Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Concord Community Schools, No. 17-1591 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
For decades, Elkhart, Indiana’s Concord High School has held a “Christmas Spectacular” concert. In 2015, the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote a letter expressing concerns about the religious nature of the Spectacular’s second half, which included religious songs interspersed with a narrator reading passages from the New Testament, and a student-performed nativity scene. The superintendent rejected the claim. Plaintiff sued under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. While the suit was pending, Concord volunteered to remove the scriptural reading and add songs representing Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. The judge concluded that the proposal was not adequate and granted a preliminary injunction forbidding the school from performing the proposed version. Concord actually performed a second half that spent about four and a half minutes each explaining and performing a song to represent Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Images are projected onto screens with each song. For the remaining 20 minutes, students perform numerous religious Christmas songs and a two-minute nativity scene, with mannequins, not student actors. There are no New Testament readings. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that the 2015 show did not violate the Establishment Clause and a declaratory judgment that the 2014 and proposed versions were unconstitutional, with an award of $10 in nominal damages. Plaintiffs’ request for a permanent injunction was denied.