After Kentucky public school officials announced they were cutting the iconic Nativity story from the school's stage play of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," parents set up a picket line outside school district offices this week. School representatives said they took the measure to avoid a potential lawsuit. Others are crying, "Good grief!"
At least one parent in the Johnson County school district complained about Linus' reading from the Gospel of Luke that was a focus of the 1965 television special that gave rise to the play, according to an article in The Paintsville Herald.
Eliminating this particular portion of the enactment upset other parents who want the play to remain intact and sent them to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty watchdog group, states Religion News Service.
On Thursday, ADF posted the following statement on its Facebook page: "It seems that 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' isn't PC enough for one Kentucky school district, which has decided to censor the classic after it received one complaint about the biblical references in a student play based on the Charles Schulz television special. Good grief."
Johnson County Superintendent Tom Salyer said the complaint had been filed with the Board of Education regarding religious content presented in school plays and activities. Salyer told The Paintsville Herald he believed the intention of the complaint was to file suit against the district.
Charles Haynes, vice president of the Newseum Institute and founding director of its Religious Freedom Center, told RNS public schools can stage works with religious themes as long as the overall purpose is educational and not devotional. "They are also within their rights to cut the play."
"While I think a school performance of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' would probably pass constitutional muster as is, I also think it would be wise for a school to have a disclaimer in the program that there is religious content in the play," RNS reported Haynes recommended.
Or Haynes suggested a disclaimer could be added, such as "Christians believe that ... "
ADF's stance on the matter Friday morning was that schools are educational institutions. "Censoring a classic story doesn't educate students, it discriminates against historical, religious perspectives and disappoints the performers, other students, parents, and community members who were looking forward to enjoying the play in its entirety."
Several fans for ADF's Facebook page stated they believe this matter goes against religious freedom. Chanda Jordan stated, going by the offered reasoning, she then thought schools should stop teaching history because the pilgrims were religion individuals, and "we don't want GOD mentioned in schools."
While Chris Prothero presented the opposing view: "Again, your (ADF) position utterly fails by not applying the Establishment Clause. Public schools are government institutions. Learn the law."