An Arkansas secular group is defending its opposition to public school students being allowed attend a performance of “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” while rejecting claims they had declared a ‘war on Christmas.’
“Those who stand up for the rights of children to be free from coercion aren’t making war either on religion or Christmas,” said LeeWood Thomas, spokesperson for the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers. “This is a case of a church forming an alliance with local government to violate religious freedom.”
Students at Terry Elementary School in Little Rock had been invited to attend an upcoming performance of “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” at Agape Church. The theatrical production is adapted from the popular animated television classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
The Little Rock School District said 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,” spokesperson Pamela Smith told Fox News. “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.”
The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers said they were speaking out on behalf of a parent whose child attends the school. They said the parent felt forced to “choose between maintaining their family religious beliefs versus their child being singled out and possibly ostracized or bullied.”
“Merely allowing a child to opt out of a school-sponsored religious activity during the winter holidays is no solution,” Anne Orsi, vice president of the group said in a statement. “Such a situation exposes the children of minority faiths and outlooks to majority pressure and victimization. Thus the religious rights of children are being violated along with their right to privacy.”
The society said public schools should not take students to churches to see plays with religious content.
“This isn’t about Charlie Brown or Christmas,” Orsi said in her statement. “It’s about the separation of church and state. We must be sensitive to that and never allow public schools to promote one brand of religion over any other.”
But attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom said the secular group is way off base.
“An overwhelming majority of Americans agree that it’s okay to celebrate Christmas in schools and in the public square,” attorney Matt Sharp said.
The ADF sent a letter to the Little Rock School District offering their legal services should anyone sue over the performance.
“Schools should not have to think twice about whether they can allow students to watch a classic Christmas production simply because a Bible verse is mentioned in it,” Sharp wrote in his letter. “Are atheist groups going to start demanding that students be blocked from attending other classic productions just because they contain religious references?”
Todd is the author of Dispatches From Bitter America – endorsed by Sarah Palin, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity. Click here to get your copy.