FFRF directs California teacher to put an end to religious songs (Oct. 25, 2012)

First graders at Ada Givens Elementary School in Merced, Calif., will no longer be instructed to sing “God Bless America” in the classroom.

A school district parent told the Freedom From Religion Foundation that her six-year-old daughter was being taught to sing “God Bless America” — a song that is essentially a prayer in her first grade classroom. FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote to Superintendent RoseMary Parga Duran on Oct. 17: “The first verse of ‘God Bless America’ ends with, ‘As we raise our voices in solemn prayer.’ A prayer conceived, hosted and advocated by a publicly-supported school does not pass constitutional muster.”

Seidel urged school officials to end the use of “God Bless America” as part of the curriculum. He noted that this situation was especially egregious given that “young students are particularly prone to believing that a religious message is school endorsed.”

The school district issued a positive response to Seidel on Oct. 25: “The principal spoke to the teacher about the complaint and about the district’s policy regarding these matters. The teacher was very apologetic and stated she never intended to offend any of her students, nor make them uncomfortable in her class. She immediately discontinued singing patriotic songs. . .”

Freedom From Religion Foundation