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No Room in the Nativity: Anti-Religion Group Ousts School Choirs

12-23-2016

A school board system in North Carolina has barred several school choirs from performing at an annual Christmas nativity celebration. 

The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a complaint with the Wake County school system arguing that it is unconstitutional for school choirs to perform at Apex Christmas Nativity Celebration

The annual event is a three-day celebration of "the birth and ministry of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ," according to the event's website. 

Wake school officials decided to cancel the scheduled choir performances after the foundation forwarded a YouTube video to the school system. 

The video showed a church official Steve Bodhaine making statements that the event "represents a wonderful opportunity for you to bear testimony of Christ to your friends," The News & Observer reported. 

"They (school choirs) bring hundreds of parents and grandparents and friends who come and listen to them sing," Bodhaine said in the 2014 video. "And when the singing is done, these wonderful people linger."

"They walk around and they see the hundreds of nativities from all over the world and they begin to feel something sacred in their hearts. This for us is the opportunity to share the wonder and love of the Savior."

Wake school spokesman Tim Simmons said the district was advised by their attorney to ban the choirs because it put the district in a position of endorsing a religious viewpoint. 

Representatives from FFRF are taking credit for shutting out the choirs from the religious event. 

"It's great that officials finally realized the dubiousness of school attendance at such an obviously religious ceremony," Annie Laurie Gaylor, the foundation's co-president, said in a written statement. "It was unacceptable that public school choirs were performing at this function."

"Public schools are a place for all students regardless of religious belief or non-belief," Patrick Elliott, staff attorney with the foundation, said. "To have public schools involved in a Christian event celebrating the birth of Jesus is a problem."

"No one was particularly happy with the outcome of this," Simmons said. "Some schools had been participating for several years."

Simmons said the decision will not prevent students from participating in nativity events individually. He added that it will not keep schools from participating at other nativity events as long as the events are not an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. 
    
 

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