was a culturally educational experience. I am still highly agnostic (wasn’t swayed by the church ever) and am glad that I was able to see something I’d never seen before: a religious event or ritual. Are we helping any of our kids grow up and make their own decisions by sheltering them from differing views?

    • Peter

      Agree with this entirely. It seems most of the comments here actually defend the trip. Sorry, Hemant, but I think it’s time you hang up your “friendly atheist” hat. You’re not ‘friendly’ in a genuine sense at all, you are intentionally hostile toward any and all forms of religious connotation, as innocent or inconsequential as they might be. 

      If my child was going to attend a mosque ritual, I’d be fine with it because it would aid in his becoming cultured. Sure, some Christians would probably oppose it, but that bears no relevance to this at all. Christmas and Christianity are central to our history and culture; your child is going to find out all about them regardless of whether this trip is avoided.

      As has been stated in the comments already, Charlie Brown Christmas is a beautiful play that emphasizes the importance of humanity, friends and the little things at Christmas. The fable of the nativity is no more threatening than the myth of Santa Claus.

      • Baby_Raptor

        So because he doesn’t agree with you, he’s not being amicable? 

        Fucking really? 

        I haven’t been here since the beginning, but I’ve never once seen Hemant say anything insulting, rude, deliberately false, or otherwise unfriendly about religion. Telling the truth doesn’t make him an ass, even when the truth isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. And even if he has a different opinion than the majority. 

        • Rwlawoffice

          You have got to be kidding. Snarky and rude comments about Christians ans religion in general are the norm.

          • http://mittenatheist.blogspot.com/ Kari Lynn

            Show me where it say that you, personally, have to read this blog. Then maybe I will care. If you do not like it, go read a different blog. Try Pharyngula, at least PZ doesn’t claim to be friendly.

          • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

            You DO realize that even friendly people can be snarky and rude at those who deserve it, right? I’m one of the most friendly people you’ll ever meet, but if you do something fucking stupid, I’ll be all over you for it. Because you will have deserved it.

            Learn the difference between “friendly” and “happy-go-lucky push-over”.

          • The Other Weirdo

             Even your Friendly</em Neighbourhood Spiderman will kick your ass all over New York City if you pull any crap in his town. Except, as it turns out, during a major alien attack.

          • The Other Weirdo

             Even your Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderman will kick your ass all over New York City if you pull any crap in his town.

      • OregoniAn

         Except that once the children grow older we let them in on the fact that “Santa” ain’t real..

        • The Other Weirdo

           The smart ones figure it out for themselves.

      • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Felyx Leiter

        However much children may hypothetically learn by being exposed to other religious traditions, in a situation like this, the likelihood of that happening as an educational experience, as opposed to an indoctrinational one, is highly questionable.  As I recall, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” pretty explicitly states the story of the Nativity as fact. It isn’t the place of the school district to do this, and the concept of equal access and exposure is highly dubious.  Do you seriously think they’ll be taken to a mosque in the next couple of months?  Do you think a UU church service is going to be squeezed in as a field trip?  It doesn’t really qualify as a cultural experience when they’re only exposed to one particular perspective, especially at such a young and impressionable age.  Just because Christianity happens to be the dominant religion in our country’s past and current culture does not excuse this.  They aren’t being taken to a lecture or historical presentation about religion and Christianity’s place in the history of the United States–they’re going to see a play where Linus unequivocally quotes the Bible as truth.

    • Isilzha

      A public school should NOT be taking children to any sort of religious organization for anything.

      • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

        That’s a bit broad. I think there are certainly situations where it would be appropriate to take public school children to a church. My eighth-grade English class went to see a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at an Episcopal church and school. We had been studying the play, so it was for educational purposes. All we did was sit in the theater. We did not come into contact with any of their clergy, and no one got up on stage to proselytize to us.

        Of course, the Charlie Brown situation is entirely different, since the church is putting on the play for religious purposes, and seems to have scheduled their matinee performances specifically to target public school kids. Frankly, I wouldn’t ever trust an evangelical church around children from non-Christian families.

    • OregoniAn

      When we are sheltering our children from pure superstition then YES – we are definitely helping them. You refer to religion as being a “different view”.  Well, many of us consider it “bullshit”. Worse, many of us recognize it plainly as being “very dangerous bullshit”..

      I love my children, and have therefore been very vigilant as to what they encounter during those impressionable early years. There is plenty of time for them to experience the diversity that surrounds them.

      I am far more concerned with them growing up cognizant and empathetic towards the cultural, ethnic and sexual diversity that surrounds them (and of which they are a part of) than being concerned over whether or not they get to see someone prattle on about a wafer being the body of Christ and some grape juice being his blood. That would just confuse the heck out of them. You know why? Because it’s bullshit.

      I love the whole Peanuts gang, and I admire Charles Schulz. His strips were angst ridden and poignant as well as being funny.He was quite adept at portraying the full spectrum of human emotion.  We can all relate to his strips at times – but that has nothing to do with the separation of Church & State. Under no circumstances should it ever be necessary for a public school to utilize (or patronize) a church.

      If you want your children to witness this particular “culturally educational experience” then you know where to be on Sunday morning.

      • Good Grief

        I view all religions as bullshit as well, but I have an opposite approach. I let my  MIL read them religious stories from time-to-time: Noah’s Ark, The Nativity, some other crappy book about lost sheep – and you know what? They can’t tell the difference between those stories and the ones at home, like Olivia and Sleeping Beauty. Why? Because they’re all just stories. They understand that dragons aren’t real. Monsters aren’t real. Talking, burning bushes aren’t real, and some day, they’ll understand immaculate virgin mothers aren’t real, either. You just can’t be afraid of everything – treat it like the fairytale that it is.

        • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

          I encourage my kids read all the Christian stories we have in our (not insubstantial) home library, just as I encourage them to read Greek and Norse myths. Kids should be familiar with the myths that have influenced our culture. But that’s really not the point. It’s one thing to expose kids to myths, and another to allow a church to proselytize to public school children. One is perfectly constitutional; the other is not.

          • Bill Haines

            Except that kids didn’t actually have to go, and the play doesn’t actually proselytize.  

            • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

              From the animated special (and, I imagine, the play):
              “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’” ” That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

              If that’s not proselytizing, exactly what is it?

              • Blacksheep

                It’s the actual Christmas story. Whether one believes it or not is a separate issue, it’s still the Christmas story.

                • Helanna

                  The problem is that it’s being held in a church, which is no doubt going to present it as absolute truth, and is almost certainly being endorsed by teachers who view it as the absolute truth. 

                  I didn’t have a problem with them going to see the play until I found out it was going to be in a church. These are elementary school children – if a bunch of adults they trust tell them it’s the truth, they’re likely to believe it despite what their parents say. My sister had the same problem a few years ago – her friends told her all about God and despite us constantly telling her it’s a myth, she was a wreck for weeks because she thought we were all going to hell. 

                • Blacksheep

                  I understand, but even for an atheist, It is the Christmas story, regardless if one thinks it’s a myth or not. There’s nothing wrong with kids knowing what Christians believe.

                  As far as your friend is concerned, it sounds like what you mainly did was to tell her that she’s wrong and should believe as you do. 

                • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Smith/100001063157732 David Smith

                  I wonder if Christians would have a problem if the children were taught about the real history of Christmas. Because as its celebrated in the US it has pretty much nothing to do with Jesus.  We can teach them all about the brutal pogroms against pagans and the eventual hijacking of the pagan holidays in a further attempt to commit cultural genocide. Or we could just keep religion out of public schools whichever you think is better.  

                • Ibis3

                   And if you and your family celebrate Christmas as a non-religious winter solstice holiday instead of as the birth of some random itinerant preacher of the first century, you’re doing it wrong? Nope. No proselytisation at all.

                • Blacksheep

                  I never implied that it was being done wrong. One can celebrate any way that one likes, but the meaning, history, and significance of Christmas is the birth of Christ, who was anything but a random preacher – his ministry quite literally affected the whole course of history.  If you celebrate Solstice, or Yule, then Christ has nothing to do with it, obviously. 

                • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

                  “…the birth of Christ, who was anything but a random preacher – his ministry quite literally affected the whole course of history.”

                  Or rather the supposed birth of Christ (if he did in fact exist, he certainly wasn’t born on December 25), and a specific set of the many and varied stories that grew up around his ministry (if THAT ever existed). The myths are what affected the whole course of history, not the man himself, who (if he existed) would probably be quite surprised by all the stories that grew up around him. At least that’s how I see it. You probably see it differently:-).

                  In any event, “Christmas” as it is celebrated in this society is as much a secular holiday as it is a religious one. Yes, it’s based on an ancient myth, but a lot of us don’t take it seriously any longer, and for good reason. That doesn’t make our celebration of Christmas any less valid.

                • Blacksheep

                  I’m being pedantic about the word Christmas. I really never said yours was less valid, and I do wish you a Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays.

                • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

                  Happy Holidays to you too!

                • Bill Haines

                  The first part of your response makes me want to applaud.

                  But the second part strikes me as silly.  If I start a tradition of celebrating Hanukkah as a secular Festival of Kites and this catches on, it would be less valid than what religious Jews celebrate.

                  If you want to deny that Christmas is first and foremost a religious Christian celebration, that’s your business, but until the majority of Christians agree with you (or there are no more Christians) you’re just mistaken.

            • Andre

              But public school money goes to this field trip that has minimal educational value; the play’s moral is that “Jesus is the reason for the season” (even elementary school children can see that); and allowing students to opt out creates “otherness” in the children, especially elementary school children, that can be mentally devastating. 

              If anyone can put forth good reasons why going to this play is better than not going at all (a positive argument for school children to go to the play) where the benefits can surmount these issues, then let them do it.

              The children can attend this play, at a church, on their own if they wish to. Simple as that.

            • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

              It’s an “adaptation” called Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. The television special was religious enough, but there is every reason to suspect that this church may have added even more religious content. We don’t have the script, so we don’t know. But I would not trust an evangelical church, especially when they are apparently putting on matinee performances just for public school children.

        • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

          Tell me you don’t think “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” treats Christianity like a fairytale. It treats it as the one, true religion, that the claims made by the Bible are real. That is indoctrination, plain and simple. If parents want their kids to see the play, then they can take them to see it on their own time. Taxpayer dollars should not be used to do it for them.

    • Iron Maiden

      I think it would depend on the approach, but as you describe it, the separation of religion and state is overly blurred.  Is the event or ritual taught as fact (or truth), with little to no analysis?  What are the students’ roles in said events?  Are they forced (or pressured) to participate in something that is antithetical to their views?

      Is this something that students can study as part of a World Religions course?  Are state-sponsored public schools overly dependent on religious institutions for venue space?  Are there other venues the school could/should use instead?  My apologies for all of these questions, but I think each deserve important consideration.

  • Good Grief

    I don’t know about this one. I’m almost always 100% with you on your opinions, but even as an atheist (with children), this doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown can be looked at as a story of kids trying to find a deeper meaning and value to life in general, see past materialism. Those specific kids in the Charlie Brown story looked to Christianity because that’s how they were raised, but the overall story could be for everyone. I agree with you that the venue is a problem, though, but not entirely. My public elementary school was next to a church, and we would frequently have our concerts at the larger venue the church provided – we even sang Christmas songs there. As an atheist now, I see no problem with this.

    The context of this is a little different, but in high school we took field trips to a Hindu temple to participate in a festival that was going on that day; a Greek Orthodox Church to attend service; and we also visited a mosque to participate in prayer. I think it’s important for children to experience different cultures and beliefs, to better understand them. I guess I’m just afraid that as atheists, we’re not always picking our battles wisely. If this were a nativity play, I’d be so much more against it, but Charlie Brown? Sheesh.

    • Marie The Bookwyrm

       But the point of  “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is Linus quoting the Nativity story.  The show is saying ‘This is the true meaning of Christmas’; and I can see where people who are not Christian could feel hurt by that. 
        Regarding your high school field trips, do we have any indication that this elementary school takes classes to various religious venues for field trips?  I’d be willing to bet that they don’t.  

      • Good Grief

         I’m just concerned that we’re going to produce an over-sheltered generation of children that don’t know how to think for themselves because we wanted to protect their feelings 24/7.

        The religious venue is arguably a problem – some schools aren’t as lucky to have a big performance space, and it’s more about logistics. It’s unfortunate that it was scheduled during school hours – it could have just as easily been scheduled as an after-school, evening, or weekend free play for kids. Some kids get no exposure at all to the theater or performing arts. It was a nice thing they were trying to do for the kids that was poorly executed.

        • Collin

          I think this case exposes the fact that this generation of kids is being “produced” by an over-sheltered group of parents and teachers who can’t see beyond their own christian privilege.  Perhaps this will be an opportunity for all to learn a bit about thinking for themselves.  The fact that kids get little exposure to arts in school is a shame and due mostly to the fact that arts in general are not considered valuable and worth funding in American society.  Speaking of funding, it is revealing of “American values” that so many schools lack proper facilities for functions such as graduation ceremonies and school plays, yet the church next door can accommodate thousands.  

          • Good Grief

            I agree with you, I just disagree that this was the way to do it. There are bigger bones to pick out there than “this case”.

            • Andre

              Ah, yes. The “bigger bones to pick” argument. I’m sure the irony is lost to few that you have commented so much on this article. Nothing more important than that. 

              • Bill Haines

                “Good Grief” is expressing an honest opinion — one I happen to share.  Don’t be an ass.

                • Andre

                  The “bigger bones to pick” argument is just logical fallacy with no merit to it at all. I was pointing out the inanity of it. 

                  I’m sorry that it’s a stupid argument and that you agree with it.

                • Bill Haines

                  And I’m sorry you’re an ass who helps fundies tar us all with the same brush.  Oh well.

                • Isilzha

                  It’s ridiculous.  It isn’t at all about exposing kids to art or theater, it’s completely about exposing them to a religous message you agree with (or at least, don’t object to). 

                  If you want to take children to a religious performance in order to indoctrinate them do not use the government to do it!  THAT is what the issue is.  You’re still free to feed your kids whatever lies you want.  However, don’t insist on doing that to other people’s children!

                • Bill Haines

                  No, it’s about exposing them to what’s become a traditional story concerning one of the two principal holidays of what is by far the most prevalently practiced religion in their country. 

                  Parents not wanting their children to attend could excuse them. 

                  This is not a big deal, in the way that, say, teachers leading prayers or a YEC on the House Science Committee is a big deal.

        • Andre

          Don’t worry! The church is still putting on the play during non-school hours. No children who want to see it will have to miss it! But now the children who don’t want to go won’t have to. It’s win-win!

        • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

          “Some kids get no exposure at all to the theater or performing arts. It was a nice thing they were trying to do for the kids that was poorly executed.”

          I doubt it. Like much of what churches do, I think it was deliberate proselytizing aimed at young people. I don’t think there was any real desire to “widen horizons” or give kids exposure to the theater or anything like that. The pastor made the point quite clear: “Christmas is a Christian holiday — hence it’s (sic) name — Christmas.”

          I do understand the point you’re making about a wider exposure to traditions, but the practical problem is that it’s usually only Christians who proselytize. You don’t see Jewish temples and Muslim mosques putting on events for kids– and if you did, I *sincerely* doubt parents would let the schools participate. There would be howls of outrage from all these very same Christian groups who try to pretend this is all about freedom of speech. It’s not. It’s about proselytization, and getting the “good news” out to kids. 

          • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

            No doubt it was deliberate proselytizing. This is an evangelical church. Their mission is to convert people to Christianity. They are still performing the play at other times of the day, but they were putting on a special matinee performance for students, to try to get more of them exposed to the religion. I’m sure it wasn’t because they wanted to get them to appreciate the arts.

            While we regret the loss of students who will not get this particular opportunity right now, we have taken the school matinees off the table, and welcome parents to bring their children to our public performance schedule.

            Of course, there would be no reason to take school matinees off the table unless they were there for the sole purpose of inviting “unchurched” public school children. They could still invite all the local private and Christian schools. There are a ton in Little Rock, more than enough to make up the audience. But, no, they’d rather cancel the performance because (it seems) their true goal was getting non-Christian children exposed to religious material.

        • Nate Frein

          If the school is going to expose children to theatre or performing arts then some amateur performance (of a blatantly ripped off, unlicensed play) at a local church is the last place I would start looking to remedy that. 

        • Isilzha

           Religion doesn’t help children “think for themselves”.  Thinly disguised religious indoctrination is not a “nice thing”.  It’s devious, underhanded and has no place in public schools.

          You can expose children to theater and public art without it being religious.

        • The Other Weirdo

           When I graduated from high school is 1988, I had never, up to that point, seen any religious performance or heard a reading of the bible. Yet, somehow, almost a quarter of a century later, I understand the Christian mindset, have read the bible, etc. So I’m not sure what you mean by “sheltered”.

      • Blacksheep

        It is the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not the true meaning of Yule, or the Holidays, or even the season – but it is, specifically, the meaning of Christmas.

        • Glasofruix

           The true meaning of christmas is that it is a stolen celebration with a made up cover story in order to keep those pesky pagans in check, no wonder it comes at the exact moment as the winter solstice. Jebus (if he existed) was certainly not born on December 25th, by the way. Oh, and at some point christmas celebration was banned by the very religious authority you worship because it looked too pagan, which shows that it wasn’t about baby Jesucks at all.

    • Isilzha

      If you think “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown” is OK, then you are free to show it to your OWN children.  However, a public school has NO business doing such a thing!

      • Good Grief

        I am 100 % for the separation of Church and State, but I still disagree with you. I don’t look forward to the day that my kids aren’t even exposed to the Bible as literature in Western Literature class because “someone might take it seriously and get offended.” Parents, teach your kids to think analytically, and for themselves.

        • OregoniAn

           We’re talking about grade school children here. What “Western Literature” class are you referring to?

          • Good Grief

            I’m referring to grade school as well. Children deserve so much more credit than we give them.

            • Isilzha

              Yes, and they deserve not to have their heads filled with nonsense and told it’s truth.

              • Cecelia Baines

                Well Isilzha, the only thing that seems to be important to you is that you got the last word in, so mission accomplished…..

        • Andre

          Well, when removing the bible from literature class becomes an issue, we can discuss that then. This isn’t about that.

        • walkamungus

          I’ve taken two “Bible as Lit” classes in college, one as an undergrad and one as a grad student. (Very, very useful if studying English or American lit.) The people who struggle in those classes, particularly in the undergrad class, are those who are serious Christians and who can’t divorce their beliefs from the text — they can’t turn around and see it as just a book, something they can study like Hamlet or Pride and Prejudice. Instead, they keep insisting that their (long-ingrained) understanding is “right,” that it is the word of god, that god wrote it, etc. My point is that it’s the Christians who get offended in those types of situations, not the atheists.

        • Isilzha

          I look forward to the day when the bible is treated as seriously as Grimm’s fairy tales.

          You’re still free to send your kids to a school that includes whatever religious “education” you want them to have (though I feel sorry for them!).  However, keep religion OUT of PUBLIC schools.    It has NO place there.   Why is that so hard for you to understand?

        • Cecelia Baines

          I agree to a point. We cannot hide from the history of religion nor the “user manuals” (bible, koran etc…)

          The venue here is wrong; the show is not.

        • Kengi

          It’s perfectly legal for public school students to study the Bible as part of an anthropology course, comparative religion course, or comparative literature course (although the Bible is horribly written, badly translated, and very disjointed, so would be a poor choice for a literature course outside of college).

          The problem is teaching the Bible and only the Bible, for the purpose of promoting the Bible and Christianity.

          If seeing the Charlie Brown Christmas play at a church was part of some course studying comparative religions and was only one of many productions in a variety of religions the students were taken to throughout the year, that would also be legal.

          The problem is that, in this case, it’s nothing but promotion of one religious viewpoint by a government school. That’s illegal.

        • Kengi

          In fact, I think a good anthropology course which studies different religious cosmologies and how those myths arose from their cultures and times would be good for students in high school and perhaps middle school as well. The problem would be getting qualified teachers who wouldn’t just use such a course to proselytize their own religion by degrading all others while praising theirs. 

          (“See how primitive and backwards THOSE people are? Christianity is why WE rule the world!”)

    • Marco Conti

      I would not have as much of an issue with it if it was part of a comprehensive plan to expose the students to a variety of cultures and religions, as you explain in your post. 

      There is no indication that is the case here. Like you, I would probably let my own daughter go to the play (that is, if she was still that age instead of a college graduate) but I object to the students going to a church to watch a play that I am sure has had the christian themes accentuated a bit.

      If the same students were offered a trip to a Hindu template, a mosque, a Buddhist template and a synagogue (Just what I could think of) then they would have a chance to see that not everyone is a Christian at least. That alone is a powerful message for young kids. It puts the Church visit in perspective, but failing a planned exposure like that, I have to be against it.

  • Jporgal

    NEVER TAKE PUBLIC SCHOOL CHILDREN TO A CHURCH!

    End of story!

    • Bill Haines

      Yeah, wouldn’t be educational at all to teach them that there are multiple religions which contradict each other, would it.  

      • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

        There’s a clear difference between a field trip to educate children ABOUT religion (neutrally), and a field trip to teach children a religion as if it were the only right and true one (teaching religious claims as fact, etc.). Big difference.

        • Blacksheep

          I’m a Christian, but agree with you about not teaching religion in school. 

          The only reason this feels different to me is that it’s about Christmas, so it’s more about the meaning behind Christmas. (as opposed to being the only right and true religion).I once took my kids to a play about Hannukah, and one of the reasons was so they could understand the meaning behind it, beyond 8 days of presents, good food, and candles. 

          • Cecelia Baines

            And I agree, I just disagree they should be doing this in a church. It is not the show I have issue with, it is the venue.

          • Jay

            I think you hit the real issue on the head there, when you said “I once took my kids to see a play about Hannukah.” Exactly. YOU did, and not a public school, and that is what makes it ok. If individual parents want to take their kids to a play about the meaning of Christmas (or anything else for that matter) than that is great, but it is different matter when it is through a public school. 

          • Carmelita Spats

             The “meaning of Christmas is debatable”…For some, it’s the celebration of a day when Yahweh finally had his way with a joyous Jewish minx and she squirted out the magic baby “Himself” from her loins using nothing but a hydraulic pump and a revolving door.  This was done so that He could sacrifice Himself to Himself. Christmas ignites the most appalling teaching in Christendom’s asylum: substitutionary atonement. This is CREEPY and triggers the gag reflex, like watching flies feed! Besides, even Yahweh hated Christmas trees:

            “Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen…. For the
            customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest
            … with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold.” Jeremiah 10: 2-4

          • RockinDonkey

            Do you realize that the meaning behind Christmas, as we know it, has less to do with your invisible skydaddy and more to do with the Pagan winter solstice celebration?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I didn’t even know the show contained a Christian message until I became an atheist. I watched the show growing up but since I was raised as a Christian I never gave it any thought.

    Christmas to me was all about baby Jesus. I loved setting up the manger and making sure all was right but then again I was just a kid and didn’t know any better.

    Now being an atheist and having a daughter who calls herself agnostic if her school wanted to take her to see this play at a church I wouldn’t care. My daughter loves Christmas but she loves it for the time of year, not because of baby Jesus.

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      It’s nice that you wouldn’t care. But please recognize that other parents most definitely would, and it’s not the role of a public school to bring students to a religious performance. At all.

    • allein

      I loved setting up the Nativity scene, too. Probably mostly because I was a girly girl who liked to play with dolls, but I still have a soft spot for it.

  • Iron Maiden

    I remember my fourth grade class doing a production of Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, in full.  This was a public school in North Carolina.  I was too young and naive to know any better…  I don’t think anyone spoke up about it, not even my father, who has since identified as agnostic.

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      So… what’s your point?

      You know, Cranston High School West, in Rhode Island, had a prayer mural up for decades. Nobody dared complain about it. When someone finally did, the court found it unconstitutional and had the school remove it.
      So… again, what’s your point? Who cares if nobody complained about it in the past? Nobody complained about slavery centuries ago, but it was still eventually found to be immoral and cruel.

      • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

        Dial it down a notch. Dude was obviously just adding his/her own personal story to the conversation. Overreact much?

        • Guest

          Rich is an angry fellow…

          • The Other Weirdo

             How do you figure that?

            • Guest

              because I can read!

  • Rwlawoffice

    The part of the story missing in this post is that the school told the patents about the planned trip ahead of time and gave them an opportunity to opt their children out. That was I believe included in earlier posts about this topic. As such, any parent who did not want their children to attend could have made that choice and could have protected their child from the evils of a Charlie Brown Christmas. That opt out provision most likely made this trip, along with the forty plus years of cultural significance of the show itself constitutional.

    The argument made by the anonymous atheist parent was that this opt out was not good enough and that they did not want put their child in that position. So the argument was, if the school did something that went against their view of the constitution and exposed their child to religion that they did not agree with, the school should stop it in order for their child not to be singled out. Funny, that doesn’t work in the opposite way when we discuss liberal ideas that the school teaches and tells kids about that go against the morals or beliefs if religious people. We are told we are wrong and no we will still teach it and in some cases are not even allowed to have the child opt out. It is a double standard.

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      As you well know, the constitution doesn’t prevent schools teaching about liberal ideas, or conservative ideas. It prohibits them favouring any single religion.

      There is no double standard.

    • Bill Haines

      In principle there is a single standard: that which can be at least provisionally concluded through sound reason from empirical evidence in the scientific sense.  Morals or beliefs without secular basis do not outweigh education made necessary by real and harmful consequences of lacking it.  

  • Bill Haines

    “If a school took kids to a mosque to see a play where a main character talked about the beauty and value of Ramadan, conservative Christians would be up in arms.”

    Yeah, they would — but why should atheists act like conservative Christians?  All this did was make us look petty.  

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      How is it petty to ask that a public school, paid for by taxpayer dollars, not entangle students into religious proselytism (and watching a play where a lead character quotes directly from the Bible in a reverent manner is most definitely proselytizing)? How is it petty that we demand public schools, as agents of the government, remain separate from religious belief and not create an atmosphere where kids who opt out are the “others” who are going against the grain?

      Did you also call it “petty” when Jessica Ahlquist fought for the removal of a prayer mural in her public school? Would you have also found it “petty” when secularists had school-led prayer removed decades ago?
      You DO realize that the courts almost always rule in favor of separation of church and state, especially in the cases of public schools, right? You DO realize that if a fought can, and most likely WOULD, be won, then it’s the opposite of “petty”… right?

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      Why should atheists be okay with allowing a highly evangelical church special access to public school children?

      https://www.agape-church.org/

      It’s not too much to ask that students not experience proselytizing while under the supervision of the school system.

  • Atheist

    So when should we expect the name change from Friendly Atheist to Militant Atheist?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705066677 Desiree Bell-Fowlks

      Why would he?  Because he respects the separation of church and state?  Yeah that’s real militant.

    • SphericalBunny

      Just as soon as any and all Christians who demonstrate homophobia, sexism, racism, lie-spreading and law-breaking stop describing themselves ‘loving’. Might take a while.

  • Cecelia Baines

    I have an issue with the kids being taken to a Church for the show; I have no issue with the show itself.

  • Helanna

    I don’t think anyone’s problem is with the Charlie Brown special. 

    I think almost everyone who has a problem has a problem because it’s being performed *by* a church. The special doesn’t really proselytize, it just has that one scene, but that’s fine. If the church is doing it though, *especially* after those comments by the pastor, I don’t trust them in the least not to be preaching, especially to ‘ripe’ children. 

    And this is clearly not some interfaith or educational effort. If they were just learning about different religions, that would be different. But they’re not. They’re young kids who are going to a Christian church to hear a Christian story told by Christians, and most likely everyone involved, including the teachers that they trust, are going to act as though it’s the complete truth. That’s not the school’s job, that’s the parents’ job. 

  • Ibis3

    As I said in a previous thread, taking kids to see this play would be fine, *if* it were part of a group of such field trips: take the kids to a mosque for Eid, a Hindu temple for Diwali, to Chinatown for Chinese New Year, a Wiccan celebration of Samhain. That would be educational, because it would show them what celebrations different cultures that they might encounter have. Limiting it to a Christian play favours Christianity and teaches them that there’s only one right way to celebrate Christmas.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    Wait, so this was a special matinee show just for public elementary school students? If it was for the general public, I can’t understand why they’d cancel it, unless they want to feel like martyrs. Why wouldn’t they just keep the performance and invite all the local Christian and private schools to attend the matinee?

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    Keep in mind, we don’t know that the churches performance of the story is true to the TV special (which if it was would still be a problem).  It could have A LOT more religion in it.  That’s typical of churches doing shows like this.  They take the basic idea and then bastardize it with more religion.  
    Considering it looks like they shouldn’t even be doing the show, because the Peanuts/Schultz people probably didn’t license it to them…they can make whatever they want of it, and maybe get sued later.  Perhaps the churches council should be asking the pastor if it was a prudent decision to do a show that could result in the church being sued.On top of all that, Charles Shultz described himself as a Humanist later in life…good grief.

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      That’s what I’ve been saying since the beginning! Who knows what on earth this adaptation contains. I once went to a “secular” Christmas show at a Baptist church, which had been heavily advertised and promoted to the public with no mention of religion, only to find that the event ended with an exhortation for the audience to accept Jesus Christ as our personal lord and savior.

  • Guest

    Now the godless haters hate Snoopy. How in the hell
    (yes there is one and you psycos will know it all so well very soon) does
    taking some kids to see a play about Charlie Brown at a church infringe on the
    1st amendment? Do you nutbag, hater losers actually spit pea soup
    when you drive by a church? There is no separation of church/state in the
    mentioned in the Constitution. There is only that the govt. can NOT establish a
    national religion. What does a bunch of kids seeing a Charlie Brown paly have
    to do with the 1st amendment and the federal govt establishing a
    national religion? Nothing.

     

    You losers just can’t help not being depressed and
    depressing everything around you. You’re the prime example of misery wanting
    company. You hate and are depressed so you want to, to coin a phrase, “share
    the hate”. I’m sure you’re fans of your terrestrial messiah’s ObamaCare so
    maybe perhaps you can get some of your psych meds for free.

     

    I’m sure you psychos are just pleased with yourself
    ruining a Christmas play for those kids. What do you expect from a bunch of
    losers who boo God at their national convention.

     

    My father was a WW2 vet and told me all those
    enlightened tough guys in the Army who said there was no God and didn’t go to
    chapel were singing a different tune when the enemy was 50 ft. from them with
    fixed bayonets. He said, ‘there are no atheist in fox holes’. You’re a bunch of
    phony, sick evil cowards. Believe it or not there IS a special place in Hell
    for all of you.

     

    MERRY CHRISTMAS and GOD BLESS ALL OF YOU!!

    • allein

      Gee, thanks! You sound like such a happy person and I hope you have a merry Christmas, too! :-D

    • OregoniAn

       BEST nutsack post I have read all week! Love the whole “spitting pea soup as I drive past the church” thingy. Pure GOLD  =)

  • ScottR

    From Wikipedia: 
    Schulz often touched on religious themes in his work, including the classic television cartoon, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), which features the character Linus van Pelt quoting the King James Version of the Bible Luke 2:8–14 to explain “what Christmas is all about.” In personal interviews Schulz mentioned that Linus represented his spiritual side.

    Schulz, reared in the Lutheran faith, had been active in the Church of God as a young adult and then later taught Sunday school at a United Methodist Church. In the 1960s, Robert L. Short interpreted certain themes and conversations in Peanuts as being consistent with parts of Christian theology, and used them as illustrations during his lectures about the gospel, as he explained in his bestselling paperback book, The Gospel According to Peanuts, the first of several books he wrote on religion and Peanuts, and other popular culture items.

    From the late 1980s, however, Schulz described himself in interviews as a “secular humanist”:[47]


    I do not go to church anymore… I guess you might say I’ve come around to secular humanism, an obligation I believe all humans have to others and the world we live in.[48]

  • Derrik Pates

    The name is one of the few aspects of the holiday that Christianity can legitimately claim to have originated. Almost everything else was lifted from elsewhere.


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