Well, it's the holiday season again! That joyful time when religious and athiest Americans duke it out over Christmas' ability to infiltrate every avenue of life. Even avenues that are supposed to be religion-free. And it seems like with every passing year, finger-pointing and hand-wringing about the "war on Christmas" gets more and more intense. Consider the recent brouhaha surrounding a public grade school field trip in Arkansas ...
After Agape Church invited students at Terry Elementary School in Little Rock to their performance of A Charlie Brown Christmas, teachers told parents in letters home that a school bus would shuttle children to and from the show at the church on a regular school day (Friday, December 14), according to the local news station KARK 4. And upon hearing the plan, atheist parents felt the need to get involved.
Anne Orsi, a Little Rock attorney and vice-president of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers told KARK:
The problem is that it's got religious content and it's being performed in a religious venue and that doesn't just blur the line between church and state, it oversteps it entirely.
Precisely. Although some will most definitely paint Orsi and other atheists as Grinches out to "kill Christmas," facts are facts, laws are laws. This is the perfect example of one of the issues that concerns me most around this time of year ... It seems as though some people can't help but use Christmas as an excuse to push the envelope. To do whatever they can to defy separation of church and state. So they can feel like they made a point and proved that their town, county, state, country is one in which Christmas -- and no other holiday -- or Christianity -- and no other religion -- reigns supreme.
As an old friend of mine, Hemant Mehta, blogger at FriendlyAtheist.com and author of The Young Atheist's Survival Guide put it:
I love A Charlie Brown Christmas, and I anticipate showing it to my own kids one day, but there is no reason for a public school to send their kids to a local church to see a play that promotes Christianity. If a school took kids to a mosque to see a play where a main character talked about the beauty and value of Ramadan, conservative Christians would be up in arms.
The good news is that the school district isn't requiring students to attend the field trip. But of course, kids might still feel pressured to go -- or else be ridiculed by classmates. Plus, it's still troubling that tax dollars would be put to work to fund the trip. What does a viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas have to do with the kids' curriciulum anyway? Shouldn't they be in school learning their times tables or reading Charlotte's Web?
In the end, it's not about atheism vs. religion. It's about right vs. wrong. The season should never be treated as an excuse for doing something that wouldn't be considered appropriate at any other time of the year ... like taking public school students to see a religiously-themed play with zero application to their curriculum at a church!
Where do you stand in this debate?