“Silent Night” Sung

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I had earlier mentioned that Americans United sof Separation of Chruch and State had expressed concern over the singing of the song “Silent Night” in a school Christmas program; Well, the event carried out and the song was sung, and AU has no immediate plans.

Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director for Separation of Church and State, said Monday afternoon the group planned no action against the play, at least not this year.

“Nobody’s planning it at this time,” Luchenitser said. “We had a short time frame to address this, so we only had time to send a letter that we hoped would educate school officials about separation of church and state. We hope in the future they don’t do this again.”

Luchenitser said his group received a local complaint about the song. He said they have a policy against disclosing details about the complaint or revealing the identity of the complainant.


People had commented that this did not seem like such a big deal, and really, it isn’t compared to other things, but for those of you with kids in school, you may know that religious celebration around this time of year tends to be foisted on the kids, of a decidedly Christian nature and sometimes extremely so depending on the individuals involved, there is a widespread assumption that all members of a school’s community are either Christian or don’t mind pretending they are for a few weeks, and that all of this is especailly overwhelming in the are of music, where even the day to day songs often sung are religious; Much classical music, all gospel music, and a fair amount of folk and other music, all of which figure big in school singing programs, make reference to religious themes or are out and out prayer.

The school officials are both firm in their position and clueless. Janice Jackson, the principle of the school (G.W. Trenholm school), stated that “The faculty and staff of G.W. Trenholm Primary School have been working hard raising money to fund a music program for the children of Trenholm. This production is a culmination of the different genres of music the children have learned … Also, it is a way to say thanks to our community for all their efforts and support in providing us with the necessary means to make our music program a reality. We in no way intended to offend anyone and the children are not required to perform. ‘Silent Night,’ a historical Christmas carol, is just one of the many songs the children will perform Monday and (tonight).” The district superintendent, Joe Walter stated: “The Christmas program includes a variety of well-known Christmas songs that advance the students’ knowledge of our cultural and religious heritage. We have been advised by our attorney, James D. Hughston, that the use of traditional Christmas music, including carols such as ‘Silent Night,’ in the context of a school Christmas program has been permitted and ruled not to be in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Accordingly, we intend to allow our students to proceed with the Christmas program they have prepared to perform. We are confident the program will be enjoyed by all of our students and their families.”

And, of course, there was the usual attempt to label non-Christian individuals as potentially dangerous, as a show was made of the local Police Chief attending the events, just in case things got out of hand. Chief Logan stated, “I plan on being there because it’s such a large crowd and we provide security for any large event, and in the event someone tries to disrupt the program.”

The AU representative, Alex Luchenitser, notes as you might expect that telling kids they can opt out has little effect especailly with younger students, and that they still feel pressure. “Kids are under a tremendous amount of peer pressure. Other kids are going to look at that child and think that child’s not a Christian. You shouldn’t place children in that situation.”

See the Times Daily for coverage.

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