Sunday, December 18, 2011

I'd Like to Hear Your Opinion on This

Anbetung der Hirten (Adoration of the Shepherds) (c. 1500–10), by Italian painter Giorgio da Castelfranco
I read this article, and thought that the whole thing was a bit ridiculous. I know that not all of my readers will agree with me about this, but I do hope that you will read it.
‘Silent Night’ in school Christmas play could lead to lawsuit
TUSCUMBIA, AL (WAFF) - A Tuscumbia elementary school plans on keeping "Silent Night" a part of their holiday program.
A Washington DC group has threatened legal action if students sing the song.
The non-profit said the song violates federal law and the separation of church and state.
Florence City Schools have had a front row seat to two of these separation of church and state issues.
Earlier this year, Brooks High School came under fire for public prayer at football games.
Now there's the controversial decision to sing "Silent Night" at G.W. Trenholm Primary School in Tuscumbia.
Florence City Schools Superintendent Dr. Janet Womack said every program her district does is checked by the district's attorney.
She said the district is always keeping up to date with court decisions.
She also said watching what's going on in these other districts is a reminder of how important communication needs to be between school employees, administration, and the central office.
"It's always being willing to ask for guidance instead of stepping into a gray area asking for guidance first so that we don't create a landmine for ourselves that would take and deter away the attention from what our main focus is," she said.
WAFF 48 News spoke to the group in Washington DC, and they told us what they plan to do next.
They said this is the only public school they know of where a religious message is being relayed in an elementary school play. And they said that's why they've targeted this school.
They've already sent a letter to the Tuscumbia City School Board.
That letter says the school needs to edit the play and get rid of the song "Silent Night."
The district told us Wednesday they don't plan on making any edits to the program.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said that means they'll take legal action.
"I hope that cooler heads prevail and people understand that this is a significant constitutional issue and they don't go along with the idea of continuing the plans to sing this hymn as part of what should be a secular public school event," said Barry Lynn, executive director of the nonprofit group.
There are several things that I see wrong with what  the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State are doing.  First of all, let me state that I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state.  I don't believe that anyone should tell me how to worship.  That being said, Christmas is first and foremost a religious holiday.  It is for the Mass of Christ's birth, regardless of whether or not it had it origins in pagan rituals or that it become more and more commercial each year.  Also, "Silent Night" is one of the most popular Christmas songs.  It has always been one of my favorites.  Furthermore, Tuscumbia, Alabama, is a small north Alabama town of less than 9,000 people, which is most famous for being the birthplace of Helen Keller.  Why would the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State be worried about a small north Alabama elementary school.  I guess my point is that if they are going to have a Christmas program, which school all over the country have, then why should they not be allowed to sing about the origins of the holiday?  Anyway, I would love to hear your opinion on this, whether you agree with me or not.

I hope that you are all having a wonderful holiday season.

13 comments:

Vilges Suola said...

I agree, it's humourless, smug, self-righteous nonsense to ban christmas carols at christmas, and anyone who claims to be offended by them is a pompous twerp. I'm playing Responsories of Matins at Christmas right now and I'm an atheist.

silvereagle said...

My first reaction this morning when reading this, I did not post. I went to church (Presbyterian), to lunch, and back home before responding. But, even after the passage of several hours, my reaction remains the same. And that is BULLSHIT!!!
I do have words such as that in my vocabulary, but try to avoid their use, especially in a public forum, but the only honest reaction I have remains the same, BULLSHIT!!

The singing of this Christmas Carol, or any other carol for that fact, is no more the establishment of the Christian religion by the church, than is the singing of any other song. If this is to be banned, then so must most of the music of Hayden, Mozart, and the other great composers. Most of their music was composed at the direction or on behalf of a monarch, or of the church. Without words, the music was played for the people. Words were later added expressing homage to God. Modern composers have had their music"adapted and adopted" by the church as well. - Dovark'sNew World Symphony is now the basis for a church standard "Going Home"--is it to be relagated to the trash pile as it might remind someone of the Christian interpreatation? The Hallelujian Chorus so widely hailed as a masterpiece of church music must also be trashed and sat aside? (Note: The English king, of Germanic organ with difficulty understanding the English, thought the words were praise to him - "King of Kings, Lord of Lords-!!).

I have been verbose in this response, JoeBlow, but in order to resond to your query I knew you wanted more than "Yes,I agree" or "No, I do not agree"

BULLSHIT!!!

Doug Indeap said...

It is important to distinguish between the "public square" and "government" and between "individual" and "government" speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square--far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views--publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class or directing school plays), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

Whether AU is drawing the line in the right place in this instance, I have my doubts.

A word should be added about the commonly heard idea that this somehow is about political correctness or people easily offended. We’re not talking about the freedom of individuals to say or do something others find offensive; we have that freedom. We’re talking about the government weighing in to promote religion. Under our Constitution, our government has no business doing that--regardless of whether anyone is offended (and regardless of how many or few favor or disfavor any particular religion or religious event). While this is primarily a constitutional point, it is one that conservatives--small government conservatives--should appreciate from a political standpoint as well. While the First Amendment thus constrains government from promoting (or opposing) religion without regard to whether anyone is offended, a court may address the issue only in a suit by someone with "standing" (sufficient personal stake in a matter) to present the court with a "case or controversy"; in order to show such standing, a litigant may allege he is offended or otherwise harmed by the government's failure to follow the law. The question whether someone has standing to sue is separate from the question whether the government has violated the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

I'm a member of American's United, and though I don't know about the specific issues in Tuscumba, AU, like the ACLU, usually only gets involved when a local asks for their help. So who asked here - was it the one Jewish or Muslim family perhaps who take exception to their child being asked to sing an overtly Christian song? The simple point is this: keep the religious songs and elements in the church or at home and let the public school celebrate the secular elements. There is absolutely no need to mix the two. Why is that so hard to understand? We see this time and again when Christians claim they are not discriminating with prayers or songs at schools or government events. But, as happened here in WA state, when a Muslim iman is asked to give the prayer at one of these governmental functions, the Christians walked out or booed.

Jay M. said...

These clowns should have to prove how a bunch of elementary kids singing Silent Night somehow establishes a religion. Who knows if that is how it will play out. Probably depends on where they file the suit, and how the judge looks at such things. But it's stupid of them. They just look like idiots doing this, and it accomplishes nothing. As for someone complaining, cmon folks, grow a SKIN!

Peace <3
Jay

fan of casey said...

Joe: I think anything taken to extreme can be counter productive and I would use your point as an example. Singing of a religious song in a public setting is quite minor in my opinion. There are those who would argue that this is just another example of how christianity is pervasive in our culture. They may be right on purely legal grounds but I don't think it's a battle worth fighting over.

To give you another example of rights gone wild, I think it's ridiculous that some people are claiming that their "rights" are being infringed upon because 100 watt incandescent light bulbs are being phased out. After Congress passed the law, it's bizarre that people are spending time and effort to try to overturn it because they claim that they need their cherished "warm light." It shows how much some people take personal freedom to extreme at the expense of greater benefits to the environment and society. People should be willing to sacrifice a little for the larger good.

What bothers me the most is how people will bend facts to suit their own selfish arguments. Incandescents are not being banned -- they are just required to be more efficient. You still can buy them. Or you can the doomsday believers and stock up on hundreds of cheap bulbs.

Kevin said...

I'm a Christian (Anglican) but I'm also a strong secularist (if that makes sense.) I tend to agree with what Anonymous wrote above. As a Canadian, the church/state issue might be a bit different up here. In regards to this particular story, I'd say 'pick your battles.' You guys have that Rick Perry "Strong" ad to deal with, which seems to pose more of a threat to secular values than a few kids singing in Alabama, but I could be wrong.

tamayn said...

So by that same token, does the school have something for Hanukkah and for Eid as well? How about Diwali or for Tet? What about the Jehovah's Witnesses who don't approve of holiday celebrations of any kind?

I agree that it's making a big deal but the fact is that it's one of a thousand paper cuts. There are lots of non-sacred songs that are just as classic.

Mack said...

This could be a complex issue. On the surface, it seems like a really strong reaction to a trifle issue. I'm not sure I have enough facts, though to make a solid judgment. For instance, say this were a required event, and it was part of the children's class work to sing "Silent Night" and among them was a child who was not from a practicing Christian family. In that case, someone's rights were being infringed upon and the AU should get involved. If none of this is true, then they are just being a pain as it seems.

What strikes me as odd is why the school is going ahead with it despite the threat of a lawsuit. Very few school districts have the funding to hire legal counsel for defense, even if they are going to win. Why waste the money defending this? It feels like the school is trying to make a point, themselves with this case as well. What that point is, does not appear evident.

As many on this forum have pointed out, the Constitution gives people the right to practice their religions in public forums. So, this should not be a case unless something else were going on that is not being said.

While I am a practicing Christian, and a regular Church-goer, I still am a little skeptical about things like this. I have seen too many stories about rather conservative places trying to force religion upon others only to claim they have a civil right to defend that. On the other hand, sometimes liberal groups can get a little out of control fighting absurd causes. Both are well-intentioned, but often have damaging outcomes.

I guess I have to go back to my original point, which is that I don't this I have enough information to make a sound judgment about what is happening here.

Dean said...

Joe, I was raised in a Christian church, and we had the usual Christmas concertts in school. My home town was about one third Jewish, and plenty of my friends in high school rolled their eyes every time they had to sing along. I have to agree with Anonymous above--there are plenty of non-religious holiday songs that could have been sung. I feel that schools have no business whatsoever bringing religion into a public event. That is why we have churches stuck all over the landscape. At the county building here in Cross City, FL, there is a big-ass, in-your-face ten commandments monument right at the top of the front steps. Some asshole donated it when the Supreme Court made some Alabama county get rid of theirs. The only reason that the ACLU hasn't stepped in is that nobody local is brave enough to risk taking a bullet in the back by signing onto a court case to have it removed. The ACLU only steps in when a local rewquests them to do so. So obviously, someone in Muscle Shoals did take offense. "Silent Night" needs to go.

Dean said...

Joe, I was raised in a Christian church, and we had the usual Christmas concertts in school. My home town was about one third Jewish, and plenty of my friends in high school rolled their eyes every time they had to sing along. I have to agree with Anonymous above--there are plenty of non-religious holiday songs that could have been sung. I feel that schools have no business whatsoever bringing religion into a public event. That is why we have churches stuck all over the landscape. At the county building here in Cross City, FL, there is a big-ass, in-your-face ten commandments monument right at the top of the front steps. Some asshole donated it when the Supreme Court made some Alabama county get rid of theirs. The only reason that the ACLU hasn't stepped in is that nobody local is brave enough to risk taking a bullet in the back by signing onto a court case to have it removed. The ACLU only steps in when a local rewquests them to do so. So obviously, someone in Muscle Shoals did take offense. "Silent Night" needs to go.

Coop said...

I believe in separation of church and state, too, but I think it's ridiculous that every small mention of the Christian faith is met with fire and brimstone. I think references to the faith are buried too deep in our culture to be eradicated completely.

Is this non-profit teaching kids how to get along with people of a different faith? NO. That's something those children need to learn. How to get along with others instead of crusading against everything that they disagree with.

Okay enough fire and brimstone. I'm asking Santa for a date with Josey Greenwell.

Anonymous said...

So it's 1963 and I'm in the 6th grade in South Carolina. We have a new student, Susan (or maybe Anne or Mary - can't remember) Murphy who has the most beautiful shoulder-length curly casacade of red hair I'd ever seen. But she was Catholic! When we stood each morning to recite the Pledge, have a reading from the King James Bible and recite the Lord's Prayer, she had to leave the room. Of course, we used the Protestant Bible and the Protestant version of the prayer. Needless to say, she was harassed mercilessly. I can't imagine what would have happened if we had a Hindu, Buddhist or atheist classmate. That's why, unless you're going to celebrate all religions and non-religion equally along with all of their holidays and their traditions, you should keep religion out of schools and government buildings and property. It's very, very simple.