A Kentucky school district is being urged to reconsider after censoring “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and other programs by removing all references to religion.
The Alliance Defending Freedom weighed in Tuesday after Johnson County Schools officials agreed to modify its holiday programming in order to avoid a potential lawsuit, a move prompted by a complaint from a parent about the classic Peanuts play.
“There is no violation of the so-called ‘separation of church and state’ by allowing children to learn about theater and the origins of Christmas through participating in a stage version of this beloved program that contains the same religious elements as the television version,” said the letter signed by two ADF attorneys.
“Given that courts have consistently held that schools may organize and sponsor Christmas programs and performances that include religious songs and study the historical origins of Christmas, there is no basis for the District’s decision to censor the religious aspects of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas,’” the letter continued.
The ADF represents the family of a student at W.R. Castle Elementary School in Wittensville, Kentucky, who is scheduled to appear in a production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
The school district acted in order to avoid a lawsuit and possible violation of federal law, said superintendent Thomas Salyer.
“We don’t want to do anything that would cause harm to our district or our children here in Johnson County Schools,” Mr. Salyer told WSAZ-TV, which serves Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio.
He said in a statement that, “In accordance with federal laws, our programs will follow appropriate regulations.”
“The U.S. Supreme Court and the 6th Circuit are very clear that public school staff may not endorse any religion when acting in their official capacities and during school activities,” said Mr. Salyer. “However, our district is fully committed to promote the spirit of giving and concern for our fellow citizens that help define the Christmas holiday.”
Several dozen parents protested the school district’s decision Monday outside the board of education building, the station reported.
At the end of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” the character Linus quotes a passage from the Bible about the birth of Jesus.
“Schools should not have to think twice about whether they can allow students to perform a classic Christmas production simply because it contains biblical references,” said ADF legal counsel Matt Sharp in a statement. “‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ has become an iconic Christmas story and tradition. Are school officials going to start demanding that other classic productions, such as Shakespearean plays, be censored just because they contain religious references?”