POWAY, Calif. — The Christmas show went on at Painted Rock Elementary School after nearly being canceled this year by school officials who were concerned about the play’s religious message.
Painted Rock Elementary, a school located in Poway, California, near San Diego, is a recognized California distinguished school with 752 students in Kindergarten through fifth grade. The school district had already allowed the school to perform the story of Hanukkah last week, but the district decided to not allow the Christmas story to be performed because the story was “too central” to the Christian faith.
Upon cancellation of the pageant, a concerned mother called the Pacific Justice Institute,a non-profit organization that represents individuals, families, and churches without charge. Attorney Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, said that when the mother called, she was very upset.
After the call, the Pacific Justice Institute called the school district in defense of the Christmas play. Dacus cited the First Amendment which, among other freedoms, gives all Americans the freedom to express their religion.
Dacus explained that the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment to mean that the mere acknowledgment of religion does not amount to an endorsement of that religion, and therefore, does not violate the First Amendment’s “establishment clause.”
“All the school district is doing is informing the children of the story,” said Dacus. “Therefore, the school is enriching the children’s education and giving them an understanding of other people.”
Although WorldNetDaily attempted to contact various officials at Painted Rock Elementary as well as the Poway Unified School District, no one was available. Dacus indicated that it wasn’t necessarily due to hostility toward the Christian faith that the Christmas play was at first canceled.
“It happened because they wanted to play it safe,” Dacus said.
By “playing it safe,” the school district apparently had hoped to avoid any liability or litigation from the American Civil Liberties Union according to Dacus.
“The ACLU has a reputation of terminating or sterilizing religion from public institutions,” Dacus informed WorldNetDaily. “We would’ve represented the school without charge if the ACLU sued them.”
Dacus explained that this incident was another example of the growing discrimination against Christians in public schools on the West Coast. In Modesto, California, for example, a Peter Johansen High School administrative staff member was recently ordered to remove a small nativity scene from her office to comply with “separation of church and state.”
Although Dacus contacted the high school’s superintendent’s office after hearing about the incident and convinced the school district to reverse their position allowing for the nativity scene to be displayed on the employee’s desk, Dacus fears that many other government employees have received the same treatment this holiday season.
“I think it’s a growing, cultural divergence between traditional Judeo-Christian perspective and the post-modern humanist thought,” Dacus said.
Dacus does what he can to protect religious freedoms and was happy to assist the Peter Johansen High School employee and was pleased to set the Poway school district back on the right track.
Speaking about the Poway school district incident, Dacus said, “We are glad to see that no group of students at Painted Rock Elementary were shortchanged this holiday season by this unfortunate misunderstanding of the law. Hopefully, other school districts will learn from this incident and choose to similarly respond in a positive, tolerant manner towards acknowledgment of religious holidays.”
The ACLU was unavailable for comment.