LINDALE, Tx. — Over two thousand people packed the Lindale Performing Arts Center in Lindale, Texas on Wednesday in support of a 5th grade Christian-based musical that had been challenged by a prominent atheist organization due to a parental complaint.
“In God We Trust” was written by music ministers Chris and Diane Machen, and speaks of the Bible and Christianity as being the foundation of America. Three days before the musical was to be performed at the EJ Moss Intermediate School by approximately 60 5th graders, a parent who objected to the presentation contacted the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to express concern.
The organization then sent a letter to school officials, noting that the musical repeatedly referenced Jesus Christ and the Christian faith, and asserted that the presentation was unconstitutional.
“What you have heard today helps to explain why the founding fathers of our nation believed and trusted in God,” the students were to recite. “The people that struggled and fought to establish this nation did so because of a dream. That dream was to have a place where they could freely proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“If these allegations are true, this program is an egregious violation of the First Amendment and should be canceled immediately. It is illegal for a public school to compel students to participate in religious expression,” the letter from FFRF stated. “This is compounded by the fact that the children, as fifth graders, are very young. The performance has a clearly devotional and proselytizing message and thus would be appropriate in a church setting, not in a public school.”
After repeating its demand to cancel the show, the atheist organization also requested that officials investigate the school’s music program to “ensure that the school is not impermissibly promoting religion or indoctrinating students.”
In response, instead of scrubbing the entire presentation, the school cut all references to religion in the musical. The edited version of the play was performed was last week.
However, when members of the community learned about the situation, they decided to get behind the students and fight back. Tom Buck, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Lindale, rented out the Lindale Performing Arts Center so that the musical could be performed unedited — Christian references and all. He also had hundreds of t-shirts printed with the phrase “In God We Trust.”
Buck said that the show should be presented in full so that the children’s efforts in preparing for the musical would not be in vain.
“They were the ones caught in the crossfire of this situation,” he stated. “They did nothing wrong, and they worked hard, and their voices were attempted to be shut out.”
“I’m glad we get to re-do it and have the whole thing to talk about God and everything,” 5th grader Katherine Havens told local television station KLTV.
When word spread about the musical showing at the Performing Arts Center, Buck said that support poured in so much that he “had to secure an overflow area that will carry a live feed of the program.” On Wednesday night, over 2,000 people attended “In God We Trust,” with reports stating that all 1,200 seats were filled, plus 900 in the overflow areas, and approximately 30 people had to sit outside listening on speakers.
One grandmother stood waving a flag.
“‘In God We Trust:’ it’s everywhere in Washington. It’s in our pockets; it’s in all our military bills, there’s not one that doesn’t have ‘In God We Trust,'” local resident Elaine McDonald told reporters. “So, these kids need to know that and see their parents stand up for America and not let anyone silence us. Our country is too great.”
“These kids will never forget this,” she added, “because their parents made a stand and their community made a stand.”