A Kentucky elementary school announced it will eliminate the well-known biblical reference from an upcoming student production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
Protesters have gathered in front of W.R. Castle Elementary School in Johnson County, Kentucky this week to protest the school's decision to eliminate the scene from its school production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," set to premiere Thursday evening.
Additionally, the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group issued a letter to Johnson County Schools this week encouraging the district to follow through with the original production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
"Schools should not have to think twice about whether they can allow students to perform a classic Christmas production simply because it contains biblical references," Matt Sharp, legal counsel for the Christian group, said in a statement. "'A Charlie Brown Christmas' has become an iconic Christmas story and tradition. Are school officials going to start demanding that other classic productions, such as Shakespearean plays, be censored just because they contain religious references?"
Alliance Defending Freedom has also offered legal assistance to the school district if it chooses to move forward with the original script for the Christmas performance.
The scene in the original storyline involves the character Linus proclaiming that the true meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus.
In the original play's script, Linus recites chapter two of Luke's Gospel to tell Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about.
"'And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.' That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown," he said.
In announcing the school's decision to remove the religious line from the play, Johnson County Schools Superintendent Thomas Salyer said in a statement to the Lexington Herald Leader that the district would be following federal regulations regarding religious expression.
"In accordance with federal laws, our programs will follow appropriate regulations. The U.S. Supreme Court and the 6th Circuit are very clear that public school staff may not endorse any religion when acting in their official capacities and during school activities. However, our district is fully committed to promote the spirit of giving and concern for our fellow citizens that help define the Christmas holiday," Salyer said.
It remains unclear what the well-known religious scene will be replaced with if the school district does go through with eliminating the climatic moment from the play.
As Terry Mattingly wrote for Get Religion, "If you can't put the Christmas story in a Christmas play, what do these educators propose to put in its place? Why do this play at all?
"So what is Linus going to be allowed to say?"
According to WSAZ-TV, the elementary school's principal Jeff Cochran confirmed this week that the play will still take place Thursday evening and will not include any religious references.