FFRF asks Ga. school band to muffle religious music


The Freedom from Religion Foundation is calling for a Georgia high school band to march to secular tunes.

It was brought to FFRF’s attention that the director of the Rome High School marching band chose a Christian worship theme for 2017 called “Alleluia,” which is a shortened version of a phrase that translates to “Praise the Lord.” The performance features church windows as field props and includes flags with the names of books from the bible written on them.

The musical selection includes biblically inspired songs such as, “Praise Ye the God of Gold,” “Sing Aloud to God Our Strength” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

FFRF has written to Rome City Schools asking that the marching band no longer incorporate religion into its future performances. Legal Fellow Chris Line informs the district that it has a responsibility to ensure that performances by school-sponsored groups are not promoting religion over nonreligion. In this case, however, the school band has promoted Christianity over all minority faiths.

“Religion is a divisive force in public schools,” explains Line in a letter to Superintendent Louis Byars. “Including Christian-themed music and props in a marching band performance alienates those non-Christian students, teachers and members or the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the schools.”

Given that over 20 percent of the nation’s population identifies as nonreligious — with younger Americans labeling themselves as the least religious in the country — Line mentions that this violation is particularly inappropriate.

The voluntariness of participating in the band does not rectify the violation, since the message being sent on behalf of the school district is still one of religious endorsement.

“Every student of any, or no, religious background should feel welcome in the school band,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It is baffling that the band director would trumpet Christian beliefs over the rights of the students.”

FFRF is calling for the band director to be reminded of his constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion while acting in his role as a district employee.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 29,000 members and chapters across the country, including 400-plus members in Georgia and a state chapter. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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