A local public school has recently attracted the attention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation for teaching a song that made explicit mentions of ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ to elementary-aged kids. As the article mentions, previous case law has specifically identified the song, “Thank You for The World So Sweet,” as being a prayer. This should really be an open-and-shut case.
But it’s not, because Christian privilege is rearing its head again. The school district’s attorney responded to the FFRF’s charge by saying that the song is being used in a secular manner and is thus legal.
How you use a song thanking God for the world in a secular manner is a mystery to me… I guess I’ll have to leave that question to those wiser than myself.
The comments on the blog version of the article are somewhat encouraging. They include responses from Hank Fox, the self-described Redneck, Blue-Collar Atheist and blogger over at Freethought Blogs, and Rick Martin, the current benevolent overlord of Capital Region Atheists & Agnostics (the officially unofficial meetup group of atheists and agnostics in New York’s capital region). They also include the following delightful diatribe from “Albert J”:
Tyrany, of a minority is no better or different than tyrany of a majority. It is certainly no less obnoxious for a minority to insist on forcing it’s will on the majority, than for the majority to force their will on the minority. Bullying, from one side is no different than bullying from another.
The difference here appears to be simply that the attempt at bullying, besides being reprehensible, is also really silly. This sounds exactly what Shakespeare was talking about when he suggested something was “much ado about nothing”.
If a Shenendehowa parent, or group of parents object to their children singing children’s songs for fear they will somehow be politically abused, or somehow indoctrinated into some some perception the parents disagree with, they have several options available to them to protect their children from whatever harm they think might befall them.
They could always request their children not participate in the activity, featuring the singing. They could also use this as a valuable teaching moment to demonstrate to their children that, at times during their life they will encounter different cultures, different perspectives and different beliefs, and perhaps instruct their children how to best respond to these inevitable differences.
I applaud the response of the Shenendehowa School Board in resisting this overt bullying tactic by individuals who apparently believe that they control the entire world their children have been borne into, and am confident that the Shenendehowa School Board will effectively and completely comply with all laws regarding school policies that have no interest in bending to the whims and petty demands of those who exaggerate issues into bogus violations of laws that do not exist and serve no purpose.
Being a man of some scruples and principles, I felt I had to respond to this. In case it never gets accepted on the blog, here’s my response to Mister J’s silliness:
Albert J. – the question is very simple. Do you or do you not support our government’s neutrality on the subject of religion?
A public school promoting a song that makes reference to God and the Lord is a matter of government endorsement of religion. It does serious violence to the separation of church and state; a value so American that the religious right has had to lie and reinvent our history to decry it.
As an atheist, I don’t want *any* of my money going toward the promotion of a religious position. I don’t even want songs about atheism in public schools! The government should just stay out of this question entirely.
Isn’t it ironic that the people who often decry liberalism for its “big government” ideals are often the ones who are quick to defend “conservative” positions that thrust government into the most intimate realm of all – the realm of our thoughts? If you’re truly a conservative, and you truly value the concept of limited government, then please, keep your government out of my beliefs. Keep the public school system out of the business of promoting any position on theism over another.
More than anything, spare me from this false fairness that you offer by saying that parents of public school children can request that their children be excused from events where the public schools are being used to promoted a theistic position. This should not even be an issue in the first place; considering that the very song under discussion has been ruled as nothing more than a prayer in previous legal battles, you know as well as I do that there can be no constitutional defense of the school’s actions. “Public school students aren’t forced to take part in religious ceremonies conducted by public schools” says nothing of the fact that those ceremonies should never be conducted by public schools in the first place!