School decides to allow nativity decoration at Christmas program

A small Wabash Valley community has made its voice heard, and its school is listening.

Posted: Dec. 4, 2018 6:41 PM
Updated: Dec. 4, 2018 7:03 PM

MONTEZUMA, Ind. (WTHI) -A small Wabash Valley community has made its voice heard, and its school is listening.

It all started when Montezuma school officials announced a nativity scene would not be allowed at the school's annual Christmas program. Many community members were angered by the move. That's why Southwest Parke School Administrators have been working to come up with a solution everyone can agree on.

Tuesday afternoon, News 10 got a statement from Southwest Parke School Superintendent Dr. Phil Harrison.

In it, it explains that there will be several views of Christmas represented at Montezuma Elementary School's Christmas Concert.

At first, school administrators weren't going to allow the Nativity Scene. To be clear, Harrison says this was not to purposefully exclude the Christian symbol or faith. Rather, he says the decision was to not show favoritism for one faith over another.

Harrison says without meaning to, the school realizes it had offended the core values and beliefs of many of its families. That's why there were talks of a different solution that happened Tuesday. Harrison explains, "I understand that this is a very emotional issue. And rightfully so. We're dealing with holidays, we're dealing with children, we're dealing with celebrations. I just hope that everybody can take a step back, breathe, and let us truly walk through this path to do something good for our kids."

The path the school has chosen includes many elements. There will be a bulletin board displaying both the Nativity Scene, and secular figures. Student artwork will also be on display. This will give a chance for students to show what the holiday season looks like to them.

LINK | LETTER TO PARENTS 

We wanted to hear from the community about the potential move. News 10 spoke with Charles Stewart. Montezuma is his home town.

He explains, "Both my boys went to Montezuma School here. Of course, they're grown now, and have their own families and stuff. But yeah, they both went to school here in Montezuma."

Some fond memories of watching his sons grow up include going to their Christmas programs. And, Stewart can recall going to his own. But as he shares, the traditional focus has shifted.

Stewart says, "We had that stuff even in the schools when I was growing up. Personally, I think it's a lot of foolishness to try to do away with that stuff."

Montezuma Elementary School had discussed not allowing an art display depicting the nativity scene at the school's Christmas Program. When another resident, Tara Berry, heard the news, she said she was shocked.

Berry explains, "It's not about the gifts, it's not about Santa Claus coming down the chimney. But it's about the birth of Christ. And I feel that these days there are so many people that are trying to take this away from us."

Again, Superintendent Harrison explained the decision was one the school took very seriously. He shares, "As a governmental entity we have to be very aware that we do not promote one religion over another. As a community entity, we have to be very aware of the community values."

The school ultimately decided to not do away with the religious symbol. But as Stewart shares, he'd be okay with others being included too.

Stewart explains, "One of our basic freedoms is supposed to be religious freedom. If you want to put up a nativity scene, that's fine. If you want to put up some sort of Jewish thing up, fine. If you want to put up an Islamic thing up, that's fine. Nobody should object."

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