A stage version of the beloved holiday classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has sparked a constitutional controversy at a Little Rock, Ark. grade school.
Students at Terry Elementary School had been invited to attend an upcoming performance of the show at Agape Church. Teachers sent home letters informing parents that a school bus would shuttle children to and from the school-day show.
Pamela Smith, the communications director for the Little Rock School District, told Fox News that students were not required to attend the performance and as far as the district is concerned – there is no controversy.
“The teachers wanted to provide an opportunity for cultural enrichment for students through a holiday production and are supported by the principal,” Smith said. “Because it will be held at a church, as some public events often are, a letter was sent home with students so parents who took exception and wished to have their children remain at school could do so.”
She said to date no parent has expressed an concerns to the school principal.
However, at least one parent objected to the field trip and contacted the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, a self-described community of atheists, agnostics and humanists.
“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 oversteps it entirely,” attorney Anne Orsi told Arkansas Matters. “We’re not saying anything bad about Charlie Brown.”
Orsi is vice-president of the organization. She told television station KNWA that the concerned parent did not want to be identified.
“The parents that we know in this this situation are reluctant to speak up because they are concerned about their kids being singled out and bullied,” she told the television station.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” was the first prime-time animated television special featuring the Peanuts characters. It touched on the over-commercialization of Christmas and reminded viewers of the true meaning of the season.
The show features a poignant moment when Linus recites passages of scripture from the Gospel of Luke — noting the birth of Jesus Christ.
“And that’s what Christmas is all about,” Linus said.
“While everyone loves Charlie Brown, the religious content of the program is a problem, as is the trip to a church to see it,” Orsi wrote on the group’s Facebook page. “Oddly enough, not all kids at the school are Christian, and their parents don’t want them singled out as ‘different.’ Who’d a thunk it?”
Smith told Fox News the school district does not “promote or encourage students to support any religious affiliation.”