An Edmond resident’s complaint concerning a long-standing holiday tradition at an Edmond elementary school has caused a change in the yearly holiday performance.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation lodged the complaint with the school district’s attorney stating this constitutes a government endorsement of religion.
What had been part of the Chisholm Elementary third grade holiday program for three decades, including a living nativity where students played roles including those of Mary and Joseph, has been modified.
“The problem here is the living nativity teaching students this religious story that is right at the core of Christianity,” said Chris Line, the attorney for the FFRF, who wrote the letter. “This is religious instruction in public school.”
FFRF urged the district to investigate this situation and ensure that future school-sponsored performances will not include nativity scenes and that district teachers will not promote religion through classroom assignments.
After receiving the letter from an Edmond resident expressing their feelings about the situation, a letter was sent to the Edmond Public School’s attorney, advising the nativity scene is a violation of the first amendment.
“We ask the district investigate this situation and ensure that future school-sponsored performances will not include nativity scenes,” the letter read.
A press release issued by FFRF stated in 2015 FFRF successfully brought a federal lawsuit against a public school district in Indiana over a holiday concert that involved a living nativity.
“After a thorough examination of the content of this year’s program, discussions with Chisholm administrators and parents, and on advice from counsel, changes were made to ensure the program’s content celebrates and respects the religious practices, customs, and traditions of the season while meeting the current legal standards,” said district spokesperson Susan Parks-Schlepp.
Parents have been very vocal on social media about the issue with their statements taking both sides.
“Public school teachers encouraging students to re-enact a Biblical story is inherently coercive,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It is even more concerning when the students involved are young and especially impressionable elementary schoolers.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 30,000 members across the country, including in Oklahoma. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.