Mount Pleasant Infant School in Reading, Berkshire, has angered local Christian groups by presenting a seasonal nativity play stripped of all religious connotations.
The traditional Christmas story of how the baby Jesus came to be born in a manger after Mary and Joseph found that there was no room at the inn, is traditionally performed by Key Stage One pupils all around the country. However, staff at Mount Pleasant School were concerned about causing offence to non-Christians by placing too much emphasis on the religious overtones of the story.
‘With many families from other faiths or none, we do not wish to cause offence at the time of our mid-winter festival,’ said headteacher Jackie Hunt. ‘The nativity is a charming traditional tale, but there is no need to present it as a piece of pro-Christian propaganda.’
Early on in the play, five-year-old Molly Johnson announces ‘Lo, there is a great star in the sky, which is easily explained by rational and scientific means and certainly does not prove the existence of some sort of supernatural diety.’ Although the shepherds insist that they did see angels in the sky above Bethlehem, on further questioning they admit that they had been eating magic mushrooms the night before.
‘Of course there are carols,’ explained Ms Hunt, ‘but the new lyrics are less about ‘glory to the new born king’ and more about any outstanding moral issues having to be resolved in this world rather than in some mythical afterlife.’
The Year Two teacher who rewrote the traditional Bible story insists that her version probably bears a closer resemblance to real events. ‘If they had thought he was the son of God they wouldn’t have put him in the cowshed would they? For a major celeb like that they would have turfed out all the other guests and given them the deluxe honeymoon wing with en-suite bathroom.’
The play climaxes with Mary coming clean to Joseph about the so-called ‘virgin birth.’ ‘Actually Joseph, I was not visited by an Angel nine months ago,’ confesses six-year-old Sally Harris. ‘I am not carrying the son of God. It is the son of your brother Kevin. To be honest I can’t believe you fell for it.’