FFRF silences school’s religious hymns (October 18, 2016)

Thanks to FFRF, the Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School in Hawaii has ended its practice of having students stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing religious songs.

FFRF received a complaint in September that students at the school were being forced to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and stand to sing “The Star Spangled Banner,” “America the Beautiful,” and “God Bless America,” on scheduled days of the week. FFRF was also informed that students who refused to stand had been disciplined by the school’s teachers.

“Students have a constitutional right not to be forced to participate in patriotic exercises,” wrote FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler to Superintendent Art Souza.

“Students may not be singled out, rebuked, told they must stand or otherwise penalized for following their freedom of conscience.”

Ziegler also informed Souza that “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” were inappropriate songs for the public school to schedule students to sing because of the religious lines in the songs that wrongly equated patriotism with piety.

On Oct. 18, FFRF received a reply from Souza who wrote that students would no longer be participating in singing the problematic songs. FFRF was also assured that teachers at the school had been told that students were not to be forced to stand or participate in the pledge or the national anthem.

Freedom From Religion Foundation