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Secular non-profit backs parent’s First Amendment complaint

ALPENA, Mich. — A well–known secular group sent a letter of complaint to Alpena–Montmorency–Alcona schools on Monday.

The parent of a student at Pied Piper School reached out to the Freedom from Religion Foundation for help after what they considered discrimination against their child. They believe the school violated the First Amendment by including a nativity scene in their Christmas play.

FFRF legal fellow Karen Heineman said that the school’s opt–out policy was only a half–measure for avoiding discrimination.

“That student’s class was supposed to put on the nativity portion. When opting out, that student had no participation in the Christmas show at all. The parent was told there were no non-religious roles for  the student to take.”

In other words, the student wanted to be part of the show, just not the religious portion. In–opting out, however, they couldn’t join the show at all.

Heineman also said the school effectively endorsed Christianity through its inclusion of the nativity. And in doing so, they violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause. She emphasizes that the First Amendment is meant to protect everybody, not just the majority.

“The harm is, say in this instance, that the students are physically segregated. You cannot require someone to choose between full participation and their religious view. That is protected by the First Amendment.”

Superintendent Scott Reynolds told WBKB that he and the district are reviewing the matter closely and intend to discuss it further with the FFRF.