A misreading of the US Constitution continues to be used to limit the freedom of religion in America. More and more schools and their leadership continue to discriminated against Christianity and are attempting to drive it from the public square and from our children’s lives.
A battle over religious music in Wausau, Wis., led Phil Buch, the chair of Wausau West High School music department, to temporarily disband the Master Singers music ensemble in a bold act of defiance.
The choir director’s bold move came after district officials recently proposed that the number of faith-based songs this holiday season be cut down in the ensemble’s upcoming December show.
When members of the school board notified Buch that he would have to revise his set list for the winter concert, he simply refused. Local media initially reported that officials sought out a specific arrangement for song selection — four secular holiday tunes for every religion-themed song — but that detail is also unclear.
“The goal is to make sure that students do not feel coerced into performing songs that make them very uncomfortable,” Kathleen Williams, Wausau School District superintendent, said. She said public schools shouldn’t endorse any one religion.
But the new order seems to be making people feel uncomfortable. The highschool choir director called off all 15 of the elite master singers concerts.
“This group sings at Christmas programs. We sing for nursing homes, grad schools, and businesses. To do that without Christmas music doesn’t make sense,” Phil Buch, Wausau West Highschool choir, said.
Many parents agree and are angry about the dissolution of the traditional school Christmas concerts.
“Schools should not establish religion, they should not promote it, but they should not inhibit it,” Eric Penniman, a parent, said.
Buch, who said he would have had to change his entire concert program “dramatically” in order to comply with the new requirements, simply decided instead to postpone choral activities until further notice. His action sparked nation-wide attention.
Even the school board appears to have been blind-sided by the new ban on Christmas songs.
“What precipitated this change? Were there complaints? If so, how many and from whom? When did it happen? What kind of documentation do we have? I have not seen answers to those questions,” Pat Mckee, Wausau school board member, said.
Superintendent Williams said backing away from religious music should protect the district from being sued. But she didn’t mention any lawsuit in particular.
“This is all part of the establishment clause, nothing has to trigger it really, this is what music in public schools or any teaching in public schools needs to follow,” Williams said.
With a stalemate and a national controversy now brewing, the district will hold a “special board meeting” on Thursday evening, reports WAOW-TV. Superintendent Kathleen Williams will be among those in attendance.
UPDATE* Hundreds of students, parents and community members packed a Wausau school auditorium Thursday night, many begging the Wausau School Board to reverse administrative decisions to limit religious music in winter concerts.
The school board called the special meeting amid an uproar over new limits placed on holiday programs, particularly those involving an elite choir group at Wausau West High School called the Master Singers.
Even before dozens of residents stood to speak, the board voted to put the decision about whether to schedule winter concerts back in the hands of school principals.
The choir traditionally performs Christmas carols at numerous locations in Wausau and students were already scheduled to perform at 15 locations in December. This, though, was suddenly deemed problematic as it could make it appear as though the school is endorsing a specific faith.
Reaction has been diverse. Many are praising the potential removal of faith-based music, while others are outraged.
School Board member Pat McKee says it’s nothing short of a war on Christmas.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a church-state separatist group, plans to write a letter thanking the district for its efforts to cut back on faith-based holiday music.
While the organization claims it had no involvement in sparking the debate, co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor stood in support of Williams’ concerns.
Here is video from the meeting last night.