Discrimination Against Christian Viewpoints

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.


rv barnes said…
This post is in regard to a grade I received for a term paper at Randolph Community College in Asheboro, NC. By way of background I am a 53 year old student who went back to school after being injured in a car accident on my way to work. At that time I was employed by Old Dominion Freight Lines as a Truck Driver. After several tries to return to my profession I realized that the pain from my injuries would require me to change careers. This is why I enrolled at the local community college. Now I realize a lot of things have changed since I was at High School thirty years ago but I did not realize how much. The class is listed as Religion 211: Introduction to the Old Testament. It is taught by Dr. Tim Allen. As a Criminal Justice major this class or some other humanities course is required for me to graduate.
As a Christian I am obviously interested in the Bible so I sign up for this course. To make a long story short this class has no tests; your grade is decided by weekly assignments which consist of answering questions at the end of each chapter. On these assignments throughout the semester I received mostly “A”. Half of your grade for the course is decided by an Exegesis paper which had to be at least ten pages long. The subject had to be a passage or verse in the Bible. My choice was Ecclesiastes 9:11. My Instructor approved my topic and made it clear he did not want a devotional paper so I went out of my way to avoid this and I worked very hard on this paper. Before submitting the paper I had another member of the faculty review the paper in a writing lab in the library. She corrected some grammar errors and gave me some advice but over all she said it was an excellent paper. Imagine my surprise that on the last day of class when Mr. Allen gave our papers back to us and I realized that I had received an “f” for this paper. Mr. Allen explanation was that he wanted a paper on the Old Testament not on God. When I ask him how do you accomplish this since in my opinion the Old Testament indeed the whole Bible is about God he launch into a hateful tirade against me in front of the other students and said if I did not like my grade I could have his supervisor review the grade. It was at this point that the fact that I had been set up begins to dawn on me. This self-professed liberal teacher had lulled me with “A” on my weekly assignment only to sabotage me on the last day of class. As a straight A student for the past two years (GPA 4.0) I will take this sorry grade and move on toward receiving my degree, but I think the public should know what happens to conservative Christians who dare to mention God in their assignments or in class. You can view the paper in its entirety at http://kleenheart.blogspot.com/, my personal blog and decide for yourself if it deserves an “f”…
RV Barnes

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