Advancing Religious Liberty
11/30/12 at 05:44 PM 0 Comments

It's a Heckler's Veto, Charlie Brown

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Author: Alliance Defending Freedom Litigation Staff Counsel Matt Sharp

Do you remember the sound of the teacher from all of those Charlie Brown television specials? The “wah, wah, waaah” that would drone on and on as the Peanut characters tried to pay attention in class. It’s the same sound I hear whenever I see another atheist group complaining about religion (and Christianity in particular) in schools—whether it is complaining about students saying the Pledge of Allegiance or religious clubs using school buildings for after-school meetings.

In an event of such ironic proportions that it threatened to rip apart the very fabric of time and space, an atheists group in Arkansas (quaintly calling themselves the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers) started “wah, waahing” when an elementary school scheduled a field trip for students to go see…wait for it…a stage production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The “Freethinkers” are offended because near the end of the production, the character Linus recites a portion of the Christmas story from Luke 2 (don’t click that link if you are an easily offended atheist). Apparently, the “Freethinkers” are in favor of “free thinking” unless you are thinking about religion.

But the “Freethinkers” don’t have a legal leg to stand on. Courts have ruled that religious songs and elements can be incorporated into a school’s Christmas productions as long as the school has an educational purpose for doing so (which the school here did). Because the school itself could stage a production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” without violating the Constitution, how much more can the school permit an optional field trip to see the performance.

So the atheist group is trying a tactic known as a “heckler’s veto.” They are hoping that if they “wah, waaah” loud enough and long enough and create enough of a disruption, the school district will give in to their demands in order to keep the peace. Unfortunately, these tactics are often effective against school districts. That is why it is so refreshing to see the Little Rock School District take a stand and refuse to give in to the commotion of the Freethinkers.

Alliance Defending Freedom stands with the school district, and we wrote a letter of support affirming that it is perfectly constitutional for the field trip to go forward.

This post originally appeared here.

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