Charlie Brown may be a harmless cartoon character, but atheist activists in Little Rock, Arkansas, have pushed fervently to prevent a local public school from seeing a church production featuring the popular children's figure. In the wake of the intense controversy over Terry Elementary School's decision to send children to see "A Charlie Brown Christmas" at Agape Church, the house of worship has now cancelled the student matinee performance of the show.
While the children who were excited to attend the play may be disappointed, Agape's pastor, Happy Caldwell, made it clear that the decision was made in the best interest of the teachers and actors, alike -- parties who would, no doubt, come under fire if the production continued as planned.
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"It is not our desire to put hard-working, sacrificial teachers and cast members in harm’s way," Caldwell said in a statement to Fox News. "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."
As previously reported, the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers (ASF) was actively fighting against plans to send kids to see "A Charlie Brown Christmas" during the school day on Dec. 14. The group claims that its angst over the show has nothing to do with the traditional cartoon and everything to do with the separation of church and state.
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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 late last month. "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."
The church made its decision following ASF's public statements that the group was seeking legal advice and considering a lawsuit against the Little Rock School District. According to district officials, the decision to cancel was exclusively made by Agape; education staffers had consulted with their own legal advisers who said that the trip was appropriate and were still planning to allow children to attend.
"Christmas is a Christian holiday — hence it’s name – Christmas," Caldwell added in his statement, also going on to praise the school's principal for not backing down. "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."
With the church removing itself from the equation, it seems the debate over the show has now concluded.
(H/T: Fox News' Todd Starnes)