Charlie Brown Christmas Case | Cases | First Liberty

Christmas Story Time

Joan Wilson and Wilma Wells are proud residents of the Kalkaska Memorial Health Center’s (KMHC) senior living facility in Michigan. They look forward to the annual visit of pre-school kids from KMHC each Christmas. Sadly, the spirit of this past Christmas was hushed for them.

On December 6, 2018 students from the Great Start Readiness Program and KMHC Child Development Center and Pre-School visited residents of the Kalkaska Memorial Assisted Living Center to hear elderly residents read Christmas stories. Stories such as Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” were heard without any interruption; however, this was not the case for Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Wells.

During the visit, Mrs. Wells read a book about Christmas traditions and asked the children if they knew why we celebrate Christmas when an unidentified CDCP employee accompanying the students interjected, stating “We won’t go there, Wilma.”

A similar incident happened when Mrs. Wilson began reading “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” While Mrs. Wilson noticed the children getting restless, she began to summarize Linus’s historical account of the Christmas story. During this time, the same employee interrupted her, abruptly cancelled the visit, and escorted children out before Mrs. Wilson could finish.

That’s when Wilma and Joan contacted First Liberty Institute.

First Liberty Takes Action

The actions of the employee were a violation of Wilma and Joan’s free speech and religious speech as private citizens, which are protected under the First Amendment. Silencing them was also illegal viewpoint discrimination. Private citizens should be allowed to speak in their own living environments.

First Liberty sent a letter to KMHC asking they institute policies ensuring its employees will abide by laws protecting First Amendment rights of its residents, and also apologize to their residents whose rights were violated.

“There’s nothing quite like a government Grinch crushing the spirit of Christmas,” said Keisha Russell, Associate Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “Our clients were simply exercising their constitutionally protected rights by reading a much beloved Christmas story to children when they were silenced. KMHC needs to ensure that the rights of its residents are protected and issue an apology.”

News Release 
For Immediate Release: 4.9.19
Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

Joan And Wilma

Kalkaska Health Center Apologizes to Seniors for Censoring Reading of
“Charlie Brown Christmas”
to Pre-schoolers

First Liberty Institute represents residents of senior living facility prevented from reading story to visiting pre-school students due to its religious content

Kalkaska, MI—After receiving a letter from First Liberty Institute, officials from the government-owned Kalkaska (MI) Memorial Health Center (“KMHC”) verbally apologized to First Liberty Institute clients Wilma Wells and Joan Wilson for actions by an employee of KMHC.   Officials also told the clients they would speak to their employees about the incident.

“We are grateful to KMHC officials for acting swiftly and apologizing to Joan and Wilma,” said Keisha Russell, Associate Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “Our clients are relieved this ordeal has been settled quickly.”

Just before Christmas, during a visit by students from KMHC’s Child Development Center and Pre-School (“CDCP”), First Liberty clients Wilma Wells and Joan Wilson were interrupted and prevented from explaining Linus’s historical account of the Christmas story from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to the children.

In its letter, First Liberty explained the free speech and free exercise rights of the residents whose speech, including religious speech, is protected by the First Amendment.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.


News Release – 4.4.19

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