FFRF asks school to quit indoctrinating

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent multiple letters to Shenendehowa Central Schools (Clifton Park, N.Y.) urging it to follow court precedent and personal conscience by removing prayerful songs from its music classes.

FFRF is a national state-church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., with over 18,500 members nationwide, including more than 1,100 in the state of New York.

A concerned parent told FFRF that the complainant’s child came home singing the prayer, “Thank You For the World So Sweet,”  which ends with “Thank you God for everything.” The class was  also taught to sing “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” which includes the line, “I pray the Lord my soul to keep,” and other devotional Christian songs.

“Words do not lose their meaning just because they are set to music,” noted FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert in her third letter of complaint on August 6.

FFRF sent its first letter to Shenendehowa Central Schools (SCS) Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson on June 13, 2012, asking the district to instruct the music teacher to stop leading children in prayer. “Teaching these very young and impressionable students pervasively Christian music in a public school violates the First Amendment,” wrote Markert. “There is no dearth of secular, age-appropriate melodies for elementary school students to learn. Parents — not the school district or a public school music teacher — have the authority and the right to decide whether to expose their child to religious concepts and devotional music.”

SCS General Counsel Kathryn McCary responded on June 26 claiming that “[n]one of the songs was taught, or used, as a prayer” and stating that school needed to know the identity of the parent complainant to continue the discussion. FFRF sent a rebuttal letter on July 24, to which McCary only responded to say that since the school’s position had been laid out in her earlier letter, “the matter has been resolved, and no further action is necessary.”

FFRF refused to back down, and sent a third letter on August 6. Markert pointed out in that letter that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over New York, had specifically dealt with “Thank You For the World So Sweet” in a school prayer case, ruling that it was a prayer and that school officials were correct to ban teachers from leading their students in reciting it.

FFRF is willing to take formal legal action against SCS if it refuses to halt its policy of indoctrinating young children via its inappropriate music curricula. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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