Well, it must be getting close to Christmas again, because the annual round of "Whiny Atheists Threatening Lawsuits in order to Kill Christmas" has officially begun. Witness the following news item from Arkansas.
It seems a church that was putting on a production of the play, Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown! had scheduled a Friday afternoon performance that school students could attend as part of an optional field trip. Notice I said "optional"—as in, a field trip that students didn't have to go on but could if they had their parents permission. So if a student didn't want to go or the student's parents thought this was something they didn't want their child to attend, the child could skip it.
Let me say parenthetically that, when I was in elementary school, public schools actually put on their own productions of Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown! You didn't have to go to a church to see it or smuggle the video home in a plain brown wrapper.
Incidentally, the ABC network just aired Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!, last Friday, and I have to say that I am always pleasantly surprised that the normally less-than-friendly-to-Christians, Disney-owned, ABC network continues to show it—unedited—with Charles Schultz' wonderful 'real meaning of Christmas' conclusion uncut. (See video above.) It is the clearest explanation of the message of Christmas you'll find on commercial television.
Anyway, back to Arkansas: One parent decided to complain because, although the field trip was optional, "the woman planned to allow her daughter to attend the production out of fear she would be singled-out by her classmates."
Gee, Mom, if you think your daughter's classmates would have singled her out for not going on the field trip, how do you think they're feeling now that you killed the field trip for everybody?
Also, Mom, do you think that maybe, if your daughter is going to grow up in a society that has been profoundly influenced by Christianity, it might be a good learning experience, at least once in her life, to hear from Christians, first hand, the essence of the Christmas story? You'd let your daughter listen to Hindus and Muslims first hand to hear what they believe, wouldn't you? I mean, it's the tolerant and multicultural thing to be exposed to the ideas of others, even those with whom we disagree, isn't it? But I digress.
The upset mother also contacted the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers (ASF), the organization that complained to the Little Rock School District on her behalf. (As one who lived just across the river from Arkansas, in Memphis, for many years, that name—Arkansas Society of Freethinkers—is generating so many jokes in my mind right now, I am about to explode.) But, again, I digress.
To their credit, the school's Principal and legal counsel concluded that the optional field trip didn't violate anyone's rights and were prepared to go ahead with it. But—the church's pastor decided to pull the plug and cancel the Friday performance rather than put the school district in a difficult spot.
Pastor, if Christians are going to abandon the field every time they are challenged by secularists and atheists, then I hope you like the idea of Christians meeting in secret in basements and catacombs, because that's where it's going to end.
Anyway, here's the story. What do you think should have happened?
A church in Little Rock, Ark., canceled one performance of "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown" after an atheist organization complained and said students should not be exposed to a show with Christian themes as part of a school field trip.
Happy Caldwell, pastor of Agape Church, issued a statement on the church's website on Wednesday, stating that while he believes the school was within its constitutional rights to bring students to the production, the church has nevertheless decided to cancel a Friday showing for students.
[Yes, the pastor's first name really is "Happy." I can't help wondering if he had brothers named, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey, Sleepy, Bashful, and Doc. But, from what I hear, he is actually a prominent and well-respected pastor in Little Rock.]Read it all.
"It is not our desire to put hard working, sacrificial teachers and cast members in harm's way," wrote Caldwell. "What we want said is that we love our city, our schools, parents and families. People are at the heart of the matter to us."
He also said Principal Sandra Register of Terry Elementary School took a "courageous stand" when she decided not to cancel the trip after learning that someone had complained about it.
The controversy began when a parent became upset at the school's offer to take students to the church to watch the play, which is based on the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" cartoon and contains some Christian themes. Although the field trip was optional, the woman planned to allow her daughter to attend the production out of fear she would be singled-out by her classmates. The upset mother also contacted the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers (ASF), the organization that complained to the Little Rock School District on her behalf.
LeeWood Thomas, a board member and spokesperson for ASF, told The Christian Post it was never his organization's goal to stop the play's production, though they did not think the school should have made it into a class field trip.
"The church has every right to hold a Christmas play for the community and invite everybody there. It's just that invite through the public school system is where we saw the violation of the separation of church and state," said Thomas.
Thomas also hopes the school has changed its mind about taking similar trips in the future.
"One of the things that I'm hoping comes out of this is that the school, in knowing that the Friday field trip play is being canceled, I still hope that they recognize that what they were doing would have been illegal," he said.
Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, previously told CP that it would have been constitutional for the school to take its students to the production, "especially" when parents were given the opportunity to keep their children from attending. A spokesperson for the school district also told Fox News that the district's legal team had determined the trip was acceptable.
Though students will not be able to attend as part of a class trip, Caldwell and his church have invited parents and children to attend public performances on Dec. 15 and 16.
"To quote Bible verses and song lyrics that apply, they reflect our heart toward the Little Rock School District and everyone involved – Peace on Earth, Good will toward men," wrote Caldwell (emphasis his).
People in Little Rock have had their First Amendment "free exercise of religion" curtailed by threats from militant atheists, and a lot of impressionable young minds have been taught that their school district was doing a bad thing in exposing them to what Christians believe. But, by all means, Pastor, let's keep thinking peaceful (dare I say, "Happy"?) thoughts.