Why Was a Public School Choir Going to Sing This Song?

I don’t mind when a public school choir sings songs with a mention of God in them. God Bless America, Silent Night… I understand those. They’re not excessively religious in nature — they’re more traditional than anything.

But if a public school choir sang the following song (by Diamond Rio), I think that would qualify as excessive. See if you can guess why:

met_in_god_we_still_trust

That was part of the song lineup for a choir concert at an elementary school in the St. Johns County School District in Florida.

Thankfully, a couple parents of third-graders at that school complained and stopped that from happening. They have since filed a lawsuit:

The district’s superintendent pulled the song after receiving a complaint from a parent hours before the lawsuit was filed last week in federal court, a school district spokeswoman said.

But the parents’ lawyer said they are still entitled to damages because their children were required to learn the song. They are seeking to bar the school district from the “religious instruction” the song represents.

The school’s method of fixing this included not only nixing the song but also banning the objecting children from the entire concert:

The suit alleged the Webster School teachers in charge of the assembly — Dawn Caronna and Debbie Moore, who along with the district and Principal George Leidigh were named as defendants — told students March 11 if any of them objected to singing “In God We Still Trust,” they wouldn’t have to do so. But if they didn’t wish to practice that song they would be excluded from the entire performance.

Good for the parents for having the courage to do this. There’s no reason schools should be in charge of teaching children what to think about God or wrongly insisting that we are one nation under God. If parents want to teach that, it’s their call. But it’s a private matter.

The students shouldn’t have to be caught in the middle of this. Just leave these kinds of songs out of the concert lineup altogether.

  • http://www.itsallaboutmesometimes.blogspot.com Red

    What I don’t get is why these children had to be excluded just because they were choosing not to practice the song.

    That sounds like a an oxymoron to me, call me crazy.

  • Bart the Pirate

    Atheists have long been unable (or unwilling) to discern between (a) congress establishing a state religion and (b) school kids singing.

    The net results are (a) an unwarranted distortion of the First Amendment and (b) destroying our credibility as honest, objective free thinkers.

    Religious activities may be offensive and are often just plain dumb. But they’re not unconstitutional or illegal.

    Before you jump on the hate-everything-religious bandwagon, you may want to consider that empowering government to take away their free speech is empowering government to take away our free speech.

    WANTED: GENUINE FREE THINKERS!!

    Not knee-jerk, anti-religious zealots.

  • Stephan Goodwin

    I think the note about forcing students who didn’t want to sing the song to practice it or be punished is very revealing and completely illegal. Whether or not they perform the song, when a school gives a student the option of religious instruction or punishment, they have violated the First Amendment.

    Also, keep this song in mind when someone tries to tell you that God on the money and in the Pledge aren’t really applying to any particular god and that you shouldn’t be offended that it is there.

  • Stephan Goodwin

    To Bart the Pirate:

    This school is threatening to punish students by removing them from a show if they don’t want to practice a song they are allowed to not perform in a show. Had the school simply said that a group of students can sing an extra song that was religious with no punishment for skipping it, then there would be a reason to allow it.
    When a school forces its students to do something religious then, as a government entity they are forcing one religious view on a student and rejecting another. Few things could be a clearer violation.

  • Luther Weeks

    you may want to consider that empowering government to take away their free speech is empowering government to take away our free speech.

    This is clearly not “Free Speech” on the part of the students, it is being thrust upon them.

    It is also not “Free Speech” on the part of the teachers. They are doing their job when they organize the event. Their “Free Speech” would be on their own time in their own voice.

  • http://www.secularplanet.org Secular Planet

    I think it’s funny they think “God” is the name of their god. It’s like thinking your mother’s name is “Mom” or your supervisor’s name is “Boss.”

  • Brian

    The song in question is not a religious song. It is a political song on a religious topic. It is a song citing religious incursions into governmental affairs and denying separation of church and state. If it were simply a religious song, there would be far less of a problem. As it stands, it is just as objectionable as a song that denied the existence of free speech, or that lauded warrantless searches, or denied the right to trial by jury. Perhaps it would be more obvious if it were a song claiming that there is no freedom of worship, that we’re all Christians.

  • Ashley

    I agree with Stephan then could have just been xcluded from that one song and not the entire event.

  • llewelly

    Shorter ‘Bart the Pirate’: It’s fine for a government agency to force children to sing a song which promotes a lie in support of a religious political agenda.

  • Dawn

    Echoing what Brian said, it’s not just that this song is about god or religion. It is a political statement that paints secularists incorrectly as “pushing god out” of our country. It’s offensive and has no place in a public school being taught to children. The comments on the original article are making me sick to my stomach for those families and particularly the young children that are in the middle of this.

  • Siamang

    How I read Bart the Pirate:

    When the religious over-reach, just bend over, grab your ankles and take it!

    Let ‘em kick your kids out of the assembly, you should be happy the religious force your kids to say a bunch of shit, you ungrateful non-free thinkers!

    There’s something rare and unique about how Bart can simultaneously come off so aggressive toward us, all the while he’s trying to get us all to act like complete wusses.

    There’s something very authoritarian-loving about him.

  • Leigh

    to Secular Planet: I think “God” is more of a title than a name, in the Judeo-Christian tradition. He has a name, that he gave to Moses, which people shouldn’t say, and there are a ton of names for God, each of which reflect a different aspect of his character. Abba is father, Jehovah is lord. Etc. You say God out of respect. Twelve years of Sunday School taught me this much.

    I’m actually fine with them singing this song, provided that the school can demonstrate that the students sing similar songs for other religions. Would you want all choirs to never sing any of the beautiful Masses written by great composers, or that we should never hear African relgious chanting? Religion has inspired some beautiful music. I’m not convinced by reading the above lyrics that this is “great music,” but if they are also singing other interesting religious songs from other traditions, then I’d be fine with it, as a parent.

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    While Brian states that this song is not a religious song, there is obvious intent with the subject matter of the song to inject religious connections and themes. At least that’s how I see it and why it was rightly removed from the program.

    The kids should not have been removed from the whole program, just the performing of the one song.

  • Erik

    Hemant, I have to take issue with your categorization of Silent Night as not excessively religious in nature. Do you know the lyrics to that song? It’s nothing but religious! I’d raise hell if my kids had to sing that in school:

    Silent night, Holy night
    All is calm, all is bright
    Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
    Holy Infant so tender and mild
    Sleep in Heavenly peace
    Sleep in Heavenly peace

    Silent night, Holy night
    Shepherds quake at the sight
    Glories stream from Heaven afar
    Heavenly hosts sing Hallelujah
    Christ, the Savior is born
    Christ, the Savior is born

    Silent night, Holy night
    Son of God, love’s pure light
    Radiant beams from thy Holy face
    With the dawn of redeeming grace
    Jesus, Lord, at thy birth
    Jesus, Lord, at thy birth

  • Brian

    While Brian states that this song is not a religious song, there is obvious intent with the subject matter of the song to inject religious connections and themes. At least that’s how I see it and why it was rightly removed from the program.

    I think it’s rightly removed from the program, but not on the grounds that it violates separation of church and state by virtue of being religious; more on the grounds that it advocates ignoring church-state separation and thus violating the constitution.

    I would not oppose the singing of “Silent Night” in a school program. I did, in fact, sing that song and other religious songs in my public junior high school chorus, and saw no problem with it.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/guitarsean SeanG

    Others have already said what I think about the school’s behavior and I don’t want to go too off topic, but the line in the song “His name is on our greatest monuments”? What, the dollar? I can’t stand post-Garth Brooks country music anyway but it’s laughable how much it’s become the soundtrack of the right since 9/11

  • Liz

    He has a name, that he gave to Moses, which people shouldn’t say

    Like Voldemort?

  • Larry Huffman

    “There’s no seperation”

    That is the really bad line. Not only is the song instructing kids about god…but it is INCORRECTLY teaching about the nature and state of our nation…or at least our nation as it was intended to operate.

    To say there is no speration, when Thomas Jefferson called it a strong seperation…well…who do we want our kids taking their lead from, Jefferson or whatever dingbat wrote this little gem.

  • Larry Huffman

    With regard to Silent Night…I agree…the song is blatantly religious. No question.

    However…I do agree with Hemant that if the song in question was Silent Night, it would not have been as big a deal. It is most certainly traditional…and it is entirely nested in religion. It does not try to imply that we are a christian nation when we are not, as the song in question does. And the meaning of Silent Night is lost on most kids anyway, because of the prose-like style for artisitc purposes rather than outright instruction.

    Any kid that has listened to George Carlin speak about Silent Night can’t sing it without busting up anyway! (sleep in heavenly peace!)

  • Larry Huffman

    Bart the Pirate…you are just a moron.

    (I started to reply to him, but his ignorant comment just did not justify anything more)

  • Brian A

    I think it’s rightly removed from the program, but not on the grounds that it violates separation of church and state by virtue of being religious; more on the grounds that it advocates ignoring church-state separation and thus violating the constitution.

    I would not oppose the singing of “Silent Night” in a school program. I did, in fact, sing that song and other religious songs in my public junior high school chorus, and saw no problem with it.

    How can this not be considered a violation of separation of church and state? A public school, funded by taxpayers has no business pushing god on to any students. The song is specifically about the god of the bible – it says so in the lyrics. If my child were required to learn a song such as this, I can guarantee that I would be suing the school as those parents did.

    Obviously, you do not understand what should be appropriate for students in a public school if you have no problem with the singing of ‘Silent Night.’ This song is clearly a song of praise to the Christian god. Why should the school allow Christian songs to be sung, when, most likely, people would be very upset if a song of praise to Allah (for example) were allowed or a song saying religion is a fantasy. As a secular nation our government should not be involved in making any declaration regarding religion.

  • Brian A

    With regard to Silent Night…I agree…the song is blatantly religious. No question.

    However…I do agree with Hemant that if the song in question was Silent Night, it would not have been as big a deal. It is most certainly traditional…and it is entirely nested in religion

    I would be making as big or a bigger deal out of the singing of ‘Silent Night’ as I would regarding the ‘In God We Still Trust’ song. Just because something is considered ‘traditional’ does not make it right.

  • Andy G

    While I think that this song was completely inappropriate in its message, it should not be grouped with other religiously inspired pieces.

    As a music student, most of the songs the choir sang in my school were in fact religious because that is where most of choir literature comes from. If you disallow all religious songs completely, you will be left with very few worthwhile pieces to sing which pretty much defeats the point of music all together.

    If a song has a religious message, I think that’s fine, but if it tries to push a political agenda like this one does, it should not be performed.

  • i am a dodt

    Even if the kids have the option to not perform/practice that one song, but stay in the program, they would still be singled out as “other.” The song doesn’t belong in a public school, period.

  • Brian A

    If a song has a religious message, I think that’s fine, but if it tries to push a political agenda like this one does, it should not be performed.

    All religious songs are trying to push an agenda, it just may not be a political one. Government (public schools) should never be pushing ANY religion.

  • http://www.secularplanet.org Secular Planet

    I think “God” is more of a title than a name, in the Judeo-Christian tradition. He has a name, that he gave to Moses, which people shouldn’t say, and there are a ton of names for God, each of which reflect a different aspect of his character. Abba is father, Jehovah is lord. Etc. You say God out of respect. Twelve years of Sunday School taught me this much.

    Yet they refer to his name in the song, not his title. Lord is actually his title or position. Jehovah is his name; it’s a corruption of Yahweh.

    You say “God” out respect; I say it out of contempt.

  • Andy G

    All religious songs are trying to push an agenda, it just may not be a political one. Government (public schools) should never be pushing ANY religion.

    I don’t think so at all. Just because a song is about religion doesn’t mean it’s out to convert you. It’s just about the subject of religion.

    Are we to say that schools can’t play any music written by Bach because it was all written for and performed in Church? It’s not out to convert people, it was just commissioned by the church and thus has a religious context.

    If you think that great musical works should be discarded just because they have to do with religion you would throw away much of the greatest music ever written. To suggest something like this shows incredible ignorance about the art of music.

  • Andy G

    Also, would you ban the teaching of “The Last Supper” painting in an art class just because it has a Christian theme? I don’t think so.

  • http://noadi.blogspot.com Noadi

    The test on whether it’s appropriate is if it has significant artistic, cultural, and educational value beyond it’s religious message. Silent Night has that value in that regardless of it’s lyrics it is a beautiful song with a long history and tradition behind it. Much like learning about the Last Supper in art class, or the history of the Protestant Reformation is also appropriate and of value.

    This song fails that test because it pushes a political agenda of exclusion of those who are not Christian. The song tells children singing it that if they don’t believe what the song says that they aren’t worthy of being american. Made even worse by the fact the school was willing to punish students who refused to sing it by barring them from the whole concert further reinforcing the message of discrimination in the song.

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    Brian says in his reply to me:

    more on the grounds that it advocates ignoring church-state separation and thus violating the constitution.

    Thanks for the clarification. I think we are on the same page with this.

  • Geoffzie

    I wonder if anyone asked God Himself if they should do the song. 

    Surprising as it might seem to some … God’s opinions hold far more eternal weight than men’s opinions … or even government opinions … as all will discover one Day …

    Deut. 32:39;  “See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand.”

  • Guest

    This is nothing. There is a public middle school in Pennsylvania called Bala Cynwyd Middle School which has a choir program set as the default music class. This choir class, a class that students get graded in, forces students to sing a song known as “Dalius glorius dayus”. The lyrics are: Dalius glorius dayus, sing glory to god! Heaven and Earth rejoice! Christ the savior is born! Christ the savior is born!” The problem is, for some reason, no one here finds a problem with this.


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