LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CBS Charlotte) - A church caught at the center of a controversy regarding a school trip to see their production of “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” has decided to cancel the show.
The Agape Church in Little Rock, which had initially intended to present the show to school children on Dec. 14, released a statement to KATV regarding their decision, signed by Pastor Happy Caldwell.
“[B]ecause of what this issue has become, as a church, it is not our desire to put hard-working, sacrificial teachers and cast members in harm’s way,” the release stated.
Instead of matinees for school children, a public performance will be offered at the church on Dec. 15.
The trouble reportedly stemmed from an invitation to first and second grade students at Terry Elementary School to see the Christmas production.
“Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” is the stage adaptation of the classic 1965 Peanuts cartoon, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The source material includes a retelling of the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke, which is told by the character Linus in an iconic scene from the movie.
A parent who felt the trip was inappropriate reached out to the ASF to voice her concern with the show’s religious connotations, which reportedly differed from her own, the station learned.
From there, a campaign was launched to cancel the class trip.
“We’re not waging a war,” LeeWood Thomas, a spokesman for the group, told KATV. “We’re basically calling a foul against the separation of church and state.”
The organization took offense to both a planned field trip to a church with religious affiliation, and to a school-sanctioned presentation of religious material, the station additionally reported.
Representatives of the Little Rock School District had planned to go ahead with the trip before news of the show’s cancellation broke.
“The teachers wanted to provide a cultural opportunity through a holiday production and are supported by the superintendent and the principal,” said school district spokesperson Pamela Smith was quoted as saying to KATV. “The school district does not support or promote religious affiliations.”
In their release regarding the termination of the Friday showing, the church thanked the school for its intentions.
“In the wake of some controversy over our Christmas production offered to schools, Agape Church wishes to salute the courageous stand that the Terry Elementary Principal made in not succumbing to the pressure of one complaint voiced to the Arkansas Society of Free Thinkers and media,” Caldwell said in the release, according to the station. ”We applaud the support that the Little Rock School District has shown … and agree with their position that attending the matinees was not a constitutional issue.”