EWING, Va. — Members of the senior class at a high school in Virginia defied the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) demand to remove a Christian song from their graduation ceremony this past Friday, which would have ended a 70-plus year tradition at the school.
Students at Thomas Walker High School in Ewing lined up after receiving their diplomas, linked arms and began to sing God Be with You Til We Meet Again, a song that has been sung during graduation since the school was founded in 1940. Members of the audience began to sing along, and some clapped in support of the student’s stand for their faith.
The ACLU had sent an email to officials at the school last month, stating that students should not be allowed to sing the song at the ceremony because of its religious content.
“Based on the information we have been given, school officials, including teachers and administrators, are actively promoting religious practices during school hours on school grounds as part of official school activities. I write to ask that immediately address this situation,” wrote ACLU attorney Rebecca Glenberg on behalf of an unidentified parent whose child graduates this year.
“They are taught the lyrics [of the hymn] and practice them at school, and are expected to have the hymn memorized by graduation,” she said. “This violates the First Amendment.”
Glenberg also took issue with a Ten Commandments plaque displayed in the halls of the high school, which she contended was unconstitutional and violated Supreme Court precedent.
Officials at Thomas Walker High School consequently removed the plaque and eliminated God Be with You Til We Meet Again from the ceremony, but students decided to revolt.
According to local television station WJHL, a crowd of nearly 100 supporters gathered outside of the school on Wednesday, holding signs and joining together to sing the song. They also spoke of their desire to see the Ten Commandments restored to the walls of the high school.
“They’re eliminating Jesus,” George Sowels of Souls Harbor Pentecostal Church, who led the event, told reporters. “The ACLU, which I call the ‘Anti-Christian Liberal Union,’ is trying to make the citizens take Jesus out of the school, out of the system.”
“There are a lot of people upset over this, and I can understand their concerns,” added Pastor Jason Ivey of Friendship Independent Baptist Church. “Most people I talk to are upset over what they are doing, and I think many are upset because the song has been sung since the 1940s.”
“I hope something like this can have a good effect,” he continued. “Maybe it will get people to realize it’s time to turn back to God. … I’m praying the Lord will use this … and we’ll see some effect from it.”
On Friday, students at Thomas Walker High School decided to sing the song anyway—even if it wasn’t a part of the official program. They also recited the Lord’s Prayer as the invocation was also absent from the ceremony. A number of staff members joined those that decided to take a stand.