A conservative legal firm is pushing back against a public school district's decision to "censor" an elementary school production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" after a family's complaint reportedly led officials to remove all religious references from the show.
The Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to Johnson County Schools in Paintsville, Kentucky, this week, imploring officials there to ignore the sole complaint that was reportedly received about the gospel message presented in the popular play, which based on Charles Schulz's revered TV special, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
The production, which is set to unfold at W.R. Castle Elementary School, will be amended to remove any religious references — a decision that has left many students, parents and members of the cast "dismayed," according to a statement from the law firm.
After all, there's a famous scene in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in which character Linus Van Pelt directly recites from the Bible, reading Luke 2:8-14 in an effort to communicate the true meaning of Christmas to Charlie Brown. While it's beloved by many, the scene is likely to cause contention among those who believe that it violates the First Amendment to permit such a scene in a public school play.
Superintendent Tom Salyer's announcement about the removal of religious content has sparked controversy and protests, with parents picketing outside of the board of education building on Monday, according to WSAZ-TV.
"As superintendent of Johnson County Schools, I recognize the significance of Christmas and the traditions and beliefs associated with this holiday," he said in a statement. "Over the past few days, there have been several rumors indicating that there would be no Christmas plays this year at our elementary schools."
While Salyer said that Christmas plays will continue, they will now "follow appropriate regulations."
"The U.S. Supreme Court and the 6th Circuit are official capacities and during school activities. However, our district is fully committed to promote the spirit of giving and concern for our fellow citizens that help define the Christmas holiday," he continued. "With core values such as service, integrity, leadership, and commitment, our staff and students will continue to proudly represent our district as recently demonstrated by our many student successes."
The Alliance Defending Freedom is pushing back, though, saying that there is no need to amend the content of Christmas shows.
"Schools should not have to think twice about whether they can allow students to perform a classic Christmas production simply because it contains biblical references," attorney Matt Sharp said in a statement. "'A Charlie Brown Christmas’ has become an iconic Christmas story and tradition. Are school officials going to start demanding that other classic productions, such as Shakespearean plays, be censored just because they contain religious references?"
Watch Linus' speech from Luke 2 in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" below:
The Alliance Defending Freedom letter alleges that there is no First Amendment violation for simply allowing kids to learn about the origins of Christmas, noting that the contents of the play mirror what kids see in the TV special.
The firm also offered legal support to the district, pending any potential lawsuits.