High School Choir Song Selection
LoAndEd at AOL.COM
Sun Dec 21 09:09:34 PST 1997
The flip side of the Bauchman case? From the wire service this a.m.:
"ALBEQUERQUE -- A high school choir director was suspended after leading a
concert that administrators said contained too many Christian references.
About half the songs at Tuesday's concert at Highland High School had
Christian themes, and none referred to any other religion.
School district guidelines state that `schools should be religion neutral
(neither promoting nor inhibiting religious beliefs) so as to assure comfort
to all students.'
Frank Rotolo said he was not told why he was suspended Friday and did not
know whether it was with or without pay. `Right now, we're in limbo,' he
School district spokesman Rick Murray said Rotolo was told several weeks
earlier that school officials were concerned about the concert's content."
1. Did Rotolo violate the Establishment Clause? Does it matter whether the
songs with "Christian themes" were part of the classical choir repertoire
(Bach, Handel, etc.) or were (as in Bauchman) a bunch of "contemporary
Christian" songs? Does the EC analysis depend upon whether Rotolo chose such
songs (i) because of or (ii) in spite of, their Christian content? How about
the curious reference to the administrators' apparent objection that no song
"referred to any other religion"? Is there a Larson v. Valente sect-
discrimination issue here?
2. Assuming no EC violation, would Rotolo have a viable claim against the
school under pre-Boerne RFRA (or an equivalent New Mexico statute)?
3. Again assuming no EC violation, what are the merits of Rotolo's possible
First Amendment claims based on (i) Pickering/Connick/Waters doctrine and (ii)
Marty Lederman -- DoJ Office of Legal Counsel
(writing in my personal capacity, not as a representative of the
Department of Justice or of the U.S. Government).
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