Atheist Group Won’t Persist in Complaint Against Music Teacher Who Played ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ During Announcements

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — A Tennessee chapter of one of the most conspicuous professing atheist groups in the nation has decided not to persist in its complaint against a music teacher at a public elementary school who played Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” during the morning announcements.

“FFRF-ETC is not going to continue to pursue this issue,” Aleta Ledendecker of the East Tennessee chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently wrote to the Oak Ridger, stating that the group believes that there are “more egregious” Church-State separation issues to address.

She noted that the school district was not going to capitulate to her request that the song not be used again.

“FFRF prefers to resolve issues through simple requests, and in this case the school system was not amenable to making changes,” Ledendecker outlined. “This issue would probably be difficult to litigate. Even though there were two families who complained to FFRF-ETC about this music selection, not all complainants wish to go as far as litigation.”

As previously reported, Ledendecker emailed Linden Elementary School Principal Roger Ward last September to assert that airing a clip of the “Hallelujah Chorus” over the loudspeaker could be considered religious proselytization.

“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,” she wrote. “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.”

Ledendecker asked Ward to ensure that no religious-themed music be aired in the future.

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“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 replied by advising 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.


As previously reported, while some state that God and government must remain separated, others note that the nation was founded by those who believed that America could not expect to be blessed if it failed to acknowledge and honor Almighty God.

On March 23, 1798—less than 12 years after the signing of the U.S. Constitution—John Adams, the second president of the United States called for a day of national repentance, prayer and fasting.

“[T]he safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness cannot exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed,” he wrote.

James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, similarly called for a national day of prayer on July 9, 1812.

“I do therefore recommend the third Thursday in August next as a convenient day to be set apart for the devout purposes of rendering the Sovereign of the universe and the Benefactor of mankind the public homage due to His holy attributes; of acknowledging the transgressions which might justly provoke the manifestations of His divine displeasure; of seeking His merciful forgiveness and His assistance in the great duties of repentance…”

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  • bowie1

    I suppose if it had been the Hallelujah song by Leonard Cohen there would have hardly been a peep!

    • DrIndica

      Leonard Cohen is as close to spiritual as most anything gets.

      • bowie1

        I wonder if the complainants would have seen religion in that also. Just a thought.

        • DrIndica

          Jeff Buckley does a moving cover of Cohen’s song as well. Although I doubt anyone would consider these lyrics religious:

          Your faith was strong but you needed proof
          You saw her bathing on the roof
          Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
          She tied you to a kitchen chair
          She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
          And from your lips she drew the hallelujah
          You say I took the name in vain
          I don’t even know the name
          But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
          There’s a blaze of light in every word
          It doesn’t matter which you heard
          The holy or the broken hallelujah

  • Lydia Church

    These atheists will drill a hole in the earth to the other side of the planet just to squash a flea that buzzed a note that sounded like a hymn. They will take a sledgehammer to a pile of books just because the three letters ‘G’, ‘O’, ‘D’ are in there somewhere in any order! They think they are doing society a service by ‘freeing it from religion,’ but they are cutting the rope to the anchor that holds the boat in the harbor and keeps it from drifting into the stormy sea! They are so dumb, they are even killing civilized culture as this article shows. They are so fiestily angry that they would shoot themselves in the foot, and throw a punch that only goes around them and lands on their face! They are so busy with such aggressive fervency, such hostile ferocity, that they dig their own graves and fall right into it in their fervor. They are like the muslims who want to stamp out every trace of music, classical or not, every historical monument and artifact, every museum treasure because it remotely resembles an ‘idol’! It is like a form of rabies of the mind, a militant form of it. You can just smell the hatred oozing out of their words. And they are seething with arrogance as well as hatred.

    • LynnRH

      well said Lydia!

  • Reason2012

    They’re not atheists – these same atheist activists do nothing about the fact that islam doctrines are force fed to all students in more and more public schools (search public school islam), while Christianity is censored there, which shows they’re really pro-islam activists that pretend to be atheists to shut down Christianity while islam flourishes in more and more public schools.

    • Croquet_Player

      As a person who is firmly against any sort of religious indoctrination in public schools, I beg you to identify these schools which are teaching Islam in a coercive manner, and report them at once to the FFRF. Public schools may teach “about” religions, but may not be “pro” or “con” any religions (or the absence of religion). If you know of any schools doing this, I will stand with you that they must be stopped immediately. Please help me identify any public schools doing this. I share your concerns.

      • Recognizing_Truth

        You have requested that the OP identify schools which are “teaching Islam in a coercive manner“. No doubt that is because the OP stated that it was being “force fed” to students – an unfortunate choice of words (it changes the argument) and totally unnecessary because:
        According to various claims and cases filed by the FFRF, AHA, and ACLU, it doesn’t have to be “force fed” – it just has to somehow be sponsored, led, attended, or supported by the school or an employee of the school to be considered by them as “proselytizing” and a violation of the 1st amendment establishment clause. (BTW the Supreme Court disagrees, but that doesn’t stop these groups from threatening litigation anyway…most schools will cease and desist out of fear)

        However, the OP’s main concern, that Christianity is attacked and prevented from being even mentioned in/at school, while Islam is not, is absolutely valid.

        Christianity has been and is demonized by these “watchdog” groups, while Islam is either ignored or applauded as “tolerance” and teaching open-mindedness to battle “islamophobia”.

    • DrIndica

      A generation or two ago, there was a communist behind every bush, and since you seem to need someone to hate, now it is Muslims. So sorry for you and your bitter existence. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you followed Nietzsche or Kant

      • Recognizing_Truth

        And, if you paid attention to your history – you’d find that it was actually true that there was “a communist hiding behind” a great many “bushes”, even if not every one. In fact, the progressives today are the new McCarthy’s making that claim constantly – with Chinese and Russians involved with and influencing just about everything in America. Maybe you should tell them they’re out of touch and just have a “bitter existence”?

        Today, we have constant reminders that Islam is not a friend to the west in general and the US specifically. You seem by your comment to be in agreement with those who argue that it’s only a small percentage of all Muslims, or only those who follow “radical” Islam that are the problem, and so we should be “tolerant”. And you would be right. And it doesn’t matter one whit. So only 15-25% (according to world intelligence agencies) of Muslims worldwide are “radical” and want to “destroy the great Satan” of the United States including everyone who lives here. Of the 1.2 billion muslims in the world that amounts to 180 million to 300 million who are radical and dedicated to the overthrow and destruction of the “west”. That means a population the size of the US is out to destroy the West.

        Allow me to quote Brigitte Gabriel, founder of Act! for America an anti-terror grassroots organization concerning this very topic: (bold emphasis mine)

        So why should we worry about the radical 15-25%? Because it is the radicals that kill. Because it is the radicals that behead and massacre,” Gabriel said.

        “When you look throughout history, at the lessons of history, most Germans were peaceful. Yet the Nazis drove the agenda. And as a result, 60 million people died, almost 40 million in concentration camps. 6 million were Jews. The peaceful majority were irrelevant,” Gabriel said.

        “When you look at Russia, most Russians were peaceful as well. But the Russians were able to kill 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.

        “When you look at China for example, most Chinese were peaceful as well. Yet the Chinese were able to kill 70 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.

        “When you look at Japan prior to World War II, most Japanese were peaceful people too. Yet, Japan was able to butcher its way across Southeast Asia, killing 12 million people, mostly killed by bayonets and shovels. The peaceful majority were irrelevant,” Gabriel said.

        “On September 11th in the United States we had 2.3 million Arab Muslims living in the United States. It took 19 hijackers – 19 radicals – to bring America to its knees, destroy the World Trade Center, attack the Pentagon and kill almost 3000 Americans that day,” Gabriel said.

        “So for all our power of reason, and for all us talking about moderate and peaceful Muslims, I’m glad you’re here. But where are the others speaking out?

        Get the point?

        Go back to sleep if you must, but don’t complain when it’s you being beheaded by “just a few” radicals.

        • DrIndica

          Radicals can kill my body, but not my soul.

          • Recognizing_Truth

            OK (?)
            If your soul belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ, you’re “safe”, yeah that’s true that they can’t kill your soul. If your soul does’t belong to the Lord Jesus Christ yet, you’d better hope the radicals don’t kill your body because “It is appointed to man to die once; and after this, the judgment”.

            But you missed the point: no one is granted a free pass to just let evil be. Evil must be recognized (judge as the evil it is), exposed, confronted, stood against, shunned. Evil should never be ignored, tolerated, or condoned.

          • DrIndica

            And, again, the threats of a non-existent hell for anyone that doesn’t conform to your world view.

    • Recognizing_Truth

      You would be hard-pressed to find any US public schools where islamic doctrines are “force fed” to “all students”.

      However, your underlying concern is absolutely valid.

      Schools and teachers avoid not only course work but also classroom discussions about Judeo-Christian topics, or their positive influences on civilization, science, medicine, and the arts throughout history. You can’t really blame them when you look at what has happened, and what is happening with increasing frequency, in the public school system in the last 40+ years. If a positive mention of anything Judeo-Christian is presented, someone inevitably screams “proselytizing”, claims a violation of the 1st amendment’s establishment clause, and contacts FFRF, AHA, or ACLU lawyers to force them to stop. For fear of misunderstanding, reprisal, costly litigation, and their own jobs and livelihood, schools and teachers avoid Judeo-Christian topics like the plague, or capitulate to demands to stop-and-drop the course, item, event, or activity in question.

      Yet, many elementary and middle schools have added to their scope and sequence “social studies”, requirements that include the study of geo- and socio-political structures influenced by Islam. And this does include work such as:

      “Trace the origins of Islam and the life and teaching of Muhammad…”
      “Explain the significance of the Qur’an and the Sunnah as the primary sources of Islamic beliefs…”
      “Understand…contributions Muslim scholars made to later civilizations in the areas of science, geography, mathematics, philosophy, medicine, art, and literature..”

      (excerpted from the “California Grade Seven History and Social Science Content Standards” – URL not allowed in posting, so you’ll have to look that up for yourselves )

      When complaints are levied against the school by concerned parents, or the issue is raised with those same litigious organizations who claim to be the secular “watchdogs” keeping our children safe from “religious proselytizing”…nothing comes of it. Instead it is dismissed as a necessary part of the children’s education in a world where Islam and Muslims are feared “out of ignorance” by western civilization.

      So, yes. Absolutely. There is a double-standard. And these organizations are decidedly and demonstrably anti- Judeo-Christian activists and NOT specifically atheist or secular watchdogs.

  • Croquet_Player

    This is a perfect example of when things get sorted out. The piece of music was not being used in an indoctrinational context, but in an educational context. I am a huge fan of that piece, and it’s wonderful that students were exposed to it. The constitutional right of students to be free from any sort of indoctrination or coersion does not mean they never get to hear anything with any relationship to a particular religion. It’s a fine point which is so often missed.

    • Denny


      Learn to spell.

      • Croquet_Player

        Thank you for so kindly drawing my attention to my typo.

  • Recognizing_Truth

    She noted that the school district was not going to capitulate to her request that the song not be used again.
    “FFRF prefers to resolve issues through simple requests, and in this case the school system was not amenable to making changes,” Ledendecker outlined. “This issue would probably be difficult to litigate

    In other words, the FFRF intimidate schools with threats of costly litigation claiming the school is violating the constitution. But when the school doesn’t just roll over and give in, the FFRF, who has repeatedly LOST these cases in court, has no choice but to give up and slink away to try to find their next victim.