The community uprising witnessed in Elkhart, Indiana last month has failed to stop a lawsuit filed in federal court by the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the ACLU. The two organizations have pooled resources to fight public will and the expressed sentiments of a local school board defending the performance.
Their argument is that the Nativity portion of the performance is unconstitutional and “illegal”. Even though the event is entirely voluntary the fact that it is sponsored by the high school is reason enough for courts to declare the event improper.
”The Nativity scene and the story of the birth of Jesus are, of course, well-recognized symbols of the Christian faith,” the plaintiffs wrote in the complaint, filed Wednesday. “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.”
The scene traditionally fills the final 15 minutes of a long program that features music of both a sacred and secular nature.
Last month the local school board responded to the FFRF threat of a lawsuit by saying, in part, “As always, if a student or parent finds objectionable any portion of the Spectacular, or any school assignment for that matter, that student is free to opt out of the performance or assignment. Many students have chosen to do so in the past. The Nativity Scene participation is purely voluntary and is rehearsed only after school hours. It provides historical context to the entire holiday season and is a small portion of a two hour long performance. The Spectacular also traditionally includes secular, holiday musical favorites, such as Jingle Bells, Let It Snow and Parade of the Wooden Soldiers. For more than 30 years, the Spectacular has been an important part of the Concord High School holiday experience. It will continue to be so.”
Interestingly, this lawsuit comes on the heels of another one lost by the FFRF in Franklin County, Indiana arguing about the illegality of nativity scenes on public property.