FFRF keeps Calif. school district’s holiday performances secular (March 1, 2013)

After a complaint by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Santa Ana elementary school will honor the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and no longer schedule a nativity play in its winter program.

A concerned parent contacted FFRF after the winter program at Jackson Elementary School included a 15-minute play reenacting the birth of Jesus. The play was performed and narrated entirely by students, and included children in praying positions reciting lines such as, “God told Mary she was going to have a baby.”

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel contacted Superintendent Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana of the Santa Ana Unified School District, in a Jan. 7, 2013 letter requesting that the District’s celebrations follow the constitution and remain secular.

Seidel informed the superintendent that it is illegal for the district to compel students, especially students who are so young, to participate in religious activities. Because of the performance’s devotional message, it does not belong in a public school, he said.

The District’s attorney responded March 1 by letter, admitting that the nativity play was inappropriate and assuring FFRF that the district has taken measures to make sure similar performances do not happen in the future. He noted that next holiday season, district staff will be reminded about the Establishment Clause.

Freedom From Religion Foundation