A federal judge has banned an Indian high school from performing a nativity scene in its annual Christmas show after ruling that the publicly-funded tribute to baby Jesus violates the First Amendment.
Concord High School in Elkhart, Indiana is known locally for its annual Christmas Spectacular, which features dancing, singing, and, for at least 27 years, a nativity scene, according to the Elkhart Truth. The scene typically lasts 20 minutes and contains religious music, student actors, and a faculty member narrating the biblical story of Jesus' birth. But at least one student decided that the nativity scene crossed the First Amendment line and, with the help of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, filed a lawsuit against the school.
After hearing the complaint, U.S. District Court Judge Jon DeGuilio issued an order that prohibits Concord High School from performing the scene.
"The Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits on their claim that the inclusion of the living nativity scene in the show, as currently proposed, violates the Establishment Clause,” DeGuilio wrote in a 23-page order.
The decision was heralded by the FFRF and ACLU.
"A live nativity is a shocking violation to encounter in a public school, which has no business directing students to engage in devotional, sectarian performances," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, in a press release. "This decision is a win for everyone who recognizes that there can be no freedom of religious belief without freedom from religion in government and in our public schools."
Heather L. Weaver,an ACLU Senior Staff Attorney, added: "Holiday celebrations that proselytize students are inappropriate in public schools. Today's ruling makes that clear and ensures that all students and families, regardless of faith or belief, will feel welcome at Concord High's winter concert."
But in Elkhart, Indiana, which has a population of just over 50,000 people, the reaction wasn't so positive.
“There, I imagine, are seniors, who were really looking forward to this. Senior year, playing the songs for the nativity scene and now they can't,” Concord senior Janae Hall told WNDU. “That's their last chance.”