Thursday’s theatrical performance of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at W.R. Castle Elementary School in rural Johnson County, Kentucky will be bereft of its heart and soul because a single whiner has scared school district officials into censoring all references to religion.
The main scene which will be deleted involves Linus van Pelt reciting a handful of verses from the New Testament’s Gospel of Luke to explain to Charlie Brown “what Christmas is all about.”
Castle Elementary principal Jeff Cochran — whose “principal’s message page says “Insert text here!” — has announced that anything related to Christianity will be completely scrubbed from the play, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Johnson County school district superintendent Thomas Salyer said he has concluded that both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals flatly forbid any public school student from uttering Linus’s seven Bible verses.
“I want to clarify that all programs will go on as scheduled. In accordance with federal laws, our programs will follow appropriate regulations,” the taxpayer-funded superintendent said in a Dec. 11 statement obtained by the Herald-Leader. “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.”
Salyer added that he recognizes “the significance of Christmas and the traditions and beliefs associated with this holiday.”
Local scuttlebutt appears to be that the complaint arose from someone related to Castle Elementary.
When asked who complained, Salyer would not say. He cited unspecified confidentiality regulations.
On Monday, about 30 people from the local area protested with signs and an American flag outside the Johnson County Board of Education office in Paintsville, Ky. “Jesus in the reason,” read one sign.”
A smaller group of dedicated demonstrators also showed up on Tuesday.
Salyer told the Herald-Leader he made the decision to censor the Christmas of the Christmas play on the advice of his lawyers and Kentucky state education officials. (RELATED: Kentucky Education Bureaucrats Fail To Spell KENTUCKY Correctly)
“We are just trying to meet the letter of the law,” he said.
American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky spokeswoman Amber Duke applauded the decision.
“It appears the Johnson County School district is committed to honoring its constitutional obligation to protecting students’ freedom of religion and belief,” she told the Lexington newspaper.
Linus’s quotation of the Gospel of Luke takes up 51 seconds — or just 3.3 percent of — “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” It occurs at a point when Charlie Brown has become angrily frustrated because he believes that people aren’t celebrating the true spirit of Christmas.
Linus walks with his blanket to the center of a stage in an adult-less auditorium where several Peanuts characters — and Snoopy — have gathered. As a spotlight shines upon him, Linus quotes from the second chapter of Luke:
“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.”
“And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,” Linus concludes, after picking up the blanket which he had symbolically dropped right after he says, “Fear not.”
Linus’s speech inspires Charlie Brown. He picks up his barren, sad little tree and walks it outside into the snowy, starry night. He looks up at a star and it twinkles at him.
“Linus is right,” Charlie Brown declares. “I won’t let all this commercialism ruin my Christmas.” He then vows to take his little tree home to decorate it. His Peanuts pals then magically turn it into a real tree festooned with popcorn and ornaments. Lucy van Pelt calls him a “blockhead” but admits his tree is fabulous.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” originally appeared as a CBS special in 1965. To the horror of CBS network executives, Charles Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, insisted on the inclusion of the verses from the New Testament in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
The execs were sure they had a flop on their hands, as National Review explains, but fully 50 percent of Americans watching television in the United States watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in 1965 and it has now endured as an essential Christmas season staple for 50 years.