A few years ago, my daughter participated in a talent show, and she and some other girls danced to "Survivor" by Destiny's Child. I thought they did a good job, and generally I enjoy the songs by Destiny's Child. Certainly, I never thought about objecting to the song as having a viewpoint that may be antithetical to the Christian view. (I don't know if it does, since I have never listened to the words.) I was there to enjoy the show, and I don't think I would have cared what song they danced to (as long as it wasn't "The Stripper" -- now there's a bad message).
But in our mixed up world, a school decided that it would be inappropriate for a 3rd grader to sing a song that she probably hears regularly in Church and which very well have deep meaning to her. Yes, another school has overreacted and discriminated against a young woman by failing to allow her to be able to sing a song simply because it has a Christian message. According to "Christian song 'Awesome God' OK in after-school talent show, judge rules":
A New Jersey school district violated the constitutional rights of a second grade student last year when it prevented her from performing the song "Awesome God" at a talent show, a federal district judge ruled Dec. 11.
The girl, known only as "O.T." in the lawsuit, was prevented from singing the popular contemporary Christian song at the Frenchtown (N.J.) Elementary School after-school program when the district attorney and school superintendent said the song's religious content was inappropriate for the event. Previous talent shows had included students singing songs by Nirvana, Bon Jovi and Stevie Nicks.
Allowing "Awesome God" into the program -- known as "Frenchtown Idol" -- would have violated the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against government establishment of religion, the attorney asserted. But U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson disagreed, saying the school's action amounted to viewpoint discrimination and violated the girl's First Amendment rights.
"Frenchtown Idol was not part of the school curriculum, but was, instead, a voluntary after-school event in which students were invited -- not required -- to participate," Wolfson, a nominee of President George W. Bush, wrote. "Frenchtown Idol participants were obligated to select their own pieces for the performance, and to develop and rehearse them at home.... [T]he speech at issue here -– a song selected and performed by an individual student -– was the private speech of a student and not a message conveyed by the school itself."
* * *
Wolfson, though, said Brennan's action "amounted to unlawful viewpoint discrimination." Wolfson asserted there indeed are "numerous" examples of "proselytizing" speech the school would have allowed.
"For example, the school would have permitted Frenchtown Idol performers to encourage audience members to: espouse a belief that it is important to take care of the earth, espouse a belief that it is important to help poor and impoverished people, and to lean on friends when they experience hardships," Wolfson wrote.
In a press release, the ACLU of New Jersey said, "[S]ince the school left the choice of songs up to the students (as long as they were G-rated), no reasonable observer (even a reasonable second grader) would have believed that the school endorsed the religious message behind the students' selections."
It's nice that the ACLU piped in since it is there propensity to bring suits for violations of the Establishment Clause (where none truly exists in a proper understanding of the clause) that makes school administrators nervous to the point that they overeact in the first place. That is the case here. The judge made the right decision even if he didn't go far enough (in my view, it was appropriate at any talent show the school held regardless of whether it was during school hours or attendance was mandatory) because the school allowed other messages and it was the girl's choice to sing which obviously is not an endorsement of religion.
At least it ended up right. Too bad it took a lawsuit to get it there.