Belief Beat

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a case charging that a superintendent in Everett (near Seattle, my neck of the woods) should not have banned an instrumental performance of “Ave Maria” at a 2006 high school graduation ceremony. According to the Christian Science Monitor:

The high court rejected the appeal over the dissent of Justice Samuel Alito, who said the decision of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals could provide a basis for “wide-ranging censorship of student speech that expresses controversial ideas.”

Saxophonist Kathryn Nurre, now 21, sued the Everett district on the grounds that it “engaged in unconstitutional censorship, acted with hostility toward religion, and treated her and fellow members of the school’s wind ensemble differently from others at the school,” the story reports. Her lawyer says the teenaged musicians simply liked the instrumental piece musically, not as a specifically Christian hymn.

My public high school had a significant Jewish population, among other minority faiths, yet we sang and played several Christian pieces at our winter concerts, including Christmas carols, “Simple Gifts,” and Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus. It’s basically impossible to reach a certain level of classical music education without learning any Christian works, though sometimes our teachers would also throw in pieces from other traditions, for good measure. According to the Seattle Times, the trouble in Everett was that the graduation ceremony was too short to include secular selections to balance a religious one, and the district had received complaints when the choir sang a spiritual at a previous graduation.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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