When one thinks of typical War on Christmas targets, Charlie Brown is, perhaps, the furthest catalyst to come to mind. Yet the popular cartoon character is at the center of an atheist-led battle in Little Rock, Arkansas, against the popular play and its production at a local house of worship.
The controversy commenced when some teachers at Terry Elementary School sent letters home to parents regarding taking first and second-grade students to see "A Charlie Brown Christmas" at Agape Church, KARK-TV recently reported. While the event isn't school sanctioned, local atheists are outraged that educators are planning to take children to see the play, which includes religious themes.
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"We're not saying anything bad about Charlie Brown," Anne Orsi, a lawyer and vice-president of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers (ASF), told KARK-TV. "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 over steps it entirely."
A concerned parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted Orsi's group and explained her concern over the letter and the stage production. In the end, she has decided to let her daughter attend, citing fears that she may face criticism and be targeted for a refusal to see the show. Orsi said that the choice non-believing parents are faced with is unfair.
If their children are kept away from the church production, she contended that they "will be singled out as being different from the majority." The non-believing attorney dubbed the scenario "awkward" and "unacceptable."
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A portion of the letter sent home by teachers can be read, below:
"This production will expose your child to the amazing world of theater productions and enhance your child's creative imagination in the area of dramatic arts. . . . This production does expose your child to Christianity through some of the songs and scenes. (If you prefer your child to not attend the program they may stay at school and be allowed to sit in another classroom. Please let your teacher know if your child will not be attending)."
According to the note, the play will be at 10 a.m. on Dec. 14. Kids whose parents wish to allow them to attend will need to pay $2 to cover their transportation. Because the event is being held on a school day and is taking place inside a house of worship, non-believers are, naturally, up in arms. However, they deny waging a war on Christmas -- or religion, for that matter.
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"Those who stand up for the rights of children to be free from coercion aren't making war either on religion or Christmas," ASF spokesperson LeeWood Thomas said in a statement. "Rather this is a case of a church forming an alliance with local government to violate religious freedom."
The church, too, put out a written statement, explaining the importance of the production to the community as a whole.
"We hope the complaint or question of a few does not override the opportunity for everyone," it read. "This production also included a food drive for area pantries, and we hope that purpose is not lost as well."
What do you think? Should the school prevent teachers from taking students or are atheists making a big deal out of nothing? Let us know in the comments section.