PAINTSVILLE, Kentucky, December 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Parents at W.R. Castle Elementary in Paintsville, Ky., thwarted the school district's orders to get Christ out of Christmas by reciting a Bible passage about the Nativity from the audience of a student production of “Charlie Brown's Christmas.”
By that time Friday, Paintsville and the Johnson County School District had become a byword for Scrooge across America because of the district's decision, instigated by a single complaint from a W.R. Castle kindergarten parent, to expunge all religious references from school Christmas productions.
Superintendent Thomas R. Salyer cited the Sixth Circuit federal district court and the Supreme Court in defending the decision. “The U.S. Supreme Court and the 6th Circuit are very clear,” he posted on the district's webpage, “that public school staff may not endorse any religion when acting in their 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.”
The basis for the W.R. Castle production is cartoonist Charles Schulz's famous animated TV classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Its touching climax is reached when Charlie, in the midst of a school Christmas play, asks, “Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” His friend Linus answers by reading what the angels told the shepherds in Luke 2:8-14.
But after a parent threatened to sue, and the district consulted various legal advisers, a decree went forth ordering all religious references removed from classroom activities. Assistant Superintendent Harry Burchett told LifeSiteNews that all the legal advice agreed. “We are forbidden from teaching a specific religion. If we don't remove this, we could be in a legal fight.”
Added Burchett: “We are not the enemy here. I'm a Christian myself, and one of my children was in a Christmas play at school this week, and another two will be in a church play on Sunday.” The district was simply being prudent, following its legal advice and saving the local taxpayers money.
But the Alliance Defending Freedom, one of a handful of conservative legal firms devoted to defending religious rights in the USA, was alerted by W.R. Castle parent Joey Collins (daughter Andrea played Snoopy) and promised to defend the school district if it kept Christ in Christmas.
“There is no violation of the so-called 'separation of church and state' by allowing children to learn about theater and the origins of Christmas through participating in a stage version of this beloved program,” the ADF wrote the district. “Given that courts have consistently held that schools may organize and sponsor Christmas programs and performances that include religious songs and study the historical origins of Christmas, there is no basis for the District's decision to censor the religious aspects of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.'”
Burchett said that “all kinds of organizations” had offered to defend the district if it chose to stick up for Christ. “But are these organizations going to pay the legal costs of every one of our staff who gets sued civilly?”
The event went ahead Thursday as planned, and when the climactic moment came, the student playing Linus held his tongue as instructed by legal counsel. But then, as Mr. Collins told Fox News, “The parents in the bleachers basically quoted the words from the Book of Luke.”
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
“It was just an amazing moment,” said Mr. Collins, “with everyone clapping and in tears.”