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Students Banned from Including Nativity Scene in Holiday Show

The Short of It

Indiana students have been banned from performing a nativity scene in their holiday show, which has been put on every year since 1970.

The Lowdown

A Federal judge has ordered Concord High School in Elkhart, Ind., not to include a nativity scene with Mary and baby Jesus in their annual Christmas Spectacular today.

A non-Christian family appealed for help from the ACLU of Indiana, and succeeded in getting the "offensive" scene banned.

"It's the kind of thing you'd expect in a Catholic school or private school or something out of the '50s, but not today. This had our jaws dropping," Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has joined the ACLU in its efforts, told Yahoo Parenting.

Here's part of what U.S. District Court Judge Jon DeGuilio wrote in his decision: "The living nativity scene impermissibly conveys an endorsement of religion and thus runs afoul of the Establishment Clause."

Instead, all students and families are to feel comfortable both performing and viewing the Spectacular, even though participation and attendance are not required.

Superintendent John Trout responded to the ruling in a statement that said in part, "Concord Community Schools is disappointed in the decision rendered today... The Concord High School music department is working overtime to insure [sic] that this year's Christmas Spectacular performance complies with the Court's order. Additionally, Concord Community Schools is presently researching the possible appeal of the Court's preliminary injunction."

There's no word on whether the name of the show will also have to be changed, or whether scenes inspired by Hanukkah and Kwanzaa themes will continue to be allowed in the show.

Judge DeGuilio also wrote in his decision that the nativity scene had been included in the show "for at least the last twenty-seven years, and likely the last forty-five. The fact that this segment has remained constant while the other portions have changed or rotated could itself suggest a preference for that segment and its message. In addition, until this year, every show has included a narration by a faculty member that includes readings from the Bible of the story of Jesus's birth. ... The religious and Christian message conveyed by those performances with both the live nativity scene and the Biblical narration is unmistakable."

Concord High School Christmas Spectacular 2014

The Upshot

It is my personal feeling that all religions should be respected and represented in holiday-themed shows. That being said, the name "Christmas Spectacular" implies what the show is about, and there is something to be said about tradition, too.

Meanwhile, it seems what happened in Indiana is part of an increasing trend to erase references to Christmas in schools.

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