What do get when you cross Ellwood City and Valley High School? Apparently, it is Chambersburg, PA. Ellwood City is well-known for a mayor who is fighting to keep an illegal nativity the lawn outside the Municipal Building (or illegally parked in front), while the Valley High School has a principal who continues to flaunt an illegal Ten Commandments monument outside the high school.
Chambersburg Area Senior High School (CASHS) has taken these two illegal traditions and combined them into one, by having the public high school Glee Club perform the “The Song of Christmas,” which features narration and a live nativity.
Brian Hall at PublicOpinionOnline reports by incorrectly headlining:
Wisconsin group tells Chambersburg Glee Club to cut Christmas song
When in fact they were requested to stop performing “The Song of Christimas”, which as full production of the Christmas story including narration and a live nativity.
Mr. Hall goes on to say:
The tradition of high school students staging the birth of Jesus Christ has stretched across decades at CASHS. Glee Club is a high school course and students receive credit.
CASD Assistant Superintendent Cathy Dusman said district officials are meeting about receiving the letter from the foundation this week and will share more following the meeting.
As for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Mr. Hall had some disdain:
The Freedom From Religion Foundation fired off a letter to CASD on Dec. 18, asking it to end the high school’s Glee Club tradition of performing “The Song of Christmas” which features narration and a live nativity.
The FFRF is based in Madison, Wis.
I think he meant national group (unless he also calls the NRA a Virginia-based group, and the Boy Scouts a Texas-based group, since their national offices are in those states).
Mr. Hall, at least, described the actions of FFRF in detail, which make it hard to object to, unless you are a local commenter to his article.
In the letter [Rebecca] Markert wrote for the FFRF, she cited several court cases including Lee v. Weisman (1992), Wallace v. Jaffree (1985) and Epperson vs. Arkansas (1967). Also in her letter, Markert wrote “courts that have reviewed religious music in public schools have stressed that its use must comport with the establishment clause.” The group also noted it is unconstitutional for a public school to display an “inanimate nativity scene, much less a live nativity.” Markert cited County of Allegheny v. ACLU of Pittsburgh (1989).
Markert said a “local complaint” arrived shortly before the performance and the group made a swift response. Markert said the FFRF had heard about a similar program before in a public school, but was surprised such a program still existed. “We’ve received complaints about religious music in schools,” said Markert. “This is one of the first where public school students were compelled to participate in a live Nativity.”
“This is a really egregious violation. We can’t believe someone would do this again. We believe the Constitution constraints are pretty clear.”
Let’s hope cooler heads prevail. Any church in town can put on this performance, but to give class credit, include the entire Glee Club, and present it as a major school event, is just wrong.