School officials proceeded with a nativity scene in a scheduled holiday play using statues instead of student actors after a judge’s recent ruling banned a live representation of the birth of Christ in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and an atheist group.
Local media reports show a packed crowd attended the Concord High School plays in Elkhart, Ind., and the crowd cheering when the nativity scene was shown. Some in the crowd were reportedly moved to tears.
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"The sold-out crowd at Concord High School erupted with applause following the school’s use of statues to keep the nativity scene," the local ABC News affiliated reported.
Cheers from the crowd were also captured on a video of the play posted to YouTube.
The atheist Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana won a preliminary injunction against the nativity earlier this month. Their complaint claims that the nativity violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The foundation expressed outrage at what they called the school flouting the judge’s ruling.
"U.S. District Judge Jon DeGuilio explicitly barred the ‘live nativity’ in his preliminary injunction. So how did the school respond? It set up a life-sized nativity scene using mannequins," the foundation said in a release.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, the co-president of the foundation, said that the school violated "the intent and spirit of the ruling." She said, "whether it was in contempt of court, it was contemptuous."
"They say there is a War on Christmas, but there’s really a war on separation of church and state at this time of the year," said Gaylor. She said that the student who filed the lawsuit was present at the play and called the decision to use the statues "unbelievably callous."
"This student should be getting an award for what he is doing—standing up for the Constitution," said Gaylor.
The office of John Trout, the superintendent of Concord Community Schools, did not respond with a comment by press time.