North Carolina's Wake County Public School System has responded to pressure from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation's largest atheist legal group, by barring its school choirs from singing at a nativity event.
As the The News & Observer reports, school choirs will no longer be allowed to sing at a Church of Latter-day Saints sponsored nativity celebration in Apex.
FFRF staff attorney Patrick Elliot said in a statement that the secular group is celebrating the school district's decision.
"In order to avoid the perception of school endorsement of a religious message, schools must not participate in overtly religious events," Elliot said.
"The whole purpose of the event is to display and honor nativity scenes, which highlight an exclusively Christian aspect of the holiday season, rather than a secular Christmas celebration," he added.
Tim Simmons, a Wake schools spokesman, said that there was little choice but to comply.
"The advice of Tharrington Smith (the district's attorney) is that it put the district in the position of potentially endorsing a religious viewpoint," Simmons said.
He added, however, that students can still participate individually, but not as a school-based group.
"No one was particularly happy with the outcome of this," Simmons said. "Some schools had been participating for several years."
The Apex nativity event is scheduled to be a three-day "celebration of the birth and ministry of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."
Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF's co-president, said there was no doubt the school choirs' participation would have been of a religious nature.
"It's great that officials finally realized the dubiousness of school attendance at such an obviously religious ceremony," Gaylor claimed. "It was unacceptable that public school choirs were performing at this function.
Among those opposed to the school district's decision was conservative Christian commentator Todd Starnes.
"I hardly doubt a grade school choir is going to spontaneously convert to the Mormon faith simply because they were singing 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,'" wrote Todd Starnes for Fox News.
Starnes spoke with Steven Bodhaine, who oversees nine Mormon congregations in Wake County, and who assured that despite Gaylor's claims, there has never been any proselytizing at the nativity celebration.
"There's never been a single incident or concern in the past 13 years," Bodhaine said. "In fact, these schools often look forward to this because it's such a beautiful venue to perform."
Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham said the story was evidence of "the war on Christianity and religion" being waged by the likes of the FFRF.
"Groups like the FFRF want freedom from Christianity and other religions, not freedom of religion. They don't want diversity," Ham argued.
"They want their religion imposed as the State religion. This is happening in public schools across America — the anti-God religion of naturalism is being imposed on millions of school kids every day," he added.