A high school choir in Virginia is under fire after the children sang several religious-themed songs, triggering some non-Christian parents and a Wisconsin-based atheist group.
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The Christian-themed songs were “Praise His Holy Name,” composed by the famed black musical artist Keith Hampton, and “Elijah Rock,” a traditional black spiritual.
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It’s not exactly clear if the aggrieved parents were offended by the content of the songs of the skin color of the composers.
However, the Virginian-Pilot suggested the triggering happened because of this particular lyric: “Jesus, Jesus, how I love Thee! Shout Hallelujah! Praise His Holy name.”
In other words, they suffered a mental breakdown upon hearing the name of Jesus sung in four-part harmony.
School leaders had considered canceling the entire concert, but backed off due to time constraints.
Parent Angry Over Choir Song Selection
Faith Griffin, a guardian of a child in the choir, told television station WAVY that she was very upset over the song selection and that the principal said her daughter could just opt out and not perform.
“The kids joined chorus to sing,” she told the television station. “I felt like that would single them out in front of a crowd, in front of their peers. The Christian kids get to participate and sing in the concert and non-Christian kids stand off stage and not participate, which is just discrimination towards any Jewish students, Muslim students, any students who aren’t Christian.”
In an effort to appease the offended parents, the school added a secular song to the performance. But even that was not satisfactory.
“The District’s choir program must focus on teaching secular music rather than religious or devotional music that asks students to engage in religious worship and praise,” wrote the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist group. “There is a wide array of high quality and pedagogically valuable choral music available for public schools to teach students.”
School Defends Religious Songs
The school district released a statement defending the inclusion of religious music.
“Chesapeake Public Schools is aware that the combined chorus concert held last week at Western Branch High School included music selections of varying genres, including a selection that is considered a religious song. During the performance, the choral directors introduced each selection with the rationale for the inclusion of each song in the performance and explained the instructional significance of each selection. Any student who wished to opt out of performing a particular selection for religious reasons was permitted to do so without penalty.
According to the National Association for Music Education, “the study and performance of religious music within an educational context is a vital and appropriate part of a comprehensive music education.” While several court cases cited by the National Association for Music Education permit the inclusion of religious songs in public school performances, Chesapeake Public Schools staff and administration recognize the importance of respecting the religious viewpoints of others and we respect a student’s right to refrain from participating in a performance for religious reasons.”Chesapeake Public Schools