Arggghhh: Charlie Brown gets censored

by Gregory Tomlin, |
You still have the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Charlie Brown. A school district in Kentucky has reportedly told an elementary school in the tiny town of Wittensville that it must censor the religious content from its production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas." In the play, like the 50-year-old television special, Linus reads the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. | REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

WITTENSVILLE, Ky. (Christian Examiner) – As if Charlie Brown doesn't have enough to worry about with Lucy moving the football, now he's getting censored.

Johnson County Schools in Kentucky have told the staff at W.R. Castle Elementary in Wittensville, a school staging "A Charlie Brown Christmas," that they must perform the play without its iconic scene of Linus reading the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke – a scene Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was insistent remain in the holiday television special which marked its 50th anniversary this year.

According to Alliance Defending Freedom, which sent a letter to the school board on behalf of a parent of a child in the play, the district told the school to remove all religious references from the play and "any other Christmas plays at District schools." The district made the decision after a single parent complained about the presentation of the Christmas story.

"We write to encourage you not to give in to the demands of a single complaint," the letter from ADF said. "Through its annual broadcast on network television, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has reached an iconic status in our nation similar to that associated with many other Christmas traditions. There is no violation of the so-called "separation of church and state" by allowing children to learn about theater and the origins of Christmas through participating in the stage version of this beloved program that contains the same religious elements as the television version."

ADF cited a long list of cases in which the federal courts have allowed for school districts to perform religious music, dramas and poetry as long as they were part of an "educational effort" that advanced "the students' knowledge of society's cultural and religious heritage, as well as the provision of an opportunity for students to perform a full range of music, poetry and drama."

As a result, ADF argued in its letter that there was no basis for censoring the religious aspects of the beloved children's play.

District Superintendent Thomas R. Salyer issued a statement on the district's website dismissing the notion that all Christmas plays had been cancelled as a rumor. He said, however, that the district was complying with what it believed were federal regulations on the matter.

"As superintendent of Johnson County Schools, I recognize the significance of Christmas and the traditions and beliefs associated with this holiday," Salyer said in the statement. "I want to clarify that all programs will go on as scheduled. In accordance with federal laws, our programs will follow appropriate regulations. 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. However, our district is fully committed to promote the spirit of giving and concern for our fellow citizens that help define the Christmas holiday."