A federal judge has banned a public high school from including a live nativity in this year's Christmas show, granting a preliminary injunction against the scene and agreeing with secular activist groups that it "conveys a message of endorsement of religion."
This grants a victory to the American Civil Liberties Union, a civil rights group, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist organization, against the Concord Community Schools, an Indiana school district that has defended the Christmas play, USA Today reported.
"Each of the songs during that sequence are religious songs that generally align with the story of the birth of Jesus, which further serves to reinforce the religious message that the nativity scene itself conveys," wrote U.S. District Judge Jon E. Deguilio.
He concluded that both activist groups are correct in their claims about proselytizing and endorsement of religion.
"Accordingly, the court finds that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits on their claim that the inclusion of the living Nativity scene in the show, as currently proposed, violates the Establishment Clause," Deguilio wrote.
This isn't the end of the battle, though the pre-trial court date isn't until January, well after the Christmas show will have taken place.
Watch last year’s performance below (the nativity scene appears around the 1:20 mark):
As TheBlaze previously reported, the annual Christmas Spectacular came under fire after unnamed high school student and his parent joined the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union in waging a complaint against Concord Community Schools over the live nativity scene, which had been included in the show for three decades.
At the center of the debate is the fact that the annual Christmas Spectacular features Bible characters as well as readings from scripture about the birth of Jesus Christ — something that opposing individuals and groups are calling unconstitutional, the Elkhart Truth reported.
“The Nativity scene and the story of the birth of Jesus are, of course, well-recognized symbols of the Christian faith,” the complaint reads. “Their presence at the Christmas Spectacular is coercive, represents an endorsement of religion by the high school and the school corporation, has no secular purpose and has the principal purpose and effect of advancing religion.”
The unnamed student at the center of the dispute is reportedly a member of the school choir and is slated to perform in the district’s 2015 Christmas Spectacular.
Both the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union were elated over the injunction.
"A live nativity is a shocking violation to encounter in a public school, which has no business directing students to engage in devotional, sectarian performances," Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement. "This decision is a win for everyone who recognizes that there can be no freedom of religious belief without freedom from religion in government and in our public schools."
A Facebook page setup in an effort to save the nativity scene
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Heather Weaver added, "Holiday celebrations that proselytize students are inappropriate in public schools."
Concord Community Schools superintendent John Trout expressed disappointment with Deguilio's injunction, noting that Concord High School is working diligently to ensure that this year's show complies with the order.
"The Concord High School music department is working overtime to insure that this year's Christmas Spectacular performance complies with the Court's order," Trout said in a statement, according to USA Today. "Additionally, Concord Community Schools is presently researching the possible appear of the Court's preliminary injunction."
More than 7,300 people have signed a petition in an effort to save the nativity scene in this year's show.
(H/T: USA Today)
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