Sixth Grader Proselytized in Music Class

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, since its national founding in 1978, has received more complaints about religion in music classes than any other state/church violation in public schools. (Reported sports violations are a close second.)

The Foundation was contacted in February by the parents of a sixth grader in a Pennsylvania middle school whose son, David, was told by his music teacher to turn in a report “on God.”

When his parents, Barbara Chissell and Matthew Kelley, objected with a letter to the teacher pointing out this was inappropriate in a public school, the teacher told their son he would receive an “F” if he did not turn in his “report.” He turned it in after this intimidating threat. The music teacher never responded to the parents’ concerns.

Three days later, this same music teacher told the class each student, including David, would have to sing a song of worship (“Kumbaya”) individually in front of the class. They were instructed to point up every time they sang the word “Lord.”

The parents contacted the principal, also informing media of the incidents. After a TV station covered the problem, the principal acceded to the parents’ request that David be removed from the music class and placed in an alternative class.

The Foundation was also contacted for back-up support, and wrote the superintendent of the South Western School District, pointing out the teacher’s assignments did not meet the test of having an educational component, were proselytizing, and appeared retaliatory.

The Foundation asked the superintendent to intervene and “protect all students from the illegal proselytizing of this teacher. A student should not have to be removed from music class to avoid the inappropriate and hostile actions of a religious fanatic in the guise of a music teacher.”

David’s father sent a photo of David so we could “see the face that you have helped.”

“I try to teach my children to search for knowledge and to question anything they wish in this quest for knowledge. It does become difficult, though. The world can be a very biased place,” Kelley wrote. He is pursuing the complaint. The superintendent refuses to take any action.

Freedom From Religion Foundation