Last November, the Portland Public Schools announced that choirs would no longer perform at The Grotto — a Catholic shrine — during its Festival of Lights because it was a religious venue. That changed took place due to pressure from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Now, Cleveland High School (in the same District) has announced that the winter choir concert will no longer end with teachers and staff members singing Handel’s “Messiah” (the “Hallelujah” song) because it’s overtly religious.
Emily Diamond, Editor-in-Chief of the school’s newspaper explained:
After requests from teachers, administration decided to change the song to a more secular piece: “Winter Wonderland.”
“Certain staff members feel uncomfortable with the religious content of it,” Diana Rowey, choir teacher, said. “They want to be supportive of the students, but they don’t all affiliate with the religious content and don’t want to send the wrong message.”
“In Hallelujah, there are not even just allusions to religion; there is a lot of overt religion,” said Steve Nims, history teacher. “Winter Wonderland is not as bombastic and it’s an easier song to sing.”
It should be noted that FFRF had nothing to do with this. School officials did this on their own. And it’s hardly a big deal. If the argument is that students should be challenged with difficult pieces of music, there’s no shortage of alternatives.