The Freedom From Religion Foundation has told a Michigan elementary school that it must stop putting on a nativity play as part of its annual holiday show.
A concerned parent contacted the state/church watchdog regarding the annual Christmas show at Pied Piper School, in Alpena, Mich., which includes a play about the Christian nativity. Although parents may opt students out of the religious play, that does not remedy this constitutional violation, FFRF wrote Superintendent Scott Reynolds, because the play endorses a Christian message.
It was reported that one student who was opted out could not participate in the rest of the holiday show, because that student’s class was assigned the nativity portion of the program. FFRF cautioned that the district must put on a secular program that does not segregate or ostracize students.
“Pied Piper School can provide a holiday show without unconstitutionally promoting a Christian message and abrogating its responsibilities,” Legal Fellow Karen Heineman wrote in a letter to the superintendent. “There are secular options for music and plays that are appropriate substitutes for the nativity story. Segregation and discrimination on the basis of religion has no place in a public school and conflicts with the district’s own policies,” Heineman added.
The staff of Pied Piper School must be reminded of their obligations to remain neutral toward religion while educating students.
“It’s bad enough that the school district insensitively hosts something called a ‘Christmas show,’ which by definition excludes the 35 percent of citizens who are non-Christian today,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It should be called a holiday or end-of-year program. But it’s inexcusable for a public school to put on a nativity play, which is proselytizing, devotional and has no place in our public schools.”
FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members, including almost 900 members in Michigan. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.