New film suggests death of school nativity play is premature, says charity

Those prophesying the end of school nativity plays for political reasons aren't taking into account Debbie Isitt's new five-star rated Christmas family movie, suggests one educational charity.

Set in Coventry, Nativity! centres round two primary schools - one Catholic state, one private - vying to stage the best play in town. The film gently explores themes of redemption, reconciliation and the deeper meaning of the season.

Starring Martin Freeman as a frustrated, under-achieving primary school teacher, Nativity! hits UK cinemas this Friday as Harriet Harman's controversial Equality Bill comes before Parliament.

Roman Catholic bishops warn that the complex legislation will have the "chilling effect" of town halls and other organisations clamping down on festivities - including school nativity plays - for fear of offending other cultures.

Monsignor Andrew Summersgill, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, has written to MPs to say it will fuel Britain's "risk-averse" culture.

"The nativity story is the beginning of the greatest story ever told - even if it takes Debbie Isitt, 100 talented kids from Coventry, and an inspired cast to remind us," said Nick Pollard, founder of the Southampton-based Damaris Trust.

"Jesus himself refused to play the political game and didn't shy away from those who might be offended by His message.

"I believe we have a duty to tell his story as clearly and accurately as we can - and then leave people to make up their own minds.

"The nativity play is a vital part of that process and Debbie brings the Christmas story wonderfully to life in a skillful, contemporary family comedy."

Damaris is making available clips from the film with specially-commissioned interviews and ideas for school assemblies and church services.

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