"Charlie Brown Christmas Show Causes Church and State Controversy." It reports that a Little Rock church was performing matinees of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" for local schools. The schools sent permission slips home for the field trip, but parents who believe in the separation of church and state protested children being led into places of worship by their government-run schools as part of the school day.
That makes sense and I like Maressa Brown's reasoned opinion which she posted on
The Stir. She writes, "The season should never be treated as an excuse for doing something that wouldn't be considered appropriate at any other time of the years...like taking public school students to see a religiously-themed play with zero application to their curriculum at a church!"
But as an atheist, I can't help but think this is the stuff that gives atheists a bad name. Is it the right move to eliminate all religious instruction from the American public school system? Wouldn't it be better to allow all religions equal time? I believe spiritual beliefs are hardwired into the human survival mechanism and without them, we would never have survived as a species (I also think we should never have survived as a species, but that's another hypocritical discussion). Rather than argue that it's wrong to shuttle innocent, open-minded children to church, how about shuttling innocent, open-minded children to every place of worship possible? I'm in favor of an all or nothing approach. Introduce American children to mosques, temples, synagogues and yes, churches. Do you know how bored they'd be? Rather than become indoctrinated and mind-washed, kids would be so turned off by the tedium of spiritual practice, they'd want little to do with it. Or they'd choose their own path, which is also fine (religious beliefs can be extremely useful and nourishing, but -- again -- that's another argument).
On the other hand, hot-headed atheists (and I am one) shutting down school field trips that violate rules of church and state is in keeping with the Christmas spirit, given that Christmas has a long history of people trying to stamp it out. But for "chrissake," my American atheist brethren: do you really believe the American Christmas tradition has much to do with religion? Come on: it's a cultural tradition of consumption and childhood fantasy. Who really cares about Jesus as we stand in long lines and tally up department store bills and ingest obscene quanties of cinnamon and vanilla? Christmas is just a great big party with the same nominal relationship to Christ that it had way back in the beginning when the Christian Church linked the feast day of a pagan god to its myth of a Savior.
Let's be reasonable. Those who want to go to church on December 25th and pretend this is all about God are free to do so, but besides that let's have fun! In the public eye, Christmas only becomes about religion when people shout it loud enough, so hush. And let the kids have a field trip to see a play that mentions Jesus in the end -- why the hell not? After all, it's Christmas.