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Freethought Today · November 2015

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

FFRF, ACLU sue over school’s nativity scene

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Indiana filed a federal lawsuit Oct. 7, challenging an annual live nativity performance at Concord High School in Elkhart, Ind.

The complaint notes that for several decades Concord High School has organized a "Christmas Spectacular." Every performance, of which there were five last year, "ends with an approximately 20-minute telling of the story of the birth of Jesus, including a live nativity scene and a biblical scriptural reading. During this segment, students at the high school portray the Virgin Mary, Joseph, the Three Wise Men, shepherds and angels."

FFRF has brought suit on behalf of its 23,000 members, including more than 360 in Indiana, and a local family, whose high school student "Jack Doe" is a member of the performing arts department. Attendance and performance at the event is mandatory for students enrolled in the performing arts department.

The suit alleges that the nativity performance and the reading of the biblical story of the birth of Jesus are "well-recognized symbols of the Christian faith. Their presence at the Christmas Spectacular is coercive, represents an endorsement of religion by the high school and the school corporation, has no secular purpose, and has the principal purpose and effect of advancing religion."

"FFRF is suing to ensure that nonreligious and non-Christian students are able to fully participate in their school's winter concert," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "The nativity represents the pinnacle of Christian belief and its most holy day. This spectacle would be appropriate at a private Catholic school, but is a blatant and egregious promotion of religion in a public school setting."