Charlie Brown Christmas Field Trip Cancelled

The field trip by the local elementary school to a church to see the Charlie Brown Christmas play, complete with Bible soliloquy, has been cancelled.

This is not a win for the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers.

Why not? Because the church, and not the school, is the entity that blinked. And that’s too bad. We still have a school district that thinks it’s okay to violate the constitutional rights of children, and was ready and willing to defend a religious field trip in court.

In a statement to the press about the cancellation, the church said,

In the wake of some controversy over our Christmas production offered to schools, Agape Church wishes to salute the courageous stand that the Terry Elementary Principal made in not succumbing to the pressure of one complaint voiced to the Arkansas Society of Free Thinkers and media.  We applaud the support that the Little Rock School District has shown to Mrs. Register, and agree with their position that attending the matinees was not a constitutional issue.  Christmas is a Christian holiday, hence its name, Christmas. Our program addresses its origins with light-hearted songs and theatre.  The context of the birth of Christ is broadly described in both Old & New Testament texts.

But because of what this issue has become, as a church, it is not our desire to put hard working, sacrificial teachers and cast members in harm’s way. What we want said is that we love our city, our schools, parents and families.  People are at the heart of the matter to us.  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, Saturday, December 15 @ 2pm and 6pm, and Sunday, Dec. 16 @ 6pm.

To quote bible verses and song lyrics that apply, they reflect our heart toward the Little Rock School District and everyone involved – Peace on Earth, Good will toward men.

Pastor Happy Caldwell, Agape Church

“Sacrificial teachers”? Please. That is just insulting. And who was in harm’s way? ASF had threatened nothing beyond a possible lawsuit. The hate and threats came from the religious people toward us, not the other way around – unless I just happened to miss the Meetup announcement as to when all my fellow Freethinkers would be out there naked at the church with their picket signs and their evolution and their gay marriage and their roasted babies in covered dishes, all plump and juicy and waiting for the potluck after the looting and pillaging and stuff.

 

And apparently Pastor Caldwell does not know where the traditions of Christmas, including Charlie Brown’s tree, actually came from.

With the additional performances over the weekend, any family that wants to take their kids can do so. The church may even get an overflow crowd because of all the free publicity we’ve generated for them. We wish them well.

 

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Got a legal question? Email me at anne@aramink.com. I’m a lawyer, but there’s only a 2% chance I’m licensed in your state. Whether I answer your question or not, sending me an email or reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. I’m on Twitter as @aramink, and you can see my regular blog at www.aramink.com, where I write book reviews, ruminate on Life, the Universe, and Everything, and occasionally – frequently – rant about Stuff.

 

  • pjmaertz

    A church actually took an action that would save the government some money. This has to be a first.

  • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Martyrdom achieved. Won’t somebody think of the poor oppressed Christians?

    • sqlrob

      Give ‘em some real martyr status. Sic Charles Schulz’s estate’s lawyers on ‘em.

  • SparkyB

    “…agree with their position that attending the matinees was not a constitutional issue. Christmas is a Christian holiday, hence its name, Christmas. Our program addresses its origins with light-hearted songs and theatre. The context of the birth of Christ is broadly described in both Old & New Testament texts.”

    How can you defend Christmas as a Christian holiday, state clearly that is what your play is about, and still think that it is not a constitutional issue to have a public school endorse this? Also, where in the old testament does it describe Jesus’s birth?

    • Rob

      Isn’t there a prophecy? (paging B&…)

      • Stogoe

        Yes and no. The text of the Old Testament was massaged to make the ‘prophecy’ fit the New Testament, and the New Testament was wildly contorted to make its events ‘fit’ the Old Testament prophecy. For example, the two lineages of Joseph that link him to the house of David, even though Joseph is not the genetic father of Jesus so Joseph’s lineage doesn’t matter at all.
        The Old Testament foreshadowing is there, but only because of rewrites throughout the text committed after the fact. Much like how The Hobbit was rewritten to fit with the events of The Lord of the Rings after LOTR was written.

        • IslandBrewer

          I liken it to Hayden Christensen being inserted into the end of The Return of the Jedi, or Episode IV being altered so Greedo shoots first.

    • iknklast

      Because America is a Christian nation, that’s why. If it wasn’t for those crazy atheists, we’d all know this, right? That’s what they think – that until atheists came and insisted on taking away all the natural, rightful stuff, we all knew this was a Christian nation.

      By the way, that was the way I was raised. I didn’t even know there were non-Christians until I was 10. All those pesky Jews? They were…I don’t know, maybe aliens from outer space. Because we had prayer in schools, we had Bible reading every day, and we knew where our rights came from. And when God is giving you rights, he isn’t giving them to people he doesn’t like…like us atheist baby-eaters.

      Yes, I had mandatory prayer in school – in 1970. For all I know, it’s going on still. I didn’t know it was against the law, and if I had, I would have had no one to support me. My father sends me e-mails regularly about how Christmas has been taken away, we’ve got a Muslim occupying the White House illegally, etc. They really believe this. It should be in the schools not in spite of being Christian, but BECAUSE it’s Christian. Because non-Christians are not Americans, no matter what they claim.

      My students have been snarky all semester, constantly telling each other in a snooty way “There’s no God in Geography”. They think they can rile me, get me to say something they can get me in trouble for. I just smile to myself, and agree. There is, indeed, no God in Geography, and maybe if they say it often enough, they’ll realize how right that statement is.

      • http://www.aramink.com Anne

        I think I would have liked having you as a teacher. Of course, we probably would have been schoolmates, given the fact that I was in school in 1970, too. Two years before, the schools in my East Arkansas hometown had just integrated. We’ve come a long way in one lifetime – and there’s still so far to go!

        I felt very, very alone in high school, and even in college. I had no idea atheism was okay. I didn’t really even know what it was. I just knew that everyone around me, including my family, believed something I thought was impossibly illogical and absurd. Other than when I had thrown a fit about church when I was somewhere between 9-11, I never admitted to another person that I didn’t believe in a god until I was almost out of college. As far as I knew, I was the only one. I spent years searching hard for something in religion that made sense. I started to get a clue that I might not be alone when I took a college course in the philosophy of religions.

        Stupid Kierkegaard and his stupid Fear and Trembling. By the time I got through with him, I realized there was no way in hell I could find an Abrahamic religion to be acceptable.

      • Drakk

        “There’s no God in Geography”

        What the hell is the point of this statement?

  • John Horstman

    So, basically, the church went ahead and forced a settlement of sorts to avoid actually testing the constitutional issue, exactly as software or media companies do to avoid actually having the dubious legal validity of their “use of this product or service constitutes acceptance of the license terms” clauses in court. Well-played, Agape Church; that was a savvy strategic fold, and it even functions in the public interest, as you’re preventing the school district from wasting money fighting a lost battle. Even your absurd, self-contradicting statement (see SprakyB’s comment above) can’t negate the positive impacts of your behavior.

  • Baal

    I’d have preferred the school admin to have folded first but I do count it in the church’s favor that individual teachers get taken off the hook. Having recently had my son in middle and elementary school, I know that the teachers would have been getting reamed by parents even though the problem is the school admin. Again, I would be happy if there were teachers fighting to not take the trip too but it’s potentially their unappreciated job on the line if they push too much.

    • http://www.aramink.com Anne

      That’s true. We never attacked the teachers, and we never attacked the church. The school administrators approved this field trip, and that’s who has the responsibility to know the limits of what they can and cannot do.

      The only teacher who was even remotely on our radar was the one performing in the play. We were very concerned about retaliation – including unintentional retaliation – against this little girl because of the teacher’s involvement in the production.

      • Baal

        :) To be clearer, I was concerned how the xian parents (not affiliated with your efforts) were likely taking out their frustrations on the teachers (who aside from the one you mention) aren’t really involved in the decision making but get drug into the dispute regardless.

  • RuQu

    I know it was mentioned above, but it is still mind-boggling that the church would put out a statement which says in one sentence “[we] agree agree with their position that attending the matinees was not a constitutional issue” and in the very next sentence clearly state that it is a sectarian religious event. “Christmas is a Christian holiday, hence its name, Christmas.”

    I wonder if people like this think “doublethink” means they are really smart for thinking twice as much?

    • Randomfactor

      Christmas is a Roman Catholic holiday, hence the “-mas(s)” ending. Oh, that part doesn’t count anymore and it’s generic-Christian? Neither does the front end, and it’s generic winter solstice celebration.

  • James Croft

    You can say what you like about these churches, but they play the PR game way better than us. They come off smelling self-sacrificial and principled, and that theists, as usual, come off as curmudgeons who ruin everyone else’s fun. I increasingly think we need to choose our battles very carefully indeed, and to think much more carefully about messaging when we do so.

    • http://anthrozine.com Cubist

      sez james croft: “You can say what you like about these churches, but they play the PR game way better than us. They come off smelling self-sacrificial and principled, and that theists, as usual, come off as curmudgeons who ruin everyone else’s fun.”
      I call bullshit. Please to remember that merely mentioning the word ‘atheist’ is, in and of itself, enough to get a transit company to reject an ad on their buses. With that kind of hair-trigger proximity-fused revulsion aimed at us, and the corresponding hair-trigger proximity-fused approval aimed 180° away from Xtians, just what the hell do you think we even can do to prevent Xtians’ “com[ing] off smelling self-sacrificial and principled” when we do, well, pretty much anything at all to promote atheistic interests? Given the US’ existing ground-state default level of anti-atheist bigotry, what in dog’s name can we do to advance atheism that won’t make us “come off as curmudgeons who ruin everyone else’s fun”?
      And in spite of the US’ existing ground-state default level of anti-atheist bigotry, it sure does seem to be the case that atheism is, in fact, growing. How can that be, if atheists are so fucking clueless about PR and Believers are so fucking great at PR? Seems to me that we’re actually doing pretty damned good, thanks for asking. I think you could make a pretty damn strong case that Believers are, in fact, crap at PR—that Believers benefit hugely from the US’ existing ground-state default level of anti-atheist bigotry—that in the absence of the US’ existing ground-state default level of anti-atheist bigotry, religious Belief would be no more prevalent, nor yet any more noteworthy, than playing chess or being a Star Trek fan.

      “I increasingly think we need to choose our battles very carefully indeed, and to think much more carefully about messaging when we do so.”
      You do that, Croft. You go right ahead and think about how to advance atheism without in any way running afoul of the US’ existing ground-state default level of anti-atheist bigotry. You just keep right on sitting there and thinking about the problem.
      Meanwhile, (some of) the rest of us will actually do stuff. And (in some cases, at least) the stuff that we do will actually, you know, work.

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