Walker County, Ala., Sheriff Nick Smith rebuffed an atheist organization that tried to expunge religion from the public square. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent Smith a letter decrying his request on social media for prayer after Lowndes County Sheriff “Big John” Williams was killed in the line of duty on Nov. 23, along with another post in which he asked citizens to “fall to ur knees and pray fervently” following a collision between a sheriff’s deputy and a young boy. Public Information Officer T.J. Armstrong told CBN News that the sheriff’s office has not responded to FFRF and has no plans to do so. —S.W.
A school district in Edmond, Okla., told a group of third graders they cannot put on a live Nativity scene during their school’s annual Christmas production after an atheist organization complained.
Edmond Public School Superintendent Bret Towne pulled Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus from Chisholm Elementary School’s annual Christmas concert after school officials received a threatening letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The secular group claimed the school’s three-decade-old tradition violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. School officials told KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City that “changes were made to ensure the program’s content celebrates and respects the religious practices, customs, and traditions of the season while meeting the current legal standards.”
The decision upset many parents. “They are singing songs about Hanukah[sic] and Kwanzaa,” Cindy Boecking wrote on the Facebook page of KWTV-TV in Oklahoma City. “But the nativity is being singled out to be removed? On a Christian holiday?”
Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver criticized FFRF’s threat. “The so-called Freedom From Religion atheist group continually bullies and threatens people every Christmas, and that includes even children.”
In a letter to sent to Towne on Wednesday, Liberty Counsel attorney Richard Mast explained that “a public school Christmas performance that has a balanced program ‘in which cultural, pedagogical, and entertainment value’ take center stage has little to fear from claims of unconstitutionality.” —S.W.