An atheist group is protesting an Arkansas elementary school field trip to see a local church production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” arguing the trip “violates religious freedom” and “entirely” oversteps the line between church and state.
The controversy started after one mother at Little Rock’s Terry Elementary School complained about the field trip to the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, an atheist group that looks to “promote the secular, non-theistic, humanist viewpoint as a valid contribution to public discourse,” according to their Facebook page.
Although attending the December 14 play based on the classic Peanuts cartoon is completely voluntary, “the problem is that it’s got religious content and it’s being performed in a religious venue and that doesn’t just blur the line between church and state — it oversteps it entirely,” explained attorney and vice president of the Freethinkers, Anne Orsi. “We’re not saying anything bad about Charlie Brown.”
In the original 1965 cartoon, Charlie Brown struggles to overcome the commercialization of Christmas to find its true meaning. Biblical passages from the Gospel of Luke, recounting the birth of Jesus Christ, are read during the show.
The upset mother said she “reluctantly” consented to the field trip out of fear her child would be bullied or ridiculed if she did not let the kid go, according to Fox News.
A Christian-rights legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom, has stepped into the fray, offering free legal assistance to the school district if anyone sues over the field trip.
“There is no violation of the so-called ‘separation of church and state’ by allowing children to learn about theater through observing a stage version of this beloved program that contains the same religious elements as the television version,” the pro-Christian group explains.
“Given that schools themselves may organize and sponsor Christmas programs and performances (including a performance of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”) and study the historical origins of Christmas, schools may likewise organize a field trip to see a third-party theatrical performance where students hear Christmas carols and learn the historical origin of Christmas.”