Lindale families upset by controversy over religious play

Lindale families upset by controversy over religious play

LINDALE (KYTX) - A play being performed at Lindale's EJ Moss Intermediate is being called too religious for a public school setting. The Freedom from Religion Foundation, based out of Wisconsin, is challenging it.

The play, called "In God We Trust" will happen Thursday night at 7:00, but the performance has been altered.

On Monday, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed a complaint with the Lindale ISD superintendent, Stan Surratt. The organization's attorney says that complaint stemmed from a call she got from a concerned East Texas parent.

When Superintendent Surratt got the FFRF complaint, he says he took it very seriously.

"The attorney was representing a parent from our school," Surratt says.

The FFRF's staff attorney, Elizabeth Cavell says Thursday's play violated the first amendment.

"There are large parts of the program that are proselytizing in nature and advance and endorse a particular religion," Cavell says.

The play in its original form had musical numbers and spoken parts.

Cavell says, "One of the spoken lines is, 'Jesus Christ he died on the cross and sacrificed his life for us. God will forgive our sins if we believe Jesus died for us.' These are direct Christian Gospel statements."

"By federal law there were some areas there that we probably overstepped a little boundary there," Surratt said.

In response, Surratt and staff members made some modifications to the play.

"To be respectful to all families," he said.

Those changes don't sit well with some community members, who are upset that the FFRF is even involved.

"Very disappointed yes and upset too," said Thomas Praytor, whose granddaughter has spent months practicing for the play.

"She was very upset," Praytor said. "She had two speaking parts and of course they were removed."

When Tom Buck with the Lindale First Baptist Church heard about the play, he was disappointed too.

"I was very deeply concerned about the threats to religious liberty. The fact that you have an outside organization that knows nothing about our community, involving themselves in this way, that they would do it in such an untimely manner," Buck said.

So he arranged another performance set for next Wednesday where the children will perform the original version of the play.

"We are completely paying for everything. The school has no connection so its a separate community event that our church is putting on," Buck said.

That full performance will be Wednesday the 29, at 7:00 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center at Lindale High School.

Thursday's play which was altered, is an annual musical put on by EJ Moss 5th graders. It's theme always focuses on American heritage. The superintendent says the music department will take these latest issues into consideration when writing next year's musical.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation has been part of other religious controversies in East Texas as well. This was the organization that protested the nativity scene at the Henderson County Courthouse, that prompted huge faith rallies.





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