Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Freethinkers: They're not making 'war' on Christmas or Charlie Brown

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2012 at 12:47 PM

THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS: The religious message raises an objection to a public school field trip to a church to see the play.
  • THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS: The religious message raises an objection to a public school field trip to a church to see the play.

In case you missed it, Channel 4 reported recently on Terry School parents unhappy about a planned outing to Agape Church to see a production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

The parents felt the production promoted Christianity, but were reluctant to have a child sit out the trip.

The Fox News echo chamber has run wild with the story nationally, seeing it as a handy fit for the "War on Christmas" meme that it slavishly promotes each year.

What's wrong with the little round-headed boy? Nothing. But really. A field trip to an evangelical church to see a play with an overtly Christian message delivered in part by Scripture readings? A play in which the teacher has a role? A play promoted by a memo that says candidly:

"This production will expose your child to the amazing world of theater productions and enhance your child's creative imagination in the area of dramatic arts. . . . This production does expose your child to Christianity through some of the songs and scenes. (If you prefer your child to not attend the program they may stay at school and be allowed to sit in another classroom. Please let your teacher know if your child will not be attending)."

Proselytizing it is. And pretty cold to the potential feelings of young kids, but that's the tyranny of the majority at work. It's not even close, really. No public school district should officially promote it, certainly in a way that leaves any families or children marginalized. I've asked the Little Rock School District if the trip will go on as scheduled. Parents and kids are free to attend on their own time, of course.

I like the show, too, having just reviewed a chunk of it on YouTube. But I'm with the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, which has quite a bit to say on the subject in the non-warlike, reasonable release that follows:

NEWS RELEASE

Secular Group Denies "War on Christmas" Charge

(Little Rock, Arkansas: November 21, 2012.) The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers today rejected the claim that it is making war on Christmas.

The group came under fire this week when it championed concerns voiced by parents of a local elementary school child. The child's school had organized a field trip to a church to see a play with religious themes, and the parents felt this was a violation of the separation of church and state that put them and their child in an awkward situation.

"Those who stand up for the rights of children to be free from coercion aren't making war either on religion or Christmas," said ASF spokesperson LeeWood Thomas. "Rather, this is a case of a church forming an alliance with local government to violate religious freedom. So we in the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers feel compelled to take a stand on behalf of the parents under the U.S. Constitution."

The ASF is a Little Rock-based secular group which, in conjunction with the Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason, acts as a watchdog for violations of the separation of church and state.

The controversy began when Terry Elementary School notified parents of a field trip to see "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown," a live theatrical production at a Little Rock evangelical church. The notice said, "This production will expose your child to the amazing world of theater productions and enhance your child's creative imagination in the area of
dramatic arts. . . . This production does expose your child to Christianity through some of the songs and scenes. (If you prefer your child to not attend the program they may stay at school and be allowed to sit in another classroom. Please let your teacher know if your child will not be attending)."

The parents in question, who wish to remain anonymous, felt they were being forced to choose between maintaining their family religious beliefs versus their child being singled out and possibly ostracized or bullied. So they contacted the ASF last week for help.

"Merely allowing a child to opt out of a school-sponsored religious activity during the winter holidays is no solution," said Anne Orsi, a Little Rock attorney and ASF vice president. "Such a situation exposes the children of minority faiths and outlooks to majority pressure and victimization. Thus the religious rights of children are being violated along with their right to privacy."

The Charlie Brown play is scheduled for the weekend of December 14-16, and a charity drive is associated with it.

"There are plenty of non-religious theatrical productions at secular venues in Little Rock," LeeWood Thomas added. "There is no need to mingle religion with public education. Public schools shouldn't take children to churches to see plays with religious content during regular classroom instructional time."

Anne Orsi spoke to a local television reporter on the matter earlier this week, after which the story was picked up by news networks and bloggers across the country. Comments then began appearing online accusing her group of waging war on Christmas and on Charlie Brown.

"This isn't about Charlie Brown or Christmas," Orsi said today. "It's about the separation of church and state. Public schools educate children of every faith tradition. We must be sensitive to that and never allow public schools to promote one brand of religion over any other."

Those familiar with "A Charlie Brown Christmas," the annual animated television special on which the play is based, have noted that the story has significant New Testament content. "Not every religion accepts the New Testament as holy," Thomas said. "Therefore, such a sectarian religious bias in a school-sponsored event excludes Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and many others, including the non-religious."

"This puts non-Christian parents in a quandary," Orsi added. "Their children want to attend a play with beloved characters rather than be warehoused in another classroom. If the parents deny their child permission to attend the
play on religious grounds, their child will be singled out as being different from the majority of her or his classmates. And this awkward situation is unacceptable."

The parents who originally raised this issue chose to remain anonymous to protect their children from potential bullying as well as possible backlash from their child's teacher, who has a role in the production. With the matter having gone public, angry and threatening comments seen on blog posts and news sites have reinforced their concerns. Thus the parents, together with the ASF, are asking that all Little Rock public schools respect the law
requiring the separation of church and state.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (38)

Showing 1-38 of 38

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-38 of 38

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Dexter Suggs resigns as Little Rock school superintendent

    This just in from state Education Department: Today, Commissioner Johnny Key reached an agreement with Dr. Dexter Suggs that resulted in Dr. Suggs’ immediate resignation as superintendent of the Little Rock School District.
    • Apr 21, 2015
  • John Goodson and others add lawyers for hearing on forum shopping

    Lawyers facing federal court sanctions for forum shopping a class action insurance case have brought in new legal guns from out of state to fight potential sanctions.
    • May 26, 2016
  • More legal headaches for Dexter Suggs

    Dexter Suggs may have cleared out his office before the workday began today, but he still has lingering legal matters as defendant in lawsuits against him and the state.
    • Apr 21, 2015

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation