On Wednesday night, thousands of residents in Lindale, Texas, showed up to see an unedited, student-led production of "In God We Trust." It was the second time that the controversial, Christian-themed play was delivered in the past week, as a follow-up presentation was offered after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist-activist non-profit, complained about the original.
While the first version was sanitized, with references to God and Christianity removed, the second was delivered by nearly 60 fifth graders in its original, faith-infused form.
Photo Credit: YouTube
The debate started when the FFRF learned that the public school would be performing the play and subsequently sent a letter to school officials at E.J. Moss Intermediate School, complaining about the contents of the script. TylerPaper.com describes the debate that surrounded an alleged violation of the separation of church and state:
The district caught the attention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which sent a letter to school officials listing multiple places in the play's script where speaking parts had students declaring God and Jesus as being Saviors and faith as a foundation of the United States of America.
The district responded by allowing the children to perform a modified version of the play, but local church groups and community members rallied behind the production to have it play in its entirety Wednesday night.
The First Baptist Church of Lindale rented the Lindale performing Arts Center on the high school campus so the show could go on.
And, the show did go on, with more than 2,000 people showing up to see the script acted out in its original form. All 1,200 seats in the venue were filled. It was so packed, in fact, that 900 people were forced to sit in overflow areas, including on the lawn outside the auditorium, where they listened to the production on loudspeakers.
“[Lindale school officials] have received some unfair criticism about the difficult decision they had to make, but I want to tell you it is testimony to the type of leadership and leaders that we have a program like this in our schools to begin with," First Baptist Church Pastor Tom Buck said before the show, going on to criticize the FFRF's handling of the situation.
The community rallied around fifth graders when the FFRF stepped in to try and halt the production. While the original version was sanitized, the children and adults, alike, were glad that the real "In God We Trust" script could be performed in its entirety at an alternative location.
In an interview with KLTV-TV, Elaine McDonald, a local who stood outside the performing arts center, shared her positive views on the show.
"As a grandmother, it's important to me to leave the younger generation, all of these kids up here, with a memory and to watch their parents stand up for what they believe in," she said. "They're going to be the ones carrying this flag, maybe someday, and they need to know the cost and for people to speak up and be proud."
Watch portions of the show, below:
McDonald went on to note that the debate surrounding the play gives children experience and knowledge surrounding the need to sometimes fight for what they believe in -- an effort they may face at other times during their lives as well.
As of yesterday, despite the initial performance's edits, the FFRF still wasn't happy about the "In God We Trust" performance, as the organization detailed remaining grievances on its web site.
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