More parents join lawsuit against Nativity in Concord musical

JOHN KLINE | THE GOSHEN NEWSMannequins were used in place of real people in this static Nativity scene featured at the close of the 2015 Concord High School Christmas Spectacular Saturday evening.

GOSHEN — Two more parents have joined the lawsuit against Concord Community School’s use of a Nativity scene in its high school Christmas musical and the attorney representing the two original plaintiffs says he has received a death threat.

In filings in the United States District Court in South Bend Sunday, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, represented by the Indiana American Civil Liberties Union, filed amendments to their original lawsuit against the school district.

Parent John Noe, who said he has children enrolled in a Concord elementary school and at the high school, is asking the court to join the lawsuit and have his name and his children’s names remain anonymous.

In the filing John Noe states that hundreds of online comments in social media and tied to media reports about the lawsuit have been posted in opposition.

“I am aware that some of these comments have referenced guns or expressed a desire that physical harm come to the persons who initiated the lawsuit, and am further aware that many comments expressed a desire that their identities be known. I do not know why a community member would want to know their identities (or my identity) except to harass, intimidate or otherwise cause harm.”

A second parent known in a separate filing as John Roe is also seeking to join the lawsuit anonymously. The Roe filing offers similar arguments for anonymity as the Noe filing.

In addition, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has amended its original lawsuit against the corporation to reflect the changes made to the Christmas Spectacular in December.

After a federal judge issued an injunction against the corporation preventing a live Nativity scene to be included in the musical, high school students and staff created a static Nativity scene using mannequins and adjusted the musical by leaving out the traditional reading of the New Testament account of the birth of Jesus. The corporation also added acknowledgments of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

“The school corporation intends to include a Nativity scene in the Christmas Spectacular again in early December of 2016 and in future years,” the amended lawsuit states. “The plaintiffs — a non-profit membership organization devoted to the separation of church and state, the fathers of students at the high school who have attended and/or will attend the event, and a student at the high school who has participated and will participate in the ‘living Nativity’ performance — all object to this portion of the Christmas Spectacular.”

Death threat

In a separate filing with the court, Annie Gaylor, co-president of the FFRF based in Dane County, Wisconsin, told the court that the organization’s attorney Sam Grover received an envelope containing an anonymous death threat due to his connection to the lawsuit.

The threat said if the lawsuit was not withdrawn the writer would someday “... cut you into pieces and feed you to the fishes in the Elkhart River (Please note I will enjoy this).”

The threat was received Dec. 18, according to the filing and reports were filed with police in Wisconsin and with the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department. No arrest has been made, according to the filing.

The original lawsuit

The FFRF filed its original lawsuit against the Concord school corporation Oct. 7, 2015 on the behalf of John Doe and his son Jack Doe, a participant in the musical. The lawsuit states the musical “violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution” due to its religious content. The organization also sought and obtained a federal court injunction prohibiting Concord students from performing a live Nativity scene as part of the holiday musical.

U.S. District Court Judge Jon DeGuilio ruled in the original lawsuit that the plaintiffs could remain anonymous.

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