You may have heard about the Kentucky school district that ordered its administrators to scrub any religious references from its various Christmas productions. Most infamously, an elementary school in the Johnson County School District removed the lines from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” where Linus recites the Gospel of Luke’s account of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. This censorship was colossally silly—both because Linus’ speech is the dramatic center of the play, and because of the self-evident absurdity of staging a play with “Christmas” in its title and then deleting the key lines that explain what Christmas celebrates.
According to reports, the district’s attorneys had received a complaint about the planned production and, apparently fearing a lawsuit, they advised administrators to remove all “religious” (i.e., Christian) references from the Christmas-related productions being planned in their schools. According to the district’s website, “The U.S. Supreme Court and the 6th Circuit are very clear that public school staff may not endorse any religion when acting in their official capacities and during school activities.”
Hello! Staging a play about Christmas doesn’t “endorse” the Christian religion, any more than staging “Big River” (the musical version of the Huckleberry Finn story) constitutes an endorsement of slavery or a production of “Sweeney Todd” endorses cannibalism.
It is ridiculous to send the kids home for what is called “Christmas vacation” while suppressing any mention on school property of what Christmas means.
It is absurd to treat any reference to the Nativity of Christ as an unmentionable, as if it were an obscenity (especially when there are public schools in America where the doctrines of Islam and the principles of Sharia law are taught).
The venerable “wall of separation between church and state” was originally intended to keep government from bestowing legal privileges or financial favors on one religious sect over others. Now it has morphed into a reductio ad absurdum whereby no mention (or at least, a respectful or reverential mention) of our country’s dominant religious traditions is to be made in a taxpayer-funded venue.
Such a tortured reading of the Constitution is music to the ears of contentious atheists and secular fundamentalists. It represents the temporary triumph of an arid, intellectually feeble legal theory over common sense and tolerance. It renders an honest teaching of world and U.S. history impossible, and greatly limits what literature, art, and music may be incorporated into educational curricula. I mean, how do you teach the history of our own culture and civilization without discussing the Christianization of Europe, the Christian/Muslim wars, the Protestant Reformation, the Christian principles and values that animated the American revolution and later the civil rights movement, and even why science flourished in the Christian West while stagnating everywhere else?
Some may not like it, but the fact is that the birth of Jesus two millennia ago marked the beginning of the pivotal life in human history. Just because many of us also believe that the life of Jesus Christ is the key to heaven is no reason for public officials to attempt to censor history or ban that momentous life from our schools.
Let me close by wishing the people of Johnson County, Kentucky—including the secularists, attorneys, and school officials who tried to censor Linus Van Pelt and the Gospel of Luke—a happy, healthy, and blessed Christmas. Following is the Scriptural passage that they excised from Charles Schulz’ “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” May it touch your heart with the wonder of Christmas:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.” (Luke 2:8-14, King James Version)
Amen. And Merry Christmas!
Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.