OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — A chapter of one of the nation’s most conspicuous professing atheist groups has lodged a complaint after being notified by concerned parents that a music teacher at a Tennessee elementary school played Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” during the morning announcements.
The East Tennessee chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently emailed Linden Elementary School Principal Roger Ward to ask that the song not be used again.
“While this music may be beautiful and even inspirational for Christians, it is not acceptable for broadcasting to the entire student body at Linden Elementary,” wrote Aleta Ledendecker. “In consideration of all the possible choices of music, this piece with its distinctly religious content can be interpreted as proselytizing. Such actions are clearly prohibited by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
“Please see that the music director makes appropriate choices for broadcasting to your student body beginning immediately,” she continued. “Furthermore, please reply with a report of the actions you have taken to assure that there will be no future music choices with even a hint of religious overtones.”
However, the school says that the teacher only used the song because the class was studying George Frederic Handel that week, and only 20-30 seconds of the composition was aired. A different composer is studied each week.
“The passage was selected to correspond with the school’s overall music curriculum that, for that particular week, featured the musical works of George Handel,” an unidentified school district representative told conservative commentator Todd Starnes.
“The criticisms articulated by Ms. Ledendecker appear to have been based upon insufficient information taken entirely out of context, incorrect assumptions about the school’s music curriculum and a fundamental misunderstanding of the First Amendment’s relationship with historically sacred classical music compositions being taught in a public school music curriculum,” they said.
The attorney for the district has since responded to FFRF to state that the teacher had not done anything inappropriate.
Ledendecker has acknowledged that she is unsure “if there actually is a legal issue at this time.” She has submitted a records request to review the school curriculum further.
“This is the litmus test I use: If I were a Christian parent walking in the school, and I heard over the PA system during morning announcements music with the words ‘Praise Allah. Allah is the king on high. Bow down to Allah,’ how would I feel as a Christian parent with that being broadcast to all the children in the schools? If I would find that somewhat unsettling, then it is equally unsettling for secular parents,” she told the Oak Ridger.
As previously reported, in 1828, just 52 years after the nation’s founding, Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Scholarship and Education, wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. … No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”