Lawsuit seeks to remove Nativity Scene from Indiana school Christmas show

The Nativity scene outside the Gaston County Courthouse in North Carolina before complaints by the Freedom From Religion Foundation led to its removal.(MyFox Carolinas video screenshot)

Two organisations are playing Scrooge this year by filing a lawsuit aimed at removing the decades-old live Nativity Scene from the yearly public school Christmas presentation in Indiana.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) want the Concord Community Schools in Elkhart, Indiana to prohibit the Nativity Scene, saying that it violates the Constitution.

They allege that the scene, which depicts the birth of Jesus, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as it endorses religion that is illegal in all public schools, according to Elkhart Truth.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a student and his father, who is a member of the atheist FFRF.

"The Nativity scene and the story of the birth of Jesus are, of course, well-recognised symbols of the Christian faith," the lawsuit reads. "Their presence at the Christmas Spectacular is coercive, represents an endorsement of religion by the high school and the school corporation, has no secular purpose and has the principal purpose and effect of advancing religion."

Last August, the FFRF sent a letter to Concord Supt. John Trout to ask that the Nativity Scene be dropped from the Christmas presentation.

FFRF attorney Sam Grover said, "It is illegal for a public school to endorse a religion to students by organising a religious performance, such as acting out the exclusively Christian legend of Jesus' birth," Grover wrote. "The performance has a clearly devotional message and thus would be appropriate in a church setting, but not in a public school."

However, Trout said at a school board meeting last month that the district would not remove the scene, which has been staged for more than 30 years.

"That is not an accurate statement of the law," he said of the lawsuit. "As always, if a student or parent finds objectionable any portion of the Spectacular, or any school assignment for that matter, that student is free to opt out of the performance or assignment."

The scene lasts about 15 minutes and is performed by students.

The student in question is involved in the school's music department.

"In addition to performing in other elements of the Christmas Spectacular by virtue of his participation in the music department, Jack Doe will perform one or more of the religious hymns that are part of the live Nativity scene and telling the story of the birth of Jesus," the lawsuit said.