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Judge bans high school from performing live Nativity scene
U.S. District Judge Jon E. Deguilio granted a preliminary injunction in a federal lawsuit against Concord Community Schools, writing in the order that the show "conveys a message of endorsement of religion, or that a particular religious belief is favored or preferred."
"Accordingly, the court finds that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits on their claim that the inclusion of the living Nativity scene in the show, as currently proposed, violates the Establishment Clause," the judge wrote.
The suit was originally filed with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana and Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a not-for-profit that advocates for the separation of church and state, on behalf of a student who participates in the performing arts program and his father.
John Trout, the superintendent for Concord Community Schools, said in a statement that the decision is disappointing.
"The Concord High School music department is working overtime to insure that this year's Christmas Spectacular performance complies with the Court's order," Trout said. "Additionally, Concord Community Schools is presently researching the possible appear of the Court's preliminary injunction.
Trout said in the statement that a decision on whether to take that step will be made in the next few days.
"A live nativity is a shocking violation to encounter in a public school, which has no business directing students to engage in devotional, sectarian performances," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor in a statement. "This decision is a win for everyone who recognizes that there can be no freedom of religious belief without freedom from religion in government and in our public schools."
ACLU attorney Heather Weaver agreed, saying that all students, regardless of religion, will now feel welcome at the show. "Holiday celebrations that proselytize students are inappropriate in public schools," Weaver said.
There is currently a pre-trial conference set for January 7 to determine how the case will move forward.