Fifth graders at an East Texas school district will have the opportunity to perform the original version of a musical, titled "In God We Trust," Wednesday evening after they were forced to perform an altered version last week following a complaint from an atheist organization.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter of complaint to Stan Surratt, superintendent of Lindale Independent School District, on May 20. The letter claimed a concerned parent notified the organization of the religious nature of the musical, which was scheduled to be performed by E.J. Moss Intermediate School students on May 23. It also claimed the program was a violation of the First Amendment and demanded that it be immediately canceled.
An FFRF press release claims the original program had students singing "God is in control," and included spoken lines that mentioned "the Gospel of Jesus Christ," among other things. The program was eventually altered to remove a number of religious references, and some of the songs were replaced with traditional patriotic songs the students were already familiar with.
Jennifer Cox, the mother of one of the students, told KLTV what her daughter had to say about the sudden change to the script last week.
"She said that some of her friends were upset because they'd practiced for so long and it was so last minute," said Cox. "They were excited about their program and they were excited for their friends, even the ones who didn't have lines."
But now the community is rallying together to make sure the students get the opportunity to perform the original version of the musical. First Baptist Church of Lindale, led by Senior Pastor Tom Buck, rented out the Lindale High School Performing Arts Center so students who are still interested in participating can put on the show Wednesday night.
"I personally believe the framers of the constitution would have had no problem with allowing students to express the common held values of the community in which they live," Buck said in a statement last week. "Our nation is unfortunately pandering to outside organizations that work to impose the religious values of the few and the religious values of those outside our community upon us. The public arena should be a place where ideas can be freely expressed. We do not avoid religion being imposed upon us by everyone simply keeping their beliefs to themselves."
Buck told The Christian Post that a school performance of this kind would, under normal circumstances, draw several hundred people, mostly the family and friends of students. Tonight, however, they are expecting as many as 2,000 people from across the region to attend.
The performing arts center holds only 1,200 people, but the church has prepared an overflow area that will feature a live video feed of the performance just in case there aren't enough seats in the room where the performance will occur.
"It's been incredible to see the response from our community," said Buck, who says some of the school's students attend his church.
To further support their cause, many people in the community have also donned shirts that say "In God We Trust" on the front and "We support LISD" on the back, KLTV reports.