Public Schools Can't Use Christmas as an Excuse to Drag Kids to Church

Say What!? 42

cross ontop of a churchWell, 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 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?
Image via Alejandro Hernandez/Flickr

discrimination, politics, protests, education, elementary school


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nonmember avatar EducatedVoter

This is ridiculous. No one is required to go. In our class as kids, several children did not "celebrate" Halloween, either, and reasonable accommodations were made for them to opt out of those parties and celebrations. No one ridiculed them. Beyond religious content, I view the field trip as cultural education (yes, religion is part of culture, and includes non-Christian religions). People need to take a chill pill and realize this is not a big deal.

kelti... kelticmom

While I hate all this "War on Christmas" malarkey, I do see their point. If a public school took a field trip to a mosque or a Buddhist temple to see a show that promoted Islam or Eastern religion, Christian parents would be irate. Why not take them to a performance of The Nutcracker or to see Rise of the Guardians? They should have known this would be inviting controversy.

mothe... motherof2inFL

ridiculous.  when i was a kid in public school we made nativity scenes out of egg cartons and crosses out of popsicle sticks at easter.  and nobody got hurt. 

divam... divamomtjcj

thats why its called permisson slips duh if the parents dont want them to attend then dont sign the slip. this just hurts all the other kids and parents who actually do want to go smh ppl always think they need to stand up for something just to have a name out there

divam... divamomtjcj

ha i also would like to see how the parents would react if the kids end up religious as adults what would happen then? boycott ur kid?

JannaM8 JannaM8

EducatedVoter... Let me know how that works out for you when your kid's school wants to bring them to an ultra orthodox jewish temple or a muslim mosque, especially if they leave your daughter in the back of the room because, hey, why educate those women, they're worthless.  Hey, religion is culture, right? 

motherof2inFL...  Just because YOU weren't hurt, doesn't mean no one was.  Nativities and Jesus do not belong in public school. It's just that simple. Let me know if you support your child making diorammas of Mohammad, creating Buddhist temples out of popsicle sticks and practicing wearing a burkha. No one gets hurt, right?

kelti... kelticmom

Amen JannaM8!

undrc... undrcvrmom

I have no problem exposing my kids to different religions.  They have been to Temple, Mosques and Church.  I want them to grow up knowing the differences and accepting others choices to worship.  

kelti... kelticmom

It is the parent's job to expose their children to different religious beliefs if they so choose, not the public school's. Public school should teach/ promote education in math, science, language, history, culture, etc - NOT religious ideology. I went to a private Christian school K-12, my dad worked for a Christian curriculum company and I will be sending my son to private school. That being said, I have a problem with PUBLIC schools taking field trips to places of worship, regardless of the religion.

Miche... Michelephant

If no one is required to go then it shouldn't be an issue.  A Charlie Brown Christmas is a classic and a lot of schools and other organizations perform it.  Just because it is in a church, which obviously has some cool facilities to be able to host the show and trip, does not mean it is pushing religion.  If it was required, then I would be upset..  But it seems like this church just wanted to offer something fun.  

I would find it ok if they were bussed to synagogue to see a play about chanukah or to a mosque about the origins of one of their big holidays (I'm not very familiar with Islam so I don't have a specific example for that one).  As long as they were not required to go and a similar fun activity was planned for the kids who stayed.

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