FFRF ends unconstitutional worship music in Kan. school district

Goddard Unified School District

Students in the Goddard Unified School District in Kansas are no longer being forced to sing worship music — thanks to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

A concerned parent informed the state/church watchdog that an instructor at Challenger Intermediate School was teaching her sixth grade students Christian worship music, including “Praise His Holy Name” and “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel.” The teacher also reportedly taught students a lesson on the biblical story of Daniel, a parable that instructs people to have faith in and believe in the Abrahamic god.

FFRF took action to ensure that the teacher wouldn’t be allowed to proselytize any further.

“The district’s choir programs must focus on teaching secular music and lessons, not religious devotional music and bible stories,” FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence wrote to Superintendent Justin Henry.

Teaching public school students Christian worship music and biblical stories in a devotional, religious manner violates the First Amendment, FFRF pointed out. By coercing sixth grade students to sing overtly Christian worship music in its choral program, the district demonstrated favoritism towards religion over nonreligion, and Christianity over all other faiths. This favoritism towards Christianity needlessly alienated all students and families, such as the FFRF complainant and their child, who do not subscribe to Christianity. Notably, Generation Z, which makes up the entire student body, is the least religious generation in U.S. history, since 49 percent of them say that they have no religious affiliation.

After getting FFRF’s letter, the district took action.

“Thanks for providing this information. Since receiving your email on Nov. 29, we have had the opportunity to provide [the teacher] this information and will be planning a meeting with all district choir instructors to ensure they understand the information,” Henry responded in an email.

FFRF is glad the district was able to change its tune to one that respects the Constitution.

“There’s a distinct difference between a public school choir and a church choir, and the district did well recognizing that,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It’s not a teacher’s job to convert a student to their religion, no matter what tools they use to do so.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members across the country, including hundreds of members in Kansas. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

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Freedom From Religion Foundation

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