February 16, 2012

Student Sticks To Principles, Quits HS Choir Over Religious Song

And let me say that I respect him for doing so – even though I believe that he and his supporters are dead wrong on this one.

A Colorado high school student quit the school choir after an Islamic song containing the lyric “there is no other truth except Allah” found its way into the chorus.

James Harper, a senior at Grand Junction High School in Grand Junction, put his objection to singing “Zikr,” a song written by Indian composer A.R. Rahman, in an email to Mesa County School District 51 officials.

“I don’t want to come across as a bigot or a racist, but I really don’t feel it is appropriate for students in a public high school to be singing an Islamic worship song,” Harper told KREX-TV. “This is worshipping another God, and even worshipping another prophet … I think there would be a lot of outrage if we made a Muslim choir say Jesus Christ is the only truth.”

Now I had a wahoo block me on Twitter over this one last night, and now I find my very good friend and fellow Watcher’s Council member Hube taking the other side on this one.

Hey, I agree with the district that a religious theme in songs is perfectly fine (the Christmas and Hanukkah season, for example); however, lyrics that promote the supposed truth of one religion over another certainly appears to be crossing the line. And, as noted, it should be something so-called "progressive" organizations should be all over like flies on you-know-what. So ... why aren't they?

I know. It's the 'ol "What the hell do we do when two competing politically correct ideologies conflict?" scenario. First , there's the obvious church vs. state issue, but then there's the PC promotion/protection of an "aggrieved" minority ingrained in their dogma which is combating the first "progressive" tenet. What to do??

Yeah, it is fun to tweak the ACLU and other Christianity-phobic liberals over their seeming hypocrisy – but doing so misses the entire problem with this controversy and the position taken by the student and his family.

The thing is, high school choirs do religious music all the time. Having been a high school teacher for over 15 years, I know this from experience. Choirs where I have taught has at various times performed Amazing Grace, Ave Maria, choral settings of various Psalms, and at least Jewish piece (and at that school there were ZERO Jews enrolled), among other things. Heck, a few years back I was talking about Gregorian Chant during my class and intoned the beginning of Salve Regina – only to have the four choir students in class join in because they were going to be singing it in a concert the next week. Courts have repeatedly upheld the use of such music in a high school programs based upon the musical quality of the works (see this case for an example) – and if the piece in question here is of similar quality (and nobody is disputing that point), then there is absolutely no reason to exclude it simply because it is Islamic rather than Christian or Jewish. After all, what is the difference between a song praising Allah and songs that are actual prayers or parts of Jewish/Christian Scripture? Nothing as far as I can see – at least not as regards the legal principles and pedagogical purposes involved.

Oh, and another couple of points folks overlook on this one. The students in the choir were told that they were not required to sing the song if they objected to it and that they would suffer no penalty for refusing to sing it. Apparently what this boy, his parents, and some of his supporters want is for NOBODY to be allowed to sing it – or hear it. So much for the notion that the kid is standing up for freedom – he wants nothing less than jack-booted censorship.

And a quick note to those who believe this song should be banned merely because it is Islamic – please realize that Handel’s Messiah, all Gregorian Chant, and the vast majority of European and American choral music composed over the last 1500 years will be joining the Muslim works in your bonfire of religious music. This is nothing less than sincere Christians doing the work of the atheists for them by making the case for banning religious works from the curriculum, even when used in a non proselytizing way.

|| Greg, 04:16 PM || Permalink || Comments (2) || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

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Comments on Student Sticks To Principles, Quits HS Choir Over Religious Song

Greg: What about the following instances where the courts found it perfectly acceptable to THWART the use of religious songs in public schools?

I think you and I are actually more on the same page than you think; after all, I'm a public school teacher too and have seen/experienced various controversies associated with church-state issues. But the cases above serve to make less than "clear" that such matters have been 100% legally resolved.

|| Posted by Hube, February 16, 2012 04:26 PM ||

A couple of points.

1) Graduation ceremonies are distinct from choir concerts. Given the decisions on prayers at graduation, some schools have decided to exclude anything that appears to be an official acknowledgement of religion -- including musical performances of songs with religious connotations. What the sfgate article cites is a case where a court held that a student cannot FORCE a district to include a religious song if the district chose to exclude it.

2) Similarly, the other decision notes that there is not a constitutional right to have religious music included in performances. Again, we are looking at a district that chose to exercise an overabundance of caution to avoid litigation -- but it does not indicate that the performance of such music is constitutionally forbidden.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, February 16, 2012 05:38 PM ||
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