February 16, 2012

Where's the ACLU?

Oh, that's right -- too busy worried about spontaneous student-led prayers and defending the loafers in the Occupy movement. But no word regarding where they are in this:

A Colorado high school student quit the school choir after an Islamic song containing the lyric “there is no other truth except Allah” found its way into the chorus.

James Harper, a senior at Grand Junction High School in Grand Junction, put his objection to singing “Zikr,” a song written by Indian composer A.R. Rahman, in an email to Mesa County School District 51 officials.

“I don’t want to come across as a bigot or a racist, but I really don’t feel it is appropriate for students in a public high school to be singing an Islamic worship song,” Harper told KREX-TV. “This is worshipping another God, and even worshipping another prophet … I think there would be a lot of outrage if we made a Muslim choir say Jesus Christ is the only truth.”

He's certainly correct about that last part!

Hey, I agree with the district that a religious theme in songs is perfectly fine (the Christmas and Hanukkah season, for example); however, lyrics that promote the supposed truth of one religion over another certainly appear to be crossing the line. And, as noted, it should be something so-called "progressive" organizations should be all over like flies on you-know-what. So ... why aren't they?

I know. It's the 'ol "What the hell do we do when two competing politically correct idelogies conflict?" scenario. First , there's the obvious church vs. state issue, but then there's the PC promotion/protection of an "aggrieved" minority ingrained in their dogma which is combatting the first "progressive" tenet. What to do??

UPDATE: One important aspect of this story that is important (and one which I perhaps glossed over too much) is that the choir in question is an after-school activity. This makes quite a bit of difference in contrast to a choir class that would take place during the school day. Being an after-school activity is purely voluntary, and indeed allows for more leeway when it comes to the use of religiously themed songs and lessons. So, not only does Harper have the absolute right to NOT join this choir, the choir does have more latitude in utilizing religious material. This doesn't change my main assertion that it is surprising groups like the ACLU haven't joined the fray on this when it has done so in (perhaps) less controversial instances. Like here. Or here.

Posted by Hube at February 16, 2012 09:01 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

"He's certainly correct about that last part!"

Not really. When I was in high school chorus our winter choral program was heavily biased towards Christmas music. Some of it was secular like God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman. Other songs were outright religious complete with latin. I'm sure we sang Joy to the World at least once.

Posted by: Jeff the Baptist at February 16, 2012 09:25 AM

Jeff: You think there wouldn't be outrage if we made a Muslim choir say Jesus Christ is the only truth? Really?

And oh no -- heavily biased towards Christian music ... in an overwhelmingly Christian nation? Come on. Nevertheless, yes -- the lyrics to "Joy" probably would bring down the wrath the of the ACLU, especially if Jews/Muslims/whoever were forced to sing such. Good chorus teachers these days avoid such controversy by concentrating on more secular songs like "Gentlemen."

Posted by: Hube at February 16, 2012 09:36 AM

At least one of the people in my high school chorus was not Christian. One was an Indian Hindu and I'm betting at least a few were atheists. But if they wanted to be in the chorus they had sing Christian music anyway complete with lyrics like "The Lord is Come, let earth receive her King!" Which is basically identical religious content to what the Christian kid was being made to sing.

My point is that if you're not a Christian in America, you've probably been made to muddle through (or be politely silent during) at least one Christian religious song under the auspices of various holiday or cultural observances. It happens all the time. Would it be rude to force it on an all Muslim choir? Sure. But why is it not rude to force it on a minority Muslim choir? Hindu? Buddhist? Jewish? Athiest? Yet we do that all the time in our schools, especially around Christmas.

In short, suck it up or don't sing it if it makes you uncomfortable. Just like you've expected other groups to do for centuries. But don't whine about it like it's unprecedented.

Also keep in mind that Allah just means God. Christians who speak Arabic pray to the Christian God using the name Allah. So unless the lyric specifically denies the Trinity or some other fundamental precept of Christianity, he is free to interpret it for himself in a Christian light.

Posted by: Jeff the Baptist at February 16, 2012 11:19 AM

1. Times have changed since we were in high school. Overtly religious songs aren't nearly as common today. Trust me -- I work in the field, after all.
2. The US is overwhelmingly Christian.
3. The ACLU has double standards. Fact. This is the point of the post, after all.
4. Who says the kid is "whining?" He ditched the choir (yet is not getting any credit ... there's no alternative?)
5. "Centuries?" The US has existed for barely over two, Jeff. :-/
6. As a [non-practicing] Protestant, if I lived in a predominately Catholic, Muslim, or Buddhist country, I would expect to "deal" with what the vast majority of society practiced ... mainly by ignoring it or opting out. Or, would you prefer a "heckler's veto" in each and every possible case?

Posted by: Hube at February 16, 2012 11:35 AM

(1) I don't really care. I'm just pointing out that what this kid is complaining about is not particularly new. The new twist is that the lefty portions of society are the dominant power in the education establishment so they're doing to the Christians what the Christians have generally done to religious minorities. The Christians don't like it, what a surprise.

(2) Not as overwhelming as it used to be even twenty years ago. The dominant values, especially on the left, are secular humanist and post-Christian. The real religious allegiance on left is to secular concepts like diversity, multiculturalism, or environmentalism, or class warfare and power structures. They aren't really Christian in anything but name anymore and they consider their new principles to be much more important than the old Christian ones.

(3) The ACLU definitely has double standards, mostly because they're majority lefties. It's true of their take on second amendment law. It's true of anything involving evangelicals who they knee-jerk classify as oppressors, never as the oppressed. It's just like how the Justice Department wouldn't go after the Black Panthers because they're "oppressed" even though they were doing blatant vote suppression and voter intimidation.

(4) You get credit for after-school choir? He opted out and will face precious few consequences. That's how the system ought to work. Also, if you're complaining to a newspaper or on TV, then yes you are mostly whining or attention seeking. That was my opinion when I was in high school and we had news media parked outside the school property for a week after a bunch of kids died in a bloody car accident. It's still my opinion now. Sorry Kid, Christ himself said that if the world will hate you and make your life difficult because you know Him. If your pastor hasn't taught you this, he's done you a disservice.

(5) American religious and cultural traditions in this area go back to the start of the colonial period. They predate the US as an independent nation. So it's more like four centuries. Even if it is only two, that's still plural.

(6) Kids (and their parents depending on their age group) should have the option to opt out if they so desire. I don't really think they should be able to bring the majority to a screeching halt. Then you end up with a appeasement society run by the demands of the least common denominator or the loudest complainer. Which is what we're getting now and I hate it. But parents and kids definitely should have the right to vote their conscience with their feet with as few consequences as possible. Which this kid did. Fine. The system worked. Case closed.

I am far more bothered by recent trends toward mandatory multicultural classroom religious instruction in public schools. Some schools have basically held classes captive to non-Christian religious groups. Kids aren't allowed to opt-out because it's a multicultural instruction requirement. It would be ludicrous for Christians to be allowed to do this, but it's fine for Muslims? Ridiculous.

Posted by: Jeff the Baptist at February 16, 2012 04:01 PM

But your update links are not on point. Those are about actual prayer not performance.

I've commented on this issue over at my place -- http://rhymeswithright.mu.nu/archives/326764.php

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at February 16, 2012 05:17 PM


The issue is the predilection of the ACLU to jump in on matters of religion in the public sphere. And you forgot the "on point" links I sent to you via e-mail: this one and this one.

Posted by: Hube at February 16, 2012 05:22 PM

But they aren't on point -- the one deals with prohibitions on actual prayer as opposed to performance, and the other involves a court challenge to a district choosing not to include religious songs (with the court saying it won't override the district's choice).

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at February 16, 2012 05:46 PM

Not on point? "The appeals court said school officials' decision to keep the graduation program secular was a reasonable effort to avoid a constitutional controversy and did not violate students' rights."

Yet you say with your cite that the issue -- and this is precisely the issue you have been addressing, performance (even your mention of "Ave Maria") -- has been [constitutionally] resolved. If it's been resolved, why did the appeals court say what it did above?

Posted by: Hube at February 16, 2012 05:59 PM

You and I know that there are groups (American Atheists and the Freedom From Religion Foundation) that will sue regardless of the precedents.

Also, graduation ceremonies are distinct from choir concerts due to the nature of the events. Given the issue surrounding graduation prayers, some administrators go out of their way to avoid any chance of litigation. As you and I remember from our early meetings on the 'net, that's the same impulse that led to zero tolerance discipline policies.

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at February 16, 2012 06:31 PM

True that. And it's why I believe much of this issue is not resolved. Not to mention, some of these issues are settled "only" in certain Circuits. Also, if the matter is so concretely settled, why are school districts (like the NJ district in the one link) so skittish about allowing religious music at school concerts?

At any rate, as I mentioned over at your place, we probably agree on this a lot more than not. Again, my overriding issue is the duplicity of groups like the ACLU. I concur w/you that hypersensitivity about religious music in schools results in situations like Harper's, unfortunately.

Posted by: Hube at February 16, 2012 07:29 PM

Jeff: Based on your last comment, like with Greg, it appears you and I agree a lot more than not. Regarding the "two centuries" comment, I thought you were referencing situations like this in public schools, not society in general. (Two centuries and official public schooling wouldn't go together very well.)

As for the kid's whining, maybe he was. The article notes he sent out an e-mail to school officials first. It's not clear if he contacted the media or they contacted him (as a result of his e-mail).

Posted by: Hube at February 16, 2012 07:40 PM

BTW, it seems I mistook the "credit" bit. I think what the district official is saying is that since it is an after-school activity, there is no credit given

Posted by: Hube at February 16, 2012 07:45 PM