An Oklahoma elementary school will need to remove a live nativity from its annual Christmas production after receiving complaints by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
The organization protested that third-grade teachers at Chisholm Elementary have students rehearsing a live nativity scene, committing an “Establishment Clause violation.”
“A concerned Edmond Public Schools community member has reported that each year, third-grade teachers at Chisholm Elementary have students rehearse a live nativity scene, which students then perform at the school’s holiday concert in December. We understand that Chisholm students who participate in the nativity play various roles, including Mary and Joseph, etc. While a public school can hold holiday concerts, religious performances and instruction that emphasize the religious aspects of a holiday are prohibited… A live nativity performance celebrating the story of Jesus’s birth is precisely the sort of religious endorsement prohibited by the Establishment Clause.”
The Liberty Counsel, a philanthropic, litigation, education and policy institution devoted to advancing religious freedom, provides pro bono representation for people facing related situations. They sent a letter to Edmond Public School superintendent to urge them to stand firm, despite the school district caving into the requests.
Chairman of Liberty Counsel Mat Staver wrote:
“The so-called Freedom From Religion atheist group continually bullies and threatens people every Christmas, and that includes even children. This organization mocks Christianity and does not seem to know what the Constitution means. I hope this school district will not cave to their threats and continues to allow these children to celebrate Christ’s birth in their school production. A live Nativity scene as part of a balanced Christmas program is not an automatic Establishment Clause violation.”
He added that FFRF mocks Christianity and “does not seem to know what the Constitution means. I hope this school district will not cave to their threats and continues to allow these children to celebrate Christ’s birth in their school production.”
The FFRF has been busy in 2019. They sent a letter to the Cameron School District in Missouri accusing head coach Jeff Wallace of having a post-game prayer in late October. The group also demanded in December that Alabama sheriff Nick Smith stop mentioning prayer and religious references on the sheriff’s office Facebook page. “The issue here is that the sheriff’s office has a pattern of using tragedy to promote the idea of prayer and our letter reminds the sheriff, not everyone in Walker County prayers or believes in the same religion,” said Sam Grover, associate counsel for the atheist organization.