District flouts live nativity decision

Breaking the spirit of the judge’s injunction, the Concord Community School District in Elkhart, Ind., set up a life-sized nativity scene using mannequins rather than real people during its annual Christmas Spectacular.

FFRF and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana won a preliminary injunction in early December halting a longtime constitutional abuse at the annual school concert. It involved a 20-minute “live” enactment of the nativity by students while a school employee recited bible verses.

FFRF and John and Jack Doe sued Concord Community Schools in October, with the help of the ACLU. Jack Doe is involved in the performing arts department and took part in the 2015 concerts.

U.S. District Judge Jon DeGuilio explicitly barred the live nativity in his preliminary injunction.

As ABC-57 News reported on Dec. 12: “The sold-out crowd at Concord High School erupted with applause following the school’s use of statues to keep the nativity scene.” Many in the school district are congratulating themselves that they “got around” the judge’s ruling.

Unquestionably, the district, in thumbing its nose at the ruling, compounded the violation by including a nativity display at its public school concert, which is also illegal.

The student plaintiff, and the other nonreligious and non-Christian students, had to sit through the four concerts involving the illegal religious display and eruptions of support for it.

Not only that, but speculation over the identity of the local plaintiffs has been rife and ugly on social media. It appears the entire community and school district are aligned against one young student.

That’s why the Supreme Court, for more than 65 years, has wisely interpreted the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as barring any religious instruction, devotions or rituals in our public schools. Religion in school creates walls between children, accentuates differences, turns believers into favored “insiders” and nonbelievers or minority believers into favored “outsiders” (precisely the way the majority is acting in Elkhart).

“Instead of figuring out new and creative ways to violate the Constitution, the Concord Community School District should be honoring the student and student’s family for standing up for the First Amendment,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It protects us all.”

Concord Community School District officials have dug their hole even deeper with this contemptuous move, and strengthened FFRF’s case through their hubris. While we know reason and the law will prevail, district officials deserve the strongest rebukes for their callous manipulation, FFRF contends.

FFRF and the ACLU are moving forward with their challenge to the nativity scene enactment and hope to have a final ruling from the district court before the 2016 performance.

Freedom From Religion Foundation