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).
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)