For decades, Concord High School featured a live depiction of the birth of Jesus Christ in its annual Christmas musical, but the latest ruling by a federal judge seemed likely to end that practice for good.
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Jon E. DeGuilio ruled that a 20-minute scene featuring live student actors as Mary, Joseph and other biblical figures amounted to an unlawful endorsement of Christianity.
The legal challenge against the live nativity scene began in 2014, when the Freedom From Religion Foundation received a complaint from the family of a Concord student who performed in the holiday show as a member of the school's drama and performing arts program.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit against Concord Community Schools after officials signaled they did not plan to change the Christmas program ahead of the 2015 performance.
However, the school district later changed course, paring the traditional nativity scene down to a two-minute section featuring mannequins to represent the biblical figures, while also including a Chanukah song and Kwanzaa song in the performance.
"Essentially, the judge confirmed everything the FFRF put in a letter to Concord schools three years ago," said Sam Grover, a staff attorney with the foundation. "We said this live nativity performance violates the Constitution."
Because Concord officials had already made changes to the show, DeGuilio's ruling Monday simply served as a notice that any return to the live nativity performance could entitle opponents to legal judgment.