A Little Rock, Arkansas church has cancelled its stage production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” after a local atheist group complained about it being seen by school children.
As previously reported, the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers protested a field trip by Little Rock’s Terry Elementary School to see the show at Agape Church, scheduled for December 14. One mother complained to the group that she “reluctantly” let her child go out of fear her child would be bullied or ridiculed if she did not consent.
Attorney and vice president of the Freethinkers, Anne Orsi, explained that even though the field trip 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.”
After school officials did not back down on the issue, Orsi announced she had gotten legal advice on filing a lawsuit over the matter. A pro-Christian legal group volunteered their services to help the school and church defend their rights. But Happy Caldwell, pastor of Agape Church, cancelled the show on Tuesday, reports Fox News.
“It is not our desire to put hard-working, sacrificial teachers and cast members in harm’s way,” Pastor Caldwell explained. “While we regret the loss of students who will not get this particular opportunity right now, we have taken the school matinees off the table.”
Pastor Caldwell praised what he called the “courageous stand” that the school’s principal took in “not succumbing to the pressure of one complaint voice to the Arkansas Society of Free Thinkers and the media.”
He said it was clear “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” did not pose a constitutional issue.
“Christmas is a Christian holiday — hence it’s name – Christmas,” the pastor wrote in his statement. “Our program addresses its origins with light-hearted songs and theatre. The context of the birth of Christ is broadly described in both Old and New Testament texts.”
The pastor said the school children are more than welcome to attend weekend performances of the show.