Indiana School Sued For Promoting Christianity

Source: Sam Householder/The Elkhart Truth
Source: Sam Householder/The Elkhart Truth
[Originally published at PEACOCK-PANACHE.COM.]

After defying a judge’s order to refrain from explicitly promoting Christianity in the school’s holiday concert, Concord High School in Indiana now faces a lawsuit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) on behalf of the families negatively affected by the overt religious promotion in last year’s holiday concert.

In their amended lawsuit, the FFRF referenced the “workaround” used by the school to avoid violating the injunction. They said in part:

“The school corporation intends to include a Nativity scene in the Christmas Spectacular again in early December of 2016 and in future years,” the amended lawsuit states. “The plaintiffs — a non-profit membership organization devoted to the separation of church and state, the fathers of students at the high school who have attended and/or will attend the event, and a student at the high school who has participated and will participate in the ‘living Nativity’ performance — all object to this portion of the Christmas Spectacular.”

This week’s filing actually adds two additional parents to the original family’s complaint against the school. All plaintiffs in the case have children attending Concord High School and were subjected to Christian proselytization at the school’s hands during their participation in the 2015 holiday concert.

Because of harassment, intimidation and death threats receiving from the Christian community seeking to uphold their religious traditions, the new plaintiffs will remain anonymous for their families’ protection.

The Elkhart Truth reported on the case’s new developments:

Two more parents have joined a federal lawsuit over the live Nativity scene in Concord High School’sannual Christmas Spectacular concert, and both hope to remain anonymous.

At least one death threat and plenty of public backlash followed a lawsuit filed on behalf of a Concord father and son who claim the live Nativity scene is unconstitutional, court documents show.

The two men added to the list of plaintiffs, identified as “John Roe” and “John Noe” in new court documents, said they have children who attend Concord High School and participate in the Christmas Spectacular, and the families have filed a request to stay anonymous out of fear for their safety.

The family originally included in the suit, a father and son identified as John and Jack Doe, were allowed to stay anonymous during the lawsuit after a judge decided in November that there was a risk of violence and intimidation toward the Doe family.

And the death threats appear to be credible.

Court documents released Sunday show the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which filed the suit with the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Doe family, has received a threatening letter addressed to the organization’s lead attorney in the suit and directed at people the letter writer believed to be the Doe family.

The letter writer claims they would make it their “life’s mission” to “find you and the [redacted family name], and I will cut you into pieces and feed you to the fishes in the Elkhart River (Please note that I will enjoy this).”

The letter ends: “Do yourself a favor, and believe me, when I say: NO ONE WILL STOP ME!”

In court documents, Noe and Roe cite the mailed death threat and online comments on news stories about the lawsuit and on the Save Concord’s Christmas Spec’s Nativity Scene Facebook page as reasons they expect harassment and intimidation if their names are made public.

[Emphasis Mine]

Add to that the violent and malicious comments posted on the Save Concord’s Christmas Spec’s Nativity Scene Facebook page and two things become obvious

  1. This is why a wall of separation between religion and taxpayer funded institutions exists.
  2. These families are placing their very lives at risk among angry, vengeful Christians to exercise their First Amendment rights and they should be commended for it.


Commenting on the threats to his family and the other plaintiffs, John Noe said:

“I am aware that some of these comments have referenced guns or expressed a desire that physical harm come to the persons who initiated the lawsuit, and am further aware that many comments expressed a desire that their identities be known. I do not know why a community member would want to know their identities (or my identity) except to harass, intimidate or otherwise cause harm.”

While the lawsuit does seek to address the school district’s blatant disregard for both a judge’s order and the law concerning promotion of religion in public schools, it’s only asking the court to award plaintiffs $1 each in damages (plus court costs). The lawsuit isn’t meant to bankrupt the district; rather, it’s meant to safeguard non-Christians from the tyrannical and often threatening Christians seeking to use public, taxpayer-funded institutions to proselytize their personal religious beliefs.

As has been the case with other religious proselytization serial offenders, the courts may need to levy a fine against the school for every violation. As Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta commented,

“This is an administration that cannot be trusted. They have already shown that they will do anything they can to promote Christianity during the winter concert. What they need now is a court ruling that stops them for good — and perhaps forces them (and by extension, the taxpayers) to pay a penalty for every violation.”

Something tells me that might change a few minds once the school has to begin cancelling programs and activities (like the holiday concert) due to budgetary concerns.


Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is the head writer and editor for SecularVoices, co-founder of Young Skeptics, and author of Understanding an Atheist. He is known for local and national secular activism and has spoken at conferences and events such as Reason Rally 2016 and the Ark Encounter Protest and Rally.

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