Two more parents have joined a federal lawsuit over the live Nativity scene in Concord High School’s annual Christmas Spectacular concert, and both hope to remain anonymous.
At least one death threat and plenty of public backlash followed a lawsuit filed on behalf of a Concord father and son who claim the live Nativity scene is unconstitutional, court documents show.
The two men added to the list of plaintiffs, identified as “John Roe” and “John Noe” in new court documents, said they have children who attend Concord High School and participate in the Christmas Spectacular, and the families have filed a request to stay anonymous out of fear for their safety.
The family originally included in the suit, a father and son identified as John and Jack Doe, were allowed to stay anonymous during the lawsuit after a judge decided in November that there was a risk of violence and intimidation toward the Doe family.
Court documents released Sunday show the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which filed the suit with the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Doe family, has received a threatening letter addressed to the organization’s lead attorney in the suit and directed at people the letter writer believed to be the Doe family.
The letter writer claims they would make it their “life’s mission” to “find you and the [redacted family name], and I will cut you into pieces and feed you to the fishes in the Elkhart River (Please note that I will enjoy this).”
The letter ends: “Do yourself a favor, and believe me, when I say: NO ONE WILL STOP ME!”
In court documents, Noe and Roe cite the mailed death threat and online comments on news stories about the lawsuit and on the Save Concord’s Christmas Spec’s Nativity Scene Facebook page as reasons they expect harassment and intimidation if their names are made public.
The lawsuit stems from a scene in the high school’s annual holiday concert.
In August, the Freedom From Religion Foundation asked the school district to remove the live Nativity scene from the Christmas Spectacular concert, in which some student performers portray biblical figures and others sing religious hymns. The foundation and the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the school Oct. 7, seeking a ban against the live Nativity scene and nominal damages of $1 and legal fees. The plaintiffs claimed the school was advancing a specific religion over others by including the live Nativity scene.
Concord High School changed the 2015 Christmas Spectacular to include segments on Kwanzaa and Hannukah and removed Bible readings from the show.
The judge eventually filed an injunction banning Concord from performing or rehearsing a live Nativity during the 2015 concert, as the lawsuit would not be decided before the mid-December performances. The show went on with mannequins replacing live performers for the Nativity scene.
Some people in the community have expressed outrage over the lawsuit, posting hostile comments directed at the plaintiffs on The Elkhart Truth’s Facebook page and accusing the plaintiffs of trying to ruin a Christmas tradition. Others, including administrators of the Save Concord’s Christmas Spec’s Nativity Scene Facebook page, have asked supporters of the Nativity scene to be respectful toward the Doe family. A Nov. 20 post on that Facebook page stated: “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 lawsuit is not likely to be over soon. The deadline for evidence discovery is set for July 1, and court documents show the case may not be ready for trial until January 2017.