Concord Nativity scene lawsuit plaintiffs allowed to proceed anonymously in federal court

Anyone involved in the case who violates the protective order can be held in contempt of court, the penalty for which could include jail time

Posted on Dec. 1, 2015 at 4:15 a.m.

DUNLAP — A Concord High School student and his father will remain known only as Jack and John Doe as they continue with a federal lawsuit protesting the live Nativity scene that is part of the school’s annual Christmas Spectacular.

A federal judge ruled Monday that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed Oct. 7 in South Bend’s U.S. District Court, are permitted to proceed using the pseudonyms.

When the Doe family filed the complaint, alleging the live Nativity scene is unconstitutional because it endorses Christianity in a public school setting, they also filed a motion to remain anonymous due to fears that they would become “the victims of harassment, injury and other serious harm if their identities are made public.”

Many supporters of the Concord Nativity recently have banded together and promised to remain positive as they fight to keep the Nativity scene. On the Save Concord’s Christmas Spec’s Nativity Scene Facebook page, which has more than 7,200 likes, the administrator posted a message Nov. 20 that calls on the Concord community to remain respectful.

”Let’s not give them any reason to call us hateful, and let’s remember what this is about ... the kids, our community, tradition and the story of Christmas,“ the mother who runs the Facebook page wrote.

However, hostile and hateful comments continue to be posted on Facebook and through letters to the editor at The Elkhart Truth, some demanding the plaintiffs “go home” or “get out of our country.”

Some in the community have expressed outrage at the lawsuit, claiming the two individuals and outside organizations — Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union are representing the local family — are attempting to ruin a Christmas tradition that has been a part of the community for more than 30 years.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Nuechterlein, in his order granting anonymity, recognized that there is a history of violence and intimidation against plaintiffs in other similar Establishment Clause cases.

Attorneys for Concord Community Schools did not object to the Doe family proceeding with the pseudonyms.

Neuchterlein entered a protective order on behalf of the plaintiffs that forbids anyone involved in the case from revealing the identity of the family. Anyone who violates that protective order can be held in contempt of court, the penalty for which could include jail time.

In the original complaint and in a separate motion, the plaintiffs also asked for the judge to enter a preliminary injunction to stop the school from performing the Nativity scene during the 2015 performance. A judge has not yet ruled on that request.

The Christmas Spectacular premiers in less than two weeks, with a special matinee performance for Concord students on Dec. 11 and public performances beginning Dec. 12.

Follow education reporter Michelle Sokol on Twitter at @michelle_sokol.


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