Seminole County School Board Announces New Guidelines Which P
ermit High School Choir To Sing At Religious Events
Berg, Thomas C.
TCBERG at STTHOMAS.EDU
Fri Nov 22 17:36:25 PST 2002
Gospel can be a genre. For example, the piano opening in "Bridge over
Troubled Water" is often referred to as gospel-style, as are certain aspects
of many soul, R&B, or other popular songs. But it is true that most of the
gospel-style repertoire is (evangelical) Christian in its lyrics, and I
imagine that that is the case with this high school gospel choir.
I agree that the issue is not whether the gospel choir, if it exists, can
sing in a church; the question is whether a public school should have a
gospel choir, if it sings only or primarily music with Christian lyrics.
1. At my high school there were several different choirs in which one could
sing. Suppose there is a Classical Choir, a Swing/Jazz Choir, and a Gospel
Choir at this high school?
2. An analogous musical form might be plainsong (the form of music of
Gregorian chants etc.). The context and the verbal content of this music
was historically, and still today is, largely Christian -- Roman Catholic
liturgical, to be precise. But the calming and ethereal style appeals to
many people, and one hears plainsong-type music with non-Christian words.
Suppose a school sets up a Plainsong Choir that sings music in this style,
most -- but not all -- of which has Catholic-liturgical words? Since
Michael Newsom emphasized the evangelical content of the gospel repertoire,
the Plainsong Choir might be one test of the concrete ramifications of his
"Protestant empire" approach.
University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
From: Rick Duncan
To: RELIGIONLAW at listserv.ucla.edu
Sent: 11/22/02 10:22 AM
Subject: Fwd: Seminole County School Board Announces New Guidelines Which
Permit High School Choir To Sing At Religious Events
My good friend, Mat Staver, of Liberty Counsel, just
sent me this press release concerning a great victory
for religious inclusion in the Florida school system.
--- liberty at lc.org wrote:
> Date: Fri, 22 Nov 2002 08:12:11 -0800
> Subject: Seminole County School Board Announces New
> Guidelines Which Permit High School Choir To Sing
> At Religious Events
> To: "Richard F. Duncan" <conlawprof at yahoo.com>
> From: <liberty at lc.org>
> Sanford, Florida - Today, Principal Coleman and
> Choir Director Bob Maguire
> of Seminole High School announced that the Seminole
> County School Board
> has issued new guidelines which will allow the
> Seminole High School Gospel
> Choir to sing at religious events. Upon hearing the
> news, members of the
> Choir erupted in cheers. This announcement followed
> a controversial
> decision by Mr. Hagerty to bar the Gospel Choir from
> singing at a 9/11
> memorial service conducted at the Central Baptist
> Church in Sanford,
> Florida. On the eve of the 9/11 event,
> Superintendent Hagerty and School
> District Attorney Ned Julian made the decision to
> permanently ban the
> Choir from singing at any event conducted at a
> Today's announcement followed a packed school board
> meeting held on
> November 19, in which one person after another spoke
> in favor of the
> Gospel Choir. Mathew D. Staver, President and
> General Counsel of Liberty
> Counsel, along with Karen Rochester of Liberty
> Counsel, addressed the
> board, as did a number of parents and clergy. After
> hearing the
> testimony, a majority of the school board also
> expressed their support for
> the Gospel Choir.
> Seminole High School has several student singing
> groups, one of which is
> the Gospel Choir. The Gospel Choir has been at the
> high school for twelve
> years and has received over 150 singing awards. The
> Gospel Choir has been
> invited to sing at many places, including Walt
> Disney World in Orlando,
> Florida. The announcement of the new guidelines
> comes at the right time
> to allow the Choir to sing at Disney's Candlelight
> Christmas event.
> At the 9/11 memorial event which brought the
> controversy to light, Mathew
> Staver was the featured speaker. Since learning of
> the plight of the
> Gospel Choir, Staver and the Liberty Counsel staff
> have been working with
> the Choir to ensure its continued future and to
> assist in creating
> guidelines which will allow the Choir to sing at
> religious events. The
> guidelines will allow the Choir to sing at churches
> or other religious
> events so long as students have the ability to opt
> out of attendance.
> Staver noted that no student had ever sought to opt
> out of singing at a
> religious event, but the guidelines will provide the
> Staver commented, "There were certain people within
> the administration
> who sought to ban the Gospel Choir from singing at
> religious events.
> Persistence paid off in this case. Once the matter
> came to the board with
> broad support from the community, the issue finally
> resolved. I am very
> proud of the students who sing in the Choir and am
> thrilled by this
> announcement as we approach the Christmas season."
> Mathew D. Staver, Esq.
> Liberty Counsel
> An Ally of the Alliance Defense Fund
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